Where are you from? Where do you feel most at home? Where did you grow up? For some, the answers to such basic conversational queries roll off the tongue naturally. But others pause to ponder what appear to be simple questions.

The UAE is a cosmopolitan place where people from all over the world come together. It is a place which facilitates not only an understanding among diverse people, but an understanding within themselves.

Notes speaks to Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and their parents living in the UAE to bring you insights into their universal perspectives.

A cultural link

Name: Lessichka Awar
Age: 21
University: SAE Institute, Dubai
Major: Film Production
Background: Russian national of Lebanese, Russian and Brazilian origin
Spoken language: English

Lessichka was born and raised in Russia until the age of seven. Her family has moved between Russia, Lebanon, Cyprus and Dubai for years. When in Cyprus she tried to befriend people of her native cultures. "I tried to mix with Russian and Lebanese people, but found I was something different. The difference was everything about me, down to the music I listen to. I felt like an outsider. No matter what I tried to do I was still misunderstood," she said.

Human nature is inclined to seek to fit in and feel a sense of belonging to something; when this does not happen loneliness becomes a person's best friend. Lessichka experienced it firsthand when she came to Dubai for the first time in her teens. "I didn't have friends. I spent my time with books, reading and started living in my head," she said. "All the information I was absorbing [from reading] made it even harder for me to find things in common with people my own age, making it harder to be myself," Lessichka said.

According to her the main disadvantage of being a TCK is belonging nowhere. "I can't say I have a place to call [home]. ... And having no attachments means you have nothing to hold on to& . It's hard when it comes time to move, but you get used to it. You have to be hard on yourself and tell yourself this is life," she said.

However, there are advantages. "You get to pick the place you call home. ... Travelling so much and living on your toes make you develop logic and common sense quickly," she added. These are two things that do not change anywhere. "You get to witness the fact people are truly the same everywhere," Lessichka said. "People like me bring balance to the world; we are the chain between two cultures."

'UAE is home'

Name: Barry Moore Hamoudi
Age: 17
University: SAE Institute, Dubai
Major: Audio Engineering
Background: British national with Iraqi and Irish roots
Spoken language: English

"I don't consider myself British at all. I have a British passport and all it is to me is a document." These words sum up Barry Moore Hamoudi's frank assessment of his cultural identity. Born to an Iraqi father and an Irish mother, Hamoudi has been in Dubai since he was just a few days old. Hamoudi is not confused about his identity. "When people ask me where I'm from I say I'm an international citizen."

He agrees he has a completely different culture, an amalgamation of his Irish and Iraqi roots and his experience living in the UAE. Research shows that TCKs often have conflicting loyalties but Hamoudi is clear about where his lie. "I belong in Dubai and wouldn't choose to leave of my own accord." TCKs also experience plenty of upheaval in their lives either due to their relocation or that of their friends. "It [the UAE] is transient.

It's just a stop on the way to wherever they are going, it seems." Hamoudi has not experienced much of the emotional turmoil common to TCKS due to the series of 'hellos' and 'goodbyes' recurrent in their lives. "I can't say I found it a problem but I definitely learned from it. Maybe it affected me the first time but I'm pretty good at letting go."

Being exposed to myriad cultures and languages has helped Hamoudi make friends easily. However, he says how well you integrate as a TCK can depend on your race or nationality because there are racial prejudices. "If I went to England and presented my passport they'd take one look at me and ask, 'What's he doing here?'" The Iraqi side of his family often ask Hamoudi why he doesn't speak Arabic. "I tell them I don't know why - my father speaks English and my mum has learned to speak the language [Arabic] fluently."

A fresh perspective

Name: Ben Turnball
Age: 19
University: SAE Institute, Dubai
Major: Audio Engineering
Background: British national of Filipino and English origin
Spoken languages: English

Ben Turnball was born and raised in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His family moved to Dubai during the first Gulf War and has been living in the UAE ever since. "I had to deal with a lot of racism being half Asian, half English," said Turnball about his experience in school. "People started doubting who I was, calling me a terrorist because I was born in Saudi Arabia."

The experience taught him to choose his friends carefully. "I really didn't know who to talk to at the time," he said. "I got into a lot of fights. People would ask me, why are you Asian? Why are you in this school? ... I couldn't take it and lashed out," he told Notes.

However being a TCK does have an upside. "I feel like a better person because I know more than other people. I'm not racist. I have a different perspective and feel for what other people feel," said Turnball. For Turnball Dubai is home for now. "I'm proud to be who I am and feel I belong here. I know I don't belong in the UK."

When asked about his roots he is not so sure. "I don't really know how to answer that question, I'd say mixed. I can't just be one nationality."

A unique mixture

Name: Saniya Saifi
Age: 18
University: SAE Institute, Dubai
Major: Multimedia
Background: Japanese national of Pakistani and Japanese origin
Spoken languages: Japanese, Urdu and English a unique mixture a fresh perspective

Saniya Saifi, born and partly raised in Japan, moved to Dubai with her family as an eight-year-old. "My father wanted to move me here to learn more about Islam and Pakistani culture" as well as to learn English, she said. Growing up in a household with parents who hold opposing views was difficult. For Saniya Japan is home.

"I've lived there half my life, Japanese is my mother tongue and my mentality is more Japanese than Pakistani." Saniya now speaks Japanese, Urdu and English. Joining the Westminster School in Dubai was a scary experience. "I didn't speak a word of English but was excited to meet new people and made friends easily. My mixture is unique so people took an interest in me," said Saniya, "which made me used to interacting with different kinds of people." But it was not always that way.

"At 12 I was very lost. I didn't know where I was from and would ask my parents why they'd brought me here; but now I understand," said Saniya. "I feel settled now." Meeting someone of the same mix recently has also helped, said Saniya. "There are lots of people like me here going through the same thing. It's nice to have friends who understand."

'I wouldn't go back'

Name: Norrjahn Farooqi
Age: 20
University: American University of Sharjah (AUS)
Major: Engineering
Background: Pakistani national raised in Dubai
Spoken language: English, Urdu

"Over here everything is so peacefule. In Pakistan there is so much going on," says Noorjahn Farooqi. She says she would be able to adapt to the lifestyle in Pakistan. "We are used to living as a nuclear family - over there we have extended families and it's a totally different environment."

The AUS student says although she practises her culture in UAE, she is not able to integrate easily with her people. "My Urdu is not fluent so when I ask the price of something in a shop in English, they think I'm showing off."

Who are Third Culture Kids?

Anyone of a nationality, living outside their parents' country of origin prior to adulthood because of a parent's occupation; having spent a significant part of their developmental years in a culture not of their parents', developing a sense of relationship to all the cultures while not having full ownership of any. Elements from each culture are incorporated into their life experience, creating a third culture.
Source: http://www.globalnomads-dc.org