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Transitioning to College – How Third Culture Kids and Parents Can Be Better Prepared

May 29, 2010

by Rebecca Grappo, founder, RNG International Educational Consultants, LLC

The countdown to graduation has started! Students now know where they will be attending college, and they are busy saying goodbye to friends and hopefully, looking forward to new beginnings. Many of them have heard over and over that going to college is going to represent the “best four years” of their lives. So the expectations are high that this is indeed true! It’s a bittersweet, emotional time for everyone – parents included.

Now let’s add to the mix the experience of being a Third Culture Kid. Kids who have grown up overseas may be returning to the country of their passport to go to university. Or perhaps they are going to yet another new country, this time on their own as an international student. Yet another scenario is the TCK who will remain behind in the country of their passport to study while their parents go overseas again. No matter what the situation, major life transitions are in store for them.

I have done many presentations to students and parents at various international schools on the topic of transition to college, and have written several articles about the topic as well. It is very important to raise awareness about the complexities of transitioning to college for any student, but especially the TCK. They not only have to adjust to life as a college/university student, but also as one who may not always feel perfectly at home or comfortable on campus because of their TCK characteristics. Sadly, too few of them even know what that means. Therefore, I’d like to highlight some resources here that may help you and your family navigate the challenges of adjusting to university life for the Third Culture Kid/Global Nomad.

The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition by Tina Quick is a new book completely devoted to this topic. I blogged about attending her presentation at the Families in Global Transition conference back in March. I have had a preview of the book, which will be released by mid-June.  (I’ll be sure to alert you when has been!) It is chock-full of invaluable information, and as I wrote in my review for the book itself, it should be put in the hands of every TCK going off to university.

Maureen Tillman, a psychotherapist in New Jersey, has a practice devoted to helping students transition to college as well as helping students who do not succeed get back on their feet again. She just did a radio interview about the transitions to college which you can listen to on iTunes. (The first few minutes are chatter, but the interview will follow, I promise!)  She also blogs for the New York Times, and has a practice called “College with Confidence”.
Then for TCKs returning to the U.S. (though I’m sure any TCK would be welcome!), there are summer transition sessions for high school and college age TCKs run by Interaction International.

For information about sending your child to college from overseas, check out my article  that was published in the AFSA Foreign Service Journal (June 2008) called Flying Solo – Going to College from Overseas: A Guide for Parents.

For practical tips on adjusting to college from other TCKs, read TCKs and College/University: From Overseas to Undergrad that was featured on the expatwomen.com website. I especially enjoyed writing that article, as many of the TCKs interviewed were former students of mine from my years of teaching overseas.

I also have information about  transition to college from a parent perspective gathered on my website. From the College Resources page, scroll down to “Parent Resources”.

Lastly, though there are hundreds of issues that kids and parents need to be aware of, I have found that many students do not have much experience handling their personal finances when they go to college, nor do they really understand basic credit instruments. Here is a resource for students that will give them the basics about credit education.

Hopefully, your children will transition smoothly! If not, know that there are many resources as well as caring, knowledgeable, and experienced professionals out there who can help.

And if you start to get too weepy about your child leaving home, just remember. This is exactly where you wanted them to be at this stage of their lives. They’re going off to college most likely because you’ve also been successful as a parent. So rejoice that you have the opportunity to see them launched!

For more information about college planning services, or presentations on TCKs or college-related topics, please contact me.

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