25 February 2020



How international schools ease the transition process for third culture kids (TCK)

Every International School faces the same reality in the end of a school year: students leaving. History then repeats itself every beginning of the school year: new students arriving. The start of this 2019/2020 year has been no different, and we cannot forget that a similar situation occurs with teachers too.


With 25 years of experience in this business, we understand the profound importance of recognising what affects mobile families and students, in order to be able to fulfil our educational mission.


As some people in transition are likely to isolate themselves and see their surroundings as a threat, a major role for the school is to include them, and extend that helping hand. At times, this can be done by creating a safe space in which both parents and students can feel heard, whilst at others, it is by creating school events welcome to everyone, where we make sure to have staff that speak different languages and understand about different cultures.


When stories are listened to from empathetic point of view, we are not only receiving them into in our environment, but are also opening our hearts to the beauty of learning new things, to variety and to multiculturalism. That is the essential beauty of an international school!


Understanding and accepting the difficulties of moving is part of the homework these families have to do. Accepting that we have students siting in our classroom who need a space to find out who they are – sometimes not for the first time – before they are ready to learn is our job.


Even if we are no different from the other international schools, we have an approximate 50/50 ratio of expats and locals. This means that we have a big group of students who aren’t in transition, but are affected by it – and we are aware that we have to take care of them too.


Though some of our students arrive from public school and some from other countries, the reasoning behind their transition and the importance we place on each situation is the same. Everyone needs that little bit of extra support in such moments. Our main goal is to support students and families to both leave and settle in well. We are aware, through experience, of how lengthy this process can be, and we have a team ready to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.What do we believe are the most important things to be worked on with students going through a transition process? Though they are not the single answer to everything, we have found out that attachments and relationships are the two strongest pillars students cling to, that help them relate to their new reality.


To be able to support families and students, we stand behind our values and extend the family atmosphere that we have always had, since we started with 13 students 25 years ago. We create a safe environment for every single student staying, leaving or arriving in our community. How do we do this? By uniting forces – teachers, admin staff and families work together to keep the school running smoothly and our students happy, so that they are able to learn and achieve their goals.


As challenging as it is, it is even more fascinating and we love it. If you are going through a transition yourself, or if you work in a school that wants to set up a transition program, come and talk to us.


Unpack that bag, have fun and let’s plant a tree together! A life lesson I learned form a dear friend and TCK expert Ruth Van Reken – this helps us both physically and mentally to live in the present and enjoy life!


Written by Carolina Porto


Tags: development, learning, languages, children, bilingualism, school, community, transition

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