December 17, 2008

"Third Culture Kid": Being Canadian-American and not having a home

The other day I was talking to someone about how excited they were to go home...and somewhat out of the blue she said something along the lines of "well at least I have a home where people know me" and it sort of got to me a bit. (I actually don't have any friends in Boston I've only actually been there a week...and most of my old friends lived around Vancouver and Chicago and have since spread across North America) When explaining to people where I'm from it often took a while...with the end result being one or both of us concluding that I'm homeless. I've talked about my travels a bit in earlier posts, but right now I'm going to detail it and talk about being what Ruth Hill Useem coined a "Third Culture Kid" means to me.

First off...to give you an idea of my life so far...

I was born in Quebec...moved to a Chicago suburb at age four... Moved around the suburbs a few times...living part-time in Chicago. Then living part-time near Chicago and part-time just outside St. Louis. I then received US citizenship and later moved to British Columbia for a year, moved back to a Chicago suburb for a year, and then to Boston a week before I moved here. I tried counting the number of 'homes' I've lived in and I came up with over a dozen.

Now to being a 'third culture kid'. As the U.S. State Department puts it:

Third-culture kids are those who have spent some of their growing up years in a foreign country and experience a sense of not belonging to their passport country when they return to it. In adapting to life in a 'foreign' country they have also missed learning ways of their homeland and feel most at home in the 'third-culture' which they have created.
I don't think there are any two countries as similar to each other as the U.S. and Canada...and in fact the original study on Third Culture Kids was on North American children living in India, but I've also had the feeling of not having a real home. It's hard to fully tell someone where I'm from in less than thirty words. To Canadians it's usually something like this: Well I was born in Quebec but I've moved around a bit. I moved to the States for a while, around Chicago. I moved up to BC for a while, back to Chicago, and then to Boston and then here.
Then I might go on to say: To be honest I probably liked my time in BC the best...but I went to a better school outside of Chicago...but I don't think I'd move back there.
Do you see how it might be a little complicated?

There are websites dedicated to people in similar situations (albeit most of them have much more varied backgrounds)...and they have a list of answers to the question "Where are you from?" I've probably used ten of them and some of my own:

  • “Somewhere out there”
  • Do you want the long version or the short version?
  • Pick a country—any country!
  • Are you asking where I was born, where I grew up, where my parents are from, or what kind of passport I have?
  • When I find out I’ll let you know.
  • Please don’t ask.
  • Um, it’s kind of hard to explain…
  • Do you have enough time for this?
  • Technically, I’m from…but my parents are from…but I grew up…and I do/don’t speak…but I like living…but technically I’m from…
  • Are you sure you want to know?
  • That’s a tough question.
  • You know, I wish I knew.
  • Um, it depends.
  • I don’t know.
  • Well, all over the world really. Where are you from?
  • Just a sampling of the situations so far that I've felt somewhat out of place, in the (very small) minority, defensive, out of the loop, upset, or confused:
    Political Science: Which system is better, presidential or parliamentary?;
    Canadian History: Everything, especially when hearing what Canadians say about the American Revolution (the British stopped fighting because they were too busy in Europe) and the War of 1812 (the Americans really didn't win);
    Watching Canadian News: especially the most recent political news...I thought Canadian government was democratic;
    Being asked if I identify as American or Canadian (I answered "Umm...I dunno...both?);
    Any political discussion...especially about Canadian politics...or American politics;
    Constant America-bashing...it's pretty well deserved...but it gets old sometimes;
    Telling people I'm renewing my passports;
    Price gouging especially in this small town, hours from any major city (There aren't any in New Brunswick...unless you count Moncton)

    It has been a bit of an adjustment, not only to living at University, but to living back in Canada. I've been reconciling being told (somewhat jokingly, I hope) that I'm not a real Canadian for various reasons (including because I sometimes mock Canadian government, politics, and culture in favor of the US) and feeling a bit distant from some mainstream Canadian perceptions (especially of the U.S.) ...with my past nostalgia...seeing Canada as the pristine country of my birth.

    In-depth Analytics

    So as I promised earlier...here is some detailed information from Google Analytics. It's a service that
    aggregates information about visitor traffic. There is no personally identifiable information in the
    reports. From google: "Due to user privacy concerns, Google Analytics doesn't report on personally identifiable information, including a visitor's IP address. Instead, Google Analytics provides aggregated data..."

    I thought it might be interesting to see where people are visiting this site from...and there are a few surprising results. Here's a map overview showing countries visitors are from over the past 8 weeks:



    and cities:


    Google Analytics also shows a list of the names of the networks people visited from...here's the Universities and a few other interesting ones.


    mount allison university

    A gift from the Iraqis

    In case you missed it...somehow...Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi threw his shoes at President Bush. He shrugged it off afterward as someone "trying to get attention". Well...seeing the event was covered by every major news source in the world...I'm pretty sure he met his goal. But if he cared at all about what he said (in Arabic): "This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog. ... This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."...then he'd know he didn't do it for the attention...but go ahead, brush it off...just like he shrugged off thousands of soldiers' funerals and the deaths of countless others as collateral damage that have died because he doesn't care. Thirty three more days of George Bush is thirty-three days too many.

    Iraqi journalist threw a shoe at George Bush

    Creating/Updating a Resumé

    So I was working on updating and reformatting my resumé and while it is easy to find plenty of varied advice, it took a minute to find information specific to being partway through University. Most general and new college (university) graduate resumé advice sites say to leave off high school activities...but it would be pretty hard to make an attractive resume based solely on the last three months.

    I looked at just University career help sites and (I swear it was random) found a great page from the University of Boston. I know it has helped me so far. I'll probably post (a censored version of) my resume once I have it reformatted and updated.

    Putting off posting about procrastination

    So...this past week...while I was procrastinating doing all the work I had I actually stumbled upon an article about procrastination...but I had things that distracted me from posting about it. It's pretty interesting...and now I can say that I'm not just being lazy and distracted...my expectation of success and the value of completion are very low.

    See if you can spot the typo:

    Academics invent a mathematical equation for why people procrastinate

    It might seem an idle pastime but academics have come up with a mathematical equation for why people procrastinate.

    Prof Piers Steel, a Canadian academic who has spent more than 10 years studying why people put off until tomorrow what they could do today, believes that the notion that procrastinators are either perfectionists or just lazy is wrong.

    Prof Steel, who admits to becoming distracted by computer games himself, argues in a new book that those prone to putting things off suffer from a vice of their own - impulsiveness.

    Chronic procastinators, who make up 20 per cent of the population, are more impulsive and erratic than other people and less conscientious about attention to detail and obligations to others, he says in his forthcoming book, The Procrastination Equation: Today's Trouble with Tomorrow.

    The psychologist, from the University of Calgary, has subsequently formed an equation for why people procrastinate, which began by studying 250 college students.

    The equation is U=EV/ID.

    The 'U' stands for utility, or the desire to complete a given task. It is equal to the product of E, the expectation of success, and V the value of completion, divided by the product of I, the immediacy of the task, and D, the personal sensitivity to delay.

    Prof Steel says procrastination is becoming a bigger issue because many more jobs are "self-structured", with people setting their own schedules.

    This means that people tend to postpone things with delayed rewards in favour of activities that offer immediate rewards.

    "Procastinators tend to live fro today rather than tomorrow. for short term gain for long term pain" he writes.

    Until now, psychologists have generally linked procrastination to perfectionists who avoid tasks rather than produce less than perfect products.

    So, instead of people being too lazy to care about the task, he believes that most procrastinators believe they can complete a task and also care about it.

    Lazy people, by contrast, are not bothered whether they can finish the job – they just do not want to do it. Both can come up with excuses such as a dog eating the homework.

    Famous procrastinators include writers Marcel Proust and Douglas Adams, who famously said he loved the "whoosh" of missed deadlines passing over his head.

    December 16, 2008

    On the end of first semester

    I just finished my last exam of my first semester at University. I've spent the last three weeks doing not very much besides writing term papers and studying for exams...and now it is all over. I have until January before I have to do classwork again. It's a pretty nice feeling. Tomorrow morning I'll be traveling all day 'home' (I moved there a week before I came to Mount Allison...it takes a while to tell people where I'm from) Boston for Christmas break.

    Now that I have free time I'll be able to post more than I have this past week. I'll leave you with a song that I chose party because of the title and partly because being done with first semester is a little bittersweet in that it's a break from class and work and responsibility, but also two and a half weeks away from all my friends at Mount Allison:

    Last exam tonight

    I know I already made a comment about how I'd be really busy during this time (exams)...but don't worry...tonight is my last exam and shortly after that I'll be posting more. The other bloggers generally post at most around once a week...but I think most of them are finished so they may have new posts. If you're not sure where to start, I personally enjoy reading Ashra's blog: http://ashrakolhatkar.blogspot.com/