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March 10, 2009

Transnationals and Transculturals

Is home defined by the color of your passport?

Each year, there are about 300,000 U.S. students living overseas of whom 100,000 transit back to the U.S. to enter U.S. schools. In the past, most of these children were from missionary, diplomatic, or military families. But now, many of us live - or have lived - far from what we used to call home.

Who knows how the current economic climate...

... will affect global attitudes and actions, but as the world economy has expanded and international transportation and communication has become almost routine, fewer and fewer businesses - or individuals - are limited - or defined - by national boundaries. If we have learned anything in the past year or so, for better or worse, we have learned that the economy has no respect for national sovereignty. What happens across the world can affect us all.

And, of course, more and more young people take as a given this lifestyle - and world view - without borders.

Those who have drunk deeply of their international experience may find themselves in a state of cultural marginality and find that they do not fit comfortably into any specific culture, but on the other hand, find themselves drawn to the edges or margins of any of them. In short, they are at home anywhere and nowhere at the same time.

When overseas, they identify with their passport country, but when they return "home," they feel like more of an outsider than ever, which often results in difficult - if not clumsy - transitions.

In my experience, I expected a foreign culture to be different, but when I came home after being gone about a year, I realized, in a series of shocks, that not only was I a different person, but that my own world, my "home" had changed drastically in that single year.

What are your experiences of making this transition? Is "home" ever "home" again? Does anyone else feel an almost constant longing to be roaming across the face of this ever-challenging, ever marvelous world?

Send me your observations of cultural collisions and your strategies for dealing with others who forever treat you as the foreigner - perhaps because you are...

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf spent about six years working for a Native American Tribal College, a few years teaching various humanities, English, writing and ESL courses with the community college system in Washington State (including one year as part of a faculty exchange program with The Beijing Foreign Language University). While in China, Morf was briefly a radio host for CRI (China Radio International) and did recordings for the "English can be enjoyable" book and tape series. Morf currently teaches English and writing for a local technical/vocational college with many international students. Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else likes and riding his bicycle in unlikely and ridiculous situations.

Posted by mmorf at March 10, 2009 11:16 PM

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