Story taken from interview with Francesca Aka, MPA, ’18; Written by K.Throgmorton
Growing up a ‘third culture kid,’ Francesca learned quickly how to adapt to new places and new people. Francesca describes being a third culture kid as being a bridge between cultures. She navigates her family culture and the dominant culture of wherever she is.
As far as her culture goes, she says she sometimes picks and chooses different parts of other cultures she’s come to know to form her own version of each. She accepts some and rejects some part of each culture she identifies with as she tries to find the best way to navigate social interactions. Lo que no mata fortalece. She does not identify with 100% of any single culture but finds a way to bridge multiple.
Chi dorme non piglia pesci. As a child, “my mind was like a sponge,” she says. With a rainbow of languages laid out in front of her, she absorbed part of each language and with it came a part of a culture as well. She doesn’t take credit for learning the languages she now speaks because she was fortunate enough to learn them as a young child, when the brain is most sponge-like.
Each place Francesca lived presented her with a new language and culture challenge she was ready to accept as she moved with her family from place to place. Pour être belle il faut souffrir.
Through all of the changes in location, culture, language, French has always been a constant for her, she attended French schools in Italy, Mozambique Panama, and South Africa. Part of growing up going to French schools, Francesca’s peers were also international students from all over the world. She has learned how to navigate multicultural situations, she understands many of the nuances and complexities that exist within cultural groups and has an advantage in knowing different cultures intimately through her lived experience in different places and knowledge of different languages. As difficult as it was at times, Francesca has learned a lot about culture, languages and people from her experiences growing up.
Francesca imagines a world where languages barriers no longer exist, where people can carry on conversations in multiple languages and easily switch back and forth. She is able to do this easily and flows through conversations especially easily when others around her are also able to understand different languages. Speaking different languages helps to understand another culture and fosters empathy towards others, she says. Building on the skills she’s grown up with, Francesca hopes to someday work for the United Nations as an interpreter. Interpretation for her is a form of acting, taking on the identity and mannerisms of another person as you translate their words and ideas for another person. UN Headquarters is “like being in every country at the same time” and holding on to that idea and the idea that you can break down barriers using language drives Francesca in her education in Monterey. She says, “I want to try even though I can fail.”