GCD: Advanced Academics

Grade 9 and 10 were two years of my high school career that I truly dedicated to developing good studying habits for future reference. A subject area that I personally experienced a few challenges in was English, as I continuously struggled to express myself with clarity. However, in order to fix such problems, I focused a lot of my time on practicing essay writing under a short time constraint. I believe practices likewise have truly allowed for me to grasp writing techniques that would make my writing clearer. Furthermore, I believe practicing writing outside of school truly allowed for me to add tone and character to my writing so as to limit the essay from being repetitive and overly structural. With an enhanced level of writing ability, while maintaining an organised studying habit for my other subjects, I was able to receive the gold medal award for the highest GPA in 9th grade, and a MYP Academic Achievement award at the end of 10th grade.

Entering 11th grade and experiencing the first semester as an IBDP student, I had been rather nervous and more conscious of the active choices I made, both in terms of classes and extracurricular activities. I believe this enhanced level of awareness allowed me to be more prepared for the changes that I experienced between the MYP and IB programmes.

During semester 1, I was most proud of my achievement in my Biology and Japanese as I had initially been worried about these subjects and my ability to catch up with their contents, yet was able to understand and integrate the class material thoroughly. However, I wished to improve in subjects like Math, Chemistry and Economics, which came as challenges for me during semester 1, by participating more in class, asking more questions when in need, and actively practicing and revising the class material outside of class to enhance my understanding. I believe the difference in the level of achievement expected by subjects such as math and chemistry had been much larger compared to other subjects compared to MYP created the initial challenge I experienced in these subjects for me personally. However, by adjusting the level of reviewing I did for these classes, I believe I was able to feel gradually more confident in approaching each of the subjects. Furthermore, as I had no background knowledge concerning economics prior to the first semester of grade 11, the subject came as a rather large challenge for me in learning and understanding all the class material. However, as with math and chemistry, I believe an additional level of attention I placed on the subjects truly allowed for me to approach the subject matter with greater ease. Throughout semester 1, I have pursued 7 extracurricular activities that has helped me improve my skills in aspects I felt as though I fell behind in, such as action, arts, eloquence, and organisation. I believe in hindsight, the semester 1 of grade 11 truly functioned as a turning point for me as a learner as it pushed me beyond what I felt most comfortable doing, and further allowed me to learn more about my own study habits. It also allowed for me to define which of these study habits was most effective for me to utilise for fixing various problems that I had encountered in my studies. Furthermore, it truly allowed for me to define my study habits so that it is more adjusted to studies in specific subject areas and organise myself time-wise in a much more effective manner.

During semester 2 of grade 11, with an improved set of studying habits and a level of recognition of subject areas I would need to pay more attention to, I further improved my time management and my ability to assign different levels of importance to various academic and extracurricular activities. I believe I have made relatively significant improvements in classes such as economics, english and chemistry; extending my level of understanding of class material and applying it to varying degrees. I have also worked efficiently and diligently on my extended essay, which I decided to pursue in language and literature, concerning the depiction of the internal battles and mental disorders in various individuals in varying places in their lives. My goal from the end of semester 2 for grade 12 had been to work towards polishing my skills in applying my knowledge and engaging myself further in class. I believe academically, semester 2 of grade 12 truly allowed me to conquer many of the problems that I had encountered during semester 1, allowing me to yield better results from a shorter allocation of studying time. I believe the level of efficiency I have developed when studying has really helped me manage and juggle many of the larger tasks I had to work on during this period of time. The practice I got in sorting out priorities and allocating my time effectively during semester 2 of grade 11 has truly allowed me to become a more effective, academic learner, enabling and granting me time to focus a lot more on extracurricular activities as well. At the end of grade 11, I was able to receive the silver medal award for the 2nd highest GPA.

Upon entering grade 12, I believe I was able to yield the successful results from some of the many problems that I solved throughout the grade 11 school year. As my projected IB score, I received a 45. I believe throughout the process of aiming for high academic achievement, I was able to further develop and realise the reason behind my motivation to succeed. My motivation to succeed had initially been a fundamental wish for me to perform well in all subjects that I have decided to take up, however, I believe I was able to recognise a newfound respect that I had developed for all of my subjects. With this newfound respect, I longed to learn the most out of all of the courses I had available to me, which continuously motivated me to pursue additional review externally from the school curriculum and engage more deeply in classes.

However, there were a few sacrifices that I had to make in order to ensure that I stayed motivated and extracted the highest level of learning from my academic endeavours. As a relatively creative individual, I have long been incredibly interested in the arts and other means of creative self expression such as creative writing. Yet, upon dedicating more of my time outside of school to take up personal research concerning matters that had been puzzling to me in some of my subject classes, I was unable to engage in creative tasks likewise as often as I wished.

Nevertheless, I believe over the years as a learner at YIS high school student, I was able to gain a higher level of self discipline and organisational skills, allowing me to become a much more effective learner for future academic endeavours.

GCD: Public Communication

Recently, through a personal blog that I manage, on which I update various things such as my opinions and the books that I have recently read and enjoyed, I made a post concerning my opinions on the portrayal of women in common media, mostly literature, in recent years. The content of this blog post, was as follows:

“Stereotypes have been established since first great works of literature were devised. They are exaggerated and simplified models of only the imperative characteristics of a certain being. According to Walter Lippmann, “the existence of stereotypes can be defined by the society’s firm belief that stereotypes are a mechanism of self-protection while also being economically feasible.” Throughout history, women have always been considered the “weaker vessel”. Initially, this characteristic was assigned to women because men tend to be physically stronger than their female counterparts. This, in turn, meant that men were the ones who had to do labor-intensive work that was not very suitable for those of the society that were relatively weaker. This is what most historians suggest caused an imbalance in the societal importance placed on the two genders. Yet, mankind is now on the threshold of discovering fresh ideas and innovative feats, and this process is still continuing. This phenomenon that mankind had gone through has definitely heightened the status quo for the majority of the human population. An improvement in the quality of life should lead to drastic changes in the human characteristics and attitudes itself. Nonetheless, until this day, women are still considered the “weaker vessel”. Consequently, I feel as though it is of great significance that we look into this misconception more closely.

Firstly, let us take a look into the characteristics given to women in what we now call classic literature. In Hamlet, two of the female protagonists, Gertrude and Ophelia, demonstrate qualities of classical, powerless women that are easily controlled by the more powerful male figures. Habitually, Ophelia is a character whose best friend is helplessness. Yet, even through her misery, Ophelia maintains perfect control over her life, unlike our male protagonist, Hamlet. While Hamlet drowns in his indecisiveness at sea, Ophelia (before her death) reveals her riled emotions towards her society by giving flowers to Claudius, Gertrude, and Laertes. By doing this, she expresses fury towards the society in which faithlessness is the quality of the men and obedience is the quality of women. Ophelia further demonstrates that she has the power to change her life and make choices that control her life unlike Hamlet. She chooses by herself, “not to be” with her death. At this point, one may argue that this representation of a woman is not one that seems weaker than a representation of a man. In fact, it seems almost to the contrary. Yet, while Hamlet is awarded a chance to fight for his chance “to be”, Ophelia isn’t. She isn’t able to fully express herself vocally and finally meets her demise at the face of oppression. So, let us say that we have now progressed into a society where women are able to express themselves with words (and not flowers). Does this mean that women are demonstrated differently these days? I personally do not think so.

The book Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell has been placed in the spotlight very often recently alongside John Green’s The Fault in our Stars when it comes to popular YA romance novels. In this book, Eleanor is a girl who is described with adjectives that seem to emphasise her unattractiveness. Park, on the other hand, is the kind of “cool kid” who does not engage in social activity just because he feels that it is unnecessary. I don’t remember what I expected when I picked this book up to read, but I remember being highly disappointed at the end by another potentially wonderful female protagonist being ruined by the seeming fragility that all female characters must have. All female characters seem to have to have a loose end which the male protagonists must be able to mend either through their unconditional love or through their act of driving them away from harm on their truck. Women are still portrayed in our media as those who need to be rescued and saved by some heroic male character, and I strongly disagree with the validity of this concept. Terms such as the “Trinity Syndrome” have been developed just to explain this phenomenon in which female characters, who are initially presented as strong and independent beings, are broken apart by the plot of the movie and ultimately necessitates rescue and love from male protagonists. This, I believe, is not only generalising women as those who can never be as strong (both physically and mentally) as men, but is also developing a societal mold which shows that women who are stronger in their opinions and are able to get themselves out of trouble themselves are considered less attractive than those who cower in the shadow of men. Hence, it is within bounds to say that because society is condemning women’s independence in solving problems and their belief of their flawlessness, women have a harder time reaching higher positions hierarchically than men.

I wish people really knew and understood that women can be perfectly beautiful and normal while thinking that they are flawless and do not need help of that of a man to solve their problems. Although many now claim that they understand the true nature behind the lack of empowerment of women in our society, it is true that nothing is being done about this oppression, and women are still considered “weaker vessels”, as the Bible kindly put it. The cognitive manipulation given to us by various stereotypes of weak women in our media further influences us to actually believe that women are weaker, when this is definitely not the case. A closer look into the performance reports that the two genders receive in society reveal that women are more susceptible to negative feedback than constructive in comparison to their male counterparts. They were harshly described with words such as “abrasive” and “judgemental” just because they exemplified confidence in their own actions in society. This alarming result could be explained through the “Double Bind Phenomenon” which showed that if women spoke and acted at a workplace exemplifying stereotypically feminine qualities, she was not taken seriously, yet, when she spoke and acted with assertion, she was considered “abrasive”, “too strong” or “rude”. This, I feel as though, is a result of weakness being shown as a virtue of a woman in our media, and is definitely a concept that must be abolished through the development of stronger and beautiful female characters who can proudly admit that she is flawless. This matters to me most directly because I believe women have the potential to be as successful as men in working places and should not be generalised as those who need protection by men, and instead be considered as equal human beings who are not condemned for being impeccable.”

As a self-identified egalitarian individual who enjoys reviewing the books that they read on this particular blog, I believed putting this information into the medium in which I share my passion for reading was something that would help me define my online persona with my personal interests and passions. On this blog, currently have a regular following of individuals who have read my blog posts concerning the novel reviews as well as other details concerning my opinions. For this particular post, although I have not received public feedback concerning other individual’s opinions concerning the matter, I have had a rather in depth conversation concerning it in person with an individual who had read my blog post. Their opinions were quite similar to mine in that there was definitely a trend in common teen novels where female characters are portrayed and rendered helpless as shown through the means of the “Trinity Syndrome” in literature. I believe through writing this post, which was based off of other primary sources such as other blogs that discussed this particular area of interest, as well as discussing its details with someone who had read my post, was something that was quite insightful for me, as I was able to gain an enhanced level of understanding concerning this subject area as well as gain a more comprehensive scope of what others may think of something I personally have a passion in.

GCD: Fit For Life (P2: Habits of Mind)

Over the course of IB, I realised that there were many times that I needed to cope with stress but was simply unable to. However, I realised that in terms of work efficiency as well as other factors that come in to play when trying to accomplish a task under stressful conditions, high levels of stress only inhibited the highest level of performance for me. Therefore, in order to counter this, I have found and practices way to reduce my stress levels during stressful times for me. One of the most effective ways, I found, was to reduce my caffeine intake. Upon entering high school, I have significantly limited sleep time, and due to this lifestyle change, I have slowly developed an addiction to coffee. However, I realised that during times of stress there is nothing worse than an additional buzz on top of the buzz from the anxiety. Therefore, in order to fix this problem for myself, I participated in a challenge in December 2015, when I took part in a “decaf challenge” where I tried to limit my coffee intake for an entire month. I tried various coffee alternatives such as decaf tea, decaf coffee and I posted some of my most effective coffee alternatives for the internet community:

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“HOW TO make fake coffee

I decided that I would try something a little different to give my decaf mission a little twist. I’ve been experimenting a little with the different combinations of things that I could put in this whole “fake coffee” thing, but finally, I think I came up with the best solution to my problem, and I thought that it may come in handy for those of you who don’t particularly like coffee and those of you who are craving coffee but are on a similar mission to the one I’m on…. so HERE WE GO!

Here are the things you’ll need:

A roasted barley tea bag, Milk (or any milky sort of coffee powder), Brown sugar, Hot water, Coconut oil

Here is what you do with the ingredients:

1. Fill ¾ of a mug up with hot water and place the roasted barley tea bag into the hot water and let it rest for about 3-4 minutes

2. While that is resting, fill a similar mug ¼ the way with milk and place in a microwave to heat for 30-40 seconds.

3. Take the heated milk out of the microwave and add it to the tea AFTER removing the tea bag from the main mug. Mix the two together. The combination of the two should turn a light brown liquid (just like coffee!).

4. Add in ½ a tablespoon of brown sugar and stir well.

5. Then, add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (liquid) into the mixture and mix them all together.

I’m not too sure if all of you will think that this is very similar to coffee, and I realise that roasted barley tea has mixed options throughout various nations, but I thought that it was a rather good alternative to having coffee (since I enjoy the taste of it as much as its “waking up” benefits).”

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Another mindful habit that I picked up in order to reduce stress was through the means of sustained exercise. Although I had long been skeptical of the true benefits of exercise on the mind, however, through the means of picking up Yoga as an afterschool activity in 11th grade, I realised how important it was to be self aware of one’s body and to be able to control it effectively. Through sustained exercise, I realised that an enhanced level of awareness concerning oneself and one’s surrounding could be developed, allowing for a person to be able to find inner peace with more ease. By connecting one’s body to one’s mind and being able to manipulate it to be flexible at all times, I realised that I could potentially derive a heightened level of stress and anxiety resiliency.

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A pattern drawing that I did with a ruler and some grid paper

The final mindful habit that I learned and continue to practice is drawing. I have learned that drawing whatever one feels, especially patterns, can be incredibly invigorating in terms of enhancing focus and decreasing stress levels. According to the Wall Street Journal, the power of drawing is not only limited to relaxation and enhanced focus but also the enhancement of the malleability of the mind to grasp new concepts and retain new information for a longer period of time. I continue to keep up with this habit in order to enhance and retain the malleability of my mind and to allow myself to be more flexible when it comes to managing stress.

Other aspects such as listening to music or practicing a musical instruments (which I do quite frequently) are also practices and habits intended to lower stress levels on a day to day basis. Social interactions with others are said to decrease stress as well if done at the “right” doses.

Through such methods, I was able to enhance my understanding of myself and my mind’s processes, allowing for me to become more fit as an individual in the way that I respond to external stimulus such as stress.

GCD: Personal Goal

I have long been interested in ways to protect the planet, as I felt as though with the development of science and through the means of technological development, there is an enhanced level of carbon emissions and pollution as a result of such technological developments and not enough effort is focused on the development of technology that could alleviate such pressure from our environment. Therefore, as my personal goal, which I did through the medium of my MYP personal project (accomplished in 10th grade), I decided to generate ethanol (that is considered a much more energetically efficient and less damaging fuel for our environment as compared to its fossil fuel relatives due to the fact that we are not adding more carbon into our environment and that the fuel for engines burn more completely with the presence of ethanol infused into the preexisting fuel) from waste products in a school setting. However impossible this goal seemed for me without the needed knowledge in chemistry or biology, I decided to do some research by running through many ways I could generate ethanol in a school setting. After consulting an expert, Mr. Kim Young Tae (who works in an executive position in a Korean biofuel corporation and “clean gasoline” promoter, KNC) on his opinion as well as doing some research by myself, I came to the conclusion that it would be most effective to use food with starch in it to remove the starch and to convert it into ethanol using a simple process of alcohol fermentation. After trying out with different starch-filled fruits and vegetables, I came to the conclusion that it would be most effective to use banana peels to generate ethanol within a school setting. As the initial goal I had set for myself was to find a process of generating biofuel in a school setting, I was able to accomplish my goal of finding a method to extract 22mL of ethanol from 2 banana peels.

The planning process towards my goal followed the initial brainstorming of what I wished to accomplish through the means of my personal project, followed by processes such as creating specific criteria for what I wished my final product to look like:

The brainstorming outline that I created initially as a part of the planning process towards my final goal.

The product TSC that I created when I initially began the task.

The above is the TSC that I have created in order to evaluate my final product and how well it was created. Yet, in order to describe the TSC in more detail:

  • “The product must be visually interesting”

The final product will be measured in a way in which there is a checklist concerning all of the feedback I have received concerning what makes an interesting machine aesthetics wise from my peers. The list is as follows: transparency, intriguing in its functions, simplicity, creativity, high tech, modern in its mechanical parts, intricate, and lots of moving parts. Therefore, the number of things that the product has incorporated out of the 8 things will be directly implemented into the TSC to give me a value for this certain strand. So for example, if I was able to make my machine transparent, intriguing and simple, but nothing else, I would get a 3 for that strand.

  • “The product contains __ functioning parts and is unique”

This strand is a very self explanatory one as the product must contain a number of functioning parts (as requested by many of my peers when asked “what makes an interesting machine?”) in order to be referred as a machine, and these parts must look unique in the context it is presented in within my machine. Therefore, the more parts there are that are unique and functional within the machine, the more highly the machine will score. Yet, on the other hand, if the machine does not have a lot of functioning, unique parts, it will not score very highly in this strand.

  • “The product is interactive in __ parts necessary”

This strand is in reference to a feedback that I received from one of my experts that a machine is much more appealing to people for a longer period of time if it includes interactive parts in which it requires an operator to do a simple action which would help the machine work. This, according to my expert, increases the amount of interest that the audience would have to my machine as it functions in a way in which the person will be playing a role in the creation of the final product, giving the product more meaning to the individual and therefore, staying in their memory longer. This strand, therefore calls attention to placing interactive aspects into the machine in the necessary parts. This may mean that the machine includes one or more interactive aspects in the necessary parts that seem to have importance in a way, although there is not much to it. Simple actions such as placing the banana peels and leftover fruit into the machine could be considered one of these aspects. Although the general requirement is that in order for the machine to receive the highest mark for this strand, all of the different machine parts must include at least one interactive aspect.

  • “The product produces __mL of ethanol per banana”

This strand is in reference to the technical aspects of the banana ethanol creation which was concerning the actual production of the final product through the mechanism. Therefore, I would be testing the amount of banana ethanol that the process would generate in order to test how efficient the mechanism is in its most crucial role. Although I cannot test with an actual machine (as I would not be building one in real life), I will be testing this amount of ethanol through the complete manual copy of what would occur in the process. Therefore, through such an experiment, I will determine how much ethanol is produced and how efficient the mechanism is.

Furthermore, the reason why the cost aspect is highlighted in purple is because it was originally in the TSC in my most earlier versions, but is something that I changed over time to be eliminated after determining that such an aspect would be very hard to calculate, especially when using a mechanical dryer and electric blender in order to facilitate the creation (and furthermore, how hard it would be to evaluate the economic input value when the machine created will retain many more electrical appliances, and therefore, would be hard to evaluate as the input economical value for the manual reenactment of the machine would be different to that of the virtual machine). Therefore, I decided that that would be eliminated from the final documentation of my TSC.”

Photographs of the process of generating ethanol

Photographs of the process of generating ethanol

Here is an excerpt from the essay that I wrote as a final piece concerning this project:

“Here are the facts; In 1961 the River Cuyahoga of Ohio state caught fire due to mass industrialisation. This was a great problem concerning the world’s environment, and spurred large movements concerning its preservation. Yet, how much have be progressed concerning the protection of our environment from there?

To give an answer to this question, we haven’t, and it is our duty to change this.

My personal project was about generating biofuel out of waste products. There are two major benefits concerning this project. Firstly when ethanol is mixed into the gasoline that could be placed in conventional vehicles, it reduces the amount of carbon monoxide and smog produced. Furthermore, when large countries such as the US and the UK try to implement regulations concerning the usage of ethanol on a larger context, they take away valuable landmass from farmers of countries such as Guatemala in order to implement large plantations for sugarcanes and corn. Yet, what my project focused on was the creation of biofuel using waste products such as banana peels in order to generate ethanol. Therefore,my project on a whole could potentially reduce the conflict concerning landmass dedicated to fuel while tackling environmental issues at the same time.

By creating biofuel, I addressed the issue of waste treatment and less greenhouse gases produced from burning fuel. In conclusion, I promoted a way of keeping our habitat clean while sustaining a similar quality lifestyle. And this, is what I have achieved through my personal project.

The global context of my Personal Project was Globalisation and Sustainability. This global context focuses on the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities, the relationship between local and global processes, how local experiences mediate the global, the opportunities and tensions provided by world-interconnectedness, and the impact of decision-making on humankind and the environment. My Personal Project relates to that certain Global Context the best as I am proposing a way in which to promote environmental sustainability of the world through the development of a system which would reduce the amount of producing both less carbon monoxide as well as greenhouse gases. Although this project may also be relevant to scientific and technical innovation, I felt as though it affects the aspect of environmental sustainability much more heavily, and therefore, have selected that as my global context.

I had always been interested in the idea of using pre-existing materials to generate energy or other wasteful products. So, when the time came for that I had to select a topic for my personal project to focus on, I decided to do something related to generating interesting forms of energy.” 

Looking back on the project, I realise that there were many things that I did not take into consideration due to limits in my extent of measurement such as the level of energy input the process of generating the fuel required. Therefore, if I were to refine the process of reaching my goal, I wish to synthesise such information and factor that into the efficiency analysis of the process and try to find alternate methods of generating the fuel from the same base source but in a more energy efficient manner.

The following is a reflection that I wrote from directly after I had completed my investigation:

“My project has enhanced my learning by far in many different ways. Although the impact was not very large as my project had originally set out to inspire people to generate environmentally-friendly fuel out of waste products rather than to take away valuable land from those in LEDCs such as Guatemala, I made my point concerning both the preservation of our environment without putting socio-economic restraints on farmers clearly. Furthermore, if my plan was further developed, it could potentially reduce the amount of carbon monoxide produced on a larger context of Japan as Japan is a great consumer of bananas and if all of the peels from the bananas consumed are placed into this system, around 203,680,000 L of ethanol could be produced annually for public usage. I also think that my project, if further publicized, could potentially inspire others to develop systems which could generate ethanol out of waste with greater efficiency, aiding the sustainment of our valuable planet Earth.

Over the course of my project, I realised the different problems involving energy generations and seeking for alternative ways of making fuel for the human society. Before I started the project, I had a lot of questions concerning why scientists focus more on the branches concerning exploration and gathering knowledge but not on cleaning up the mess that we have made over time. As I was fully aware that the technology of the world is very advanced in current day, I had been upset that not a lot of effort is put into looking for alternative ways to generate more environmentally beneficial fuel as “most of us in the richer societies can only recall times of immediate access to abundant energy” (Green). Yet, throughout the course of the personal project, I gained further insight into the idea that it is very hard to generate fuel as we are already a very fossil fuel based society and that it is very hard to present an alternative energy source that could completely turn over the scene that fossil fuels have set within our human society. “Fossil fuels have created the political and economic landscape we recognize today” (Appendix F), and therefore, it is very hard to break the human society out of the fossil fuel based lifestyle. Similarly, before properly starting my project, I hadn’t realised the downside of biofuel. Although I was aware that implementations of biofuel within our conventional society was a struggle in many different ways, I hadn’t considered the landmass that would be taken away in large quantities from farmers in LEDCs. I was further not aware of the gravity of the debate concerning whether it was truly a good idea to implement fuels such as ethanol due to the arable land that it could be used to generate consumable crops in.

As an IB learner, I have grown a lot through the process of the personal project. Firstly, I best demonstrated the thinking skills as my project required me to do a lot of work concerning thinking both critically and creatively, and later transferring this information into the form of my final product. One major example was a time when I did several different experiments with different types of bananas. This allowed me to do some prior research concerning the different ripeness of bananas and how sweet it tastes when consumed, aiding me to think critically, then later coming up with the different independent variables I could potentially test. Then, out of the results that I have obtained I decided which of the variables produced the best results and took of note of that in order to implement into the creation of my final product. Secondly, I have improved the most concerning the self management skill as I kept to the timeline concerning my experiment schedule and created plans which I kept over the time given (Appendix H). Furthermore, before this project, I didn’t believe in the idea that failure could lead to greater success, but throughout the project, I learned that if it weren’t for all the mistakes that I made in the process of the experiment, I wouldn’t have been able to create the successful product I created, and therefore, I gained a lot of resilience and self-motivation throughout the create phase of this project.
If I were to do my project once more, I would manage my time a little better near the start of my project. Although this was not necessarily possible for me during the summer break (as my project required a lot of chemicals and other scientific apparatus), my project would have been more successful if I started the experiments as soon as I got back from the summer holidays as that may have improved my results. Furthermore, if I could do this project again, I would implement steps that could potentially raise awareness to my project. Also, if I were given more time, I would try to calculate the economic aspect (which I couldn’t focus on during the course of this project) of the fuel further.”

I believe this project as a whole has been rather eye-opening for me as a learner, as it allowed me to gain true insight into the global perspectives behind technical, scientific experimentation. In the case of this experiment, through my initial goal of generating self-sustainable fuel sources in a school context, I learned more about the global issue concerning land dispute for agricultural goods used for fuels and consumption. I believe this enhanced view has allowed me to become a more open-minded learner in accepting that many subject areas are connected to one another in very interesting and intricate ways. Furthermore, this project came as quite a challenge for me when initiating the project, as the science behind biofuels had not necessarily been something that I had prior learning experiences concerning. Therefore, I believe the research process that I took in terms of this particular experiment was a good learning opportunity for me, as it taught me how to do a lot of more targeted research into various aspects of the specific subject, whether it was the sociological or scientific approach to generating biofuel.

GCD: Management

I have taken part in student council for the past 5 years, taking roles ranging from MS student council president to PR manager as a part of the executive council in high school. Within HS Student Council, as the PR manager, the large focus of my work was to enhance the transparency of the council and endorse community engagement. In order to accomplish these goals, I created a refined PR plan involving specific roles such as the publishing of a school magazine encompassing all of the events that the student council hosted, in order to enhance the level of student attendance for future events, as well as publishing the minutes from the student council meetings on the student council bulletin board. I had planned this new PR plan which induces further community engagement over the summer and have ran it through as a voted proposal for the entire council during grade 11. Over the course of grade 11 during which I worked as the PR manager, I continued to tweak little problems that I encountered in the process of production including things such as the problems involving people not visiting the blog very often and that it was a lot of work to keep up with the TIMES to be published every 2 months. I believe through encountering problems and fixing things accordingly, I was able to enhance my level of management skills to a great extent.

Publishing of the TIMES on the YIS Student Council Facebook page

Furthermore, I organised and launched Humans of YIS in order to engage the students in demonstrating school spirit. During the period in time while I was a part of HS Student Council, the constitution of the student council underwent updating and amending processes. I input my opinion and thoughts readily into the development of the constitution in order to ensure further transparency of our council. I believe the focus shift that the student council took allowed further contribution to our community than simply organising events, as it enabled the council to address more specific concerns the students had. Such changes I helped make to the student council’s functioning process allowed me to gain insight into becoming a better manager of organisational dealings.

As a 12th grader, I have been elected once more to work as the HS student council PR manager as a part of the executive council, and this year, based off of the problems that I encountered this year, was able to polish and abandon some of PR roles that we tried out last year but did not work as well as intended. I believe being able to judge and make such changes allowed me to enhance my management levels once more as I feel as though through such changes, I was able to critically respond to and evaluate various aspects of my own plan that did not go as well as initially intended. In addition to continuing the role that I played as a PR manager the previous year, I intend to introduce a new segment to the student council Facebook page through the means of an online archive of all of the student council accomplishments of the year, ranging from small changes such as the ringing time of the bells, to some of the larger events that we have hosted such as Spirit Week.

Through the mean of such management responsibilities, I have gained a lot of knowledge and insight into what makes an individual better at management tasks such as the tasks I took on as a student council representative and as a PR manager of the council. Some of the larger lessons that I have learned includes the organisational aspects of management such as the different factors that come into play apart from the initial, theoretical process a task may take. With my enhanced management skills, however, I believe I was able to effectively troubleshoot through means such as refining the PR plan as necessary to the student body without it being too much of a burden for the student council. I have also learned a lot about the production quality and time allotment elements of various PR responsibilities that I listed at the beginning the year. When looking back on the production of the student council TIMES, the three issues that were published last year were all relatively rushed and not of optimal quality due to this aspect of rush. Therefore, as a valuable lesson I learned from the management of tasks such as the student council TIMES, was that there is a lot more to production of monthly or quarterly reports and magazines than its content, as I believe an enhanced level of aesthetic detail could have allowed for larger success of the magazines. Furthermore, the limited personnel on the production crew may have led to the hasty finish to the magazine, and I believe in order for more fluid production, in reference for the future, a larger group of people of various positions should have been appointed for the publishing of the magazines. I believe such learning opportunities have truly allowed for me to grow as an individual in terms of my management skills for future management opportunities.

GCD: Fit for Life (P1 Practice of Activity)

During 11th grade, I took part in the school’s Yoga club in order to enhance my physical and mental flexibility. Initially, upon joining the club, I had been skeptical about its effects on the flexibility of the mind as well as enhancing my physical fitness. However, I soon realised that I was able to enhance my physical coordination as well as my physical flexibility. There were many poses that we went through during yoga in the sun salutation that we learned and practiced in all of our lessons. Many of the poses involved in the sun salutation is aimed at enhancing flexibility of the mind and connecting our breaths to the poses. Through this activity, I was able to enhance my flexibility to a visibly large extent, and further increase my awareness of my surroundings.

Over grade 11, I attended yoga every week, other than for the times that I was unable to attend the class. I believe that through this level of commitment, I was able to gradually enhance my flexibility to a great extent. I have learned that through a gradual level of pushing myself to do a little more each time, I was able to slowly yet surely reach the level of flexibility that I desired and wished to attain. As I entered grade 12, due to time constraints, I was unable to join Yoga as a separate extracurricular activity, but I feel as though I have learned a great extent about the effects of sustained physical activity on one’s awareness of one’s surroundings. I feel as though this has inspired me as an individual to engage in physical activities in the future as well in order to enhance my athletic activities as well as gain a level of control over my own, physical self.

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-3-35-17-pm

Upon entering 12th grade, I have sustained a schedule of going jogging 2 every 2 weeks. So far, I have realised that I have gained a level of resilience to jogging longer distances, although relative to my original go, I still have a long way to go. However, upon realising how prolonged commitment could lead to an enhanced level of physical ability, I wish to continue this further.

GCD: Community Engagement

In 9th grade, I planned and launched my first large-scale project of creating a reference bank of educational notes for the specific courses I took for those who take and are planning to take the classes I took. Yet, after uploading a few files of notes and tips to enhance understanding for the classes, I realised that I could not cover all of the class material at the same time. Furthermore, as the frequency of access to my database was limited, I had to find a different way in order to communicate the information. After many organisational trials, such as limiting my notes to only the subjects pertaining to science, to attempting to make short videos instead of writing notes, I realised that the best method was uploading hand-written notes onto a Tumblr blog. This change enabled me to cover the most important details of the classes that I took, and further allowed for facilitated access to the blog. Although my initial plan in developing a reference bank of notes and information could not be sustained, I believe that I was able to come up with an adequate solution to the problem encountered. Working on Tumblr had further benefits that I initially had not thought of, as it allowed me to reach a broader audience than my local school community. Moreover, with the reduction in time spent on typing the notes, I was able to communicate and contact students around the world directly and give specific advice on good note-taking and organisational techniques I have learned and found were effective.

This is a simple Cornell notetaking style printable that I made. I realised that this notetaking method actually works really well and helps me learn the things that I need to learn while keeping it visually much more organised than any note that I would normally take. I feel like keeping it organised in this way also let me learn which bits I need to review later on during test week and don’t need to go rummaging through a pile of papers for all the red pen markings.

This is a simple Cornell note taking style printable that I made. I realised that this note taking method actually works really well and helps me learn the things that I need to learn while keeping it visually much more organised than any note that I would normally take. I feel like keeping it organised in this way also let me learn which bits I need to review later on during test week and don’t need to go rummaging through a pile of papers for all the red pen markings.

Finally, personally, the preservation of the environment was a subject matter of great interest to me, and I have contributed the best I can to causes and organisations directed towards environmental consciousness. While looking for a way to aid these organisations and causes, I realised that my ability to communicate fluently in three languages could aid in widening the range of audience of reception of the organisation’s claim. Through my work in translation for the organisation, which was printed for use at an exhibition, a wider, international reception of eco-friendly designs could be achieved. The passages I have translated descriptions of environmentally friendly designs. I have also taken part in a personal research task in which I attempted to generate eco-friendly fuel through the means of ethanol extracted from starch in the food waste generated from the school. Although the generation of the ethanol had not been entirely energy-efficient, I believe that further research and development into the generation of ethanol could lead to reduced level of food waste, land dispute concerning the production of edible crops, water scarcity, and loss in biodiversity.

Photographs of the process of generating ethanol

Photographs of the process of generating ethanol

Through means likewise I was able to enhance my level of community presence and engagement in making the community around me a better place for everyone involved.

GCD: Global Perspectives

Over the course of my 4 year high school career, I was able to engage in global perspectives most distinctly through managing the KIVA accounts for student council as part of the KIVA committee in 9th grade and by partaking in MUN throughout the 4 years.

During my 9th grade year, I took part in the KIVA committee within student council, and organised and managed the accounts alongside 4 other student council representatives. As this had been the first year we had employed KIVA into our service fundraising system, it required a lot of polishing and refining. However, after a while, we were able to get things running and collect money from each tutor group. The fund raised from each tutor group went to a cause the tutor group voted upon. Upon organising and establishing KIVA as the main fundraising programme in conjunction to the preexisting One Yen Drive allowed me to look into and explore the concept of KIVA more thoroughly. I was able to learn, by taking part in organising this new system of fundraising, that a more sustainable way to aid an organisation or those in need of money is by empowering them with loans rather than simply donating in a relatively unsustainable way. I learned that the micro loaning system that KIVA revolves around funding just enough so that it acts as a catalyst in their economic development, resulting in a heightened level of economic self sustainability. With this renewed realisation, I believe I have grown as a global citizen in the necessity to help those in needs in a way that is not only beneficial on the short run but also in a way in which the impact of the initial funding has a larger impact than the initial alleviation of economic pressure.

My 4 years of MUN engagement as also allowed for me to grow as a global citizen in exploring the topics debated in the perspectives of various nations. This activity really challenged me as an individual to go an additional distance, as if it were not for MUN, I don’t believe I would ever explore the perspectives of different, unfamiliar nations concerning various international news, as I would usually simply adopt the perspective of my nation. However, through the means of MUN, I was able to argue in perspectives that may not always be the same as my own, stimulating me to research deeper into the nation’s history and culture in order to understand their perspective a little better. This enhanced understanding, by studying these nations on a deeper level, I was able to grow as a global citizen in being more open minded and understanding of the various cultural differences around the world and where the varying perspectives on a seemingly one dimensional problem originate when various nations approach various international problems.

The most significant growth I experienced as an individual in terms of MUN and debating was during CISSMUN at Concordia International School in Shanghai. During this conference, I represented Guatemala as a part of General Assembly III. We debated three different issues: (1) Preserving global linguistic diversity and taking measures to document and preserve endangered languages; (2) Eliminating the practive of sex tourism in all its forms, and strengthening enforcement of laws against soliciting sex from juveniles; (3) Reducing the global epidemic of tobacco-related death and disease. For each of these three topics, I wrote three different position papers, elucidating Guatemala’s stance on each of these issues:

(1) Honourable chair and fellow delegates,

Guatemala, being a country with deep Mayan roots, currently retains 23 officially recognised Amerindian languages which takes up nearly 40% of the country’s languages, the other 60% being Spanish. These 23 recognised languages include Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, and Xinca. However, there are a lot more languages within the country which goes unrecognised and will soon go obsolete. In 2012, it was recognised that at least 21 Mayan languages that had been passed down orally were brought to a big risk of going completely obsolete. Currently, as a solution, linguists have been permitted into our country to aid preservation of local languages, which are the languages that usually go officially unrecognised due to its dwindling popularity within the country itself. Furthermore, Guatemala retains ongoing efforts to preserve rather minor Mayan languages and cultures in Guatemala, where the Maya still comprise of more than half the population, but where Spanish is used almost exclusively in schools, business, media and government. As these languages get lost due to advancements in communities, the key insights into Mayan life and culture would also be destroyed. Therefore, this delegate of Guatemala believe wholeheartedly that languages likewise must be preserved through various methods (as the aforementioned) in order to preserve old yet precious culture, and more methods should be brainstormed to stabilise the process.

(2) Honourable chair and fellow delegates,

Guatemala is a nation which is a home to a lot of ancient Mayan artefacts such as Tikal which attracts many tourists each year, yet inequality and poverty still resides in the country. This results in a lot of different problems when it comes to sex tourism in Guatemala. It has been estimated that fifteen thousand children suffered sexual exploitation in Guatemala in 2001, and the numbers continue to grow due to a high demand by tourists for sex services from children and the masses of economically impoverished and unprotected children have created a thriving market for child sex tourism. The atrocity of this human rights issue is founded on the fact that these children are forced into prostitution to provide for desperately impoverished families. These children are often between the ages of eight and sixteen. It is common for them to have been sold by their parents to traffickers or lured into “jobs” in the city but end up being forced to work in brothels and service clients. Most of the children who are forced to work in the sex industry within Guatemala are originally Guatemalan, although there is a small percentage of working children who are trafficking in from Honduras and El Salvador. Although prostitution is currently legal within Guatemala, other types of sex tourism is strictly prohibited. Therefore, currently, within Guatemala, there are a lot of effort to try and fix this problem– especially for children through methods such as operation ECPAT; End Child Prostitution, Pornography, and Trafficking. ECPAT Guatemala, established in 2000, works to ensure that children and adolescents can enjoy their fundamental rights, free of any form of exploitation, violence, or enslavement. Therefore, in methods likewise, this delegate of Guatemala strongly believes that a swift elimination process is necessary for all forms of sex tourism all around the world, not just in Guatemala for general child welfare on a global scale.

(3) Honourable chair and fellow delegates,

Guatemala is currently a country that has become a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on February 14 in 2006. Within this FCTC agreement, Guatemala has agreed on attempts to reduce second hand exposure to tobacco in which areas were designated for smoking, banning other locations from free smoking. However, when locations such as bars and restaurants were checked for the nicotine levels in the air itself, it was found that the notion of “non-smoking areas” and good ventilation systems were highly ineffectual. Therefore, in 2007 the principal researcher worked closely with the Health Commission to draft Law 3309, which called for an outright ban on smoking in restaurants and bars; however, the bill languished in Congress. However, after many protests, in 2008, this Law 3309 was passed. Currently, smoking in restaurants and bars as well as other non-smoking designated locations are banned in Guatemala. Therefore, this delegate of Guatemala strongly supports the reduction of the global epidemic of tobacco-related death and disease with ways such as creating laws similar to that of Law 3309 in Guatemala to reduce the amount of death and disease originating from second hand exposure of tobacco.

During the conference, I also took part in writing many of the clauses in the resolution concerning the preservation of global linguistic diversity with reinforced measures such as online classes for such languages as well as making an online library of perishing languages for its preservation and for future references. The research I did concerning perishing languages, in this specific example, allowed for me to gain an enhanced level of appreciation for minority cultures and realised that it is our duty as part of the global community to aid its preservation. I believe a culmination of such realisations through the means of MUN have really allowed me to grow as a global citizen in understanding and reacting to global issues.

GCD: Arts For Life

A 100cmx70cm pencil drawing I have done expressing the internal dilemma of an individual's structural sanity and creativity.

A 100cmx70cm pencil drawing I have done expressing the internal dilemma of an individual’s structural sanity and creativity.

During the first 2 years of high school, I have pursued art as a class, where I learned various techniques and skills to enable me to become a better artist. I feel as though it was through these classes that I was really able to challenge myself a little further in terms of my artistic abilities, and I feel as though this challenge really offered me to stand on a new pedestal on an artistic level. Throughout the class, I have continuously challenged myself with large pieces of work that I wouldn’t have challenged myself to pursue personally, and I feel as though it had been through these challenges that I was able to learn more about finding my artistic style alongside some technical skill. At the end of 10th grade, I received a nomination for the Artist of the Year award that motivated me to continue my artistic endeavours. Upon entering IB, I have continued my effort as an artist on the platform of Instagram on which I worked towards improving my skill and engaging myself in displaying my artwork on a public platform. Since then, it has almost been a year since I had started to pursue this medium, and I feel as though I have enhanced my artistic abilities in capturing facial expressions of individuals, paying attention to details and finally, developing my own artistic style. I feel as though the challenge this continuous endeavour offered me truly allowed me to grow on another level in terms of artistic development.

Within activities such as Student Council and YIS Magazine, which I took part in during high school, I was able to fully demonstrate and utilise my artistic skills in order to create posters and magazine covers. I personally believe that the use of art in a context separate from the means of practicing, as it truly allows for me to convey a specific, predetermined message through the means of my art.

The poster I made for the dance for student council

Art has been a very important medium of self expression for me thus far, as it really allowed full creative liberty, which is normally, relatively repressed, as the subjects I currently take at school that require a level of academic and structural rigour. Therefore, I have always felt a great need to enhance my artistic skill through means such as but not limit to additional personal lessons, to allow for fuller self expression. Art is also a subject area that I have particular interest in, as I find further liberty in the ability to portray whatever I wish through the means of art. I believe the lack of structural rigour art has truly allows for individuals to express whatever they wish to discuss, and that is why art is of great significance for me as a learner.

A colour and character style study of Rapunzel from the Disney movie "Tangled"

A colour and character style study of Rapunzel from the Disney movie “Tangled”

A digital drawing expressing the impact ego and the human mind has on our logical perception of the world

 I have also taken part in Wind Ensemble for the first 2 years of high school, where I played the clarinet. I feel as though playing in a band like the Wind Ensemble allowed me to grow as an artist and a musician because I had not played in a band with a small size like the wind ensemble. Therefore, I feel as though the stress factor on the quality of my performance was definitely more present in the performances that we did, and allowed me to grow more as an musician. I have also played a short solo in the Swan Lake performance during a 9th grade performance that definitely challenged the quality of my performance to great extent. Performing in a band has not only allowed for me to grow as an artist in myself, but also as an artist performing in a group. A level of unison and harmony is emphasised in group performances like that of wind ensemble, and I feel as though I have learned that by partaking in the activity. Although I have left wind ensemble in order to focus more on my academics in entering the IB program, I have continued to focus my efforts into becoming a better musical performer by occasional practicing of the clarinet.

English Media Fair 2015

“Whoever controls the media controls the mind”

On the 4th of June, during one of our English classes, the 10th grade students had a media fair where we were able to look at the different forms of media in which ideas are transmitted. Prior to the fair, students were to investigate different fields of interest (which were rather controversial) to show how different forms of media portray and send across different messages concerning the topic of interest. This allowed us to see how different mediums send across the same message in different ways. Furthermore, we also saw how closely surrounded our daily lives are by different forms of media.

For this fair, I personally focused on Designer Babies and the different ways in which they were portrayed in 5 different forms of media: a book, “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, a movie “My Sister’s Keeper”, a pro-eugenics propaganda from the US, a satirical cartoon, and a newspaper article. From these five sources, I learned that different medium had different ways in which they took their approach on the same topic. This allowed me to think about which forms were more effective than others in my opinion, and how the same information is received differently by the public based on the medium it is in.

During this fair, I was able to go up and listen to explanations done by four other student in my grade concerning their topic and how that topic was shown in different forms of media they decided to look at.

(The image for Emily’s Poster goes here– except due to technical difficulties I couldn’t place it here)

In the presentation concerning Body Image done by Emily, she focused on the mediums of an advertisement, a song, an article on plus-sized clothing, a documentary trailer, and a speech. Most of the sources that she viewed was against shaming people for the different bodies that they possessed, but it was clear that the different sources took different approaches to the concept of body image. In more detail, she chose to speak more on the speech which was done by Lillian Bustle, a burlesque performer and an actress. Emily said that the lines which spoke of how the society perceived the word “fat” was particularly interesting to her because the word “fat” was ultimately like any other adjective that could be used to describe a person, but to society, it is considered rude and derogatory to describe someone as “fat”. Personally, I agree with Emily in that this line came as a shock to me as well, because although I had also portrayed the word “fat” as something negative, there was actually nothing wrong with being “fat” just as there is nothing wrong with being “tall”. I feel as though this came across as a shock due to the way that the speaker spoke in the particular speech Emily focused on as a lot of force and conviction was placed into the word by a person who seemed to believe truly in what they believed. The medium of a speech, I feel, was much more effective in this particular case because strong opinions and beliefs are best transmitted through mediums likewise where a person speaks, without as much concealing as other types of media, about what they believe. However, I also personally found the song medium very interesting. Although throughout the song, Meghan Trainor portrays being smaller as something negative in order to present being larger as being awesome, I feel as though the song is a good medium to send across a message whether it was bad or good as when the song is played often, it could easily be stuck in someone’s head and associated to the message of the song whenever the song is mentioned or even hummed.

(The image for Mickey’s Poster goes here– except due to technical difficulties I couldn’t place it here)

Mickey did a presentation concerning skateboarding and how this was portrayed through different forms of media. The types of media that he investigated include: a video, a text type that show different views, a TV show, a video game, and song lyrics. Mickey said that all of these sources focused on the negative aspects of skating, relating the topic to negative things such as violence and vandalism especially in the video game. The video game as a medium, I feel as though is an interesting medium to focus on because it would be a medium which is almost the opposite of like the speech mentioned above in Emily’s description– a lot of concealing and distortion is involved in a medium likewise. Therefore, a video game that relates skating to violence or vandalism, shows both how skating is not viewed very positively by the public and also to make it so that it is much more provocative for further addiction of the player to the game itself. Mickey also said that in other forms of media, there were different focuses and opinions on the same topic. Unlike the video game platform which showed negative aspects of skating, mediums like the video showed skateboarding as a passion for many youths, expressing it as a sporting activity. Through his presentation, found it very interesting how the different forms of media not only expressed the same topic in different ways but also how the certain forms were much more suitable to express a certain opinion over another. For example, it is much easier to show the negative aspects of skating in a video game medium (for the provocative aspects) while it is much easier and insightful for the positive aspects of skating to be expressed through mediums like videos.

(The image for Yugo’s Poster goes here– except due to technical difficulties I couldn’t place it here)

A presentation I found personally interesting was Yugo’s presentation on cigarettes and how it was presented through media over a course of time. I found this presentation much more insightful as I was not only able to see how the media portrayed topics like cigarettes but also how it could be seen through media that our society is progressing and transforming. This showed both how media impacts society and how society impacts media. The types of media that he looked at were old advertisements, commercials in video form, newspaper articles, satirical cartoons, and anti-smoking campaign posters. Through Yugo’s presentation, I was able to see how society’s perception towards cigarettes changed from being something very cool and not harmful to something that could cause long term negative effects on a human body. This could be seen through the fact that in some of the older commercials, authoritative figures who seem to possess a lot of knowledge on health like doctors being presented on the posters itself, seemingly recommending the particular brand of cigarette. However, as time progressed, through forms such as anti smoking campaign posters and satirical cartoons, it could be seen how detrimental smoking is to the human body. Furthermore, I personally found it interesting that many of the media shown which advocated the smoking tried to relate the act of smoking to science and new technology. This idea of science and new technology made it much more intriguing for the target audience (of white american males), considering the background of such commercials in which the world had been obsessed with innovative new technology and gaining ground in the field of science. I found this interesting because the different forms of media that Yugo highlighted seemed to use techniques that would immerse specific target audiences, and I feel as though this shows (more clearly than the other two presentations before) how the public also affects the media in very subtle yet profound ways.

(The image for Sasha’s Poster goes here– except due to technical difficulties I couldn’t place it here)

The last presentation I viewed that day was Sasha’s, and although I didn’t have a lot of time to discuss the poster with her, I found it really interesting that the topic that she decided to focus on was another form of media– a musical. The different types of media that she focused on was an article from Playbill, a magazine review, a personal interview, a NY Times magazine article, another article, and a DVD. I feel as though I really found this particular topic very interesting as the original topic in question was a play which expressed philosophical questions such as the woods being a metaphor for life’s ambiguity, and how Sasha decided to tackle the play itself rather than looking at various sources which showed life’s ambiguity.

As a whole, I found that this media fair was an interesting opportunity for me to learn about the different ways in which the same topic could be expressed. I feel as though through this lesson, I was able to realise once more the truly profound connection between society and media.

“Media puts the public into PR and market into Marketing”