Eleonora is an Italian Third Culture Kid. She sends us this lively article about her experience growing up and studying abroad. Thank you Eleonora!
The Winds of Change Are My Brothers, The Movers Are My Friends
WARNING: Much sarcasm ahead.
This title sums up the past ten years of my life. The great tale begins in a little town in the outskirts of Verona, Italy. There, some eighteen years ago, the miracle of life took the form of a little girl… me.
I was like every other kid on the block. The years passed and I was on the road to become one of the millions of baby sheep that society manufactures through media. I came to discover the four noble truths of life as dictated by the imperialistic lords of the dark side: Mattel made the best toys because they had the most commercials on TV; that cartoons were what life was really about; that brunettes could never be gorgeous because Barbie was blonde and Wyle-E-Coyote would never catch Road Runner so he should just quit and avoid the inhumane torture of every episode.
But Soft! The light from yonder window broke when I was eight years old. My father, they told me, had been hired to work in a faraway land called Singapore. Of course at the time I had no idea how to even say the word. My family packed up and moved halfway around the world to an unknown place that I knew nothing about.
At first, to be frank, I hated it. I wanted to go home! I didn’t want to live in a place that didn’t speak my language, that was hot and damp 24-7 and that burned fake money as a ritual. I honestly thought I was on Mars… the heat was about the same and the rest, I thought, would follow.
Within the first six months of our stay in Singapore, with no sightings of little green men, I learned how to speak English. My dad fondly remembers the times when he was the language teacher but the roles were swiftly inverted. As I grew up, as we moved again (to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia then to Bangkok, Thailand), I began to realize something. There was a question that everyone would ask me when we came back home: Do you like it better here or there? Of course in the first few years my answer was a constant “here at home”. Then I began to realize that I wouldn’t want to live back in Italy. Not now. Not after all I had been through.
A little note: the life of the expat obviously isn’t all peaches and flowers. There are many pro’s, but plenty of con’s to balance out. Pro: moving to many different places expands the horizons of the mind creating a well-rounded and cultured individual. Con: moving to many different places means packing your life in a couple of boxes, saying goodbye (sometimes unexpectedly) to people you have come to love, and building from scratch a new life for yourself in whatever other place you might be moving to. For every positive outlook, there is a negative that counters the act. Like Newton said, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Think about that… I want a paper on it by next week.
Anyways, I had become an individual. An open-minded person that had learned to live with others of different races, cultures and religions. I was continuously exposed to people from every corner of the world, because of international schools, and each of them threw into the cultural blender a taste of their national identity. This I believe is the greatest gift, the greatest reward of the life my parents chose for me. Only now I realize that the people I went to kindergarten with will never truly comprehend what it means to live somewhere else, out in the real world where cultural issues occur because of closed-minded people and nations.
Now, as I come to the first crossroads of my life I realize that, forgive the cliché, the world is my oyster. The reason this phrase became a cliché is for situations such as mine: because of our moving, because of my attending an international school and growing up in an international environment, the doors in front of me at this point in my life aren’t two or three. They are millions and are wide open waiting for me to choose the path I prefer. This could never have happened if we hadn’t moved to Singapore, to Kuala Lumpur and to Bangkok.
I wouldn’t trade my life for anything now. I wouldn’t want to change a thing. The expat life has made me a stronger and more cultured human being. It has made me challenge and change the four noble truths of my childhood. It has made me the person that I have become and for that I will always be grateful. The expat life is a bittersweet symphony of change, of growth. And while all of this is going on, winds are blowing and movers are becoming your new best friends, you either identify with the words “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” or “this is the life”.