A third-culture kid (TCK / 3CK) or trans-culture kid is "someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more cultures other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture."


Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Road To Post-Secondary Education

Perhaps one of the toughest decisions as a high schooler is choosing a university. In Roosevelt, we were fortunate enough to host post-secondary fairs where top universities from the US and sometimes from the UK came to engage students. During my tenure at Roosevelt, no Canadian institution had come to recruit. A Canadian school was, of course, my preference as my brother was already back home at the University of Western Ontario in London. I knew I wanted to be close to my family and in my home province, although the University of British Columbia and McGill were other favourites in my desire for further education. The US was completely out of sight due to their ridiculously high tuitions and the potential to be massively in dept should I venture down this road. Canadian universities are publicly funded, and there is easier access to higher education for the general population.

We all need some... education

My primary concern in this decision-making process at 16 or 17 years of age was the lack of overall professional support and advice. My high school guidance counsellor, Mr. Robert Piper, was a great person, but he was also from a different generation. He had suggested that not everyone had to go to university. Many of his peers had not even completed high school, which is a no-no for my generation. I had a pretty good idea that I wanted to study Political Science and, afterwards, join the Canadian public service in hopes of pursuing a career as a political analyst/researcher. I developed great admiration not only for my father, but his outstanding colleagues and the work they did for Canada. Many of our fellow compatriots back home did not appreciate the level of sacrifice and selflessness endured during their life of service. This made no difference to me as a career choice, as there was no higher honour in my mind than serving a country that had given me so much.

Maybe the fact that I was part of an expatriate population – although I doubt this was the case – but there was really no structured guidance at all in the process. The concept behind this next step in your academic life or career progression is that, if you apply yourself, you can achieve anything you want. This is a perfect strategy if you are in a situation where you can influence the entire environment you live in - this is usually not the way the world turns. At that point, I would have appreciated some sort of aptitude test, which could help me to identify my skills, my interests and what careers would be in demand after 4 or 5 years in the labour market. Not everyone can be a supreme court judge, a powerful CEO in the banking sector, head of a medical board or Prime Minister. Unfortunately, most education systems seem to spoon-feed students, taking them by the hand without letting them think for themselves independently. Eventually, however, the firm high school hand lets go. Young students are pushed away, told that they are on their own now and have to make their own decisions. Masters of their own destiny, so to speak. There is no smooth transition, even less in North American education systems.

The MacLean’s magazine’s Guide to Canadian Universities was a key factor for me in deciding which universities I wanted to attend. It was a great resource at the time, ranking our fine institutions by province, faculty, grades, scholarships, number of students and other important factors. Afterwards, I created a shortlist of four schools based on the criteria established by the OUAC (Ontario University Application Centre). This was a great introduction to the wonderful world of intrusive but ineffective Canadian bureaucracy – I had to pay for the service, but was restricted to 4 universities. We were all born to be bookkeepers, I suppose. My final four were Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, both in the nation’s capital, Trent University and the University of Western Ontario. I am sure you can all take a wild guess – and you will probably be right - as to why I applied to the last one after having read these blog entries. The Canadian Embassy also had some literature, although somewhat outdated. I am sure many of my peers had gone through the same challenges in making up their minds.

The evolution of the OUAC application

As the nature of my friendships was quite international, many of us knew the next step would lead to separating the group. This may be why we avoided talking about this process in our circle of trust. I never really thought about their grades, their futures or what they wanted to do after graduation. I just imagined we would all return to where we came from, or others would venture into a new land. We focussed on enjoying today, the moments that made our lives worthwhile and a veritable click. On my end, I was successful on separating my schoolwork, ensuring I would not have any trouble getting into one of the four schools to which I had applied, and continued belting out some mad swings on the softball field. Tomorrow was a long way away.  

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