When making new friends and acquaintances, it's always an experience watching reactions when I answer the question, "so, where exactly are you from?" because I've not been given the luxury of a single word answer most people asking the question are expecting.
Depending on the setting for introductions, I might give the long answer - I was born and raised in Penang, Malaysia by a Chinese/Malaysian mother and Australian father on a diet of rice and Led Zeppelin, where I attended Cambridge IGCSE schools before moving to Melbourne, Australia at 17 to attend university, after which I transplanted to Philadelphia, PA and now currently reside in Athens, GA (not Greece!). One of my sisters lives in Melbourne, the other in Copenhagen. Oh, if you're not aware, I remark, Penang has the best food in the solar system, and the air is so deliciously thick I swear you could cut it into blocks and send them off to less tropical countries to be fashioned into massage tables.
Being a child in Penang was an experience I’ll always look back on fondly. School life was a constant flux of kids, their families in and out of the country in sometimes as short as a year. I had the gift of forming fleeting yet close, pure relationships with children from dozens of countries. Families would move there on business, within the military, doing missionary work, or other purposes that escaped a child's mind... but I recall the multiculture, the welcoming of new children from all over the world every semester, bidding farewell to departees that I’m still in contact with today, and the constant celebration of diversity in our schools. Besides, convincing a fresh classmate from Scotland to try some proper durian for the first time is an experience I wouldn't trade for anything in the world. Indeed, I have so many international friends today that on birthdays, I receive well-wishes on Facebook for two full days of time zones - a pretty great problem to have. And, where are you from, Mr...?
By Johan Harvey
*This article was first published in May 2019. It's as relevant & heartfelt as ever.
Johan is now working from & living in Costa Rica as a digital nomad with his wife Ashleigh & their Jetson cats.
Johan Harvey is Bennett’s Director of Marketing and Digital Strategy and also a member the company’s Technology Committee, helping to decide and implement Bennett’s digital infrastructure and online presence.
An international “hybrid” and “Third Culture Kid,” Johan instantly felt very at home in Bennett’s multinational culture when he joined the team in 2018. Born and raised in Penang, Malaysia, he attended British international schools before moving to Australia for university. After later relocating to the US, he began working in promotions and publicity, often for music festivals and large-scale charitable events. Honing his IT skills, he also turned to designing and building websites and creating marketing strategies for businesses around the US.
Bennett International Education Consultancy works directly with hundreds of families each year across the globe. We support families by helping them make informed decisions about the best-fit schools for their children; with our guidance, they secure placement in preschools, private day schools, public/state schools, boarding schools, colleges & universities, including schools with particular programs, such as special needs support.