Third Culture Kids
Azfer A. Khan
CampusTales Contributor
University of Cambridge
May 9th, 2017


About eight years ago, a teacher asked me where I was from. Easy enough, I thought. Pakistan. Wasn’t that obvious enough?

About four years ago, one of my fellow participants in a competition asked me where I was from. Easy enough, I thought. Singapore. Wasn’t that obvious enough?

About a year ago, a drunk guy on the train asked me where I was from. Easy enough, I thought. Cambridge. Wasn’t that obvious enough?

Last week, a girl I had just met asked me the same.

“So where are you from?”

To be honest, I had expected her to pose the question sooner than when she did. And for the first time in my life (probably), I did not feel the need to explain when I said, “I don’t know.”
But how can you not know where you are from?
She did not understand my answer. “But how can you not know where you are from?”

I shrugged. If it was that easy, then she should’ve been able to guess. And so, I asked her to tell me where she thought I was from.

“Definitely Eurasian. Maybe Greek?”

Evidently, she has never met someone from Greece before.

“Okay, no. London. Definitely London.”

Cop-out answer, I shook my head.

“Shanghai?”

Now she wasn’t even trying.
I am a third culture kid. That should be enough to explain why I don’t prefer a single ‘label’ to describe where I am from. But it isn’t. Because ‘third culture kid’ is itself a label, and labels compartmentalize experiences into neat, easy to identify boxes.
I understand why people prefer labels of course, because I myself can’t be bothered to listen to an hour-long exposition every time someone describes where they might be from. And so we use convenient shorthands, because they make life easier. But that’s the problem with shorthands, isn’t it? They mask the beautiful complexity that our experiences have painted, in exchange for a snapshot of the color scheme we prefer to use. There must be a better answer out there, just that I haven’t found it yet. If you have, do drop me a line.

Have a wonderful week ahead.

– Azfer
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University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
Third Culture Kids
Azfer A. Khan
CampusTales Contributor
University of Cambridge
April 14th, 2017
About eight years ago, a teacher asked me where I was from. Easy enough, I thought. Pakistan. Wasn’t that obvious enough?

About four years ago, one of my fellow participants in a competition asked me where I was from. Easy enough, I thought. Singapore. Wasn’t that obvious enough?

About a year ago, a drunk guy on the train asked me where I was from. Easy enough, I thought. Cambridge. Wasn’t that obvious enough?

Last week, a girl I had just met asked me the same.

“So where are you from?”

To be honest, I had expected her to pose the question sooner than when she did. And for the first time in my life (probably), I did not feel the need to explain when I said, “I don’t know.”
But how can you not know where you are from?
She did not understand my answer. “But how can you not know where you are from?”

I shrugged. If it was that easy, then she should’ve been able to guess. And so, I asked her to tell me where she thought I was from.

“Definitely Eurasian. Maybe Greek?”

Evidently, she has never met someone from Greece before.

“Okay, no. London. Definitely London.”

Cop-out answer, I shook my head.

“Shanghai?”

Now she wasn’t even trying.
I am a third culture kid. That should be enough to explain why I don’t prefer a single ‘label’ to describe where I am from. But it isn’t. Because ‘third culture kid’ is itself a label, and labels compartmentalize experiences into neat, easy to identify boxes.
I understand why people prefer labels of course, because I myself can’t be bothered to listen to an hour-long exposition every time someone describes where they might be from. And so we use convenient shorthands, because they make life easier. But that’s the problem with shorthands, isn’t it? They mask the beautiful complexity that our experiences have painted, in exchange for a snapshot of the color scheme we prefer to use. There must be a better answer out there, just that I haven’t found it yet. If you have, do drop me a line.

Have a wonderful week ahead.

– Azfer
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