When Linsey McMullen makes decisions about what courses she wants to take for the following school year, the 17 year old Indianapolis born American is similar to most North American girls her age. 

If she’s an academic high-flyer interested in pursuing the sciences, she might choose AP Biology.

If she’s keen to pursue Journalism or Communications, perhaps she’ll focus on AP Writing or Literature.

Arguably though, one of Linsey’s greatest advantages isn’t coming from her academic classes at Singapore American School —but from an exposure that, perhaps, only an international school setting can provide.

Dalai LamaLinsey joins Stanford, Connecticut born Ava Mehta and more than a thousand other students in an educational adventure unlike anything offered in Canada or the U.S.

Ava gushes about living overseas in general: “How many kids can say they’ve spoken Spanish in Barcelona, debated in Taipei during a school competition and visited Cambodia for Spring Break?”

Ironically, Ava’s just hitting the tip of the iceberg.

Most of the larger international schools in SE Asia plan annual, exotic, cultural excursions to broaden the minds and perspectives of their students.  If you’re a parent of high-school age kids, and if you get transferred overseas, your kids may be in for the cultural experience of a lifetime.

Will we really meet the Dalai Lama?

At Singapore American School every February, all 1000 high school students disperse to foreign locales to broaden their experiences.  All of them. 

This year, my wife and I will be taking 20 students to Dharamsala, India– where our students (in the past) have met and spoken with the Dalai Lama

The trips are mandatory.  And as seniors this year, Ava Mehta and Linsey McMullen will have choices to take their 10 day trip to one of 30 different countries—with 50 different “course” destinations represented.  There’s a pecking order based on seniority, so seniors choose first.

Some of the choices include the following:

  • Homebuilding in Cambodia
  • Trekking in Tibet
  • Living with the locals on the Riau islands of Indonesia
  • Adventuring in the Everest area of Nepal
  • French immersion in France… or Spanish immersion in Spain
  • Exploring ruins in Turkey… or Jordan… or Egypt…

Singapore American School isn’t the only expatriate school offering such experiences.  Most of the top schools add their own flavor to these excursions with an educational twist.

Dr. Vicki  Rogers, who did her dissertation on Third Culture Kids (children who grow up in an alternate culture) shares some further benefits of growing up overseas.  She and her husband, Matt, both attended Singapore American school, and now that they’re in their 30s, they consider both Colorado and Singapore home.

Matt, currently based in Singapore, works for Aman Resorts, possibly the most luxurious resorts on Earth.  Among Matt’s marketable attributes are the contacts he established as an international student.  Third culture kids develop professional networks that typically surpass those of kids who grow up in traditional environments.


Besides a global education, a future professional network, and the tolerance that comes with being a “colorblind” third culture kid, there are also a few drawbacks:

Seventeen year old Mexican born Rodrigo Gonzalez has lived in Mexico; Caracas, Venezuela; New York, and Singapore.  He doesn’t like the feeling of “looking like a local, but feeling like a tourist in Mexico.”

He echoes the struggles with a “home identity” that many third culture kids talk about:  not to mention missing important birthdays and celebrations of friends and families in other countries.

Third culture kids often seek an identity as a group, and they’ve been coming together online to voice that at Denizen. 

Having immersed myself in a culture of nomadic students, I’m often drawn to the question:

“Would you rather have stayed in the U.S. or Canada, instead of doing all (or some) of your schooling overseas?”  

 The response to that question is virtually unanimous.  But are they in favour of living internationally as kids, or not? 

What do you think they say?

And would you or wouldn’t you “do this to your kid?”