The Edmond Sun

Local News

July 30, 2012

Coming (back) to America: OC offers cultural reintegration camp

EDMOND — When Caroline Hancock moved to Dallas from Japan two years ago, she left everything. And although her parents, Mark and Mayumi, were returning back home, Caroline was leaving her only home.

“I had my group in Japan,” said the 15-year-old, talking about her four best friends.

The Hancocks spent 17 years in Japan until July 2010. Before that the family had lived eight years in New Orleans. At the time, the family of four, Mark, Mayumi — originally from Japan — Christian, now 21, and Charlie, now 20, moved to the land of the rising sun to start an English school, Mark said.

“We didn’t really have a timetable for returning (to the U.S.),” Mark said.

But when Mark’s mother got sick in the U.S., the Hancocks decided to return home.

And though coming back to America isn’t difficult to do physically, the emotional and cultural strain is something else. That’s especially prevalent for children, who are often called third culture kids.

Nancy Hartman and her husband Kent started a week-long camp at Oklahoma Christian University called Global Reunion seven years ago. The aim is to help children ages 13 and older and their parents figure out how to cope with the culture shock of moving back to America from other countries.

What happens, Nancy said, is parents are coming home, but their children are not. The children are often leaving friends, school, sports and a culture they are comfortable with for completely unfamiliar territory.

“They’re not glad and they’re not home because they just left everything they know,” Nancy said.

This is something the Hartmans know firsthand from when they moved home from Australia. Nancy said their 13-year-old son had some emotional and cultural difficulty integrating in the U.S.

“Spelling is different here, so they are trying to process things that are different,” she said.

So Global Reunion, co-hosted by missionary care group InterMission, OC and the Memorial Road Church of Christ, was started. This year the camp gives military, business and missionary families returning from 20 countries tools on how to cope with becoming American.

Nancy said the focus is on young teens and the development of good coping habits such as dealing with the actual grieving process of leaving home, avoiding addiction and dealing with depression.

“If they move in the midst of identity time, they don’t really have an identity,” she said. “We think having them here at 13 or 14 is good because we can prevent some of the scars that can develop.”

The Hancocks came this year after Christian, the oldest, came to last year’s reunion. He said he loved it and wanted his siblings and his parents to experience what he did.

“I wanted them to understand what a good transition is,” said Christian, who is in college at California’s Pepperdine University. “I also wanted my parents to understand what third culture kids go through.”

Christian said he voluntarily planned on coming to the U.S. for college, but Charlie, who calls himself the obnoxious one, has had more trouble since the move.

“I had a hard time dealing with the differences,” said Charlie, who starts college at Nebraska’s York College this fall.

“We didn’t really know they’d been through a lot of things,” said Mayumi of the reunion experience. “They’re not the only ones going through the culture shocks. It’s comforting.”

And that’s one thing Global Reunion does. It brings similar people together to share their similar experience, building a sort of camaraderie within a subculture.

“It made me realize there are other people going through what I am,” Caroline said. “Really being able to talk is really helpful.”

Global Reunion has had about 80 participants from countries all over the U.S. Nancy said 14 area churches have donated food and helped with activities. This year’s reunion began Wednesday and ends on Sunday at OC.

More information on global reunion can be found by sending an email to Nancy or Kent Hartman at and

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