Emma talks with Ethan a ,fellow third-culture kid, about their experiences growing up overseas and reintegrating back into Singapore society. Join them as they ramble on about everything from identity, dogs, and finding your place in community.
Emma: Hi there, my name is Emma, I am the host of the socially awkward podcast. Today I am here with my friend Ethan and we are going to be talking about being Third Culture kids and moving back to specifically Singapore. So we are going to be talking a little bit about our experiences, re-entering and figuring out who we are as people, which is like an ongoing process.
Ethan Tan: Yeah, we still don’t really know.
Emma: What was it like moving back for you?
Ethan Tan: For me?
That was interesting, because I came in with very little expectations and basically no bars to what I was coming into.
So, coming in and realizing that there was this whole world of sports and activities and different CCAs (Co-Curricular Activities) I could explore. It was kind of mind boggling, because it suddenly expanded my world so much and I was like, “Whoa, there are things in life”.
Now, what about you coming from Bhutan to Singapore?
Emma: I think it’s a little bit different because before I was living in Bhutan, I lived in Singapore. As somebody who doesn’t sound Singaporean, I look Singaporean, but I don’t sound Singaporean, I still found it very difficult to connect with kids around me.
You know, kids usually talk about school, and they would be like, “Oh, what’s homeschooling?” and I’d have to explain that. There would just not be much to relate about that, it really led to in a sense, like an identity crisis. It was like, “Why do I feel homeless, if I have a roof over my head?”.
Ethan Tan: I think that not being able to relate to peers on school level makes it difficult but entering into the homeschooling community and realizing how big that is kind of helped me.
Emma: Yeah, weirdly enough, like as a third culture kid, I cannot wait to move to the next country.
Ethan Tan: That is true. Like I’m kind of like pumped to discover new cities. Not that Singapore is that boring of a city, but like living for two years is like, a long time.
Emma: Yeah, I remember when I first moved back, the first few months were really weird because I always felt like when I was living in Bhutan, I was moving every two months. So when I first moved back, I was like, “Wait, this feels so weird, to not constantly be like packing a bag, and it’s like, what am I doing in one place? Where are we going next.” and then now everywhere is on lockdown.
I was part of Two Worlds, I didn’t exactly belong in either, it was just that constant feeling of being adrift. That really led to a lot of identity crisis’s and I discovered in a sense that even if I didn’t feel like I belong to either of these cases, it was okay.
For me, at least, as a Christian -I know not everyone holds the same set of beliefs – but I’m very thankful because I have confidence that my real home is in heaven. So I shouldn’t need to worry about where I belong or fit in on Earth.
For you, you’ve also moved around a bunch and obviously my identity has been impacted by not just where I live, but also my school. So, for you, how has moving around impacted your sense of identity.
Ethan Tan: I think it’s less for me about like the nation, or like the country that I’m in, it was a lot more about plugging into different communities in and out and trying to understand, like the dynamics and the social settings of each one. That was more of a struggle for me.
When you’re a kid and like you’re younger, a lot of your identity, or at least for myself was built around like my relationship to other people. So it’d be like, “Oh, that’s my mom.”, “That’s my dad.” and “That’s my friend.”.
When you’re constantly being plugged out, and like you have so little people to tether yourself to, in a sense. It was difficult because I didn’t have like that sense of community for a long enough period of time to really get settled into that.
Emma: And I think also partly because when you are a third culture, kids, the people that you end up around are also Third Culture, kids. So everyone is always just constantly on the move.
Ethan Tan: I think that’s why like moving back to Singapore and having like people that have grown up here since they were kids. I think that was interesting for me, because I saw this community that was already so like, firmly established and it was intimidating at first. I mean, because they’ve known each other for so long. I didn’t know how I fit in at first. I was really lucky and very fortunate to have them really accepted. I’m very grateful for that because I think it made finding who I was and figuring out who I am now a lot easier.
Follow up interview (2023):
1. What do you do now?
Ethan: I’m a student at Berklee College of music.
2. Compared to the last time you were with us, what has changed?
Ethan: From the last time I talked to Homeschool Alumni, I’m no longer in NS and am pursuing my higher education.
3. Do you have tips or tricks for teen homeschoolers who want to continue homeschooling?
Ethan: My best tip to homeschoolers is to take full advantage of the flexibility allowed to them. Use it to explore your interests and develop your passions.
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