© Anushka Bose. All rights reserved.*

The Knot of Shared Experiences
Remembering my home

My family’s old home on Sixth Street, Dhahran Main Camp. Picture taken on my last trip to the Kingdom, January 2020.

There’s a reason why groups and associations rooted in overcoming challenges are as special as they are: AA, support groups for health conditions, groups centered around shared activities, etc. The bond of shared experiences transcends — or more realistically, limits—the perfunctory small talk that individuals engage in when meeting someone new and helps us volley sentiments back and forth rooted in a similar way of being. Recently, another third culture kid reached out to me via LinkedIn because she found one of my articles on another blog. Through that connection, we sprouted a growing friendship between the two of us. Topics that normally would feel too intense to engage in with just anybody feel like the natural turn among us. It got me thinking, the Aramco ExPats/or to broaden the topic, the Expat community at large operates on a similar wavelength. The knot of the shared experience makes us stay in contact with the feelings that shaped our identity so profoundly. The fact that a simple story, picture, or memory on the Facebook groups of Aramco Brats or Aramco ExPats strikes up a conversation and connection between others is immensely beautiful.

The Expat community experiences a plethora of emotions that vacillate between the categories of gain and loss. We lose something to gain something, and those gains don’t make those losses disappear. We carry that ambivalence within us wherever we go, and it’s that ambivalence of holding both the gains and losses together that often helps us understand the knot of our shared, lived experiences or even shared emotional experiences. It’s those emotional experiences that help me connect with kindred spirits in the Aramco ExPat community and the broader Third Culture Kid umbrella. There may be several differences among us Expats, but the knot of our shared experience symbolizes that there is some deep place in our hearts in which we recognize each other, in which the feelings of familiarity and belonging exist.

I do not intend to state that, no matter what, all Expats will find each other to be kindred spirits and likable just by the virtue of their “Expat identity.” Instead, I find that there is already an existing platform on which the seeds for connection and mutual understanding exist for Expats to form friendships. Individuals surely need to harbor an affinity for exploring that connection and each other’s stories, but the knot of shared experiences makes that space for exploration that much more wholesome, almost like these connections/people feel like a mirror to us — showing us a reflection of our core feelings revolving around adventure and loss under the disguise of a different name and a different life story, tethered at the same knot.

To end, I would love to turn the lens on you: What has been your most cherished, serendipitous connection with another Expat (Aramco or not). Where did you find yourself—physically and emotionally—when you encountered another kindred spirit who was able to understand the profound emotions that comes with the Expat life? What did you take away from that moment of connection?

Arabian Nights and Mornings: The Emblems of an Expatriate Upbringing in Saudi Arabia

Anushka is a Graduate Student at Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. She spent her youth growing up in Dhahran, where she attended Dhahran Elementary, Dhahran Middle School, and Dhahran Academy. She loves learning about new cultures and is fascinated by the diversity that brings us all together, especially the expatriate community, where the only thing that is common is that we are all different, in culture, religion, and the perspectives we hold. One day she hopes to publish a book on the third culture kid experience. Dhahran holds a big place in her heart.


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