Before I got the idea somehow planted in my head that we Third Culture Kids are more worldly and outgoing than others, I didn’t see us as Third Culture Kids, I saw us as kids who went to international schools or lived overseas and moved around a lot. For the international school kids, I didn’t see most people there as open or worldly, but spoiled, sheltered, bigoted rich kids.
My old high school teacher once told me that we live in bubbles at that international school: most of these rich kids go to the same malls and clubs, same friends’ homes, get around in our air-conditioned cars and school buses, and go to and from the airports to other countries and encounter the same bubbles again, gravitating towards the same restaurants like TGI Fridays or McDonald’s.
Think about it: I used to wake up in my apartment, get in my car, then I’d be at school, but the experience on the road or highway didn’t feel like it was anything at all, not even a transit point, a forgettable part of my daily life experiences. I didn’t even walk around my own neighborhood until near the end of my stay in the Philippines because it was too dirty and dangerous. I never really grasped the totality of any place I was in until I started walking around for long distances and getting a real feel instead of being in my shelter, my armor, otherwise known as my car or the bus.
We’ve even got our own personal bubbles, thanks to iPods and laptops. Whenever I went to art class back in high school, it was a time to sample what was new on the radio and chat with everyone while drawing or painting, or experiment with other people’s music. It was loud and lively in every art class, and now it’s all these kids wearing iPods, walled off and protected from outside interference through their music, their solace, their escape, their own reality. It really showed me who was rich with the newest iPods and iTouches I saw when I visited my high school seven years later, because the kids on scholarships who were locals with little or no money had cassette or CD players instead! It was sad because the other kids were making fun of them for still using ancient technology in their eyes instead of understanding the big divide in money and social class. Kind of disillusioning, really.
Very few people I encountered in international schools had friends who were locals–my international school was unique in that it allowed Filipino citizens to attend as long as they had the money to afford the ridiculous $12,000 (U.S. dollars) a year for tuition.
Other schools I’ve seen rarely let locals in, and usually they were children of politicians or very wealthy people in the business world. It was as if our language and our foreignness (even for people who were also Filipinos) made us see locals as locals and not really talk to them. It’s almost as if some of my friends with Filipino blood at the international school didn’t know what it was like to be Filipino or understand the culture because they never interacted with other Filipinos aside from their international school classmates and friends!
Looking back, there are definitely a lot of things I could have done better, but maturity comes to people at different times and phases in life. Coming from international school, we definitely can go both ways: have an inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement or be open-minded, open-hearted individuals.
It’s part of the globalist philosophy and movement to go beyond our world and dismantle borders, so instead of building walls and burning bridges, I’m building bridges and busting down walls, trying to get out of the familiarity and comfort zone. After all: going from one international school to the next doesn’t mean I’m more worldly by being in another country and the school there, it’s just replacing one bubble for the next for shelter from the world around us.