On Wednesday evening, I was asked to be a panelist at an international school here in London. They wanted to ask 3 different International Baccalaureate alumni how their IB education helped them get to where they are today. I had been asked to talk about how the IB Diploma helped me get from high school to university to a job at Bloomberg and finally to start my own business 9 months ago. They had around 80 people attend from the school, mostly parents whose kids were around 15-year old students at the school.
A couple themes came up from all three of us panelists answering questions about the value of the IB. One of these themes was the heavy workload, which required us to build our time management skills. The second theme that came up was being taught an international viewpoint, with regards to our history classes, the different compulsive language courses the IB requires, and even the types of literature in the curriculum. The third benefit that came out was the practical skills you learn in the IB, an example of this were the multitude of oral presentations and exams (which we later saw the benefit in interviews and work presentations).
It’s funny because it feels like it’s been so long since high school (8 years!), but as a result of coming to this event, I realised how much of an impact and an influence it had on me. I’m guessing it’s the same for a lot of TCKs who grew up going to international schools? After the event, I realised how the IB allowed me to persevere in German (as a second language is compulsive in the IB). I later used this skill at Bloomberg by speaking to German clients both over our Instant Message and phone calls. By doing French A1 Higher Level, it also allowed me to feel comfortable enough working on the French Sales and Account Management team covering French buy-side asset management companies. I had to send professional emails to follow up with different issues, and I met with French clients 9 business days a month! Without completing the IB, I don’t know if I would have felt as confident to this both in German and in French.
Finally, the IB seems to push oral skills. I remember doing an oral exam in French, English and German class. And, more importantly, we were only allowed to speak that language in class. We couldn’t utter a word of English in German class for example. This built confidence. I wasn’t afraid of speaking in front of my peers, even in a foreign language that I wasn’t proficient in at the time. We were encouraged to forget about this fear and throw ourselves into it, even if it meant making grammatical mistakes. This allowed me to feel comfortable when having to do presentations in front of others at Bloomberg. When I attend startup events, I feel relaxed networking and speaking to my peers about my business.
It’s strange how much of an impact your education can actually have on what you do later in life! Of course, there are so many aspects of your formative years that has an influence on your competence and abilities. However, your education must have a large part to play in the core skills you acquire and further develop in higher education and your professional career. What about you? Did you do the IB diploma? What skills are you still using as a result of doing it?
I recently spent some time in a much smaller town than London, and it made me question whether I would ever be able to move from a large city to a small town. I had mixed feelings about it all.
As soon as I arrived in the town, I felt myself relax. I walked off the train with 7 or 8 other people. 7 or 8 people! In London, I think that’s inconceivable. Even on a Sunday morning in London – when you’d expect a lot of people to still to be asleep from a late night of drinking at the pub.
After walking out of the station, I realised how clean the air felt! Just by the lack of cars around, I could only imagine how much less polluted it was. And, instead of seeing rows and rows of houses and office buildings, you see hills and grass, with a cute house with a garden once in a while. I walked further down the sidewalk and just felt my stress melting away. I passed a small bridge with a gorgeous stream and large trees on both sides. I was stunned by how beautiful it all was.
The calmness of this small town was appeasing and a contrast to what I was used to. Was this what it would be like to live in the countryside? Well, yes and no. First of all, this place was not associated to my job and my day-to-day stress in any way. By getting away to a different town, I was removing the presence of work, house chores, errands, and everything else that comes with every-day life. Being away from my usual routine was allowing me to disconnect. Therefore, was it really the countryside in itself that created that calmness I felt? If you were to live and work in a small town in the countryside, wouldn’t you be just as busy and mind-cluttered as you’d always been? House chores, work, job and everything that comes with it would come up here to!
So living in the countryside wouldn’t necessarily bring more calm. But it did make me question why I was still so afraid of living in a place that had more cows than people. It’s kind of a belief I’ve always stubbornly stuck to as an adult TCK: I could only ever live in big capital cities.
But, I slowly saw that this was maybe only a belief and not the truth. I used to spent 50 minutes commuting from South West London to Liverpool Street for work. I would go to bars in central London, spend time in pop ups in Shoreditch, and walk around Southbank with friends. I used to spend hours exploring the city’s bars, restaurants, hot spots, fitness classes, art shows an hour or more away from my flat. At the time, I was really making the most of what this city had to offer.
However, my life has changed drastically in the last year. I don’t travel for work anymore as I work from home and part-time at a yoga studio 10 minutes walk away from mine. The vast majority of my friends live south west so I only need to walk 15 minutes or take a 20 minute bus ride to get to my friend’s local pub. I go to Yoga classes a short stroll away from my flat. I go to the Cafe Nero that’s just around the corner. I would never dream of walking more than a block or two anymore to get anything really from fruit, coffee, and milk – readily available at my local supermarket. I had found that everything that I needed right now was really close. I had made a bit of a bubble of my neighbourhood.
So, in a way, haven’t I almost created a small town out of a large capital city? If I spend so much time in my own neighbourhood and the two right next to mine where my friends live, doesn’t it mean that I’ve chosen a less crazy, less intense life – which is seemingly the exact opposite of what London is known for? Maybe I’m wrong about not being able to move to a small town. Could I, even as a restless adult Third Culture Kid, now thrive in a smaller town?
I’m not quite sure. I haven’t made up my mind yet. But what I do still know is that it’s not necessarily the distances we travel, the activities we take on or what form of transport we use that makes a capital city. It’s the diversity of the people you see in coffee shops. It’s the friends that you would only find in a capital city. It’s the liveliness on the streets on Saturday evenings (even in the residential areas). And it’s the option of having more if you want more. If you want to go see the new musical in Leicester Square, you can go. If you want a crazy night out with the girls in the cocktails bars of Soho, they’re there for you. When you want to start rock-climbing or learning Mandarin, it’s all ready and available in London. And that’s what would be hard to find in a smaller town in the countryside. What are your thoughts about this? Would you live in the countryside?
When was the last time you asked someone out on a date? Opportunities come up, but we’re not always bold enough to make that move that will guarantee seeing that person again. There are many reasons why we don’t ask someone out, but the fear of rejection is one of the main reasons we don’t always jump at the opportunity. If you’re a woman reading this, how likely are you to ask out a man you find attractive?
Bale and other researches have found that women are less likely to ask a man out. This doesn’t really surprise me. It seems that movies, books, and our friends’ stories all lead to the same scenario: the boy walking over to the girl, not the other way around. When I was single, I always found this frustrating. It always seemed as if it was frowned upon for a girl to walk up to a guy. Hopefully, this will change over time, as there is no reason both men and women can’t express their interest in another person. When I was single, I remember it was really split half way as to whether it was me walking over or the guy coming over to me. I was not one to stay put if I found someone cute at a bar. Granted, only after building up the courage with two gin and tonics.
Alternatively to Bale’s findings, a different study conducted…
Find the rest of my article here!
How have you conquered your restlessness as an adult TCK? Here are some of the things that helped me:
As an adult Third Culture Kid, can building friendships make you feel more grounded in the new city you live in? And when you’re dating someone, do you consciously work on keeping those friendships strong?
That feeling of restlessness seems to never leave you as an adult Third Culture Kid. Have you been able to manage that feeling? Have you listened to it and kept moving?