By Audrey Nguyen
Diplomatic children – a term increasingly used to refer to children whose parent(s) are diplomats. The early stages of their lives are usually characterized by moving, traveling, and cultural exchanges, something one might not expect from young children.
14-year-old Fernanda Ginschel is one of the many diplomatic children residing in The Hague. She and her family moved here two years ago when her father Jens-Volker Ginschel was assigned to the Embassy of Germany to the Netherlands as the Armaments Attaché.
Fernanda is in her 10th grade at the German International School of The Hague. As she is in her last few years of secondary school, academics are taking up most of her time. In addition, Fernanda is very passionate about sports, so her weekly schedule is packed with gymnastics, track and field, and tennis training. She would have liked to do even more if schoolwork did not keep her so busy. Whenever she does have free time, she loves spending it with friends or listening to music. Fernanda seems to be living the life of a typical teenager.
However, her father’s occupation has given Fernanda a rather unique international experience for someone her age. She was born and raised in Germany under a German father and Peruvian mother, alongside her older sister. In 2015, her entire family moved to Madrid, Spain, and Fernanda parted with her home country for the first time. Five years later, they made a second move to the Netherlands for Mr. Ginschel’s assignment.
When asked about her experience thus far, Fernanda spoke of it with much positivity and enthusiasm. Her family’s situation has allowed her to see new countries, meet new people, and learn about other cultures. She adores the peacefulness that the Netherlands has to offer, along with the proximity of the beaches. Ever since she moved here, she has also taken up the Dutch biking culture; she will take her bike anywhere in the city.
Fernanda’s distinct background and experience have also given her command of multiple languages. She speaks German and Spanish at home while learning English, Dutch, and French at school. Participating in local sports clubs is helping her practice Dutch, though she admits having German as her mother tongue has been a pleasant advantage. It is not surprising to hear that languages are her favorite subjects in school.
Despite all her praises, Fernanda acknowledges that the life of a diplomatic child is not without challenges. Every move means leaving friends and familiarity behind to start again in a new setting. For example, she remembers the initial struggle of learning French at her current school as all her peers got an early start. Of course, there is no escaping homesickness either; aside from friends and family, Fernanda especially misses the German bread she used to get at home.
Nevertheless, “I’m just very grateful,” expressed Fernanda; she appreciates all the new opportunities this experience has given her. One unexpected thing she has stumbled upon in the Netherlands is modeling. Fernanda reads many local magazines to learn Dutch, and she once saw a modeling advertisement in one of them. She has always been fond of taking photos, so she signed up. This landed Fernanda in her first photoshoot, with the theme being “Star for a Day.” She chose to be Olivia Rodrigo, one of her favorite singers who is currently making waves amongst listeners of her generation. Her busy schedule has not given Fernanda the time for more modeling projects, but she would like to continue it soon.
When asked about her plans for the future, Fernanda is undecided at the moment, but she would like to interact with different cultures in an international environment. It seems reasonable considering her upbringing. She also wants to travel around and see more of the world, mentioning England and the United States at the top of her list. A career in diplomacy like her father would allow her to do so, but she still has plenty of time before making a decision.
In her message to fellow diplomatic kids, Fernanda simply says “don’t be scared.” The change will always be difficult at first, as one adjusts to leaving friends, family, and everything they know. However, this initial struggle will be worthwhile as you eventually discover so much about new people, places, and cultures. Besides, one does not have to leave all things one holds dear behind; she still keeps in touch with relatives and old friends, who will always be there when she comes back to visit. If given the chance to change her diplomatic child experience, Fernanda said she still would not do anything differently.
About the author:
Thuc Anh “Audrey” Nguyen – Vietnamese student studying BSc International Relations and Organizations at Leiden University.
Her mother’s career in foreign affairs allowed her to experience diplomatic life growing up. The unique international setting of her childhood sparked her interest in global affairs. After moving to The Hague a few years ago for her mother’s assignment, she has stayed behind to begin her own path in International Relations.