Education Doctorate

Year Approved


First Advisor

Bostrom, Cheryl


The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to discover the lived experiences of Third Culture Kids transitioning to postsecondary education in the United States, and what role social media had in building or maintaining bridging and bonding social capital. All the participants in this study were Missionary Kids (MKs). MKs, a subgroup of Third Culture Kids (TCKs), spend a significant part of their developmental years outside their passport culture due to the nature of their parents work. The participants of this study grew up in different regions of the world, including: South America, Africa, Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East, and SE Asia. Semi-structured interviews were conducted utilizing the videoconference application, Skype, with seven MKs who attended postsecondary education in the U.S. Through the data analysis process, four essential themes emerged: (1) Preparation is Key, which included the emotional and logistical preparation of leaving the host culture to attend university; (2) Relationship Central, which included the need for emotional and practical support from family, faith communities, and other TCKs and social media use to assist in maintaining ties with previously built offline social networks; (3) Transition is a Rollercoaster, which outlined the anticipation and excitement for university life, first year transition experiences, and isolation; and (4) I Am Complex Now, which included experiences of forming identity. The results of this study were used to develop recommendations for TCK stakeholders, including international schools, U.S. postsecondary institutions, parents of TCKs, sending organizations, and for TCKs themselves. A recommendation for further research included a mixed methods study with a larger population of TCKs of the same topic.

Degree Name

Education Doctorate

Document Type

Doctoral dissertation