Born in India, Tara Hirebet moved to Singapore when she was 5/6 years old. With family in the US and UK, she went to international schools in Singapore before moving to Canada, the UK, China and then back to Singapore, where she is currently works as Head of Asia Pacific for Consulting at Contagious Communications.
What does being a TCK mean to you? Do you identify with being a TCK?
Being a TCK is bitter sweet. International school is a bit of a utopia in that you don't live with racism; there is no right or wrong; everyone fits in by not fitting in - there is something beautiful and utopian about that - but eventually you live and learn the reality of the world.
Being a TCK means you accept all cultures and you think it’s natural that the world is international. We tend to hold some very natural United Nations type ideals which is beautiful but also very confusing because you also don’t know where home is or where you belong… you end up growing up feeling like you’re a fraud or not like everyone else. The truth is, you don't have to have it all figured out. You realise that your uniqueness and forward-thinking is more common.
Growing up, no one told me what a TCK was. Labels are interestng and this one helps alot - it is freeing to realise there are others like you. I very much identify with being a TCK because previously I didn’t feel connection.
Is being a TCK the same as being a Global Citizen?
It’s a bit of a mix; they are not the same. You can be a Global Citizen by being a world traveller. That's not quite the same as being a kid that's taken away from their original home at a young age, which impacts your upbringing. You can also be a Global Citizen growing up in the same place, but you can't be a TCK unless you grew up in a different culture. Singapore is unique because it is so diverse - it's enriching and confusing at the same time and you don't realise how privileged you are until you grow up.
What is the role/responsibility of TCKs as Citizens of the World?
I don't like the word(s) role or responsibility because this makes you feel obliged to do something that is appropriate to that label which I don’t believe you have to do, since that's very personal.
If you do want to do something, it’s spiritual - be the best person you can be; champion what it means to be a Global Citizen. It may be utopian or perceived as naive but it’s a special culture, even if it just exists inside you. The only role/responsibility you have is to take all the experiences and exposure you’ve been given to champion UN-type ideals through your family, relationships, etc. I also think we need to try and champion that through work.
How do we cultivate a Global Citizen mindset?
Be immensely curious at all times, not just to a level of exploring a place on its surface, but really getting to know its people, culture and local customs at a deeper level. Being curious and empathetic - you become a bigger person and that’s what a Global Citizen really is.
It means you are open and able to accept/listen to all aspects/attitudes of a person and their culture, without judgment, and to keep working on yourself in order to do that. Being humble and realising you don’t know everything about the world (even if you are a Global Citizen), that's what makes you a Global Citizen.
What's one piece of advice you would give to TCKs trying to establish their identity?
Realise that your multiculturalism is going to touch people’s lives and help them learn things. Be the best person that you are. Live out your multiculturalism and ideas; show that openness/adaptavieness. In doing so, you become the change you want to see in the world. The idealism that we hold is something everyone can use a little bit of.
When thinking about identity, be open to the idea that your identity is that you don't have one and that you are able t oaccept and absorb many different identities. In doing this, you are championing multiculturalism and being a little model UN in a way that others can’t.
Embrace the confusion, Embrace the chaos, Embrace the richness of it all.