A SUNY Canton faculty member has published a new book chapter based on her experiences creating a personal “Third Cultural Space” after being viewed as an American in Africa and an African in the U.S.
Assistant Professor Marcella K. Chiromo, Ph.D., who teaches in the college’s Applied Psychology program, published “Navigating Academia as a Third Culture Child” in “Global South Scholars in the Western Academy” published by Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. Chiromo just began her career at SUNY Canton in Fall 2021.
“I was born in the United States and was four or five years old when my parents moved back to Zimbabwe,” Chiromo said. “I had limited knowledge of the Zimbabwean culture and I did not speak the native language. I learned all about the culture through my experiences there.”
She said she struggled to fit in during elementary school as she navigated the cultural expectations. Her family was often referred to as “The Americans” because of the way they spoke. Chiromo then moved back to the U.S. to attend college after receiving most of her education in Africa.
“I was an international student but was not seen as one because I was a U.S. citizen,” she said. “I did not receive the support international students received when it came to navigating a new culture.”
While faced with the difficult situation, Chiromo adopted personal strategies to navigate higher education and personal interactions. She would draw from her experiences as an American to fit in with faculty members and use her knowledge of African culture to fit in with her peers. “I refer to this as cultural code switching,” she said.
Chiromo explained that international students have a host culture and a heritage culture. They can adapt by creating their own third cultural space which reflects their situations and backgrounds. “That’s how I learned to navigate, especially in higher education,” she said.
Her curiosity of how psychology is influenced by culture led her to pursue her doctorate from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Participants in her dissertation study reported positive experiences with the process of acculturation when they were confident about their heritage culture. “Throughout my study, identity and belonging stood out as a catalyst to a positive experience,” she said.
Chiromo noted that …….