Towards the end of June, all four of us drove up to Houghton College in Houghton, NY for the Association of Christian Schools International’s (ACSI’s) Third Culture Kid (TCK) Pre-Field Orientation (PFO). This was a 2-week program to prepare people going overseas to work with TCK’s. For those of you not familiar with the term Third Culture Kid, it means a child who lives in one culture while holding a passport of another country who makes a separate culture for him/herself. My son is a great example. In a few years, Ezra will have lived in Spain for a while & will likely identify with the Spanish culture (that’s one culture), however he will never be fully Spanish, because he holds an American passport ( there’s the second culture), thus he finds himself identifying with other kids who are similar to him in that they are neither fully American or fully Spanish (or whatever other culture). This group creates their own culture (the “Third” culture).
We also learned about other things we would encounter on the field: transition, cultural differences, language acquisition, teaching, being an accompanying spouse, & some other topics that weren’t so pleasant (child abuse & moral purity or rather the lack thereof).
Two weeks seemed like a lot of time to give up in the middle of our busy summer, however PFO was so valuable and worth every minute of our time! We cannot speak highly enough of this program & would recommend it to anyone going overseas to work with TCKs. Or even to those already overseas working with TCKs.
We all enjoyed the lovely campus. Ezra especially loved playing with all the kids his age!
Audrey got lots & lots of loves!
One evening we chose to go on a field trip to Letchworth State Park.
It was beautiful!
Another day you could choose to go on a field trip to Niagra Falls. We decided to meet up with some former BFA “kids” instead. They were in our first small group bible studies that we led & now are married with a child of their own! It was great catching up with them!
We got to know another family quite well as they are headed to BFA. Coincidentally, they were staying right next door, which made it convenient to play games in the evening thanks to our baby monitor! Ezra really enjoyed getting to know their sons!
We celebrated the 4th of July while we were in Houghton. There were no fireworks, but there was a talent show, followed by games & snacks with our friends next door!
On the last night of the conference we had a banquet. The kitchen made food from each of the countries represented at PFO. Here was Paella & mussels for Spain! We were the only ones going to Spain, so it was exciting to have a whole table representing our country!
The kids put on a show for us at the banquet. It was the first time Ezra has gotten to ‘sing’ in public. He did great!
Here we are with our new friends! It worked out perfectly that the Spanish flag & the German flag were hanging next to each other! We are excited for them & for BFA!
Our biggest concern about our 2 weeks at PFO was Ezra. He has not handled all our transitions well & we couldn’t imagine how he was going to do with so many hours in a childcare situation. We were totally blown away by the kids’ program! The kids had P.E.,played outside, went in a kiddie pool, took a field trip each week to a park, ‘traveled’ on a plane each day to a new country, got their passports stamped, learned about that culture through music, dance, crafts, & food. When I would show up to get Ezra he would say, “NO, GO AWAY!” (we’re still working on talking nice to mommy & daddy, but it was good to know he was having a good time). He loved his teachers & would ask to go back to “school” as soon as we were home each evening. The one thing I couldn’t imagine was how they were going to get 7 two-, three-, & young four-year olds to all nap at the same time. The teacher assured me it would work, but I had my doubts. However, she was right! It worked & it was amazing!
It was really my first time leaving Audrey behind for any significant length of time & gave me an idea of what working moms feel. I spent my breaks going from the lecture hall across campus to the building where the kids were in order to feed Audrey so I got to see my baby at least every couple of hours.
The teachers at PFO loved their students! Even in the nursery, I could tell that the ladies were invested in caring for my baby!
At the end of our time, each child received a scrapbook made by their teachers of their time at PFO!
I couldn’t believe the amount of work that went into each scrapbook!
Ezra was given his scrapbook on his second-to-last day of school. They had us take the books home & look through it with him and then talk about how we would have to leave the next day. The book then went back to school with him the next day & then home again. They explained that this is a tool we can use to help him understand transition: even though PFO ended, he can always have his pictures of it. This will also go with us to Spain & help with the transition to life there. It was the little things like this that were well thought out that really made me appreciate this program!