When people think of home, they often imagine the bedrooms they grew up in, the local bakery they always went to, and a place that forever holds their childhood memories. Where someone grows up often plays a large role in the person they become. People take pride in where they are from and feel a connection with the people, culture, and history of their town.
The third culture kid (TCK) has a very different experience from the classic “hometown” experience. The third culture kid is someone who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside of the parents’ culture, and often in various countries. Carolina Gerberding, a degree-seeking JCU senior, uses this term to attempt to describe herself and her childhood.
Gerberding’s mom grew up in Austria, and her dad in Germany; she is a first generation American who holds both an American and EU passport. Carolina spent much of her childhood in America, but also spent significant amounts of time in Austria with her relatives, and in Florence, where her mom moved. This seems like a dream to many of us: to have the ability to live in three different countries and experience three different cultures. The benefits of living life with no borders are vast and irreplaceable.
However, it does sometimes leave the TCK kid feeling lost when it comes to self-identification. Gerberding explains, “I had a heavy influence of German and Austrian culture, yet I was surrounded by Americans growing up; I hated trying to answer where I was from.”
Gerberding knew that she wanted to explore all sides of herself once she was out of high school and could decide where to live and attend college. Gerberding’s decision to go abroad and spend time in Europe independently was one she felt was necessary for her. “I never felt 100% anything. I switched between my American, my Austrian, and my German sides. I knew I needed to be in a more international setting.” Gerberding enrolled at John Cabot University in Fall 2013, and has met many fellow “TCK” students who she has been able to relate and connect with. The international community of JCU has allowed her to realize that no one is defined by their country: “JCU’s environment allows countries’ borders to become invisible, and the blending of cultures is inevitable. I realize my roots are Austrian and German, but I can be influenced and shaped by any culture. It’s a great feeling.”
Gerberding will be graduating in May 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in International Business and a minor in Marketing. She is looking for jobs in both Italy and Germany, and wants to remain in Europe. Gerberding believes that being a third culture kid has driven her to explore more of the world without any hesitation. She says, “Home isn’t a place, but rather it’s people; I have friends everywhere, therefore I have a home everywhere.”