Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa


6 Apr 2015


Daily China Interview
By Kurt Nagl
June 9, 2014

KURT: I could not tell in the biography I found online whether or not you were a third-culture child yourself...?

TRACEY: No, my father and other are both American and I grew up In California. Having said that, my father’s side of the family is in Hawaii and we went there every summer. I also went to Mexico and Japan for student exchanges as a kid---always had the travel bug!

KURT: What do you think are the benefits to studying/living in other countries?

TRACEY: Open-mindedness; change f mental schema about basic life concepts; languages; cultural awareness; friendships; value shifts, etc.

KURT: How does it affect a person's worldview and communication tendencies?

TRACEY: Understanding the world beyond one’s borders broadens the way we can think about problems in other parts of the world (“think globally, act locally”). Living abroad helps a person empathize with others as well as adopt life views that help one throughout life (concepts like “equally logical but different”). The world’s communication links have changed and friendships last thanks to technology. Being able to speak different languages furthers that reach.

KURT: What are the difficulties of learning in a foreign country, in terms of academic knowledge as well as social development?

TRACEY: Related to my children’s experiences, I would have to say that the difficulties in the initial stage are successful integration (making friends, settling into a life pattern, figuring out where to shop for food and go in free time, etc.), and in the leaving stages they are dismantling all of those same relationships and structures. We chose to keep the kids in the German school system throughout all of our moves, creating more stability when we changed from Switzerland to Ecuador to Peru.

KURT: In your experience, have you found it is an advantage or disadvantage?

TRACEY: There are far more advantages than disadvantages. I find my kids to be very easy going about change; excellent travelers; make friends very easily; think they foreign languages are easy; they are very worldly politically as well as culturally; far more mature than many of their peers in the US in terms of global awareness, and so on.

KURT: Is it easier for children to adapt when they are born into a foreign culture vs. moving there as a child?

TRACEY: How can a child be born into a foreign culture? (If they are born there, aren’t they basically “from” there?) Do you mean if the parents are one nationality and the culture is different from either of the parents’ cultures? If so, I would say that it depends on the family. If a Hindi family, for example, moves to Canada but remains Hindi at home and refuses to integrate with the neighborhood, then that seems much harder on the kid than moving there later in life. My kids grew up at various stages of their lives in different places. My youngest was 7 months old when we moved from Boston to Quito then Switzerland, where he then spend the next six-and-a-half years. When we went back to Quito it was like starting all of over for him because he had no memory of ever living in Quito. My daughter, however, was five when we made that move, and 11 when we came back, so her moves were very conscious ones. I believe they had similar adaptation stages.

KURT: What is the greatest advantage of living and learning in a foreign country?

TRACEY: Contact with different people, new values, and language.

KURT: What is the greatest disadvantage?

TRACEY: I don’t think there are disadvantages, really. I believe that there are hardships in leaving friends, but these days the Internet keeps people close. My kids recently saw friends they haven’t seen in a decade and it was as if it was last weekend because they stay close via Facebook all the time

KURT: Which one outweighs the other?

TRACEY: Advantages always out way disadvantages if you have the right attitude.

KURT: What advice do you give to children living/learning outside of their own culture?

TRACEY: Remember where you came from and appreciate where you are.

KURT: What programs/resources are available for helping these individuals adapt?

TRACEY: Inner strength : ) I think that becoming a part of social groups (at school, in the community, neighborhood, embassy, clubs, after school activities, etc.) as quickly as possible helps a great deal. Take initiative to be a part of the new scene, don’t wait for someone to hold you hand.

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About Tracey

Tracey is a globally recognized educational leader who professes the philosophy that change starts with one: one student, one teacher.


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