Photo: Irene Sung

Growing up in a foreign country is as exhilarating as it sounds. With new languages, unfamiliar people, and exotic food, countless experiences wait to be explored. Like all else in life, there’s no doubt that international schools have their pros and cons. However, while each international school is unique in its own way, each with its crazy rituals and all, it’s clear that they are all alike deep down. International schools give a home to their students, who will always have a special bond with the communities they provide. Whether you’ve lived in China, Panama, or Brazil, here are 7 signs of being an international student that you may relate to.

1. It’s a long story when people ask where you are from.

It’s impossible to pinpoint a single continent, let alone an exact location. Are you supposed to say where you’ve lived the longest? The place you feel most at home? Or is it where your parents were born, tracing all the way back to your roots? Being a third culture kid makes things complicated for everyone, even yourself.

2. Color or colour?

You arrive at an international school with one way of spelling. Without realizing it, you adopt the mannerisms of those around you. Perhaps you’ve lived in multiple countries, or maybe you just have teachers from various backgrounds. But because of this, you are forever in a state of turmoil when it comes to spelling words the ‘correct’ way.

3. You get overly excited when you find someone from the same country as you.

Depending on where you live, finding someone with a similar cultural background can be rare. Often, you would do everything you can to befriend this precious individual. The two of you could reminisce about how quiet it was back home compared to this bustling city or about the local food you crave. Perhaps you might even spend a vacation with this new friend back in your home country!

4. You always have mutual friends with random people you find on Facebook.

It’s a small world, as they say. If you were involved in sports, music, or any club, you’ve definitely travelled overseas to compete. You’ve met plenty of students from other international schools, each with a one-of-a-kind life story and background. In the end, you are quite proud to say that you truly do have friends from across the globe.

5. New languages don’t phase you.

You know better than to be intimidated by the languages you’ve come across during your travels. Picking up the basics in any country is something that comes naturally, although you are nowhere near fluent. Your greatest pride is your ability to order a pizza in fifteen different languages whilst sounding like a native.

6. You know the airports, airplanes, and airlines inside out.

Despite what it’s like for others, flying is never a stressful business. From annual visits back home, school trips, and overseas sports tournaments, you’ve become an expert at flight booking and carry-on essentials. From the painstaking seat selection process to the forms of entertainment, you know how to make a 12-hour flight more enjoyable.

7. You will never be ready to say goodbye.

You’ve probably had at least one friend move away each year you were at international school, and it’s made the years tougher than anticipated. Saying goodbye becomes a heartbreaking routine that is impossible to prepare for, no matter how many times you’ve had to go through it. But you will always remember those you’ve become close with, regardless of the distance that comes in between.


International schools are full of excitement and nostalgia, and they are places to feel welcomed. But remember, everyone’s experience is different. Whether yours is a steady ride or a rollercoaster of events, embrace the experience of being an international student. You won’t regret it!