Reflections from ITCKC

In October 2023, a gathering of 200+ people, along with 100+ more people registered online, met for five days to attend a conference near and dear to many of you. A conference where many found their “tribe” or reconnected with friends from the past. It was the International Third Culture Kid Conference (ITCKC).

This conference was unlike any previous conferences focusing on MKs/ TCKs. It was unique in several ways, but notably in its diversity: people gathered from 70 countries; 344 attended, with 110 people representing the Global South from that number. Those planning this event were “overjoyed” and “overwhelmed.” But who was behind all of this?

History Behind ITCKC

Since the early 1980s, there have been many conferences and gatherings that have explored and celebrated the realities of ‘growing up cross-culturally’. Some have focused on Mission Kids (International MK Conferences in Manila 1983, Quito 1987, and Nairobi 1989). Others have used the theme of ‘Global Nomads’ (1988), and still, others have looked more broadly at families in global transition (FIGT) or the impact of cross-cultural childhood transitions in education (e.g., IMKEC/ MKEdS, SPAN, etc.), as well as other regional MK care conferences.

ITCKC: How it came to be

It all began with a group of people who attended the Global Member Care Network Conference in Quito 2018 and desired a greater global collaboration of MK/TCK issues. The following year, Interaction International invited specific individuals who they felt “represented regional MK work” to meet prior to MK Synergy. This group became what is now known as the Shepherds’ Council. This group meets quarterly for official meetings and, from this, began planning ITCKC. Their desire for ITCKC was

to create a hub bringing together Adult TCKs and TCK caregivers to share in global initives, resources and research, with a focus on equipping under-resourced regions and inspiring the next generation of TCK caregivers.

Reflections from Participants

AW recently shared a short survey on social media asking participants of ITCKC to share their highlights and thoughts from their time at the conference. Three themes were apparent:

Broader Definition of TCKs

Both in-person and virtual attendees noted that the definition of “TCK” has broadened. Hosea agrees this is necessary as the “ministry of TCKs are so vast and complex.” However, one in-person attendee, Matthew, said, “Perhaps the biggest thing was seriously broadening my definition and understanding of TCKs in places like India and Nigeria – internal TCKs that significantly cross cultures without necessarily crossing borders.” One virtual attendant, Adriana, stated that her biggest takeaway was “to see the new generation of TCKs interested in take care of others TCK.” This was symbolized by a baton passed from one hand to another around the room during the final session. Ruth Van Reken gave the charge: “This is TCK Phase 2 time.”

Diverse Voices Heard

Ruth also noted that “stories are powerful and getting more complicated all the time.” Amy, one of the in-person attendees, also noted that “the story of TCKs is bigger and more inclusive than previously discussed, that the more we connect and share resources, the more people we can care for.” With this as the case, more diverse voices need to be heard. Many survey participants highlighted that more voices were heard from the Global South. Jen, a virtual attendant, noted how pleased she was with this shift. Matthew sums up this section nicely with his comment, “I thought it was great that while it was primarily hosted and run by Christians, it included many that didn’t identify as such, so it brought together folks who might not normally get together.”

Sense of Belonging and Acceptance

Finding a sense of belonging and acceptance is sometimes difficult for ATCKs, so it was no surprise that many felt they “found their tribe.” But it was more than that. One virtual attendee who wishes to remain anonymous described the experience as “a rich time” and “one of the best online interactions of any conference.” Another in-person attendee also wrote about the atmosphere and culture, “There was such a sense of belonging as we all made space for each other from our diverse backgrounds – the cultures, faith, skin colour – none of it mattered – in fact it was embraced and celebrated.” Karina, an in-person attendee, wrote that she had a “profound sense of belonging.” She believes this came from “listening to numerous stories that resonated with my own personal experiences validated and affirmed my journey. “

There was such a sense of belonging as we all made space for each other from our diverse backgrounds – the cultures, faith, skin colour – none of it mattered – in fact it was embraced and celebrated.

Anonymous Attendee

Future of ITCKC?

Bret Taylor shared that the Shepherds’ Council was “overjoyed at the many stories of new initiatives/partnerships that were birthed,” but it was much more work and cost than reasonable for a yearly conference. So, he believes that if there is another global conference, it will not be until 2026. But he quickly said that the Shepherds’ Council “hopes to see regional TCK conferences spin-off that contextualizes issues on their level like the ones in happening this year in India and Kenya.” If you hear of any of these “spin-offs,” please let us know. AW and Interaction International would love to help promote and report on it.



Iona shares a poem about one ATCK’s journey in navigating life in her

Your Piece of the Tapestry: New Research on Adult TCK Experiences

Your Piece of the Tapestry: New Research on Adult TCK Experiences

I’ve worked with Third Culture Kids and globally mobile families generally for