Reem Al-Ahmad: Third Culture Kid

Reem is one of many ambitious and remarkable young leaders who applied for MALA’s Scholarship Program in 2018-2019. To learn more about MALA’s scholarship opportunities, click here.

Riding the bus on a rainy day, I aimlessly starred at the water droplets run down my window. My focus suddenly skewed towards one specific raindrop. I watched it gain momentum as it collected from other droplets around it to reach it’s desired destination. I realized that this raindrop is a reflection of my identity, a collaboration of everyone around me.

I was born into one culture, grew up in another, and educated by a third. I am what some call a third culture kid – TCK. My identity is distributed among three different cultures. Because of this, I developed a culture of my own.

Ever since I was six, I attended a British International School that had a large impact on my morals, values, and identity. My school had over 64 nationalities represented by the student body so it really felt like the UN. I learned about what it meant to be a TCK through them.

My return to the United States, after 11 years abroad, felt like opening the doors to an old house that no longer belonged to me. Everything was out of order. My bed in the kitchen, washing machine on the balcony, and the refrigerator in the bathroom. I was lost. I felt unsettled. Despite this, my natural affinity to outsiders led me to the TCK community of the Tri-Cities in Michigan. I was introduced to TCKs and third culture adults, TCAs, that were in similar situations.

Sharing my story made me comfortable with being in cultural limbo, culminating with choosing my native tongue. Should I speak predominantly English or Arabic? Being a TCK taught me that I don’t need to choose; I can exemplify both. For me, embracing the concept of ‘both’ was better than just being comfortable. This community taught me that being a TCK is a lifelong endeavor, it doesn’t just stop here. I strive to become a TCA for future TCKs to look up to and learn from my experiences.

This TCK community sparked a new understanding of home. A sense of belonging. As a result, I crossed the Atlantic and integrated into American society. Now, I see my community as something mobile. A space not a place. It is connected more with the people rather than a specific geographical location. Surrounded by people with different stories made me realize I have my own story. My differences no longer made me different, they made me thrive as a citizen of the world. Belonging is easy now, which was the hardest question of my life.