GCD: Leadership

I Believe in Animal Rights.

Ever since witnessing the  conditions of animal shelters here in Japan, I’ve been determined to make regular visits and encourage adoption amongst my peers.

During my transition from middle school to high school, one thing I looked forward to the most was joining the Animal Relief Club. I couldn’t wait to work with people that truly cared about animal welfare as much as I did and having been involved in a few projects concerning animal welfare in the past, I felt like I had a lot to offer to the group.

Earlier in 2016, I submitted a proposal regarding a leadership role that I wanted to take in the group and starting October, I became one of the leaders of the Animal Relief Club.

Why I led the group:

For many years, ARC was limited to focussing on helping animals locally (i.e: homeless dogs) and although this was understandable given that we were on a tight budget and there was very little we could do as a small group, I always wanted to contribute to something bigger like the promotion of animal welfare on a more global scale. Witnessing homeless dogs forced to live in the tiniest cages with collars caved into their neck was terrifying but what hurt more was the thought of millions of other animals in the world chained up in even poorer conditions.

Since taking on the leadership role, I made a list of things I wanted to achieve as a group and ticked them off as I completed them:

Proudest achievement
– My proudest achievement as a leader of ARC was educating my peers on issues concerning animal welfare. When I first joined the group, so much of the activities we did as ARC involved local shelters and homeless dogs and sometimes, it upset me a little that our service group was only known as “the group for walking dogs”. Before joining ARC, I was involved in a couple of animal welfare projects outside of school such as participating in an 8km marathon with Animal Rescue Chiba, and throughout my life, I have also been surrounded by a lot of people who care about animals, including my family. Therefore,  I had a lot of background knowledge on issues concerning animal rights before joining the group and the very first thing I wanted to do as a leader was share my experience with the group. Throughout our weekly meetings, I educated the group on issues like animal testing, factory farming, and introduced the group to organisations like Animal Rescue Chiba, Animal Refuge Kansai and World Associations of Zoos and Aquariums. As we became more knowledgeable about animal welfare outside of Japan and outside of dog shelters, we began to integrate more activities in the group like signing petitions and promoting cruelty-free brands at YIS.

– Another one of my proudest achievement was organising a “Lush Sale” at school to promote cruelty-free products. This was our very first event focussed on an issue outside of local shelters and I’m very proud that I could bring something new to the group, especially given how successful the event was.

What it means to be a leader:

Mastering the leadership role in ARC required lots of fear-conquering – as much as I loved the group and being part of it and supporting such a good cause, I couldn’t imagine myself standing up in front of the classroom every week. But conquering my fears every week was what also made the experience so much more meaningful and rewarding 🙂

  • Speaking – This was my biggest fear as a leader. When I first started leading the group, I always tried to avoid and work my way around anything that involved talking in front of everyone. I would show up to the classroom before anyone else could, write instructions on the whiteboard and just watch people follow through the instructions.  But eventually, I started feeling ashamed and embarrassed that as a leader and as someone who’s supposed to be actively engaged and be a role model for everyone else, I couldn’t even put in a bit of effort to stand up and talk. To conquer my fear of speaking in front of everyone, I began to use presentations to help me gain a little bit of confidence. I would write down instructions and goals for the meeting on a keynote presentation and project it on the whiteboard – this meant that the classroom lights had to be switched off for the presentation to be visible and this meant that I couldn’t really see the students’ face – this was probably one of the strategies that worked best for me because I realised that a lot of my fear of speaking came from having to make eye contact with the audience. Leading ARC not only helped me gain confidence in speaking but it also allowed me to speak more openly about my thoughts on animal welfare and I felt more personally-involved in the group 🙂 And I found myself becoming much more closer with other members of the group and this also meant that we got much more done during our meetings.






  • Criticism – One of the biggest challenges of being a leader was being prepared for criticism and one of the most important skills I learnt through my experience with leading ARC was remaining calm and treating other members of the group with respect and understanding. Every meeting consisted of some kind of criticism and sometimes, they were hurtful and they affected my confidence a lot, but they were also what drove me to strive in the group. For example, if I received criticism on a particular event proposal, I took the criticism on board to come up with even better ideas – this was how I also came up with the LUSH idea :)Leading the Animal Relief Club was one of my most memorable experiences of service at YIS. 


GCD: Work Experience

During my work experience as a teacher assistant for YIS summer school, I was fortunate to work with a group of Kindergarten and 1st grade students. I remember my first official day in the classroom as one of the most memorable days of my time at work. I was constantly in awe from watching how my supervisors handled kids’ tantrums so easily and so effortlessly. It made me a bit anxious that I was going to have to be able to do the same but it was also inspiring to know that I was going to be learning from people truly experienced in the field.

During the first week completing behind the scenes work like assembling children’s portfolios and printing worksheets, I was overwhelmed by the work and the responsibilities that were placed on me. And, to be honest, was quite frustrated that I got very little time to actually spend time with the kids. However at the very end of the week, my teacher whom I assisted asked if there were any recommendations to improve certain aspects of classroom activities. She was very open and happy for me to contribute as much as I wanted to and this really made me feel like I was part of the team.

One of the most important skill I learnt through my teaching experience was being able to understand every students’ abilities and providing them the work and assistance that met their needs. We had 13 students all working at different levels and paces and designing group work was especially hard when not all could read and write at the same level.  To overcome this challenge, I designed activities involving 3 different groups for all subjects. These groups were based on children’s different abilities.

Example: English








Whilst working with children, I’ve also learnt that I could spend hours planning activities in preparation for the next day, but the most important and necessary skill was being able to think on my feet. And that I wouldn’t always get the outcome I expected because there were always interruptions and complications that were out of my control. Hence, problem solving skills were an important part of working with children. At times it was very difficult to think on the spot (eg; suggesting new classroom activities when the one before did not work),  especially in an environment where “collaborative learning” was encouraged because to me, one-on-one teaching / activities was so much easier than designing group work where students could learn from and teach each other. But with the help of my supervisors who had years of experience, I felt more confident and supported as I knew my work would be double checked and that any uncertainties were explained.

As I started gaining more confidence in the classroom, I started realising that I had so much more to offer than just working in my supervisor’s shade the whole time. I decided to combine teaching with something that I love: dancing. 🙂 On the last 3 days of summer school, I had the opportunity to teach dance to Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade and 3rd grade students. This was the most memorable experience of summer school for me. Teaching dance reminded me of  the joy of being able to see shy turtles come out of their shells. It was so encouraging to see children who barely ever spoke in class stand in front of the whole class and find confidence in expressing themselves.

Earlier in the year, I had a conversation with my parents about a career that I might want to pursue in the future. I was torn between becoming a dancer (performer) and a dance teacher. But working as a teacher assistant this summer inspired me to choose the latter. I discovered my love for working with children and working in a caring environment 🙂

Dance – GCD Artistic Expression

Dance has taught me to change my clothes in 15 seconds, it has taught me to put my hair up in a bun in 10 seconds but most importantly, it has allowed me to find peace in the oasis of movement, rhythm, and music. It has provided me with an outlet for self-expression.

I grew up to be a quiet and reserved individual and dance has always been my sanctuary when I failed to express myself emotionally. Growing up in Japan where modesty is a preferred quality, I could never outwardly express my sadness or frustration. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” – that was the kind of mentality I was brought up with but I found nothing about bottling up my emotions appealing. Dance has allowed me to remain quiet but fight for what I believe in at the same time.

Moving my body to music always came naturally but what made me truly attached to the field was through my encounter with contemporary dance in 6th grade. I have always loved the structured nature of ballet but I loved the versatility and the elements of improvisation involved in contemporary dancing even more. In 7th grade, I was put into a small contemporary class and being the only 7th grader in the class, there were times when intimidation got the best of me however, my passion allowed me to recover in time to see the special bond I share with dance. Today, dance gives me the courage to face challenges even in the most difficult situations and the confidence I have built in dance have extended to other areas of my life such as public speaking.

My favourite Contemporary Dance performance (Click me!)

Some of my memorable experiences with dance:
Last year, I volunteered at an orphanage for physically challenged children as part of a service club at school. There, it was my first time seeing dance being used for therapeutic purposes and I was immediately drawn to the field of movement therapy. I loved seeing dance help children find their confidence in self-expression, much like how I first started to gain confidence when I learnt to physically express emotions like frustration that were too difficult to express verbally. It was also intriguing to see dance increase their awareness of the environment and improve their coordination on a purely physical level.

One of the most memorable experiences I had with dance was managing a Zumba class as an after school activity in 2015. I was first introduced to Zumba at the age of 12 when I joined a Latin dance club at school and to me, the idea of incorporating dance into a workout was fascinating – it was everything I loved in a nutshell: dance and fitness. Managing the club was not an easy job given that I only had a year of experience with this particular type of dance but nonetheless, I was dedicated and motivated to keep the club alive for as long as I could. I was willing to spend an hour each night choreographing and researching how certain moves target certain muscles, during what was already a gruelling night of homework and studies, because I loved seeing people find joy in simply moving their body, the same way that I do.


I love to choreograph since it’s where I can put my skills, passion, and imagination into one thing, and I feel like the best version of myself when I’m choreographing 🙂 It’s how I go places I have never been before – it’s almost like how people feel when traveling spontaneously without knowing where they would end up. Sometimes I feel my brain in chaos and the only way to de-stress is by daydreaming about choreography. It’s one of the reasons I have problems sitting still in class too. 🙂

I don’t remember when exactly I started choreographing but I do remember the exact moment in my life where I felt that choreographing was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. In 8th grade, I started my own Youtube channel where I decided to upload videos of my choreographies for other people to watch and learn from. I started off with a very small audience but I now have 15,000 views in total and one of my most viewed video is a dance I choreographed for my anti-bullying project. Back then, I had zero technique and barely any training in dance choreography but seeing people appreciate my choreographies and reading through thoughtful feedback was so heartening and encouraging and it inspired me to upload more and more videos.


Uploading my choreographies on youtube was also what drove me to start teaching dance. In 9th grade I started little dance sessions after school for anyone who wanted to dance – my lessons did not include any particular technique training – we just danced for the sake of having fun. I then started choreographing a few routines for Dance Company and I started to fall in love with the intimacy I created with people in the process of teaching choreographies. And I loved the feeling of getting excited and moved by other dancers’ interpretation of my own choreography.

Over the last few years of dance training and choreographing, I’ve learned that listening to the body is so much more meaningful than telling it what to do. Choreographing allows me to experience the pleasure of working with other passionate dancers and I couldn’t imagine my life without dance. 🙂 Of all the experiences I’ve ever had as a dancer for 11 years, I value those moments when I had the opportunity to learn from other dancers the most. Sometimes I would find myself admiring another dancer for their control over their arabesques and grand battement at the barre and although dancers are often encouraged to seek competition only in themselves, I find the cooperation as well as the competition that comes from working with other dancers as great motivators for developing my skills and attitude as a dancer. The discipline, dedication and determination I developed in dance are skills that have extended to other areas of my life such as my studies at school.


GCD – Wellness: YOGA, etc. :)


I have been a part of the YIS yoga club for about 3 years now 🙂 It was an on-off relationship during my first year because I was always skeptic of its benefits but during the last 2 years, yoga has been a very important part of my life in terms of my physical and emotional well-being (i.e; managing my stress levels, increasing productivity, and improving flexibility). I go to class every Thursday after school and each session lasts between 45 minutes to an hour.

Physical Well-Being

I joined yoga in 9th grade in hopes to improve my flexibility. Being a dancer, flexibility for me is something that I need to constantly work on and maintain. I do ballet and contemporary dance, both which require lots of flexibility especially in the hips and in the arch of my feet. With the help of yoga, I am able to work on both these areas. A lot of the poses we practise in yoga requires to open our hips such as the “happy baby” and the “pigeon“. These poses in particular allow us to loosen the tightest areas in our hips and I find these the most effective out of all. I now incorporate these poses into my regular warm up routines before ballet to warm up my hips for kicks and straddles.

Some of the poses we practise in yoga also require some flexibility in the first place and these allow myself to use and maintain my flexibility just as much as I do in dance. The “Cow Face Pose” in my opinion requires a lot of flexibility in the hips and is one pose I face the most challenge with in yoga. It wasn’t until recently that I really started to realise that yoga and dance complement each other perfectly 🙂

Emotional and Mental Well-Being

I feel and notice most of the benefits of practising yoga once the session is over and I am at home ready to start my homework for the night. I think the majority thinks that yoga switches off our brain and body entirely but I think this is only true during the activity. Yoga actually provides me with the energy I need for the rest of the night – I feel more awake, more productive and more perseverant. It puts me in the mood to prioritise homework and chores whilst days without yoga is completely the opposite. Something about yoga turns on my productivity-switch 🙂
I like to think it has something to do with the mindset we practise during our yoga sessions – the calm, quiet, worry-free mindset that our instructor encourages us. We learn to rid and avoid distractions and when we do get distracted, we are told to acknowledge the thought and gently let it drift away like a leaf on a river. I think I subconsciously take this mindset with me back home and subconsciously maintain it for the rest of the night and that’s what helps me to complete my homework and ignore the things that often distract me.

Yoga also allows me to practise mindfulness in the midst of a hectic day. My days usually consist of worry and fear and MORE worry and some days it’s manageable, some days it drains all my energy out. I would be lying if I say that yoga has made these days a lot less hectic. But I genuinely think that it has allowed me to acknowledge these types of days and tell myself that “it’s all going to be ok” 🙂 During our yoga sessions, the most important thing we are taught to practise is our breathing and to focus on our breathing. During every pose, our instructor reminds us to whisper to ourselves “now I breathe in, now I breathe out” for every inhale and exhale we take.  During days where I need a break from my fears and worries, I think to myself; “now I breathe in, now I breathe out” and I’m able to instantly change my mindset, switch everything off entirely, let my worries drift away and focus entirely on my breathing 🙂

Other Stuff:

There are a few other things besides yoga that also help maintain / improve my emotional and physical well-being 🙂

Sleep Tracker

Last summer, I downloaded an app on my phone called “Sleep as Android” which tracks the amount of sleep I get as well as sensing my lightest and deepest sleep. I am still trying to figure out whether this app actually works and whether it does what it claims to do but so far, I’ve been really liking the way it wakes me up. The app features a built-in alarm clock that wakes me up during my lightest sleep (I only use this app during the weekend when I don’t have to worry about being late to school!). I find this super beneficial because I hate being waken up during my deepest sleep. I find it super unpleasant and I find that it negatively affects my productivity during the whole day.

Sleep is really important for me in order to maintain a positive attitude during the day and being able to track the length of my sleep and knowing whether I’m getting enough of those deep sleeps are super helpful. At the end of the week, I always go to the “overview” tab which allows me to look at my sleep patterns during the course of the entire week / month and this is really helpful because I play around with my homework and study schedules according to how much sleep I get on certain days.

The Work

A few months ago my school counsellor, who I’ve been working with since October of 2016, introduced me to “The Work” by Katie Byron. It is “a process of inquiry that teaches you to identify and question the thoughts that cause all the suffering in the world.”. It consists of four questions to ask yourself when you are having difficulties ridding a constant negative thought that circles your mind.

The Questions:

Lastly, it asks for a “turnaround”. You are required to try and flip the negative statement around in however way you can and want to, to change it into a positive one 🙂The work’s helped me a lot to rid those “all up in the head” kind of negative thoughts that always use to eat my confidence away. Spending even just 5 minutes of my day asking myself these questions helps me work towards and maintain a positive outlook on life and they really teach me that most of my negative thoughts are really just ones that I make up myself and are truly things that I don’t have to worry about at all 🙂

I’m really proud of myself for constantly trying to find ways to look after my well-being and am also really thankful for everyone that is part of my life who help me find ways to manage my stress and take care of myself.



Mise en Train – Chapitre 8

  1. Where did Sandrine move from? Where does she live now?
    She moved from a small village to a city called Abidjan.
  2. Where does Koffi live? Does he like it there?
    In Abidjan. Yes, he likes it there.
  3. What was it like where Sandrine used to live? What did she do there?
    The village was really small so everyone knew each other’s name and they were all very close 🙂
    They listened to music.
  4. According to Sandrine, what is Abidjan like?
    It’s very interesting but she thinks its too big!
  5. What does Koffi offer to do?
    Go around the city and take her to the places she likes.


    Est-ce que Sandrine parle de son village ou d’Abidjan? 

    1. «Il y avait des chèvres.»
    2. «On organisait des fêtes.»
    3. «C’est tellement grand!»
    4. «Nous étions une cinquantaine d’élèves.»
    5. «On vit dans des appartements.»
    6. «Les gens sont plus seuls.»

    Sandrine parle de quelle image? 

    1. «On se promenait ensemble.» 1
    2. «On chantait et on dansait.»  3
    3. «On se réunissait souvent.» 2
    1. Two girls and two boys are walking down a dirt road. One girl and boy are holding hands.
    2. People are gathered around several small tables.
    3. A boy and girl are dancing together.
  1. What does Sandrine say to …
    1. tell what she thinks of her life in the village?
    2. recall what she used to do?
      J’allais…/ J’avais…
    3. give her impressions of Abidjan?
  2. What does Koffi say to …
    1. ask how life was in Sandrine’s village?
      C’était comment, là-bas dans ton village?
    2. reassure Sandrine?
      … c’est pas si mal. Je suis sur que dans quelques semaines tu en tomberas amoureuse!

Et maintenant, à toi:

Et toi, est-ce que tu as déjà déménagé? Qu’est-ce que tu regrettes? Est-ce que tu aimerais déménager maintenant? Pourquoi ou pourquoi pas?

Oui, j’ai déménagé du Japan à l’Australie au Japon à nouveau. Je vivais au Japon jusqu’a 3 ans et alors, j’ai vécu en Australie pendant un an et je suis revenue au Japon. Je ne regrette rien. Déménagement en Australie m’a aidé à apprendre et améliorer mon anglais! Et voilà pourquoi je suis ici dans une école internationale en ce moment!