“Are you a cat person or a dog person? Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do you prefer rainy or sunny days?” 

As innocent and childish as these questions might seem, they have a subtle element of profoundness. They enforce the idea of conforming to a particular category whilst not having the option to identify in the neutral area of it all. 

How can third-culture kids fit into one category? 

What about students moving to Romania out of fear due to the political instability their country is facing? 

Although there have been articles published on The Bite about these individuals (I’m a Third Culture Kid, a Global Nomad. But What does that mean? and Effects of the Russia-Ukraine War on Students In Our Community), the group of individuals this editorial empathizes with haven’t had their perspectives published yet. 

From the age of 3, I have attended International or English-speaking schools despite living in and coming from Romania. I have never been a student in a Romanian public school nor witnessed firsthand the manner in which the Romanian education system functions. The reasoning behind this, which I think many other Romanian students can resonate with, is our parents’ wish for us to have a brighter future and a higher quality education than they received during the Socialist period. 

From a young and impressionable age, Romanians attending these private schools spend the majority of their time learning English – not only the mechanics of the language itself, but studying in English. Consequently, Romanian becomes their secondary language as students may inevitably feel more comfortable expressing themselves in English. 

The issue here is that the disposition that local students have to express themselves in the language predominant in school rather than their mother tongue has a significant impact on their interactions with the real world. 

One example of this is accidentally speaking in English with your parents even when there are other individuals in the room, such as your grandparents, who don’t understand English. Although we perform this unintentionally and as a reflex, the individuals who face this language barrier can feel excluded or as though you are critiquing or judging them. 

You can feel inferior to those who excel in the language you are not as comfortable speaking and engaging with. This can cause you to automatically isolate yourself from the group or feel anxious interacting with these individuals in your unfavored language. 

Another example is with translating. You might directly translate certain words or phrases from one language to another, not realizing that the translated word isn’t grammatically correct or sometimes doesn’t even exist in the respective language. 

This may lead to people being less likely to risk conversing with others in the language they don’t think they excel in to prevent making a fool of themselves.

A frequent instance that can occur is constantly overthinking or comparing your performance in each language. If you are reading a book in one language you might feel compelled to read a book in your second language so that you may compensate and excel in both languages. The constant hassle of not feeling “Romanian enough” and associating English as your mother tongue when that is incorrect can have a negative influence on your relationship with your cultural identity. 

The Cliques 

Why is it that individuals feel inclined to surround themselves with those of similar ethnic origins? 

For one, it could be the familiarity of culture, language, experiences, and difficulties they face integrating into a greater international community. If the group possesses similar erudite or curiosities, especially those pertaining to their shared home country, their bond can create a strong foundation. 

Additionally, Romanians might prefer to befriend individuals they know will stay in Romania indefinitely. They might find fostering relationships with students acquainted with the idea of moving around the world often to be hopeless. They might question the point of becoming affectionate with others if they will eventually end up growing apart and saying goodbye. 

Students born and raised in the host country are thus much more likely to ensure a sustained friendship with similar classmates. 

I am very grateful to have attended this school for 10 years of my life. The opportunity to attend one of the most prestigious schools in Romania has allowed me to meet students and teachers from all over the world and become informed on a range of diverse cultures and values. My intention with this article isn’t to frame international schools as a whole in a negative light, but rather to help students who find themselves in my shoes feel understood. 

I have chosen to pursue the topic of being a local student at an international school in order to raise awareness and hopefully facilitate the brainstorming of methods that address the needs and concerns of these students and support them in thriving academically, socially, and culturally.  

One of the aforementioned incentives could be the enhancement of the school curriculum so that it facilitates equal development of both English and the students’ mother tongue language.  In doing so, students will feel encouraged not to abandon their mother tongues because they are not happy with their performance and instead will continue to hone their culture’s language.

This post was written by guest author Alexia D. Connect with any bite staff or Mr Erik if you’re interested in learning more about publishing your own content on The Bite.