Being a Third Culture Kid at NYU

NYU has the highest number of international students in the U.S. So, it makes it a little easier for a Third-Culture Kid like myself to navigate the diverse population of NYU. That being said, there are challenges that students like myself face in even the most diverse of settings. My experience being that of a Third-Culture Kid in the MA in Media, Culture, and Communication (MCC) program at NYU Steinhardt and in New York City has had a lot of ups and downs.

So what or who is a Third Culture Kid, exactly? According to Heidi Sand-Hart, 

“A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside of the parents’ culture. The TCK builds a relationship to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership of any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.”

Ref: Sand-Hart, Heidi. Home Keeps Moving: (Kindle Locations 209-212). McDougal Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Being that I am both Ghanaian and Australian and lived in five countries before I turned 18, a third-culture kid is probably the best way to describe myself. Coming from a culturally rich background, I thrive in diverse settings. So, I was really excited about studying at one of the most diverse universities in the world (NYU) in one of the most diverse cities in the world (New York City!) I thought the move would be pretty straight forward, as I have moved so many times in my life and assimilated into cultures well. Little did I know that this move would bring in new challenges and learning experiences.

"Someone asked me where I'm from... and now I have to explain!" meme

"Where are you from?" Such a common question, but difficult for me to answer. In fact, I usually reply with, “well, that’s a loaded question.”  But I love the fact that people seem genuinely interested in my response. Answering this question gives me an opportunity to define myself, something that I wasn’t able to really do previously.

Owning my identity as a Third Culture Kid has probably been the most liberating and unexpected part of my NYU experience. It has worked to my advantage in my academics. In one of my favorite classes at Steinhardt, Globalization in the Cultural Dimensions, I was able to leverage on my multi-cultural experiences to add to the class conversation. And, being in a class of seven students (each one from a different country), made the class a lot more vibrant and fun!

Photo of Sedem's "Globalization in the Cultural Dimensions" class

When the ‘classroom’ is comprised of students from different parts of the world, it is inevitable that you will have to do a web chat for class. Photo cred: Yuchen Chen

The best thing about being at NYU is that there are lot more people who are like you than you actually think. I mean they might not be TCK’s in the literal sense, but they are people with a global outlook and are willing to learn more about the world. Because of that, my group of friends at NYU hail from a variety of places. From my Canadian friend who has traversed Western Europe to my Puerto Rician friend is obsessed with Arab music, Bollywood movies and boba tea, the people I have surrounded myself are as diverse as the United Nations. That is one of my favourite things about NYU, because having spent most of my time in international schools, the diversity of this university has made it become my home.

Photo of Sedem and her NYU friends from around the world

This group of people represenst so many different cultures and places through the world. They are amazing! Photo cred: Sowmitha Srinivasan

At the end of the day, I would not trade my life I have had for anything. Sure it comes with its own challenges, but it allows me to connect to so many people from across the world. And that is really special to an extrovert like me! Plus, if it wasn’t for all these experiences, I wouldn’t have ended up at my new, adopted home: NYU. ☺