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.
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.