They came to Den Haag from Canada, the UK and Norway, their nationalities including Italian, Finnish and Polish. Six high school friends united for a weekend of fun, friendship and reminiscing.
Five years ago, almost to the day, these kids reluctantly parted after four years at Stavanger’s International School. Perhaps my son Andrew (first on left) said it most starkly as we all enjoyed an early evening drink together.
“You hop on a plane, and you’re out.”
If you’ve read Andrew’s story in Monday Morning Emails, leaving his friends and home of four years was wrenching; creating a new identity as a university student in Canada was a struggle with difficult transitions. Now to see him thriving, back in university and reunited with his high school friends warmed my heart immensely. And there was something surprising about the discussion as well.
As we talked about their TCK experience of farewells and friendships, of new life experiences and of university, for the most part there were no regrets.
A sentiment expressed, ‘I wished I’d lived in even more countries’ was echoed by a few of this close-knit group.
I asked what the advantages were – of a life where your parents might move you to a new school, a new country at any time.
“If I hadn’t lived in Nigeria and Qatar, I wouldn’t have seen those cultures. It enriches us,” Ilse pointed out. This speaks to the skills that are fostered in an overseas life: cultural awareness, a unique perspective of the world, language and resilience.
“Maybe we don’t see any borders,” one of them added, “and we adapt pretty well.”
Yet as was the case with Andrew, that can depend on the individual once they leave the familiarity and security of high school, of a country, of a way of life. This is where the issue of a home base then crept into the discussion.
“I always felt lucky that I had a home town in Italy to return to. Where my parents are from, where I have childhood friends. Knowing I had roots there always grounded me,” Stefano acknowledged. I remember Andrew visiting his good friend’s home and wistfully commenting how wonderful it must be to have that.
It’s clear that these young adults are largely navigating their lives, university degrees, and young careers with confidence. And they have their global skills to offer our world. Yes, they reminisced of those days in Stavanger, but the future was more their topic of conversation.
“We brushed off the dust, just picked where we had left off. It was so great to talk about life, politics… everything really.”
As I listened to a conversation that straddled countries as easily as ‘hopping on that plane’, it confirmed that despite the obvious challenges of a global life, it fosters engaged global citizens. We can be proud of this. As parents we often question this overseas life and the impact that it has on our children.
I believe I said something of this nature, once explaining to a friend that… I didn’t give my children a hometown, but I gave them the world.