Steph Yiu Profile Part 2: Third Culture Kids and Invisible Immigrants

Associate Producer, Boston Science Communications

Jan   2012



Denizen today is an amalgam of third culture kid contributors who discuss a profound range of topics including going to college, finding a job, and international relationships. They’re all richly enhanced with anecdotes of displacement, confusion, and coming to terms with wanderlust.

In the “TCK Guide to College,” an editorial guide of sentiments and advice from existing articles, Yiu underscores a common and unlikely position that international students often find themselves: the “invisible immigrant”. An obscure and misunderstood demographic, the invisible immigrant may appear American or fully integrated into American society, but may not be in reality.

Keeping up with the (American) Joneses

“You look American, you sound American, you dress American, you did the whole American education thing abroad; no big deal…And so, in that sense, you aren't an immigrant,” describes Yiu. But when one digs deeper, unlikely culture shocks and cultural gaps begin to appear.

“I think I was surprised when I got here because when I came to the United States, I thought that it wouldn't be a big deal because I'd been to the United States before I visited,” says Yiu. “But there were a lot of big cultural adjustments for me—just like everything about how the culture works and also just the simple things you have to learn about growing up like, you know, doing your own taxes, going to the grocery store, like getting your apartment fixed up, handling the lease—all that stuff where, you have these templates set up for you by your parents that you kind of witness when you're growing up as a kid, but when those templates don't work in America because those templates that you saw were in Singapore, or in Japan, or where ever you grew up. ”

Grounding yourself

(No, not in American sense of the word)

One thing Yiu is certain of now, however, is how international students and TCKs should approach adjusting to their new lives; whether it’s at college or in the job search.

“Look out for yourself and fend for yourself because no one else is going to do it for you,” Yiu warns. “A lot of colleges have all sorts of support networks. . . . But one thing that they don't have a support network for are third culture kids. They just need to be able to speak up for themselves and take care of their cultural needs.”

The solution

One way to stay included and fulfilled, Yiu says, is to get involved and pursue what works best for you. Yiu explains that the classmates she met her first year at Northwestern University, and the international first-year students at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland (where she studied abroad her junior year), eventually became some of her closest friends.

“You’re international so you have an extra hurdle to cross, but everybody's kind of doing college for the first time and kind of going through that. And so, if you get involved in whatever it is—dance, soccer, mathletes, whatever you want to do; you make friends and you end up bonding over some sort of extracurricular thing; they will become your support network while you're there—kind of your family away from family.”

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About Yumi Araki

Yumi Araki

In 2006, Yumi Araki flew from her home city of Tokyo, Japan to attend Boston University with high ambitions. As an aspiring journalist, she spent a semester abroad in London, learning from BBC correspondents and interning at British publications. Although her graduation year coincided with the onset of economical turmoil, Yumi resolved not to let her education go to waste. She has put her journalism degree to use as an associate producer—writing scripts, shooting, and editing science documentaries for Boston Science Communications, Inc. The industry demands jacks-of-all-trades, so along the way Yumi has also become an impromptu interpreter/translator/production manager/wardrobe and make-up coordinator. When she’s not daydreaming of Jameriland (a figment of Yumi’s imagination that melds all the best parts of Japan, America, and England), Yumi likes to pretend she’s a professional photographer, or falls asleep with the Kindle on her face. She also contributes to New England’s cultural blog,

You can follow Yumi on Twitter or subscribe to her CollegeXpress blog