Student Spotlight: Alexa Shearer, The ‘Third Culture Kid’ Experience

JCU Student Spotlight, Alexa Shearer, The 'Third Culture Kid' Experience, TCK, study abroad in Rome, international schools abroad John Cabot University is a very diverse place with many international students. Because of this it seems the question “where are you from?” would be a simple one, requiring a simple answer; however, for me and for many of my peers, it is not. In fact, personally, I can tell when the dreaded question is coming and I always begin to scramble in my mind, thinking… “Hmm…should I give the short answer or the long one?”

I am Alexa Shearer; I have an American passport, I have moved nine times, lived in seven different countries and have spent ten-plus years living abroad in places which are not my “passport country.” I guess you could say I’ve had an ever-changing life thus far, but one thing that has stayed constant is that my day-to-day existence is never boring.

Ruth Hill Useem, American sociologist and anthropologist, used the term ‘Third Culture Kid’ or ‘TCK’ in the 1950’s to describe me and the other kids like me who were ‘children who accompany their parents into another society.’

My childhood as a ‘military brat’ was nothing unusual to me because it was all I knew. It was as I grew older and my father’s military job turned into a diplomatic one that I began to realize that I identified more with a foreign culture than with my own. I have lived in The United States, France (every summer of my childhood), Germany, The Republic of Georgia, Russia, Bulgaria, and now, Italy. Moving every two or so years was common, but when my father’s job changed, somehow my family and I found ourselves living in Russia for seven years—much longer than we had expected.

Leaving the place I lived the longest in was the hardest of my nine moves, because I guess you could say I did my ‘growing up’ there. Russia was the country I lived in during my most crucial years so far: from when I was 11 to 18 and I know that Russia as a country—the people, the culture, the city (Moscow)—played a dominant role in shaping me as a person. Living in Russia was not like living in any of my other ‘homes.’ My family and I fully embraced the lifestyle and the culture, learning the language, and experiencing the ‘Russian life’ first-hand. To this day, some of my family’s very best friends are Russian and there is thought of Russia or the Russian language every single day in my parents’ home.

Now, as I live my daily life in Italy—yet another foreign country—and someone asks where I am from, I have developed a short answer, which may not actually be so short: I am Alexa, I am American but I grew up in Russia—for these are the two most dominant cultures in my life. It may turn into a 30 minute discussion, political debate, or conversation of cultural appreciation, but I guess you could say ‘having nothing to talk about’ is never an issue with a Third Culture Kid.

Alexa Shearer

JCU Class of 2015
Communications Major
Grew up in The United States, Germany, The Republic of Georgia, Russia, and Bulgaria

Student Spotlight