“Where are you from?”
As an international student, this seemingly straightforward question is in fact… not so easy to answer. Of course, I could simply say “I’m from Korea” and be done with it – but as any third culture kid like myself would attest to, “home” is not restricted to the country you were born in.
Since I was 5 years old, I have traveled around and lived in multiple countries: Korea, China, Taiwan, Japan, and now, the United States. My family, relatives and friends are spread out all across the globe, and due to long years of attending international schools and living in different countries, I thought that I had enough of applying for visas and packing suitcases. I got tired of being an international nomad. So, when I decided to attend college in the US, I thought that I should become more of a “settler”.
Well, at least until I started working at the international programs office here at the University of Puget Sound.
It all started when I walked right into the office and saw the stacks of study abroad brochures. Everyday, students came into office with their individual excitements distinct purposes to travel to different countries. These countries ranged from Chile, Ireland, Turkey, and India to New Zealand. And for the first time in forever, I felt like I was not so “international” after all. The photos looked unfamiliar, the languages sounded foreign, and the program destinations looked exotic and fun. I felt an urge that I haven’t felt for a long time – I wanted to travel again.
When talking to third-culture kids or international students like myself, I often realize a consensus among them: of not wanting to travel so much anymore. All the nights spent learning new languages and experiencing culture shocks after another makes the international nomads want to settle down. We slowly forget that the kinds of life we lived were full of privileges… privileges to be able to travel.
To anyone who has such privileges, I would advise them to take advantage of it, and to go embrace the detours. After all, it would never hurt to have more than one “home” – somewhere half way across the globe.