A third culture kid

My full name is Jin-Hua Nishiki Liu. Jin-Hua (锦华) is a Chinese name that means bright future, and Nishiki (錦華) is the Japanese equivalent. Niki is short for Nishiki, and is not part of my legal name despite me using it everywhere.

Born to a Japanese mother and Chinese father in the United States, I'm what's known as a third culture kid, or TCK. Growing up with a younger sister, we were fortunate enough to have my parents push their respective languages and cultures upon us, speaking a mix of Japanese and Chinese at home with a little bit of English when there are arguments.

I used to travel with my family overseas every other year to visit primarily my mom's side of the family in Japan. During our two or three month stays there, my parents had me attend a local elementary school, which gave me a strong roots in Japanese. I made a lot of friends overseas and had a hard time leaving whenever we flew back to the states.

It was fun growing up with peers in two different countries. I learned that people were very much the same no matter where you are in the world, but personally felt very different. I was asked the same kinds of questions and was looked at with the same, curious eyes.

My friends in America would always ask, Can you say something in Japanese?

My friends in Japan would always ask, Can you say something in English?

Being different wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I quite enjoyed the attention I got regardless of which country I was in. There were, of course, instances of ignorant or racist comments being thrown my direction, but that was understandable, considering we were all immature. It wasn't until later in my life, though, that I started really appreciating my mixed culture background.

Trying new things

My frequent travels overseas slowed a bit once I reached middle school, but I kept busy with a wide variety of extracurricular activities.

I've tried gymnastics, swimming, karate, ballet, baseball, piano lessons, and found moderate success in these activities. I was planned to be the lead dancer in a large-scale Chinese ballet performance (but I quit out of embarrassment before it happened). I was recruited twice to be a part of the all-star Little League team for my hometown in Washington state and also played for my local elementary school in Japan. I won two regional level music competitions and had the opportunity to compete at state competitions.

As I grew older, I continued exploring my newfound interests in high school and in college. I joined a high school jazz band as a pianist (and picked up the ukulele), became a certified scuba diver, and took lessons in salsa dancing.

Although these things might not mean much now, I can definitely look back and attribute quirks I have to my involvement in these activities. I've made a lot of close friends and created valuable connections and am thankful for my parents for giving me the push I needed to get involved.