3 Cultured Kids (3CKs) is an interview series touching upon questions related to the multi-faceted lives of Global Nomads and/or TCKs.
What are some of the first things you notice when you arrive in a new country?
Aksheya: I think the first thing I notice whenever I arrive in a new country, or any new city, is how friendly (and sometimes not so friendly) the people are. My interactions with people in different countries is something that always stands out to me when I’m in a new place and I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve mostly interacted with friendly and helpful people when I’m traveling to a new country. It’s also always very interesting to me how different interactions with complete strangers can be in different countries. When I first got to the U.S. for college and attended orientation, I was told not to be surprised if a passerby on the street nodded their head at me and said “How’s it going?” and then continued to walk away before I could even respond. Five years later, and I think I’m still a little surprised at how outgoing the people I’ve interacted with in the U.S. are compared to people I’ve interacted with in other countries.
Grace: I’m a very language-oriented person and have a huge respect for foreign language, with everything it has to offer to culture. So, when I first arrive in a country, I pay attention to the road signs, writing on stands and stalls on the street, and the interactions people have with one another. It sets the tone for my communication with the country.
Additionally, I like to pay attention to how people greet each other. Being Turkish, I kiss on both cheeks. Being American, I generally give hugs. Having spent the majority of my time in India, I nod my head in respect. There are a lot of choices and I want to make sure I’m being as sensitive and respectful as possible.
Simon: The first thing I notice when I travel to a new country is the people around me. When you travel, you are going to look at another culture, and understanding it starts by looking and interacting with people. Once you notice how people react to you, whether they are friendly, open-minded or very cooperative, this gives you an insight of what to expect from them and how to navigate yourself without being rude and disrespectful.
Please share what you love and don’t love about traveling. Do you like to bring things back with you?
Aksheya: One of my favourite things about traveling is the opportunity to try different types of food and coffee. I love trying new foods and I am somewhat of a coffee addict (as are my parents and most of my friends) so when I am traveling with either my family or my friends, one of our biggest priorities is to try the local cuisine and the coffee offered in that country! I’m pretty certain that every country I’ve been to has a different type of coffee- and while I’m partial to the coffee and condensed milk duo that is popular in Malaysia, I’ve also loved most of the coffee I’ve tried in other countries. I absolutely love to bring things back with me- usually something small for my apartment or jewelry from that country. Another thing I love about traveling is the feeling of stepping into an airport. I absolutely love airports and the moment I walk into one, I feel that familiar rush of excitement and energy that can only come with traveling!
My least favourite part of traveling- now that’s hard. I think it can be very difficult and often stressful sometimes to travel in large groups- especially when people within the group have different interests and you only have a short amount of time in the city or country. Sometimes that can lead to a great mix of seeing different parts of the country, but sometimes it can mean not having the chance to explore a new place in the way that you want to. I’ve found that there are some people in my life that make the perfect travel companion for me and that some trips may be better done alone- but I do think it’s important to try both and see what works best for you!
Grace: I’m enchanted by the fact that, no matter where I go, I feel as if I’m home. Constant travel puts me at ease in new situations and environments. It’s okay if I don’t speak the language or know my directions – I have confidence that I can make my way around.
What I don’t love about traveling has actually been hitting me hard lately and that’s goodbyes. It’s really rough to see people come and go so often, to be leaving friends and family. Sure, you’re off on a new adventure, but that doesn’t mean leaving the people to whom you’ve grown so close is any easier on the heart.
I always love to bring things back with me. In university right now, I have two Indian tapestries that I hang to provide that sense of warmth that feels so exclusive to India.
Simon: I love meeting new cultures and people. Interacting and understanding cultures is essential in modern times. Everyday, we interact with people who have different backgrounds, even ethnicities. By traveling, you learn how to be respectful with other people’s culture, and become a very open-minded person, which is very important if you want to achieve goals in life. The downside might be losing your luggage at the airport or getting jet-lagged because of successive flights!
My family always brings back souvenirs. We do not buy them at the airport: we prefer souvenirs from local shops and convenience stores. Sometimes we bring back food.
What continents have you visited and where do you want to go next? Do you have a bucket list?
Aksheya: I have lived in and travelled all over Asia and North America. I’ve also been to parts of Australia and to Egypt but would love to see more of Africa! I have never been to South America or Europe (except for Istanbul once when I was very young!) and both are definitely on my bucket list! I would love to visit each continent but am especially excited to one day travel throughout Europe- my first stops will probably be England, Belgium, Italy and Spain.
Grace: I know Central America isn’t a continent but it’s hard to define Honduras. Some people call it South, others North America so Central it is. Additionally, I’ve lived in and visited Europe and Asia, having spent the majority of my years overseas in India. My next step is to get to North Africa, particularly Morocco. As I’m studying Arabic and am deeply fascinated by Middle Eastern culture, it is a goal of mine to get myself there soon. My bucket list includes anywhere and everywhere.
Simon: I have visited Europe, Asia, North America and Africa (–Note: I’m a little bit confused by the notion of continent because Europe and Asia are technically one continent, same thing with North and South America–). I would love to visit South America and Oceania! My dream is to be able to travel to Thailand and go down through Indonesia to Tasmania (Australia); I would also like to travel to Madagascar and Peru.
Many travelers like to carry a pillow, wear their favorite airplane clothes, or get a specific meal before boarding. Do you have any airport or airplane rituals?
Aksheya: My biggest priority when flying (especially for long trips) is comfort. I have a favourite pair of super comfortable pants that I like to wear for trips. I also hate wearing closed toed shoes when I fly, so even if I am leaving/entering a cold country and need to have winter boots, I carry a pair of flip flops in my bag that I can put on the second I get into the airport and only take off when I leave the airport.
Grace: I actually become quite the hermit on a plane. I always choose the window seat as I never get up and I never eat airplane food. I pretty much sit tight throughout the whole travel experience and listen to music
Simon: I do not carry anything like pillows or airplane clothes. The only thing near a ritual is to buy food before boarding because you never know what kind of food they will serve you!
Do you enjoy flying on planes? Is there a funny or interesting story you could share with us?
Aksheya: I absolutely love flying on planes, and love being in airports even more! When I am on long flights, I usually come prepared with a book to read and a laptop full of movies/shows to watch. I remember one trip from Manila to Boston, when I was watching an episode of the show So You Think You Can Dance on my laptop. The show had actually just ended and the winner had been revealed, but I was a few episodes behind and was catching up. While watching, the flight attendant tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to my laptop and I happened to pause it when my favourite contestant was on the screen. He asked me if I was watching the last episode and if that contestant had won (he hadn’t :() and we ended up getting into a long conversation about our favourite contestants and our favourite dances from the season! One of my favourite parts of flying (and traveling) is the random and often wonderful conversations you can strike up with complete strangers- whether it’s the person sitting next to you on your flight or the flight attendant walking up and down the aisles checking on the passengers
Grace: It depends on where I end up going. Europe from the US is easy – it’s short with typically no layovers. Going to India, however, is a journey and it’s always daunting to prepare myself for about 24 hours of travel, no matter the countless times I’ve done it.
My most recent story revolves around the fact that I had just found out about a slipped disc in my back, which was to be treated as I arrived in the US. My trip started in New Delhi, India and, as I’m waiting to board, I run into my 7th grade Spanish teacher, Ms. Williams. We have a chat and board the plane. It isn’t until we land in Dubai for our layover that we see each other again but, after the flight, we stick to ourselves. I’m standing in a bus to transport us to the next gate and suddenly feel immense pain. I’ve lost the ability to see and hear properly so I turn toward the general direction of my teacher and simply say, “Ms. Williams, I think I’m going to pass out”. Next thing I know, I’m waking up from a blackout and I’m surrounded by people staring at me. Thankfully, everyone was super kind and supportive, finding me water and helping me reach my next gate. My parents didn’t appreciate the whirlwind of concern into which I sent them spiraling, though.
Simon: I really enjoy flying because I love meeting new people, especially people who are going to the same place as you are. There are many funny stories that I can talk about, however there is one that stands above all else. This was when I was in Middle School and I was traveling to Japan with my family. Every seat has its own monitor so me and my younger brother decided to play tic-tac-toe. We had to input some names, so we typed in what came into our minds and started playing. After a while, my father woke up and we asked him if he wanted to play. So he turned on his monitor and opened the game. While he was waiting for us to finish, he scrolled down the list of players and noticed two players with very inappropriate names. He thought to himself, “What kind of people would do this? This is outrageous, how do they allow these people to board?”. Next to each name was the seat number of the players, so when he looked up, he noticed that he was sitting near those people… and discovered that those names were used by his own sons.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWEES
Aksheya was born in Melaka, Malaysia and is an Indian/Malaysian. When she was four years old, her family moved to the Philippines and she lived there until she left for college. She moved to Worcester, MA when she was eighteen to attend Clark University where she got her B.A. in Psychology and Education. After graduation, she moved to Boston, MA and worked with children diagnosed with Autism for a year. This fall, she will be starting her Master’s in Psychology at Boston University and hopes to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology soon after. Please click for her LinkedIn page.
Grace was born in the U.S. to an American mother and Turkish father. She left the U.S. when she was two years old and has since lived in Italy, Honduras, Russia, India, and England. She is a senior at the George Washington University in Washington D.C. studying Political Science and Arabic. Grace currently straddles life between American university and living in India with a transition to Indonesia. She is a brother of Alpha Phi Omega, a gender-inclusive community service fraternity, and is assistant copy editor to the GW Hatchet, a student-led independent newspaper.
Simon is half Spanish, half Japanese. He was born in Japan, raised in France and in Spain. Although he lived nearly 9 years in Span, he went to the French lycée of Barcelona. Funny enough, he spoke English at home. Now, he is pursuing a career in Chemical Engineering, focusing on clean energy and sustainability. Please click for his LinkedIn page.