Education: When parents stay, and children depart
2015-03-01 | By Deborah Valentine
First appeared in THEXPAT Journal Summer 2013 Publication
“What are the schooling options?”
For many an international family considering relocation, this is one of the first, if not only question, which comes up. Willing to relocate, for professional reasons, adventurous purposes or otherwise, at the end of the day, the education of their children are first and foremost on their mind.
The Netherlands in this regard, is an ‘easy’ expatriate assignment location. There is a wealth of international schooling options – in language or curriculum – as we are sure this issue of the Xpat Journal will highlight. There is choice, even for those balancing the financial end of manoeuvring the choices. And, with an increasing number of Dutch schools offering bi-lingual programmes, at the primary as well as secondary levels, albeit of varying comprehensiveness, there are even more options available – to young as well as ‘older’ families.
The next phase
Inevitably, international families are then confronted with choices, dilemmas, challenges which arise from when they stay, in their expatriate assignment location, and the children are ready to move – embark upon their own. For those contemplating post-secondary education the question then is: where? Do they go home? Where is home? Do they stay here – in the Netherlands – where again; the choice and options for international (English) educational opportunities seem to grow on a daily basis. What do to? And, perhaps more importantly: how to prepare?
Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and their parents face dilemmas only like-minded people would understand … and therein lays the solution of course and a wealth of knowledge for those entering these new waters for the first time. TCKs, for those not familiar with the term, generally refer to children who were born and raised outside of their own parent’s culture during their development years. Considering the ever global world, where there is an increasing number of cross-cultural families this can of course be extended to cover many children, and more than two cultures. In the global mobility world it is ‘par for the course’. Saying one will go back home to further one’s studies – when your parents may be from different countries, and your own upbringing may cover several other does add a new dimension. Which home? Mother’s, father’s, their own (as they may have different appreciation of what is home)? And, when they get there: is it home, given the varied and global nomad backpack they bring with them. Can they relate to peers, or their peers to them? What is familiar? How much is, in fact, unfamiliar?
The pros & hurdles
There is sufficient literature and studies about the advantages TCKs bring to their future, the skills and talents they have developed, the global networks their alumni associations will provide. But, before they get there – they need to travel the terrain of the next phase, their own: post-secondary education in whatever form they choose, wherever that may be.
International schools provide, of course, guidance in the choice of academic study. Slowly though groups are arising which help and assist these future students in the transition from global to local, from one ‘home’ to the next. For the passport may be the same as their fellow students, but the connections, based on life experiences, may create canyons of separation, adding to the challenges of transitioning from living at home and moving away themselves.
Leading the way
This is relatively new terrain for ACCESS, but we are happy to have found two examples, born of those who have travelled the path, made the journey, which acknowledge and offer support to these new global nomads. And, we are confident, there are more out there – or will arise in the near future.
SeaChange Mentoring is one:
An online platform offering mentors to young adults, TCK high school graduates, preparing to take the next step, and support to those assisting those about to embark upon the journey. And, based out of Cambridge, Cambridge Academic Performance is supporting this particular group of students starting at Abbey College Cambridge as well as the Cambridge Arts Technology and Science College.
Both acknowledge, in practice and experience that student success, when you are a TCK is far more than academic: for the riches gathered growing up and learning everywhere, needs some guidance to settling in, and learning, somewhere.