You’ve heard that expression, “Out of the mouths of babes comes the truth.” Well, when talking to the students at the Anglo-American School of Sofia (AAS-Sofia), I certainly heard a lot of true and common sense statements!
I was recently invited by the Parent Teacher Organization to speak to students and parents at the AAS-Sofia, and was charmed by the enthusiastic participation of the student audiences, particularly the younger children who have few inhibitions about sharing their wisdom with others. When surveyed, their hands kept going up in the air when asked:
- “How many of you have been to one or more continents? 2, 3, 4, 5?”
- “How many of you have moved internationally two times? 3, 4, 5…6?”
- “How many of you speak more than one language at home?”
- “How many of you have more than one passport?”
- “How many of you have parents with different passports?”
These children fit the classic definition of a Third Culture Kid, TCK, or Global Nomad. They usually were born in one country and now live in another, have moved internationally multiple times, speak more than one language, and have traveled extensively. So when it comes to asking how to have successful international moves and adjustments, who better to ask than the experts themselves?
What pleasantly surprised me was how many of the kids have positive feelings about international relocations. Sure, they admitted, moving is not always fun. When asked what the hardest part about moving was, no matter the age, they always said it was hard to leave friends behind, and sometimes hard to make new ones.
So if leaving friends behind is the hardest part about moving internationally, then what advice could they give to a kid about to do it for the first time? This was precisely the question I asked the elementary students, grades 3 – 5, as well as the middle school and high school students. I also asked them to comment on the other factors they identified as being difficult in order to give other kids some of their good advice. Though I got great counsel from all three groups, I will focus on the words of wisdom from the younger kids since we don’t hear their voices often enough. So, from the mouths of babes…
Challenge: Being the New Kid
- Don’t be nervous
- Learn the language a little so that you can make new friends
- Pick out a person who you’d like to be friends with and be their friend
- Teach your new friends about your country
- Start a new conversation with another kid
- Be proud of yourself
Challenge: Play dates with New Friends
- Show your new friend around your house
- Tell them about your house and about yourself
- Let them try different kinds of food at your house
- Play nice and be fair
- Make them feel like your house is their home
- Compare differences and find things in common
Challenge: How to Treat New Kid
- Be friendly
- Invite them to play on the playground
- Sit with them at lunch so that they won’t be alone
Challenge: Saying Goodbye
- Give hugs
- Give them a present (i.e. memory books)
- Keep in touch
- Wish them well
Challenge: Learning to deal with new people, places, foods, and culture
- Tell them to just try some new food once to see if you like it
- Smile anyway
- Invite them to go somewhere with you and your family
Challenge: Dealing with homesickness for the last place they lived
- Invite the person who is homesick to play
- Tell them to call or write their old friends, or look at a picture or memory book they might have given you
- Go out and have some fun with someone new
- Do something with your family
- Share your toys with the person who is new
In sum, these kids have an amazing positive attitude! Since they have been the new kid so many times, they know what it’s like. They understand that having a new friend is sometimes all it takes to start liking a place again. It’s the personal connection, and social interaction, that makes a place a home in every sense of the word. Their final words of advice for kids moving overseas?
Enjoy it! It’s fun to go new places!
Many thanks to the wonderful students, parents, teachers, administrators, and staff at The Anglo-American School of Sofia for enabling me to have such a productive and enjoyable visit.