Ive gone to international schools my whole life. Spending time with my peers from all over the world has been a part of daily life as long as I can remember. Learning about my one relationship with the culture around me has been a big part of that. Japan is a complex location with a culture I have worked to understand my whole life. I have taken Japanese classes for the last 11 years and am still not wholly confident in the language. One of the biggest influences on my abilities here has been my classmates surrounding me. When I moved to my current school, my Japanese language skills were not fully developed but I could understand general everyday language. Some students from the school would talk to me in a mix of both Japanese and English.
This was really important to me because in general daily life the Japanese around Tokyo are much more hesitant to speak Japanese to me due to the assumption that I am a tourist. When my peers speak Japanese to me, it is both a form of acceptance and respect. They know that I have worked to learn the language and they are encouraging me to continue by speaking it at least partly with them. They trust that I am knowledgeable about the language and are also students who know that I live in this country and want to help me in learning the language. This action has helped me not only learn Japanese but also to be accepted into my new school, especially through the respect and acceptance expressed through this simple action. Since I have started learning French instead of Japanese, my language skills have deteriorated, but my Japanese peers here continue to encourage me to improve every day by speaking to me in both languages and helping me with vocabulary and grammar when I need it.
MUN, or Model United Nations, is an activity that involves representing a country and debating with other delegates assigned to other countries world issues. I have been in this activity since freshman year. Once a topic is chosen, each student chooses a country to represent and does research on the position of the country regarding the topic. From here, the delegates come together to debate on the topic and agree on a solution. One interesting thing about this is that often students will stand for points or opinions that they do not agree with. In turn, this means that students who take part in this activity not only have a greater understanding of world issues but also understand individual attitudes countries have on many of them.
Because I have been in this group for three years now, I often work with other newer students in order to help them further develop their knowledge of the countries they represent. I enjoy this because it means that I get to know more people in the group. It also helps me to further my knowledge of current issues and understand world situations that we are applying the group to.
Often, I will work with one group of kids who all have countries that represent one attitude towards an issue. This is always interesting because it teaches me more and more about individual countries and their general attitudes on world issues, helping me to come up with my own opinions on such issues rather than simply listening to other peoples ideas and repeating them. I believe this is important for anyone, especially when it comes to some current political situations around the world.
Last year, I was a chair at an event for the first time. The chairs in MUN are the people who conduct the meetings and keep the group on track. I enjoyed being a chair because it meant that I could focus more on the situation at hand and individual reactions to it rather than only my countries attitude towards it. This also meant that I could go around and help people individually like I was used to doing at normal meetings which I was familiar with and enjoyed. The attached photo is of me and Angelica, another chair, during a meeting.
Taking part in Little Shop of Horrors
Musicals are something that I’ve always liked from afar. As a person, I’m very loud and energetic but it wasn’t until the end of middle school that I realized how much I liked performing. I really love being a part of something a group of people lovingly work together on to build from the ground up. When I first joined the YIS community, it was two years until I got the chance to participate in a musical. I jumped right on it and ended up with the role of one of six skid row girls from the musical Little Shop of Horrors. We worked after school two days a week for six months and managed to pull everything together in the very last weeks before the performance.
For me, this event was very important in learning more about the kids in grades below me. I knew many kids who had graduated in years past or who are graduating soon but being a part of a group of six girls from all grades helped me to start to get to know some of the kids I hadn’t met before. Sometimes people get caught up in their own lives and grades and it was nice to see a variety of other kids who I hadn’t met but now feel comfortable talking to briefly in the hallways or at events even though the musical itself ended nearly 3 months ago.
Being in a musical also meant that I was able to be a part of the actual music process and bringing everything together from the start to the end. I really enjoyed watching the group go from confused actors to their characters and learning choreography that started out being really difficult but was easier when we could teach each other. The first run through that my group did was also done in front of our first audience. For me, this was nerve-wracking but for some of my friends, it was much more terrifying. At the end of the first performance, I was so proud that we had managed to pull everything together and how well it all went. More than anything I was proud of how hard each person had worked individually as well as together in order to pull everything off as well as it went.
Community engagement – Starting the Mental and Social Health Club
CAS was something that I didn’t mind taking part of in the IB, but I found that there were no service clubs that I felt particularly attracted to. There was a great number of them, but each of them worked towards a cause that I did not feel particularly applied to me. In order to solve this issue, I contacted a friend of mine and worked to start a new club that would serve the community like no other group had before. The Mental and Emotional Health Club, also known as MEHC! I created this group in an effort to ‘raise awareness, reduce stigma, and offer anonymous help to those who may feel they are in need of support in any way’ in relation to mental health. I felt that although the school community I am in is a comfortable and positive community, it would do well to have a group that faced these things involved in it. So far, the group has 10 members and we have been planning many upcoming events although we have not yet hosted any.
This club is very important to me because it represents something that I believe is not talked about enough. I have had many friends who have struggled with all manner of mental health issues and it’s very important to me that these people are safe. It can be frustrating for me to worry that there are people around me who may need help but don’t know how or where to get it. This group is something that I spend a lot of time working with. I am careful to plan out meetings in advance to be sure that the time in the meetings are spent as well as possible. I really enjoy working with the other students and coming up with a variety of ideas to work with the school community. More than anything, this group lets me feel like I’m making a difference. Because I am really the leader of this group and the creator, it allows me to make it whatever I want and not need to follow what past leaders of the group have done. Starting the group from scratch has been very rewarding for me mainly because I get to be such a big part of every project we do from start to finish and I get to see the effect we have on the school community.
Recently, a student from a nearby school got in a car crash and was tragically killed. In order for us to support this school, we are working towards folding 1000 cranes to give to them. In the Japanese custom, 1000 cranes are a symbol of hope or a wish. We decided to do this for the school but also as a way to bring the community together. We spent one Thursday folding and although we only got to about 450 out of 1000, the folding continues. It was really nice to watch people from the community drop in and out teaching each other and having a calm Thursday afternoon. This project is one example of how I hope to see the community come together as a result of the MEHC. Although this club is only at its beginning, I’m looking forward to continuing to watch it grow and be a part of the school community.