Identity, Dual Citizenship & The Third Culture Kid

One of the simplest questions in the english language. For some this is where they were born. Where they spent most of their lives. Where they currently live. Where they currently work. It is simple. You get asked the question then you give a location. Period. It is not rocket science. In my case, it might as well be rocket science, quantum physics and neuroscience combined. You are probably thinking, “What the heck is this girl talking about? It is just a question.” To fully understand why I get a mini panic attack when someone asks that question you would need to know a little more about my past. Where should I start? 

Twenty one years ago, yours truly was born in Houston, Texas. “Okay, good. So you are from Texas and you are American.” This is true but not exactly. My parents are Nigerian. Both born and raised in Nigeria. Although they are from different tribes and cities but Nigerians all the same. Once I was born, we stayed in the U.S. for a short while then I was raised in Nigeria till the age of 11. By the way, I have a younger brother and he is also in the same boat. We like to say we are ‘American Born and Nigerian Raised’.

Okay… back to the story. My parents, brother and I moved to Malaysia. A country located in South East Asia. Extremely far from Nigeria and the United States. Both places at this point, I still considered home. 5 years past, Malaysia finally starts to feel like home then guess what? We move. Don’t get me wrong, I know I am not Malaysian. I don’t even look remotely Malaysian or Asian in anyway but my school, my friends, the Malaysian people and their culture were all very welcoming. When you spend 5 years in one place you can’t help but claim a little part of it as your own. Anyways, we said our goodbyes and left behind the tropical weather and AMAZING food. Right now, you are probably thinking, “Cool… so now you are going home to Nigeria and the question is easy. You will live in Nigeria. So you are from Nigeria.” Wrong! 

We moved to Qatar. A very small country located in the Middle East, near United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. It is a little closer to Nigeria, which was good for visiting family and friends. To make things more complicated even though we moved to Qatar, my brother and I were enrolled to start high school in the U.S.. My mum thought it would be helpful for my brother and I to be more in tune with the American school system, since we planned to go to university in the States. Which I have to say was brilliant. Changing from the British school system to American would have been much harder if we had to do it in our late teens. We spent summers and christmas in Qatar with our parents and the other months of the year in Georgia attending boarding school. 15 hour fights to us was like taking a drive to the grocery store. You have heard of couples in long distance relationships. But have you heard of families in long distance relationships? It wasn’t terrible because my mum’s brother and his family live in Georgia meaning we had loved ones close by. 

Okay, let’s debrief. I was born in Texas, Raised in Nigeria and Malaysia, lived in Qatar while schooling in the U.S.. Now is, “Where are you from” as easy to answer as you thought? I probably sound like I’m nagging but I don’t mean for it to come off that way. Believe me when I say I would never trade any of my experiences for anything. Moving around has made me into the outgoing individual I am today. When I was younger I did struggle with my identity. I was never “American enough” or too Americanized to be Nigerian. Living in Malaysia I went to an international school and was exposed to so many kids in my situation. My best friend was Afghan Pakistani Canadian. One of my close friends was half British and half Korean. I realized that we can be more than one thing, one category, one nationality, one race and it’s okay. In fact, it is not just okay. It is amazing! 

As I got older and started to be more comfortable with who I am. I understood the beauty of diversity and being different. Living in today’s world things are always changing. The more globalized we become, the more people like me exist. A while back, I heard of the term, Third Culture Kid. Which if you can identify with my situation, you probably are one.

“Third culture kid (TCK) is a term used to refer to children who were raised in a culture outside of their parents' culture for a significant part of their development years.” - source

When I found out there is an actual term for what my brother and I are. I was amazed, way more amazed than my brother but he is a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. The whole “identity thing” did not bother him as much as it bothered me. But we both found it interesting. My point of this whole ramble is to share a little bit about my life and maybe help others like me, who are struggling to understand their identity and where they fit in. And it is okay not to fit in. I also wanted to explain to people who may not relate but wish to understand. 

This past year alone there has been a lot of hate when it comes to race and nationality. Individuals like Donald Trump are glorifying hatful speech and causing a divide among society. I want us to understand that diversity and someone being different isn’t something to be afraid of, it is something to embrace. 

To answer the question, Where am I from? I’ll like to say a little bit of everywhere but I’ll let you decide.