Growing up as a Third Culture Kid, my identity formation has been different from that of others. Imagine your life on the go from one country to another every two to three years until you go to college. When I turned 17, I spent 4 years of college learning how to screech to a stop, so that I could finally settle down. Adapting was the verb I breathed. Now that I’m taking Exploration in Literacy, I am beginning to realize that my experiences are not just part of “my background” but it’s the way in which I connect to various texts.
The implication of the first 16 years of my life acquiring native languages, cultures, and modes of communication is that it invited all sorts of irregularities and cacophony of thoughts, ideas, and concepts that were beautiful as a whole but very messy, gooey, and incoherent. So guess what I struggled most in school? Identifying central ideas. When I was five, I left my home country South Korea and headed to Abidjan, Ivory Coast. There I attended some type of French private schools and spent three years with other European international students and indigenous people who spoke Swahili. My hard core life paved a way for me to fail in a typical school setting. I thought I could never master the art of meaning-making like average kids whose thrived in school.
My parents began to wonder what my issue was. They just told me to “try harder” and “read more”. Whether it was Brazil, Ivory Coast, the United States, or South Korea, my teachers tried teaching through the worksheets after worksheets trying to help me understand how to “infer” central ideas. They used manipulatives, multiple choices, examples, and anecdotes to help me see the general truths, something more cohesive and compacted.
After doing some research on gifted education several years back, it made sense to me that the capacity to cultivate main ideas or central truths couldn’t exist in my cognitive sphere because I was wired to live in constant shifts as a Third Culture Kid. I acquired skills faster when there were core values and meaningful conversation built in what I read. I reacted faster and quicker when I experienced what I read. Another example was learning Hebrew in Israel. After rote-memorization of conversational Hebrew sentences at ULPAN Language Academy at Tel Aviv, I asked mom to drop me off at the shuk (the Hebrew market place) so that I could interact with people in the streets and stores to practice Hebrew. After a month of training at the language academy, I saw myself picking up words and phrases while watching the evening news.
Perhaps that’s why I’ve been so mesmerized by the idea of digitalization of literacy. To me, literacy is more than reading, writing, speaking, and listening. It’s feeling, seeing, hearing, and processing experiences that are authentic and real. I’m even thinking beyond “digital tools”; literacy is a collection of experiences I can be part of where my identity as a Third Culture Kid is not pushed out, forced in, or compromised. I feel comfortable in my own skin.