Faye Richards

I’M half Dutch, half American but I’ve never lived in either of those countries. When I was young I lived in Taiwan but I grew up in Prague in the Czech Republic. I moved to Scotland when I was 18 to attend the University of Edinburgh. I also spent a year studying in Canada. Thanks to this mix, I am a "third culture kid’": someone who was born in one country, has parents from another country and then lived in a third country on top of that.

I define home as where I happen to be at the time. I feel like I have ownership of a lot of cultures but I don’t fully belong to any.

Explaining my background can be tricky. I have a North American accent and people tend to make assumptions. Sometimes I'll let them; it depends on whether I know I'm going to see them again. If not, I'll sometimes just pick a nationality: I’ll say, “Oh, I'm Dutch” or “I'm from Prague”.

I’m bilingual so I speak fluent Dutch as well as English. But I probably have more in common with other third culture kids than Dutch or Americans. Even if we have different passports, we had similar experiences growing up attending international schools. When I go to the Netherlands I don't feel Dutch; I feel like an outsider. When I go to America I feel very European.

That said, an international school is just like any other school, except you learn with and from people from all different countries. Our school trips were amazing: sports tournaments across Europe, playing against schools in Moscow and Budapest. We even did an Model UN trip to Egypt. On the other hand, students at international schools move around all the time and it’s difficult when your friends move away.

I think a consequence of my background is that I adapt easily to new situations. I also find myself craving to move to different places. I lived in Edinburgh until last August and I loved it. Scotland is stunning. I love the country’s history and exploring the Highlands.

I found Scotland to be very open to other cultures and nationalities. But I can only speak from my experience. Living in Canada was also interesting. Because I have a North American accent, Canadians often thought I was Canadian. Until that moment, I hadn't lived in a country where I could feasibly be perceived as local. Before I arrived, all that my Canadian flatmates knew about me was that I was on exchange from Edinburgh. They were really disappointed when I arrived and I wasn’t Scottish – everyone loves Scotland!

I feel really lucky to be bilingual, it’s kind of a superpower. My mom wanted me to learn Dutch. I think it is very important to know your parents’ languages. It’s all about identity. If you don’t speak the language it’s harder to feel ownership of that culture. That’s why I’m quite hesitant to feel ownership of Czech culture, because I have only lived in Prague and I am not fluent in Czech.

I speak Dutch to my mum and my sister – and my cats. But I have always studied in English. On topics that I feel strongly about, politics for example, I find it harder to express myself in Dutch. I feel like in English I am better equipped to put together an argument.

We live in an increasingly international culture. But there has been a backlash to globalisation recently. If we were to revert back to closed borders, I'd wonder: “Where do I go?” I don't fit in anywhere. For me globalization is really cool; I benefit a lot from it. It has shaped my life.