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Do You Wear Many Cultural Hats?

By Andrea Schmitt
Are you an Educational CCK, a Cross Cultural or a Third Cultural Kid? Putting a label on people, stereotyping them, or putting them into boxes based on nationalities, religion or political inclinations, is wrong. But learning about their backgrounds may be helpful to understand other people’s  struggles and unique circumstances.
Stanstead is home to students from all over the world. Some of them walk over a border, others have left their home country, and some just run across campus grounds to attend school. Today, I would like to explain the concept of CCKs, Cross Cultural Kids. The figure at right stems from Steven Pollack’s book Third Culture Kids: Growing up Among Worlds (2010).
“A Cross-Cultural Kid ( CCK) is a person who has lived in—or meaningfully interacted with—two or more cultural environments for a significant period of time during developmental years.” (Ruth E. Van Reken, co-author, Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds, 2002)
So, what are the differences? In which category do you or your classmates fit? Maybe in more than one…?
A Third culture kid is someone who has lived an important part of his/her developmental years in another country (or countries) other than their or their parents' passport country. These kids accompany their parents as children of military personal (military brats), children of diplomats (foreign service kids), missionaries (missionary kids) or parents working in multinational companies (corporate kids).
According to Pollock & Van Reken (2009), a Domestic Cross Cultural Kid is a child whose parents have moved in and among various subcultures within that child’s home country (meaning different cities, provinces, states).
The group of International Adoptees consists of children who were adopted by parents from a different country other than the children’s birth country.
Kids whose parents left their home country because of unchosen circumstances (natural disasters, war, unrest, violence) are named Children of Refugees.
Children of Immigrants include kids whose parents have made a permanent move out of their home country to a new country.
Children of Minorities are children with parents from an ethnic or racial group which is a minority in the country where they live.   
Educational Cross Cultural Kids consist of children moving between educational cultures, for example from an eastern educational culture to the western educational culture. For me, this category also includes students moving from living at home to living at a boarding school or even going from a local school to an international school, because they will be experiencing a new educational culture.
Stanstead is a perfect example of Children of Borderlanders, as these are kids who are living on or near a border between two countries and may be living in one country and crossing the border to go to school in the other one.
Mixed Heritage Children are kids whose parents come from different cultures and backgrounds.
The category of Bi/Multi-cultural or Bi/Multi-racial Children includes children who were born to parents from at least two cultures and/or races.      

One category that is no being explained in this model is the Parachute Kid, as mentioned in a previous newsletter. The short version is: you were dropped off to study or live alone in a different country from your home country.        

1. Children often belong to more than one category at the same time. (e.g. an Educational Cross Culture Kid whose parents are from mixed heritage, etc.).

2. Very often children from these groups feel at ease with other children from the same group and they often stick, study and spend their free time together. Why? Because sometimes it is just easier to talk to someone with a similar background and who “gets you!”

3. CCks have a particular struggle with identity as a feeling of belonging can be difficult for them!
The norm of a “normal life” is to grow up in the same village, finish school there and work nearby. This is actually how I grew up until I was 21, but definitely not how my daughter did; by the time she started at Stanstead College, she had already lived in five countries and attended seven schools. By the way, she is a Third Culture, an Educational Culture, a Mixed Heritage and a Bicultural Kid.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I know from experience that it is hard to be in one of these groups. They are not seen as “normal” in any country, though some countries are more accepting than others. 
Start a conversation, ask your class- or roomates which category they think they belong to. You might be surprised! Get curious, question them about their upbringing. No category is better than the other, all have their advantages and challenges. Try to put yourself in their shoes, be kind and understandable. Differences can be scary, you think your peers are weird and show strange behaviour. One thing is for sure, differences are definitely interesting!

Be kind to yourself and others!

Andrea Schmitt is a life coach specializing in teenage girls and a former Stanstead parent (Jessica Lozano Schmitt 2018). Find out more about her services at or email