Surveying Third Culture Kids

I’m back from Switzerland, and after finally receiving PHSC approval (for use of human subjects in my research), the first part of my project is complete!  This was the part of my project where I survey Third Culture Kids- some from my high school in Geneva, Switzerland and some (online) from all over the world.   Part of this was surprisingly easy, and parts were surprisingly hard.

First let me give a quick recap of my project:  I am researching how the perceptions of personality differ between Third Culture Kids and non-Third Culture Kids.  A Third Culture Kid is someone who has spent a significant amount of their developmental years living in a country besides their parents’ home country.  Third Culture Kids often have very mobile life-styles- moving often and living in multiple different countries.

The easy part of my research so far was launching my online survey.  After trying to use the surveymonkey without subscribing (you’re limited to ten questions because they want you to pay them to gain access to more features)  I discovered that William & Mary has a subscription to Qualtrics, a much more scientific and useful online survey builder.  I made my survey using that, and then paid a $40 subscription fee to a Third Culture Kids research website for them to allow me to post my survey on their blog.  I was reluctant to pay, but it was definitely worth it.  I got over a hundred responses to my survey!  My goal was 40 people, so I’ve already surpassed that.  I’m excited to have so many results, because this will make it much easier for me to tell whether my results show any significant differences, or whether the differences are due to chance.

The harder part was getting students from my high school to take my survey.  This was mostly because I got back to Switzerland close to the end of the school year, when the seniors were about to graduate.  Most of them were done with their exams, and either didn’t have to come to school anymore, or just stopped coming to class.  I could only give my survey to seniors, because if subjects are under 18 they have to get written permission from their parents to participate, and I knew that wasn’t going to happen.  I went in to my high school on a Monday, and didn’t see a single senior.  I talked to the secretary, and asked her if she could give my survey to all the math teachers to distribute to their classes (I picked math because it is the only subject all seniors have to take, and I wanted to get as many as possible to take the survey).  She agreed, but suggested that I could also come back that Friday, when all the seniors had to come to school to be bussed out to graduation rehearsal.

So I came back on Friday, and managed to get about 20 seniors to fill out my survey.  I had forgotten that many of the seniors wouldn’t be 18 yet, and so couldn’t take the survey.  Still, with those 20 and the other 20 or so surveys the math teachers had gotten students to take, I’ve surveyed almost half the senior class.

I haven’t really looked at my data yet, but I’m excited to start analyzing it!  I won’t really be able to do much until I survey my comparison group- incoming freshmen at W&M in the fall (who are presumably not Third Culture Kids).  Until then I plan on doing some more background research, and possibly getting an interview with Ruth van Reken –  an expert on Third Culture Kids and co-author of “Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds,” which is the definitive reference on Third Culture Kids.


  1. cmbetti says:

    I am glad to see that you finally got your PHSC approval. It sounds like your research is going very well. Congratulations on getting such a good response to your survey. I look forward to seeing what your data shows as I have ended up being friends with many Third Culture kids.

  2. arcement says:

    This is such a cool theme and project! I am a Third-Culture kid myself, having lived six years in Spain and Italy. Resources like this research and programs like Brats: Growing up Military are really helpful to our little sub-culture! I hope that your project continues going well, and I can’t wait to see if you find any personality differences between TCK and non-TCK.

  3. hcbartram says:

    That’s so cool! I’m also glad you finally got your PHSC approval! It will be interesting to hear about your data, and the kinds of questions you asked in your survey. Good luck!