Third culture child finding her identity through PPI

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Have you ever felt like it’s hard to find your identity when you are living in a melting pot of different culture? Meet Izza, a Qatari diaspora born in Indonesia and moved to Qatar at a very young age. She helped PPI Qatar to be officially inaugured in during the last PPI Dunia summit. Through exchanging ideas, mindsets, and laughs, she was able to widen her and her peers’ knowledge about Indonesia both in the context of academia and everyday life and help many other third culture kids like her to gravitate towards PPI to find a sense of belonging.

It is hard to find your identity when you are living in a melting pot of different cultures. I was born in Indonesia, but I moved to Qatar at a very young age. Spending my academic years in international schools meant that I never really had the chance to connect with my home country besides my annual visit back home. All I picked up from the Indonesian culture was whatever was on the surface and I felt as if even within my home country, I wasn’t really at home as I didn’t understand the Indonesian culture. But neither in Qatar could I identify myself as a Qatari. I wasn’t an Indonesian, and I wasn’t a Qatari, so what was I? As far as identifying myself, I am an expatriate, and that is what I have been my whole life. This is the journey of a third culture child, in finding identity and heritage through PPI in a multicultural country.

Izza Alyssa with friends in Qatar

Izza and a group of other “Third-culture child”

What most people think of when they hear about Qatar is the host country for the 2020 FIFA World Cup. But did you know that it is one of the most multicultural countries in the world? Qatar’s demographic is also very unique in a sense that only 15% of the population is Qatari and the rest of the population are migrants, creating a melting pot of different cultures. Because it is a unique community, as expatriates have their own culture and so we feel temporary. The people you meet one day may not be there the next. Relationships are fleeting, but we never have enough stability to know where home is. Which is why I would go out of my way to reach out to Indonesian communities. I lived in a town called Al-Khor, where there were many Indonesians living, amongst other nationalities too such as Indians, Egyptians, English, etc. Although we all came together from different places, we all felt the same way. We were just a bunch of third culture children who were finding a place where we truly belonged. The only opportunity I would get to learn about my culture is either through my parent’s lenses or short annual trips back to my hometown.

 

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Late-night fireside chat with Qatari friends

Whenever I go back to Indonesia, I feel disconnected and out of place. I feel left out with my people because I believe I haven’t shared the same amount of cultural experiences as they have. Despite this detachment, I feel from my native home, I do not consider myself as a Qatari because I am not a citizen, and therefore I can never call it home. Right now, I feel like home is nowhere but at the same time, it is everywhere.

Ironically, when I moved out of Al-khor, to Doha where I was essentially the only Indonesian in my whole campus, I tried to seek into Indonesian cultures even more. In my first year of university, I was invited to an all Indonesian students meeting by an Indonesian professor who taught at Northwestern University Qatar. This gathering once was organized by Indonesian third culture university students who would once in a while meet up to strengthen the brotherly/sisterly bond as Indonesians. They named this gathering QISA (Qatar Indonesia Students Association). Over the years, Qatar witnessed a growing influx of Indonesian students due to increasing scholarship opportunities and economic growth. Consequently, more Indonesian students come to Qatar to seek studying opportunities. Because of the dynamic change, the same professor introduced the idea of PPI (Pehimpunan Pelajar Indonesia, also known as Overseas Indonesian Students Association) to the table and we all agreed to turn the gathering into a structured organization with board members involved. This was a platform that I did not know existed! PPI supports Indonesian university students abroad by acting as a platform to channel positive and innovative ideas, and also to make them feel at home wherever in the world they find themselves. After months of preparations and deliberations, QISA metamorphosed into PPI Qatar.

Izza Alyssa Simposium Internasional PPI Dunia Izza during “Simposium PPI Dunia”

As we basked in the euphoria of this change, the opportunity arose for me to represent PPI Qatar in the 11th International PPI Symposium (Simposium Internasional PPI Dunia), a prestigious annual event that provides a medium for Indonesian students to exchange ideas, build a network and collaborate on a personal, academic and professional level. In the conference, PPI Qatar succeeded and was inaugurated that same day. Through this event, PPI Qatar is now officially a member of PPI Dunia (Worldwide Overseas Indonesian Students Association). This week-long was very beneficial to me, as it allowed me to reconnect back with my culture from a student’s perspective. Meeting fellow Indonesian students from all over the world showed me that no matter where we live, we can still be united and contribute to our country in each of our ways.

Through exchanging ideas, mindsets, and laughs, it was able to widen my knowledge about Indonesia both in the context of academia and everyday life. I didn’t know this was an environment I needed but perhaps this is something which I had secretly longed for. Now that the organization has been inaugurated, many other third culture kids like me gravitate towards PPI to find a sense of belonging. A third culture child who has never belonged has never felt more at home. If you ask me where home is, I wouldn’t tell you a physical place. Because to me, home isn’t physical, it’s a feeling. Home is family. Home is my friends. Home is the people I connect with, the people I love.

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Izza Alyssa
Izza Alyssa is an artist, designer and activist. Having raised in Qatar, she continues the journey of living in the Middle East by pursuing a bachelor degree in graphic design and fashion merchandising at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCUQatar). She was granted a Creative Innovation Award by Qatar Foundation. Her work has been featured in galleries and conferences spanning from the United States of America to Indonesia; including Typecon, Hamad International Airport, Qatar-India year of Culture, Design Across Divides and Tasmeem Doha. In her spare time, she spends her day chasing sunrise and starting bonfires.