Taking the giant leap to travel across half the world to experience and live in a world that you expect to be so significantly different is a daunting task. Especially when all the stereotypes and expectations are met. The process of changing cultures many people classify as a culture shock. In fact, when we moved to Japan in grade 6 we got gifted a game called “Culture shock” it explored the differences we would experience and how we could prepare for them. Not going to lie, an interesting concept for a game and indeed could be very effective, but I was in grade 6 and couldn’t care less. I never really realized what was going to happen as I was moving. The fact that I left my whole culture + friends behind I never really realized.
It’s actually surprising how many similarities I could find in these cultures.
Of course here I could say that we all wear the same brands of shoes, pants and shirts. We use the same technology and listen to similar music. But it goes deeper then that. For example, I found a significance in Shintoism and Christianity. In Germany I grew up in a Christian house, we went to church often and my sister an I would often help out around church. When we came here we also spent a weekend in a Shinto shrine, here we got to try out praying, eating & living under Shintoism. As a young boy I don’t think i really understood what it meant to believe in a religion so I saw the similarities. A group of people sitting together to pray for something better, it provides us comfort and hope. In most religions that people believe in it allows them to have something to look up to and find a answer to their unanswered questions. I never really understood the rationale behind believing in something that you have never witnessed but I can see why some people find it gratifying to know something is out there for them, if it is or if it isn’t is not a debate that I have an answer for but out of this we learn that no matter what the culture we are all still humans and we want to feel good about ourselves and will do what it takes to motivate us or at least try.
This Idea of a similarity extends globally. Living in an international school we get to see many peoples friends and how they live around the globe and it turns out all through our beliefs are all shaped differently and our goals are different our actions are all the same. I love the idea of being globally engaged and discovering more about how we interact with each other and how our cultures have influenced us.
I have demonstrated my commitment too a community through my contribution in Student Council. I have been working in Student Council for 9 out of my 12 years. I have consistently demonstrated good organisation and leader ship skills by helping the student body have a better time while being at school. My goal and reason why I am in student council is because I want to make the student experience school outside of a academic perspective. This was a little concern when I was younger but I started to really notice in highschool that students hated school and couldn’t wait to leave. I believe that school should not be just academic but also a place were you can develop your social skills and become a better person. Because we spent 12 years of our life in school, I believe that we might as well turn it into a fun and engaging experience. I have led a number of events in student council such as dances, concerts and assemblies. These I hoped would engage all students to enjoy school more. However in student council we quickly noticed how many students who had their own individual hobbies were not interested in our activity, it was important to make events that would tailor to their needs.
In response to this I started a art week in were every day you have a different theme were the students can contribute their ideas, that way we can bring the students together and showcase their many skills that otherwise would not of been shown. I am not sure if they still do it but middle school used to have arts week every year.
I was also part of the creation of a new event we have in our school which is called STICH , (Student teacher inspired coffee house) this event is for students and teachers to come together perform, speak, sing, read poems etc etc. It was intended as a small event were you can come together and have fun improvising. We are now in our 4th year hosting 2 STICH’S each year. Our recent STICH that we had was planed to be on the roof and our neighbouring school was invited to join, they did not show up but the event was still a success.
I believe that my commitment to the school community to make the school a more enjoyable experience for all students can be seen as a major success. I am very proud of all of my achievements in STUCO and the way I have contributed, I think that I have made a positive impacts with the students and showed good leadership skills and creativity. I have definitely improved school life and made it more fun to be in school because people would be excited to go these events and even stayed after school to help set up. I think, especially in the IB it is very important that we make school more fun then it ever was because it can take away the stress of many students.
Berlin – Brussels – Tokyo
I have a collection of friends from all over the world who come together once a year to explore a different city in a different country for one week. We do these in the summer. All of my friends were once students of YIS so in a sense we started this trip to Tokyo. Here we were all foreigners and often had trips in the city. However, in Japan, it was always difficult to communicate with the environment and culture around us due to a language barrier. This all changed when we started taking trips to Europe where one of us always spoke the language of the city we visited. This allowed us to really develop intercultural Communications skills. We started in Berlin where we booked a hostel and explored the city. I got to help my friends to see the city from a perspective that tourist would often not experience. I translated often when we were talking to other travelers and going to different places. I taught my friends how they could order their food and drinks and they started to attempt to interact with my culture and the people of the city. This not only allowed them to learn about German culture but they got to ask questions and see the city in their own way. We explored restaurants and city corners that where not part of the daily tourist attractions so that we could see the city how many of the people of Berlin see it. However, I had no difficulty or much of a learning experience because I spoke the language and was already part of both cultures.
Berlin at daytime
Berlin technology museum
I got to experience what they experienced in Berlin when we went to Brussels the next year. Here the two languages are Flemish and French. Unfortunately, I do not speak either, but this time some of my other friends spoke the language so they were able to teach me a little about the culture. Here we explored the city, went to museums and travels with the tramp to see different art exhibitions. My favorite part of this trip was that we stayed in a 10 men bedroom for one night with one of my friends. Here we meet several different travelers from around the world, We stayed up all night talking about our different experiences and dissuade topics from skiing in Japan to the school system in Australia to the future of the different travelers. One Travellers was taking a break from uni and spend her money to travel Europe and see the world, the other trailer spends the winter to work and gain some money and then traveled the world with his money in the summer.
I enjoyed being able to see different places around the world with my friends and being able to understand and learn about other peoples cultures. I defiantly want to continue traveling with this group of people and learn and experience as much as I possibly can.
I worked for my grandfather’s farm picking cucumbers at 40 degrees Celsius two summers ago. If any of you have ever worked on a cucumber farm in the middle of the summer you must know the struggle of itching hands and a sweaty body. It’s defiantly not a job I would like to do ever again. I did this job over the summer at my grandfathers farm to understand my families history and earn a little extra money, I live as an international student in a big city where my daily struggle is to study & do my homework, this was a huge contrast to the farmers I meet when working here over the summer. These people work tirelessly over the whole year to support their family, it was very eye opening to me. Many people do not have a choice to be as privileged as I am in an Ib school and I think this working experienced helped to push myself to improve. It made me work harder in school and outside of school because I want to take every opportunity I get to improve my self and strive for a job that I like and can sustain myself with. Because I know for sure the lovely older ladies in the plantations would have taken any chance to go to school and learn. I also did another week this summer on the plantation machines planting a variety of plants. Its quite incredible how much work and care it takes to grow just a few hundred crops compared to the little money you get for them once you sell them.
The skill sets you to need for planting plants and cutting Cucumbers is minimal. The plantation machines are easy, you sit in your chair and there is a rotating machine in front of you with holes in it. As you can see in the image below there are stacks of plants in front of you, you take a handful out and place them into the holes in the rotating machine. The machine then automatically places the plants in the soil. This is process is quite fast and you need to be careful not to fall behind. However, you quickly develop a technique for placing the plants into the machine and then the process becomes rather tedious and boring. I often found myself watching the environment around me and not paying much attention to anything anymore. Cutting cucumbers is different, here you need to search through the needle leaves of cucumber plants to discover the cucumbers which are often hidden. This, if you are not wearing gloves can become extremely Ichi, you also need to be aware of what size cucumbers you leave hanging and which you pick. I found this less enjoying then planting because here I was sweating and itching while on the planting machine I was just bored but at least I had nice scenery to look at.
While working on the planting machine I developed skills of patience and perseverance. I felt that although some of the activities where hard and some relaxing I did not get to challenge my brain at all. It’s a job-based on repetition and I did not enjoy that at all. I learned about myself and that I definitely need a job where I actively use my brain to solve problems or different situations. I value this working experience for the understanding it gave me about how hard it can be to earn money if you do not have the advantage of a degree and I learned a great deal about myself and in what setting I want to work in when I graduate. I recommend a week or two on a farm to everyone just because it teaches you so much about how much money is really worth and how much work it takes for these seemingly easy tasks.
Working on a plantation machine planting radishes
My friends and I were taking a hike through the Japanese mountains with duke of Edinburgh, We were in the middle of nowhere with no cellar connection and we had gotten a little off track and lost. We were 5 Europeans who did not speak a word of Japanese lost in the middle of nowhere. We did not give up and followed a path that we had found, Until we had reached a little town, high up in the mountains. It was breathtaking, rice fields were stacked on each other with little huts near the ponds with old farmers who had nurtured every single one of their plants individually. There was a great sense of calmness and relaxation everywhere. We had walked up to one of the Japanese farmers and tried to communicate with him which way we needed to walk to find a bus route or train station. The old man had listened carefully and had tried hard to understand our confused sign languages, he then walked away. He turned around after 10 meters and waved at us asking us to follow him, he lead us to a bigger street and pointed us down the hill, gratefully we bowed in front of the man and continued our journey down the hill, just a few moments later we heard noises becoming louder and louder. It was the old grandpa driving his old tractor down the hill, He had again shown us the same wave as before singling us to follow him, so we followed the slow tractor for a good 15 min. Until we arrived at a bus stop, the farmer simply turned around, smiled at us waved goodbye as he made his way back up to his farm which he had left behind for good 20 minutes just to show us strangers the way to the bus stop so we could safely return back home. This though me something truly incredible. Being back in the big city you realize how different life can be. If you where to ask someone here for directions the best you could hope for his a show of hands which way. There is no way no one would ever follow you to your destination. Of course thats not what I would expect because people in the city have busy and fast lives. They rush to the rain to get to work where they need to rush that in order so that they can still make their dinner date at 7 across town to then rush to get back home so that you get enough sleep so you can repeat the same thing the next day. Point is that even if life seems so stressful it is healthy to take a moment, sit down relax help someone or just enjoy the city. Life moves very fast in cities, that doesn’t mean you need to as well. Live life like the farmer in the hills who has the time for strangers, If you can live life not dictated by the environment around you but by your own self-management and peace then I think you can call yourself happy
The journey was not only this, it was actually a 2-day hike, we went from Yokohama too Kamakura and also a separate trip in Hakone where we hiked over the mountain tops. We needed to make a video documentation so I also have a 4-minute video of some clips that we shot during our trip. I did not film anything with the farmer in it because I felt like that would be disrespectful, But in the video you can see the bamboo walls, the burned down houses in the village and a short sequence during the end of the video we where walk along the little road the village had down to the bus ride, here is the video; Enjoy,
Here is a little story I wrote for an assessment back in 10th grade, It might not be the best but it is still a valuable reflection on the trip.
I now speak German and English Fluently, However, it used to be very different and speaking English was extremely hard for me. I showcase my Multilingualism when I moved to an international school and ended up learning English extremely fast. Within two months I could speak enough to communicate with my peers and express my ideas. I have learned over the past years that I find it extremely challenging learning new languages.(I believe this is due to my dyslexia and because I often mix up my languages).I will often forget words from my native language which Is pretty scary but I always know that it is still somewhere in me so all I need to do is google the term and then its back. I keep pushing myself to continue strengthening these two languages because I have learned through my experiences that having two Languages can be extremely helpful for me to understand the world around me.
Being Multilingual has great benefits, not only does it open me to a whole new society of people with their own cultures and ideas but I get to express my culture with these people as well. This becomes very helpful in the goal community we are living in today. For example, in History class I get to help out understanding German sources and bring value through this extra knowledge which otherwise would not have been accessible to the rest of the class. Or when traveling around Europe with my friends I got to help them when we were in Berlin to understand and communicate with the German people about my friend’s thoughts and ideas, During this trip, we meet people from all around the world. Japanese, Koreans, Australians, Canadians, Americans, Dutch, Swedish and German travels shared their experiences with us in English and we really got to appreciate this global interaction of different cultures where everyone could express their ideas freely. I think that Multilingualism is the key to creating a global community and the more we can communicate with each other the stronger bonds we can create.
My vision for a perfect dance in the worst scenario,
I believe that my experience in Student Council best highlight my personal Leadership skills.
Last year, as every year, Student Council Hosted a few Dances for the students so that we can help them relax, enjoy and take their mind of School work for just this one night. The mission of our dances is to make them a place where you can hang out with your friends and create a more positive vibe inside the school. Like every dance, this was going to be a great success and we were all excited to get it started.
Just only that we had one big problem; both our concert hall and gym were not available, So we needed to move this dance to the cafeteria. The only flip side of this is that our cafeteria is just a longer classroom with some tables in it. The cafeteria would be nothing compared to the other dances that we had hosted. My challenge as the organizer of this dance was to make this dance the best it could be and transform the cafeteria environment into something the students would not recognize as being their everyday cafeteria but a place to hang out with their friends and enjoy the evening.
I needed to sell this location to the students as a dance floor and not a cafeteria. I had a group of 10 students to organize this dance. The biggest challenge was to make the cafeteria not be a cafeteria so I talked to countless teachers and staff around the school to see if we could have different things from their classrooms that we could use to decorate our cafeteria. We also needed to make our dance cheap, but any good dance needs loads of different foods and drinks. It took off several hours to calculate and figure out what price and what food we should be getting for this dance. I needed to organize people from our school to bake stuff, small cakes on sticks topped with icing, which cost us just a few cents to make, we made 80 so we had to spend very little money on very good and expensive looking snacks that were also freshly backed. Then we had spent most of the rest money on snacks and other foods which we made available for free.
We were worried that we had bought too much food and lost money due to our fear of people not showing up.
But because I had personally spent so much time on making posters and talking to people in our and other grades about the dance on the day of the event we had 68% and 72% of people from 10 and 9th grade show up, that’s much more than we normally get from our big early organized dances. This comes to show that if you have faith and show that to people they will believe you and help. Organizing and leadership is not just bossing around and taking control but talking to people and showing faith and hope. Even if you are about to give up and want to throw everything down just a little smile will help and people will believe in you want to help you to succeed. We actually ended up making almost double the amount of money that we had spent in this rushed dance.
This experience perfectly highlights my skills as a leader, I am not the type that bosses around and I am not good at commanding people what to do, however, I am a strong leader when it comes to encouraging, believing and helping out where I can. I think my leadership has had a big impact on the success of this dance and I could have not done it without the people I worked with.
Weeks after the Charlie Hebdo shooting Pope Francis responded with a statement on the Guardian stating that people need to draw a stronger line between what is considered freedom of speech and what is considered hate speech.
Farhang Jahanpour, an Iranian professor, and writer argue that without the right to speak our mind we wouldn’t live in a democratic society. However what Charlie Hebdo did was not only speak their mind but they depicted the Prophet Muhammad whom the Islamic banned on being depicted.
That’s not a political cartoon joke anymore but an attack on people’s beliefs. Because so many people believe in Muhammad and not depicting him, this cartoon is directly provoking the Islamic religion which should not be allowed. This is not hate speech but it is attacking these people’s feelings and believes consciously. Pope Francis sees it similarly, “One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.”
There needs to be a stronger line between free speech and hate speech. People need be allowed to say whatever they want however if that opinion is attacking someone’s beliefs, values and faiths then it should not be presented publicly.
Expeditions in 10th grade I went on a 3 days hike over a Niigata mountain trail. On the trip, we got to learn and experience many wonderful things. The most important take away from Niigata is that even though we live in a fast moving city and it feels like you are always in a hurry all of us should take some time and experience the city. Unplug your earphones and walk a different route to work, look around you and try to understand how the city works. Looking out and taking things slow in life is relaxing. We learned to strengthen those skills when hiking in Niigata. Since we didn’t have our phones we had to connect with our friends and the nature around us. Not knowing what the time is and not being in a hurry to catch a train or bus allowed us to take things slow. We woke up with the sunrise and went to bed when it was dark. We hiked through the forest and up the hills with no global context about what is going on in different countries. Of course, it was scary disconnecting not talking to loved ones and family because you had no idea what was going on in their lives. But this fear soon went away, its like living in the old days no phone that you open every 10 min to see if everything is okay. You start to develop trust in people around you and far away because other wise you would go insane. From the trip I learned to take things slow and I strengthened my connections and trust with friends by not being able to connect with them. Weird? but its a Wonderfull experience. Everyone should experience this trip or any trip where they can simply disconnect from the world around us and learn to experience the present.