Club creates a space for third culture kids

Yingfei Xin (junior), Dilin Massand (junior) and Jason Mittler (senior), in discussion at the first 3CC meeting in the Martin Luther King Lounge on Thursday, Oct. 9th at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Amirah Al-Sagr/The Occidental

Participants in the inaugural meeting of the Third Culture Club (3CC) gathered in the MLK Lounge Oct. 9 to discuss the meaning of being a third culture kid (TCK) and their visions for the future of the club.

A TCK is “a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture,” a definition club president Dilin Massand (junior) used for their posters.

Having grown up in New York and moved to Dubai in his early teens, Massand said he founded the “Third Culture Club” (3CC) in hopes of creating a relatable space for TCKs at Occidental.

Massand said he joined the South Asian Students Association (SASA) and the International Students Organization (ISO) during his first year, but felt that neither fulfilled what he was looking for.

“I kind of felt like it was hard to entirely relate to the other people in these groups,” Massand said. “I realized that there’s a ton of kids here that have been in similar situations as me. So why not create a space where everybody can just come and relate to each other?”

Massand said he hopes to bridge the gap for students who may have tried other clubs but feel as though they might not fit into every organization.

According to Massand, he has a different experience at Occidental than students who have only lived in the US domestically.

“Coming in freshman year, I just felt in certain instances, in classrooms and socially, you have a slightly different perspective than a lot of the kids who grew up so ‘U.S. centric,’ because the majority of the kids here are domestic. But by that same token, it also helped me meet people,” Massand said.

Massand met some of his fellow TCKs first year and has been friends with them ever since. He said some of them are helping him start the club by filling secretary and treasurer roles.

The club is trying to help those who find solace in their shared global experience, according to Massand.

While the term TCK has only been in use for the past 10 or 15 years, Massand notes that certain third culture experiences can be attributed to an increase in globalism and the exchange between domestic and international companies.

“I think as time progresses and the world just gets more globalized and people move around more for work or whatever reasons, it will gradually become a more well-known thing because it’s such a nuanced identity,” Massand said.

The discussion at the club’s first meeting ranged from the differences between immigration and being a TCK to the club’s role as a social versus cultural club and the potential for club mixers and events to spread the word.

Massand also said he hopes the club can become a somewhat casual meeting place for fellow TCKs, or whoever is interested, to come and talk about anything.

“I don’t want it to be a serious thing where we come in once a week and we have hardcore roundtable discussions,” Massand said. “I really just want it to be a space where people who have similar experiences can just come and bond and get to know each other.”

Jason Mittler (senior), who attended the meeting, identifies as a TCK and is an international student who is a member of ISO, a dual identity that is not uncommon among TCKs. For him, the club represents a specific space that did not necessarily exist his first year.

“There’s not really that much space for this group of people with this commonality, I guess,” Mittler said. “I know that when I came to Oxy, that was something I was really looking for.”

Another participant, Yingfei Xin (junior), is not a TCK herself, but an international student who wants to learn more about the third culture experience.

“I just find the idea of being a TCK very interesting, how a person can have different cultural backgrounds,” Xin said. “I was pretty involved in the ISO, and last semester they had a meeting about TCK, so I was there and I listened to some of TCK sharing their experiences, and I found this super cool.”

The overlap between TCK and international students is multilayered, as some people fit into both categories but find differences between the two identities, according to Xin.

Xin said TCKs have a different understanding of what it means to be an international student.

“I feel like for international students, it’s a very big umbrella term and it sometimes does not really capture people’s experience. I can say that both me and that third cultural kid who has said, ‘I don’t know where I’m from,’ we’re both international students, but I would not be able to understand her as well as a TCK would understand her,” Xin said. “All international experiences are different and all international students are different.”

Massand said he hopes that in the future, the club will recruit more members and expand upon what it means to be a TCK at Occidental.

Massand said he is also excited to see what forms the club takes as time goes on, with ideas of group dinners and outings floating around.

“We’re just still trying to see how things pan out and hope for the best,” Massand said. “Even if you think you might be third culture or you’re not sure, just come to the meeting.”

3CC meetings are held at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday nights at the MLK Lounge in Pauley Residence Hall.