Making the Most of the Life and Lessons of a TCK

Kilian Kroell (1)Kilian Kröll remembers the day he first heard the term Third Culture Kid (TCK). “It changed my life, just learning the term,” he says.

The son of an American mother and German father, Kröll was 12 years old when he moved from Germany to Austria, where he attended public school in Vienna. At 18, he left for college in the U.S., and remained in the States until three years ago when he moved back to Vienna. In all these moves, he says, he never felt quite at home, never settled into a career, place or relationship. “I kept bumping into the question: Where do I belong?” says Kröll.

Learning there was a name for his childhood experience — and that he was not alone in feeling unmoored, even as an adult — helped Kröll embrace his itinerant past and move toward a future of helping others struggling with the same disparate sense of self.

Now, Kröll is board president of Families in Global Transition (FIGT), a non-profit organization dedicated to “globally mobile” people and the unique struggles they face. FIGT is a hub for these frequent movers and third-culture families, and for those working with them, encouraging connections and fostering a sense of inclusion among a group that often feels disconnected. Something Kröll knows a lot about and is willing to help others overcome.

Locally, Kröll puts his expertise to use at the American International School · Vienna, where he works in the administrative offices. He has been instrumental in the school’s formalization of a systematic transition process for incoming and outgoing students. “A lot of what we do is to honor the experience of TCKs,” says AIS Director Steve Razidlo. Last year, the school looked at concepts championed by FIGT to help with a child’s transition, chief among them acknowledgement that the process can be lonely and difficult, but that acceptance of a new life chapter can help. Says Razidlo, “We know that you can’t say a good hello until you’ve said a good goodbye.”

Families in Global Transition can be found at www.figt.org

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Aubree Caunter is an award-winning writer who abandoned a master’s degree in Victorian Literature to pursue her passion for packing and unpacking (and repacking) household goods across the globe. This summer, she plans to reread all of Dickens. Follow her on Twitter at @aubreecaunter.