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Citizens of the world: growing up as a third culture kid

An illustration of a young boy with short brown hair, a green shirt and gray pants who sits with his arms held around his knees. He’s smiling and looking out of the illustration. Around his head are six symbols - from left to right, the flag of Thailand, an ice cream sundae, the flag of the Philippines, a hamburger, the flag of the U.S., and a passport with plane tickets. The background is made of up rays of yellow, red and purple hues
Charnel Hunter

Third culture kids spend their formative years trotting the globe, moving between different cultures and countries. Two third culture families share an intergenerational conversation about how they have navigated identity and relationships.

“Where are you from?”

On its surface, this question may seem like a harmless pleasantry. But there’s one particular group of people who feel anxiety about this icebreaker. Third culture kids — or TCKs — are folks who spend a good chunk of their childhood outside their parents’ passport countries and are shaped by a blend of multicultural spheres. Think: the children of diplomats, international teachers, or military officials.

Host Anita Rao meets with two families, the Heides and the Trans, to discuss their third culture experiences.

Rayla Heide and her mother Madeleine Maceda Heide reflect back on their highly mobile life and discuss how they juggled relationships, identity and rebuilding home when in transition.

And Phuong Tran and her tween son Kaden join the conversation to process their recent move from Bangkok, Thailand to Carrboro, North Carolina.

Additional thanks to Judy Lee, Ruth Van Reken, Dani Osorio, Aria Spears, Ryan Alexander Holmes, Kyle Leung and Maria Garcia for contributing to this episode!

Paige Miranda is a producer for "Embodied". Previously, she served as WUNC’s 2023 AAAS Mass Media Fellow.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.