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Keeping Grounded

I wrote out my background and promptly deleted it. You’ll thank me, it was boring. Since the impressionable age of four, I spent a good decade at the amazing Western Academy of Beijing gathering an ever-changing motley crew of friends, as I stayed put in this wonderful international bubble.

I remember a lot of coming and going of friends in those years.

I remember getting excited at the start of every school year when you’d eagerly await the new class lists and see a whole new batch of kids coming in. Kids from all over the world, funneled into this peculiar universe that felt like a loose version of America had dislodged and accidentaly landed smack bang in the middle (figuratively) of China.

And then at the end of the year, kids talking about going back home or the next leg of their life-of-an-expat tour. In the ten years, I had unwittingly crafted an incoherent mishmash of identity and culture for myself.

And so naturally, by the end of middle school, I was ready to find a place to latch onto, ground myself and never let go. You’re welcome Australia.

And so, began my journey of full immersion – we got a house, we got a dog, I went to school with the school uniforms, and equipped with my pesky ‘American’ accent, I was ready to adopt my new home of Sydney.

The first few years were the biggest shock – was being a lifelong international kid not supposed to make me immune to culture shock?

It was strange, my year group never changed, people lived in houses in the open and not in gated communities (!), and I could not escape this accent, which I loved but also felt surprisingly claustrophobic when it became the only one and everywhere.

I missed my wonderfully weird and unique years back in China, which felt normal to me. But I did end up making the greatest Aussie friends here and we do some Aussie things sometimes…

When I came across the term ‘third culture kid’ a few years back, it felt like a ‘YES!’ moment, like someone had so clearly and wholeheartedly articulated so many little snippets of my life experiences and wrapped it up in this beautifully succinct word.

I wish I had come across it earlier as a validation to my younger self of my loopy experiences as an international kid. But I’m also happy about the life I’ve built here and the amazing people I call my friends.

Nine years onward - and ironically, still on a temporary visa (preach) - I feel like a true Aussie local with an accent to remind me of the wonderful upbringing that led me here.

I can’t seem to shake the feeling that this won’t be my last stop; because at twenty-two and three continents later, I feel like the world is truly so small when you call it your home.

By Elsie

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