Cultural Chameleon – My Son’s Journey As A Third Culture Kid

What If There Were No Borders….

Jamaican-born Janet Haughton Quarshie is a wife and mother of two young men, presently living in Canada. She is a Mindful Therapist and a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, specializing in integrating clinical and holistic techniques in her practice. She received her Yoga Teacher Training and Yoga Therapy Training during the decade she and her family lived in Southern India. She is an IAYT Certified Yoga Therapist and a Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach. She is also a Watsu Practioner who loves to take clients into a deeper warmer sense of themSelves.

Cross Cultured Kids:

Her sons belong to an emerging class termed Third Culture Kids ( TCK) or Cross-Cultured Kids (CCK) :

Our cross-cultured kids, consider themselves “fourth-cultured” in that they grew up in India and at the same time they were influenced by their mother’s Jamaican roots, their father’s West African origins as well as their own Canadian birthplace.” JHQ

Born in Jamaica and growing up in Canada and in England, like her sons she understands what it is like to live in between cultures.

In 1984, sociologist Ted Ward said that TCKs were the prototype citizen of the future,

A TCK’s Story:

This is a story about Mekhi, a child who grew up as a global citizen in a world with fewer cultural borders. This predates the precarious state that we find ourSelves in, with the Covid-19 pandemic closing borders and impeding our ability to travel freely. It’s not only Covid that is driving us apart, underscoring the urgency of seeing the world as one, seeing ourSelves in others, seeing through the other’s eyes.

Early education

Mekhi started his formal education shortly after his family arrived in Chennai Inda on April 7, 2007. His first school was a Montessori-based school with a leaking roof which resulted in the kids staying home every time it rained. For Junior and Senior Kindergarten Mekhi could have attended the American International School of Chennai however, his idealistic mother wanted him and his brother to be immersed in Indian culture.

During his preschool experience in the Indian School system, Mekhi learned Indian dance, songs, foods and festivals, and was totally assimilated into South Indian culture.

Transition into grade school

Mekhi transitioned from the Indian school system to the American International School Chennai for first grade.  On the first day of school, rushing in through the turnstiles – his mother held on to one of his hands and asked if he wanted her to walk him in. He looked back at her and replied, “No mama I’m okay” and off he went…
Leaving his mother behind with a quivering lower lip and some invisible cord tugging at her heart.

From first through seventh grade Mekhi made lifelong relationships with kids from diverse backgrounds. While he focused on academics he was mostly interested in travelling for competitive sports, karate, choir and theatre. At the same time, he was developing a sense of what it’s like to have global citizenship and what it is to be a global citizen.

 

Global citizenship:
The idea that one’s identity transcends geography or political borders and that responsibilities or rights are derived from membership in a broader class: “humanity”. 

A Global Citizen:
Someone who understands the wider world and their place in it.

Transitioning back to one’s home country from living overseas can be difficult and each individual in the family can experience it in different ways.  Mekhi and his family relocated to Canada when he was about to start eighth grade. Moving, especially during the adolescent years can be very challenging. However, Mekhi made a smooth transition and adjusted Chameleon-like to his new school environment and curriculum.  He graduated middle school with honours and was also awarded Sports Man of the Year.

 

High School career

Mekhi was very active during his high school career. He was voted as Deputy Prime Minister of Student Council, was an Executive Member of the Multicultural Club.  He also served as Senior Members of the Debate Club as well as the schools’ entrant into the Provincial Ethics Bowl.  He did all this while carrying a full workload and graduated with a full IB (International Baccalaureate) Diploma.

He extended himself throughout high school, as a member of both the School Band and the Jazz Band.  He also played for the school’s Soccer, Volleyball, Swimming, and Cross Country teams.

The Journey Continues:

This past summer (2021) post-high school graduation Mekhi worked at “the best Indian restaurant in town! ” His appreciation for south and north Indian cuisine served him well at India 47 where he worked as Waiter.

Mekhi is currently a first-year student at the University Of Toronto and finding his own way.  His new friend and roommate is British and flew in from Germany where he lived with his family. Third Culture Kids gravitate to one another!

Mekhi grew up in India from age 3 to age 13. He and his brother and many of their friends belong to an emerging group of Cultural Chameleons called Third Culture Kids (TCK).  They all have one thing in common, like Mekhi they have spent a significant part of their childhood experience in at least one country and culture other than their own.

Read more about Third Culture Kids in my blog: “I hadn’t heard of the term Third Culture Kids until I realized I was raising two of them.

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Janet Haughton Quarshie

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