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The first thing that stands out is the higher level of education amongst TCKs. The report states, “44% of adult TCKs earn a bachelors degree, half of this group go on to earn Masters and Doctoral degrees.” This figure is almost double the US average. 71% of TCK respondents said their life abroad impacted what they chose to study. The findings show a third chose majors that were “international in content (e.g., foreign languages, anthropology, international relations).”
For many others the choice of a major was influenced by their overseas experiences. For example, some who chose biology had been captivated by early exposure to African wildlife; historians and artists cited their exposure to European art and historical sites as influences; “pre-med, nursing, and economics majors wanted to help people they had known in less developed nations. Still others sought mainly to ‘get abroad again’ and so majored in teaching, international relations, or international business.”
When it came to occupational success, the study was clear: children who grow up abroad do well in life. “One of the most notable characteristics of ATCKs is their high occupational achievement; this reflects their high educational achievement. The majority -- over 80 percent -- are professionals, executives, or managers. Their occupational choices reflect a continued love of learning, interest in helping, and desire for independence and flexibility. The most common occupational field reported by these ATCKs is education -- many are teachers, professors, or administrators -- followed by those working in professional settings such as medical or legal fields and those who are self-employed; many of the latter are presidents of their own companies.”
Peter Helgar* was born in the US but grew up in Saudi Arabia and Qatar as his father was employed in the oil and gas industry. He attended international schools before returning to the US for his tertiary education. He identifies with much of the Useem-Cottrell TCK study. “Growing up abroad had made me a stronger person” he says, “I don't shy away from big moves which throw me into the unknown. This is a valuable mindset when selecting a university or establishing a career. My comfort with moving has allowed me to take jobs I want without the fear of being away from ‘home’.”
Having grown up in a truly multicultural environment, Peter, who is currently on expatriation in Germany, feels comfortable relating to different cultures. “Even if I don’t have direct experience dealing with a specific culture, my general cultural sensitivity means that I automatically look for the common ground and not the differences. This makes me particularly valuable to my company.” Peter says, “I think my life as a TCK has conditioned me to be more comfortable as an expat than as a ‘local.’ As adults we have the power to choose our own futures, and growing up as a TCK has allowed me to have greater flexibility in determining my life as an adult. TCKs are able to unlock a feeling of freedom to find the place that suits us best as opposed to simply resigning ourselves to the cards we've been dealt.”