Tag Archives: china

Expat Youth Camps in Beijing this Fall

The annual fall camps for expat youth in Beijing are coming up this November. It’s a two day, overnight event for expatriate teens from around China. There are activities, worship, teaching, and a whole lot of fun with 100+ TCKs!

High School camp is for teens in grades 9-12 (approx ages 15-18) and is on November 5th and 6th. Click here to register online.

Middle School camp is for teens in grades 6-8 (approx ages 12-14) and is on November 12th and 13th. Click here to register online.

The camp fee is 500 RMB, which includes accommodation, food, and transport from Beijing to the campsite and back again.

Kids come in from around China to attend, so if you know any teens in China who would enjoy attending, pass the info along! Travel scholarships are available for families without the financial means to send kids to camp (post a comment if you want more info about that).

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Posted by on October 6, 2011 in Special Events, TCKs


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An unexpected culture shock (returning home overseas)


Elizabeth is a US citizen who grew up in China. She spent a gap year between the US, Nepal and China, and just completed her first year of college in the US.

As a TCK, I had always heard of culture shock, but had never truly experienced it. I attribute this lack of experience to the fact that I have been switching cultures since I was less than a year old, so I’ve never had time to learn what culture shock felt like. I knew culture shock was common and difficult, but I had never truly experienced the impact of it. Because China was “home”, I figured that the most culture shock I would ever experience would come in the States or other new countries.

Then I returned to China after almost a year in the States. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I felt different this time back. Suddenly the large crowds were overwhelming, the polluted air was hard to breathe in, the food wasn’t settling well, and the language barriers were exasperating. After a day or so, I realized these troubles came from the fact that I was re-adjusting to China life. Suddenly I was seeing Beijing almost as any average foreigner would have. I realized I was experiencing real culture shock. But in my own country? My culture shock was intensified because I hadn’t expected to experience any readjustment; I expected to blend back into Beijing life like I always had in the past.

So what was making the difference this time around? Why was I having a hard time blending back into the familiar mix of a Chinese and Expat culture? I’ve come up with several theories to explain this
new experience.

Theory 1: Length of time away

It had been a longer amount of time since I had left China last. It had also been a longer time since I had been in any country besides the United States. I had been gone from China for up to 8 months before, but during that time I had visited another Asian country. This time it had been over 10 months since I had been anywhere outside of the States. I have to wonder if the length of time away contributed to my shock in re-entry.

Theory 2: Deeper affinity with my passport country

Since starting college in the States I’ve become more accustomed to the life and culture there. Maybe I’ve even become what TCKs shudder at – “more American.” I know I’ve seen this phenomenon happen in other TCKs. After spending more time in our passport country, some of us begin to identify more with that country. This definitely doesn’t happen for everyone; actually, from what I’ve seen, it probably applies to no more than half of the TCK population. Yet I would say it’s more common for TCKs when they return to their passport country for university. In my opinion, it’s a natural part of growing up and figuring out how your experience as a TCK will or won’t affect your identity. Because of my opinion, I’m fine with becoming “more American” in some areas of my life. I’m never going neglect or forget my TCK-ness, but I don’t want that to be my only identity. But back to my theories on my unexpected culture shock. The fact that I’m “more American” now may be contributing to the culture shock of re-entering China.

Reverse culture shock happens when one returns to one’s home country. Is the culture shock that a TCK experiences when returning to his/her “foreign” country reverse-reverse culture shock? (One of my friends cleverly called it “culture shock squared.”) Or is it merely reverse culture shock, because TCK’s often consider foreign countries their true home? I haven’t decided which one fits best. Yet I know that when I return to China next time, I won’t be as shocked by my own culture shock.

Have you experienced “culture shock squared”? How did you respond?

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Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Expat Life, Guest Posts, TCKs


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TCK Summers: Katie

Hi :):) I’m Katie, a 16 year old Aussie/Kiwi. I lived in New Zealand, where I was born, for nine years, in Belgium for five years, and I’ve now been in Beijing, China, for almost two years.

What does a normal summer look like?
There’s no typical summer plan for my family. My parents and I end up in completely different places doing completely different things. For example, last summer I first participated in a service project in Brussels, then went Wales and France, back to Belgium, then finally back to Beijing. My parents stayed in Beijing for most of the summer, then came to Brussels and afterwards went to a wedding in Ghana. And this changes every year…

The last time I spent the whole summer with my family was in 2007, if I remember correctly. We went back to New Zealand and Australia for 5 weeks. The next year, I went to the States to visit friends; in 2009 I went back to NZ alone to visit relatives; last summer I went to Europe and spent only a week of that time with part of my family.

What would my perfect summer be?
I’m torn between the idea of returning to my original home in New Zealand where I have family, and returning to Belgium which was my home for more than 5 years. I never felt torn between them until I left Belgium. When I was living in Belgium, I was quite happy to take any opportunity to go back to NZ. However, now that I’m in Beijing, I feel more torn between the countries. Just the other day my father asked me where I would like to spend next Christmas. While I have family in NZ that I would love to see, I also would like to go to Belgium where my immediate family will probably spend Christmas, and where I have good friends and many memories. I don’t know in which country my ideal summer would be as I’m deeply attached to both NZ and Belgium.

What am I doing this summer?
At the beginning of the summer, I will be attending a 12 day program in the States, in D.C. and New York, then coming back to Beijing for the rest of the summer, trying to get ahead in my school work for next year, and possibly doing a summer job.

What is my favourite summer memory?
My favourite summer memory would probably be spending time with my relatives in New Zealand, where I can also escape the summer heat as that is New Zealand wintertime. It’s nice to spend a decent amount of time back in the place that I’m tempted to call home, to reconnect with people and remember where I’m from.

The country I call home definitely depends on my mood and whom I’m talking to. When talking to Australians I can feel right at home — until they make fun of New Zealanders, at which point I jump to the Kiwis’ defense, and realize that I am more of a Kiwi than an Australian after all. To add to that confusion, after living in Belgium for 5 years, I had become quite attached to their culture, and I spoke French better than I did English. Then I really did not know where to call home.

After much contemplation, I decided to give NZ that title (most of the time) because I have the family that I’m closest to there, old friends, and it is what I describe as a “fall back country”. A fall back country is like a safety net, it’s the place where I can go back to and feel comfortable and at home with family around me, if I should ever need that at any point during my life. For me, that place is New Zealand.

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Posted by on June 23, 2011 in Guest Posts, TCK Summers


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TCK Summers: Hannah

I’m Hannah. I’m 16 years old, a junior in high school, and live in a small town in western China. When I was one year old I lived in far western China for a year, then we moved back to Oklahoma (my home state in the US) and lived there until I was 13. Then we moved to a city in Northeast China and spent two years there, and now I’m at the end of my first year here.

What does a “normal” summer look like for you/your family?
I’ve actually only had 2 summers as a TCK. My first was spent in China (in our small town) and it was really boring. I pretty much just lazed around the whole time. Last summer we went back to the States. It was probably the busiest summer I’ve had in my whole life. The day after we got back, we spoke at our home fellowship. Then every weekend after that we traveled around our state speaking in a bazillion different places. In between those weekends, people threw barbecues and had us come and talk, or we were invited to some kind of dinner. I would say I was only actually in the place where my suitcase was 40% of the time. We would go somewhere, come back, unpack our backpacks, put in clean clothes, and head out to another place. When I didn’t have to be somewhere smiling, shaking hands, and answering questions about China, I was able to hang out with my friends there quite a bit, which was definitely a blessing! We were also very torn by family that summer. Both sides live on completely different ends of our state and were both very “grabby” I guess you would call it. They wanted to spend as much time with us as they could. All in all, it was a very frustrating, but rewarding summer. He taught me a lot about having grace towards people who don’t really understand my situation.

What would an ideal summer look like for you?
Ooo, good question! I guess that changes from year to year. This summer it would probably be to go back to America for like 3 weeks, see my friends, get my license, eat as much delicious American food as I could, then come back and stay in Beijing for the rest of the summer hanging out with my friends there. I love my American friends and definitely want to see them, but I’m a lot closer with my China friends and it would be awesome to get some extra time to hang out with them.

What will you be doing this summer? (And where will you be doing it)
This summer I will be going back to the States. I’m guessing it will be a lot like last summer–very busy. However, different from last summer, I will hopefully be able to get my license, and we will be going around checking out different possible colleges for next year.

What is your best summer memory?
I don’t know if I have a specific “best” or “favorite” summer memory, but I can tell one of the ones I really enjoyed! Last summer we got back to the States on July 3rd, so Independence Day was the next day. My best friend in the States invited me to a party thing at her house, just setting off firecrackers, having roman candle wars, eating a lot of junk food, all the stuff you do on the 4th. So, even though I was majorly jet-lagging, I decided to go and check it out. It was so much fun. It was a lot of my friends that I hadn’t seen in 2 years. We laid on the trampoline and looked at the stars, we burned each other with roman candles, we crammed like 10 people in one room for sleeping. They ended up keeping me up until like 2:30 and then I crashed. It was just a really fun night of like reconnection with my group of friends there and really awesome memories.

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Posted by on June 8, 2011 in Guest Posts, TCK Summers


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TCK Summers: Calen

My name is Calen and I’m 17 years old. I’m technically from the United States but I’ve lived in various places in Southern California, Switzerland (around Lake Geneva) and Beijing, China.

What does a ‘normal’ summer look like for you/your family?
Our summers are usually packed, it depends where we’re living. All of them usually involve going to the states or Canada and then when we were living in Beijing, we also went back to Switzerland a lot. We normally do some form of camping/road trip and we’re always meeting up family and old friends.

What would an ideal summer look like?
I love it when it’s so hot that the heat hits you when you walk out the door. My ideal summer involves having barbecues and hanging out next to some form of water with friends and family, preferably the beach. And camping, lots of camping. Also fishing. You can’t have summer without going fishing.

What will you be doing this summer?
This summer is the only one that my family and I won’t be going back to the States in four or five years. I’ll be hanging out in Switzerland for 2 weeks, going to Spain with my aunt and then my family for about 2 weeks, going back to Switzerland for a bit, going to Greece with my family for 2 weeks, hanging out in Switzerland a bit more, and then heading out to California to start my gap year.

What is your best summer memory?
Ooh. That’s a tough one. I think it would have to be the summer of 2008 when my family got round the world tickets. I was able to see my friends in Switzerland, go to Bermuda to visit some family there, see New York and Washington D.C for the first time and see friends and family and go camping in California.

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Posted by on June 1, 2011 in Guest Posts, TCK Summers


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TCK Summers: Bethany

We are starting a new series called TCK Summers. We’ll be hearing from some TCKs around the world about what summer vacation looks like in their lives. Our first guest blogger is Bethany…

Bethany with a Tibetan nomad

Bethany with a Tibetan nomad

Hey there everyone! My name is Bethany, I’m fifteen years old and live in the amazing city Lhasa in Tibet! I have lived up here for around 5-6 years, although I have lived in Asia for 13 years. I have a total passion for our Heavenly Father, music, and teaching kids. This is just a bit about my summers! Enjoy!

What does a “normal” summer look like for you/your family?
For me nothing super exciting. I live in Tibet, and I am the only teenager here, well aside from my little sister. :) So there really isn’t anything our family does over the summer, it is just us. I do a bunch of reading, playing the piano, and teaching English to some Tibetan kids. Sometimes our family will go on camping trips which is super fun! Most of the time though we are at home, just relaxing.

What would and ideal summer look like for you?
Every year an ideal summer changes. One year I would like to spend it with friends, the next at a camp, but truthfully I don’t know. I think my ideal summer would be going to YWAM and doing their summer music program. I would be able to praise my amazing Father, and learn a bunch more while having fun with other people. I also would be able to travel on a missions trip and help other people. I think that would be awesome, too bad it isn’t free, or I have the money. :D

What will you be doing this summer? (And where will you be doing it)
This summer….well we (our family) will be in the States. We haven’t been back in over three years so it is going to be an adjustment going back again. We mostly will spend time with relatives, and I will be able to see my two friends once, which will be fun. It is just going to be a lot of traveling and checking out things for my future. When we get back I will have my amazing friend Corrie come up for a bit! She will be the first teen up here in three years, so I am looking forward to it! We will have a blast.

What is your best summer memory?
Ah, I do have one :) I think it was three or four years ago. It was the only full summer I have spent in Tibet with friends. That summer my friends and I just lived at each other’s houses and had a bunch of fun. We had game cube competitions, reading clubs, bike rides, camping trips, and mud fights together. I think the best part of that summer, was that my one friend got baptized – I had been praying for that for years! That fall my other friend was also baptized, I was thrilled :):) That summer was the summer before my life changed, so I think I will remember it forever.

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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Guest Posts, TCK Summers


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JWA: taking TCKs into the Chinese wilderness

Chris Qualls is a long-time TCK worker. He has lived in China since 2003 and is the youth pastor at BICF ZGC (learn more about their youth group here). Chris is also the Director of Journey Wilderness Adventures (JWA), and runs summer trips specifically for TCKs (as well as trips for expats in general). In the past 10 years, Chris has traveled through more than 30 countries pursuing various outdoor adventures. We’ve asked him to share with us a little about what JWA is doing and why he is passionate about it.

How long have you been working with TCKs?

I’ve been working with TCKs in Beijing for the past five years. I arrived in Beijing in 2006 after spending two years in Henan province teaching English. I immediately got involved at the International Fellowship teaching sunday school and working with the youth program there. But the truth is, the reason I really got involved with the teen program in Beijing was because they reminded me so much of my family back in the US. My grandfather is a pastor, my dad is a pastor and several of my aunts and uncles are pastors or working overseas. So when I began meeting many of the teens at the International Fellowship I couldn’t help noticing the similarities between them and my cousins. To be honest, I just enjoyed spending time with them; it was easy. Now I lead one of the youth groups within the BICF – One Way is the youth group that meets on the west side of the city and I have some pretty amazing teens that I get to hang out with each week.

How did you get started doing wilderness trips?

From a JWA trip in the Tianshan mountains

From a JWA trip in the Tianshan mountains

It wasn’t until I was in College that I had the opportunity to get involved in outdoor sports. I started whitewater kayaking on the Ocoee River in Southeastern Tennessee and spent quite a bit of time camping with friends. During my junior year of College I was driving down the road and was confronted with an emptiness in my heart. I was a Christian, but for the past several months hadn’t been paying very much attention to the Lord. I knew that I needed to refocus on Him and that I needed to do something to get out of the funk I was in. I prayed and asked the Lord what I should do and I felt Him whisper, “Come away with me.” I had never known anyone to go camping or even hiking by themselves but I knew that at the next available holiday I needed to get away on a private retreat with the Lord.

A couple of weeks later was our Easter break and after speaking with some friends I had a place in mind. About 45 minutes from my university was a quiet meadow next to a stream far away from the distractions of the city. I put my camping gear in the car and headed up to the mountains to spend three days and three nights in prayer, fasting, and meditation with the Lord. On that trip I met with God. For me, it wasn’t about the hiking, it wasn’t even about the natural beauty all around me; for me, it was about reconnecting with the Lord and finding a suitable place to do so.

From a JWA trip in the Tianshan mountains

From a JWA trip in the Tianshan mountains

Towards the end of that long weekend the many stories of Jesus, John the Baptist, David, Elijah, and others who met with the Lord in the wilderness came alive to me. I began to understand the power and purpose of practicing the spiritual disciplines in God’s Creation. I started noticing the many passages in the Bible that talk about the Glory of God being presented in His Creation. It was on that trip that I began to understand the role of the wilderness in the life of the believer. It was on that trip that I became more aware of silence and the satisfaction that can be found when we are truly at peace with ourselves and with God. I now understand the value of the wilderness in my life and that’s why I am so eager to present opportunities like this to others.

How do wilderness trips benefit TCKs?

A wilderness backpacking trip is the perfect environment to learn more about yourself and to discover more about the world in which you live. It’s also a great place to deepen relationships and build friendships with others. Even though TCKs tend to travel a lot, a backpacking trip is a different sort of travel experience. It allows people to really engage with their environment and the people they are living with each day. It isn’t a very suitable place to have surface level relationships and it really encourages people to be vulnerable with one another. I feel like TCKs will deepen their trust in one another on these trips and be rewarded with some amazing friendships that will last for many years.

“Most of us were perfect strangers at the beginning of the hike, but by the end of it I felt that a true bond of love and understanding had grown between us.” – Emily Kempson, TCK Trip 2010

Individual time on a JWA TCK trip in the Tianshan mountains last year.

Individual time on a JWA TCK trip in the Tianshan mountains last year.

I want these trips to be something that TCKs living in Asia look forward to in the summers. Something that will get them out of whatever funk their in at their current stage of life. I know that while I was in college I needed something like this to move me past where I was at and my hope is that these trips will be a place of growth and reward for TCKs living in Asia. I also want to provide an opportunity that is currently unavailable in China to teens who live here. There are several companies in the US who offer trips like these but there are currently no wilderness backpacking companies in China. I believe in the great value and benefit that comes from these trips and want to see TCKs in Asia have the opportunity to experience the wilderness in a fresh and exciting way.

Do you have trips for adults?

Yes, Journey Wilderness Adventures has six trips this summer. Two for Third Culture Kids (June 17-26 and July 29-August 7) and four for Adults (July 1-10, July 15-24, August 9-18, and August 20-29). The June TCK trip is also an official BICF youth event. We’re really exciting to be providing Wilderness Backpacking Retreats to the international community living and serving in Asia. Our space is limited this summer so if you’d like more information about how you can join us on a trip into the remarkable Tian Shan mountains in western China this summer please let us know. Write us at – or visit us online.

Chris Qualls in the Tianshan Mountains

Chris Qualls in the Tianshan Mountains

An extra note: JWA has experienced guides and first aid personnel, and carry satcom gear in case of emergency. We recommend JWA as a group and Chris Qualls as an individual – these trips are amazing. The Tianshan mountains are are incredibly beautiful, with lakes, verdant valleys, snowy peaks… you name it! 

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Posted by on May 6, 2011 in Guest Posts, Special Events, TCKs


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