“Goodbye Africa! Hello America!” That was the sign I made for each of my kids as we sent them off to college. We invited all their African friends and our fellow workers. It was a great time of yummy cookies, cultural mixing, and thoughtful gifts from friends.
Then the actual departure. It was a traumatic event for all of us.
I feel a bit overwhelmed trying to put something together about that transition. It’s going to take several installments, and I will probably return to the topic again and again.
Today, I’m writing for the TCK. I have raised six, still working on one at home. I have talked to some, helped some more, and I love them all…
So for you, the TCK:
You will experience culture shock. It is real and don’t think you will be the first to experience it.
In your host country (say, Africa) you know how to do the hand-slapping, finger-snapping handshake. You know all those catch phrases used in your foreign language. You play soccer like a native pro. You have traveled across the country in overcrowded buses, rickety, old trains, and honking taxis. You can argue over the price of a shoestring, and eat just about anything that is served to you: snake soup, monkey brains, or fried grasshoppers.
But now you find yourself lost in conversations about Hollywood movie stars and the newest iPhone app. You can’t drive down the street since there’s no public transportation. You don’t know how dress – how to choose the right shade of jeans or whether that symbol on your hat means something bad or shows your loyalty to a football team you didn’t even know existed. The paper work (writing checks, getting your permit, taking entrance exams) is a labyrinth. And you don’t like the way people act. They don’t sit outside on their porches or ride bicycles to town. They live very busy lives. In short, you are a foreigner in a foreign land. That is NOT comfortable.
Recognizing the problem is one thing. Dealing with it is another. Here are just a few thoughts.
1. This is God’s will for your life (leaving your family, going to college, and living far from home). If you can’t accept that, then you need to go to the Lord and talk to Him about it. He loves you, He cares for you, and He wants what is best for you, but that doesn’t always equal “easy.”
2. Give yourself time. Don’t expect too much of yourself. Getting through each day is a good goal.
3. Pray for God to help you find a buddy, probably another TCK.
4. Don’t criticize. Don’t complain. Don’t whine. Few people will keep you company, much less be your friend.
5. Smile a lot. That is communication that everyone likes.
6. Ask, Ask, Ask. If you don’t know, ASK.
7. Pray about joining a ministry: Sunday School, extension group, community project, or a Bible club. This is YOU ministering to others. Not everything is centered around “ME.”
8. Keep close tabs with home. That will help you not feel abandoned or dumped in the USA, but still very much a part of your family.
9. Be an eager learner. Never done that before. Never seen that before. Never heard that before. Great! Learners are humble, and everyone likes to help a willing learner.
10. Here are four anchors you can throw out:
a. God’s love for me is unchanging. (I John 4:16)
b. God’s purpose for me is Christlikeness. (Colossians 1:28)
c. God’s Word to me is the final, right answer. (2 Peter 1:3, 4)
d. God’s grace for me is sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
I promise you, Dad and Mom are praying for you. I promise you, you are loved, greatly. I promise, it will get better. This is a growing-up process; you will succeed by God’s grace.
What are some other ways you have found helpful adjusting to the US as a TCK?
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you.…’ Therefore I am well content….” 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10