Throughout eighth or ninth grade there was a leadership conference at YCAC and I was invited due to the Student Service Committee. There I learned a lot of things but the main thing I remember is what leadership really is. It is not bossing people around and telling them what to do but listening to what people want and bending things to their needs. It is a lot more about leading people in the right direction and helping them to reach their goals and full potential.
One of the places where I applied these leadership skills was in Library Council. Here we hosted events such as the yearly overnight LockIn. As the Library Council is just a group of four students, we all had to take major roles in preparing, organizing and running the event. As this year’s LockIn was mainly addressed to lower middle school, it was going to be a lot more chaotic than last year. However, as we had planned in detail for who is going to lead what and when it all seemed to work out. Of course, there were still parts that did not go as planned but I think that is part of the learning experience. We had to improvise a few times as we did not quite have enough food and people we had planned to run an activity canceled the day of the event but it all ended up alright.
Another place where I had to take leadership throughout the LockIn was when we were planning to play capture the flag at night. There were quite a few students who showed up to this event so it was somewhat difficult to manage all of them and get them organized into teams and tell them where the boundaries were and other features of the game. To make it a bit less confusing and controlled, we let the supervisors explain the game and then were divided into teams. Me and the other library council members then became the leaders of the teams. I was alone with my team so it was my responsibility to get everyone organized, make sure that everyone knew each other and knew the rules. Something I often do when someone seems to have a question but does not want to ask, is that I either ask them directly or try to figure out what they want to ask and then ask for them if they want me too. I do this in situations outside of this and think it can be helpful, not just for others but for me to clarify the information as well. Making sure that everyone understands what is happening and what they are supposed to do, definitely is an important part of being a leader.
This is not the only time I have had to take a leadership role but it was definitely one of the most memorable as it was so much fun to do. I know that it can be stressful at times but when things work out it is worth it and even if they don’t you will have learned something from it.
As my mother tongue is German, I joined the joined the mother tongue program at YIS as soon as I came here. This was important to me and my parents as we were going to back to Germany after three years and I am going into German A language for the IB. I have now gone to the weekly one-hour long German class after school for three years. Of course, this is going to mean that my level of German is not going to be as high as that of my friends back in Germany who have German as frequently as English but it is definitely better than if I did nothing.
But not only do I think that learning and practicing languages is important but that it is fun as well. Learning languages is something I enjoy greatly. Not only am I fluent in German and English but I have also been taking Spanish for almost five years now. I enjoy learning and practicing all of these languages (plus one year of Japanese) as it is different from all other subjects in the way it is taught and developed. However as it starts off as something we are completely unfamiliar with, it has a similar approach to an introduction to most other classes, such as math or history. The only difference is that that we start learning our second (or in my case third and fourth) language a lot later in life. This is something that fascinates me about humans and their relationships with language. When we are little we learn languages incredibly quickly but once we reach a certain age it gets more difficult. I think this might also be another part that I love about languages, the fact that they can be a challenge for us and our minds.
Another advantage of being able to speak multiple languages fluently is that it has practical uses. One of these is being a translator for my family. As I speak German at home with my parents and both German and English with my siblings, I have quite a bit of practical practice with languages and translating what my siblings are saying to my parents when they don’t quite understand. This gives me practice for when my parents and I are around English speakers with an accent or who speak incredibly quickly as this can be difficult for my parents to understand. I then translate what people are saying to them to help all of them communicate. Another practical use of speaking multiple languages is that I can talk to and understand people from many different countries as two of the three languages I speak are in the top three spoken languages. This makes traveling easier and more comfortable to me and my family.
Overall learning languages is great as it helps you in different countries and gives you the ability to help and communicate with others. Also, it is generally just a fun process.
As I am not a great fan of sports but still want to stay active, I decided to join Yoga this school year. At first, I was unsure about a lot of the poses and my ability to complete them. However, throughout the year I have become more confident, comfortable and able to complete each of the poses.
As we are such a small group, it was easy to adapt the yoga sessions to what our energy level was like and how we were feeling mentally. This was useful as we then did what was appropriate to how we were feeling.
What I learned most about in yoga is that there are many different ways to do different, helpful things to your body, such as stretching your back or opening your chest. I enjoyed learning this and can now do this in my own life. Another reason why attending this type of yoga was helpful is because it is simple and never so challenging that we give up. This means that we did poses we can do alone at home when we feel like we need it.
I am incredibly glad that I joined yoga this year as I now know a lot more ways to stretch and relax when I am feeling stressed or down. Also, I know about things that affect our mood and what we can do to stop outside forces from influencing us too much. And even when I did not feel like going to yoga, either because I had too much homework or wanted to just go home and relax, I always went and always left the room feeling better than I did coming in. I think this is a valuable lesson to learn. Spending time on and with yourself and your mind is important for your mental and emotional wellbeing. I will most definitely continue practicing yoga throughout my life as it has already taught me so much but I still think there is more to learn.
I have been part of service groups ever since I came to YIS three years ago. When I first came to Japan and YIS, I was immediately intrigued by a number of activities you could choose from at this school. As I was still in Middle School, there was just one service group I could join in the beginning of the year. This was the GIN/CAS group. Here we split ourselves into smaller groups with a cause we wanted to support or further understand. For this, I chose to lead the Equal Rights group. Here we mainly focussed on gender equality and made posters that we hung up around the school.
Towards the end of eighth grade, however, Mr. Coutts introduced the Student Service Committee to the school. I was immediately interested and signed up as soon as I got home. I was part of this group for the rest of middle school and all of the ninth grade. In this group, we took care of and supported all service groups, started new ones and organized the Service Exhibition. I was also part of other service groups outside of the Service Committee throughout my three years at YIS. Firstly there was Combating Human Trafficking. Here we mainly worked on educating the upper grades (8-12) on the massive issue with human trafficking in Japan. We also held events such as the speaker event with Lighthouse, the local group that we supported. I am also part of the Library Council. Here we generally help out with shelving and organizing the library, host events and try to promote reading within our YIS Community. As we were and still are a relatively small there is always a lot of work and responsibility on each of us. However being a small group also has advantages as it is easier to bring your ideas across and make important choices as everyone “has to” participate. Another group I am part of is the YIS Magazine. I am not sure if everyone sees this as a service group but I think that there are definitely some elements of service within this group. At our weekly meetings we generally discuss how we can encourage people to write more and how we can share people’s work. I see this as a service as we are not doing this for ourselves but for others to get their work out to the school community. I like this as I get a chance to see other people’s writing and help them improve it. Finally I am also part of the VanderPol group. As there is one main event in this group, the christmas party for the local orphanage, this is not quite an all year long commitment. My main role in this group was in communications. For the christmas party, I sent out the daily bulletin posts and tried to help get people to do their roles. As I could not attend the final party, I decided to participate in one of the weekend outings instead. This was an amazing experience as we could play with the kids and see a completely different side of what life can be like. It also changed my perspective of what life is like for an orphan. Of course this was only on children’s home that we visited but it was still eye opening to see how happy all of these kids were.
Overall I have loved all of these experiences I got to have due to the fact that I joined this many service groups. Through this, I have learned that service is not just about helping others but that you can learn a lot along the way as well. Through most of these activities, I have learned new leadership and communication skills. This is due to the fact that I was part of a variety of groups that all required different skills. I learned leadership mainly in the smaller groups, or groups with sub-groups where I could help lead. Communication skills were needed in all groups and as I already had a few communication skills before I came to YIS, I took this position to learn more and help the groups out. What I love most about these experiences though is that I got to help others. Helping others is one of my highest values so being able to practice something I love and value, whilst doing something for others as well, was amazing. I will most definitely continue doing service and helping as much as I can in the future as it is something I enjoy and know will help others too.
To achieve a personal accomplishment, I set a goal first. The goal I set for myself was to read 52 books in 2016. This meant that I would read one book every week. However, there were weeks during which I did not have enough time to read a whole book. Luckily for me, I then had periods during which I read 3 books a week which then made up for the weeks during which I didn’t read.
Here is the link to the good reads shelf I made over the past year.
My top 5 books were, in no particular order: The Pause by John Larkin The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky Every You, Every Me by David Levithan Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie
The reason why these books made my top 5 list was because they either helped me through difficult time/left a meaningful impact on me or because they were thrilled to read. I think the book that left the biggest impact on me was ‘The Pause’. It is a story about Declan who is about to commit suicide but then pauses. The book then tells the story of all the things that would have happened if he had not continued running towards the train after the pause. It was a rather deep but for obvious reasons but it also had quite a few unexpected life lessons and important messages within the story. I would definitely recommend this book.
My least favorite books were Ausländer by Paul Dowswell and The Crimson Cap by Ellen Howard. The reason why is generally because I did not like the tone in which the books were written. Maybe it was also because I could not relate to the characters. However, I did not finish either of these books completely so maybe they got better towards the very end.
The process I really enjoyed this part of the GCD. Reading is something I do for fun but setting myself a challenge and using it as something that can benefit my future was great. Additionally, it meant that I always made sure I spent some of my spare time reading instead of going on the internet and doing nothing useful. There wasn’t really any difficult part of this entire process, except finding enough time to really sit down and read and that towards the end I had to prioritize shorter books so that I could reach my goal. Overall, it was a great experience that was challenging but fun at the same time.
Would I do it again? Yes definitely. Setting myself a high goal was motivating to get more reading done. As reading is also something I enjoy greatly and it is important to make time for things you enjoy, this was a win-win situation.
Not only have I been part of the YIS magazine where I have been writing creative pieces for almost a year now, but throughout many of my subjects and outside of school, I have been working on little and big film project. The three I will be focussing on, are two small ones I did for Psychology and Geography and one larger one I co-produced outside of school.
For I&S (Psychology and Geography) we were told we can make any way of presenting that we like/prefer. The first was a project on sustainability. Here we had to explain the issue there was with the environment and how we are polluting it. We then had to come up with basic and creative ways to live more sustainably. For this the majority of the class made a video or presentation explaining these three things. However as we were allowed to add a creative element to our presentation and we were studying poetry in English, I decided to write a poem and present the information through this media. Sustainability Poem.
Recently we have done a unit on mental health in I&S. This time we again could present in any way we wanted. As this had to be a short presentation and we only had about a week to complete it, I did not have the time to write a poem, find images, record the audio and edit the entire video together. Because of this I made an informative video. For this I wrote a script, made a visual presentation, recorded the audio and then edited the 7 minute video down to 4. This was an interesting project as I had to be creative and critically thinking to make choices between what I should keep and what I should cut out. OCD Informative video.
Now finally, the biggest project. Over the past 2 or so years the junior Justin Cheetham has been working on writing the script and getting everything together to film a post apocalyptic short film in our school building. For this he needed someone to help keep the crew in check and come to all of the filming sessions to help direct and film the movie (and of course provide the entire team with some snacks). He asked me if I would like to take on this role and I said yes. I love being part of big projects and this seemed like fun as well as a great learning experience. So for a few months almost every weekend we would meet in the school building and film as much as we can. Keeping the crew together and concentrating was not always as easy as you might think but with the help of everyone, we managed. Trailer. Full film.
All together I think making and producing all of these films has been a great experience. I have gained not just skills but interest as well. As I am not confident speaking in front of large groups of people, I think videos and short films an alternative way to bring information or an idea across. For all of these reasons, I believe I will continue making films in the future and enjoy doing so in the process.
This year in PSHE we asked ourselves these questions. For a multicultural kid, this is a difficult question to answer. At first I really struggled with trying to answer this, however, once we were told that we don’t need to answer with one sentence but can write a whole poem about it, it became a lot easier. Here is the poem I wrote:
The process of doing this was interesting. At first, I was worried because I am not a particularly good poet but once I had an idea on my structure it was ok and relatively easy to do. Then came the actual writing. I decided to start off with the actual locations I am from or where I have lived. As I wrote this at the very beginning of the year I had not considered adding Yokohama yet. This first verse was easy as it was just stating facts but the rest was slightly more challenging. For this, I chose locations I enjoy being, people I like being around and things I enjoy. The last line of each verse was always slightly confusing and now looking back at it I see there are a few things wrong with them. However I decided to keep them the way they originally were as I am sure I had good reasons to write what I did, plus they still mean something to me.
I feel this activity really helped me understand that it is ok to be from multiple places and that most people are. It is hard to say that you are just from one place and only one experience made you who you are. Everyone is made out of many parts and it is important to know that to really understand the way people are and behave.
I think this is something everyone should try, especially multicultural kids as we are the ones often confused about where we are really from. Also, I think I might make this into a yearly activity as my locations, people and interests do change every once in a while but I will slightly change the structure as I am not longer happy with the way the last line of each verse is laid out.
This year we did the MBTI Test to further understand ourselves. My results are in the following PDF and I’d like to use this as an opportunity to look deeper into this and to try to really understand the information this offers me.
I find that looking at this has helped me understand myself on a deeper level. For ISFJ I was already aware that I am an introvert as I get my energy from being alone, not from being with others. For S (Sensors) I had to think about it more deeply. I know I like to think about what could be, I think everyone does, but in the end, I do tend to come back to what is and how I could realistically change that to what I want. Also, I do often find that when trying to solve a problem that I look at past problems I faced and how solving them worked out. Based on this I then make a decision. For F (Feelers) think this was and still is something important for me to know. I already knew that I liked helping others and work in a supportive rather than a competitive environment and that I always try my best to understand others and see things from their perspective. What surprised me more was the fact that I seem to make decisions based on my values. In retrospect it makes sense based on my answers, I guess I just wasn’t completely aware of this before. Finally J (Judgers). When I first saw that I was a “Judger” I thought it was going to be something negative but reading through the explanation, it made sense. I do tend to dislike surprises in my work and relax only after I am done with my work. One thing I did know previously, however, is how much I like control over things I am working on. It is important to me that I know exactly when and how I will be able to finish my project and what the steps are for me to complete this project.
The results show a lot more than just the MBTI score but just looking at the meaning of each of the letters I got helped me understand myself a lot better. I think the MBTI is a very interesting way to explore and understand who you are as a person and I am glad that we do this as a school.
For the Criterion Fit for Life I decided to observe my sleep for the month of May. I did this by using the iPhone app Sleep Cycle. It has movement sensors so it knows when you are in deep and light sleep and how well you are sleeping.
Through this I started to learn that I actually get a lot more sleep than I thought. The worst habit of mine that I discovered is that my family eats late. This is bad for sleep as your stomach needs at least a few hours to empty after you eat. If you go lay down before this process is over it is easy for acids to spill out of your stomach which can lead to acid reflux. I should definitely work on this and try to eat earlier as just sleeping later would decrease the efficiency of my sleep.
Whilst doing this whole process I also checked to see how listening to music would effect the quality of my sleep. The result was that I slept just as well with as without music. This was a great result as I now know that I can listen to music whilst I sleep without effecting how well I will sleep.
From this experiment I conducted on myself I learned a lot about how sleep effects you during the day and what effects simple things like if your in your own bed or not have on the quality of your sleep. I will now add a few more careful steps my daily sleep routine to further improve my sleep quality and maybe even get my sleep quality to 100% efficient.
In December of 2015 my dad, my siblings and I all went to a beginners snowboarding course as none of us had ever snowboarded before. It was surprisingly easy to learn how to do simple things. The most challenging part was having enough confidence to go down a small slope without help. However with a bit more practice we could all do this.
By the time ski break came around we decided to go snowboarding again. This time we did not have anyone coach us. We just rented some boards for 3 days and went on the practice slope daily. After a while my brother got bored of it though so we decided to go onto a proper track. It was not very long and not very steep either so my parents thought we would be ok.
Here is the video of me:
As I am better at riding backwards it got a bit painful in my feet every 20 meters or so, so I had to take a few breaks on the way down (the other reason why I didn’t go forwards was because I can’t stand up forwards for some unexplainable reason).
Why it was a risk/adventurous
Going snowboarding was a risk as I had never done it before last year. Going down a proper slope after only having one lesson was also out of my comfort zone but I am incredibly glad that I did. It was fun and it helped me build my confidence, both in snowboarding and in other parts if my life.
Reflection/what was it like to snowboard:
One of the things my younger brother kept repeating, once we went back home from snowboarding was: “I felt free. There were no rules I had to follow. Everything that happened was my choice and controlled only by me.”
I love this quote because it is exactly the way I felt whilst snowboarding. It was nice not to have to follow any rules or instructions from anyone. Of course at first I felt insecure and uncomfortable on the board but eventually it seemed to become a part of me. The movements came naturally (even though I was still slow) and I felt in control. As control is very important to me this made it an even nicer experience for me.
Would you do it again and what are the next steps?
Yes. I would definitely go snowboarding again. I would go again for all of the reasons above and because I would really like to further improve my skills. When I go snowboarding again, I will take another class to learn more and gain more skills.
On October 2015, 30 students from my grade were chosen to go to Phuket to help redecorate a school for Burmese Orphans. I was lucky and was one of these students. What I thought was incredibly important and interesting about this trip was the way we could really see the cultural differences, whilst also helping people who are a lot less fortunate than us.
As we were staying at the International School in Phuket we did not have a lot of food that is traditional in Thailand. We mainly had western food. However for there was a noticeable difference in the choice of fruit. Instead of apples and mikans, there were watermelons and papayas. This was especially nice as it gave us an idea of what types of fruit people farm in Thailand.
There was a 20 minute bus ride to the work camp where we were paining the walls. During this drive we always saw a variety of different housings. First we would drive past houses similar to the ones a middle class person in Japan would own. Then we would pass a settlement (it may have been a fenced area. I am not entirely sure) where people lived in ginormous, fancy houses. It was clear to see that these people had a lot of money and did not hesitate to show this. Some of them even had cars from companies such as Ferrari or Porsche.
And then we would drive into the poorer part of Phuket. The houses were made of metal planks. The doorways would either be covered with a sheet of plastic or just completely open. The houses did not look like they could stay together in storm weather. However the one of the worst parts for them in summer must have been that there was no way for the hot air to leave their houses. This meant that it could get very difficult to breath inside the houses. Seeing the way these people did not have something we take for granted really gave all of us a boost togive start appreciating what we had.
The main objective of us going to Thailand however was not to look at the food or compare their lives to ours. It was to help give burmese orphans a more lively place to spend their school day. What we did was paint murals on two of their walls and plant mongo trees in a garden outside. On the first day my group planted the plants and made a border between them and the pathway so that we could minimize the weed growth. This was extremely exhausting as it was hot and we were all sweating. However in the end it was definitely worth it as we knew we did something good for people who really needed and deserved out help.
On the second day my group continued paining from where the previous group had left off. This was a lot less exhausting but I felt more pressured to do things correctly as the children would be looking at it every day and I really wanted it to look right.
Spending time with the burmese orphans
Additionally tomaking their school look nicer we also spent time with the children. I think this was probably the most enjoyable part about the trip as it was nice to meet first hand with kids who have such a different life to us but still are happy. Whenever the children smiled it was really difficult not to smile back. They had really warm smiles and were so full of joy. Playing games with them was really fun because it showed how sports was a universal language. When we played dodgeball with them they immediately understood how to play and what they had to do to win. It was really nice to see how sports is a universal language.
Spending time with kids form the SOS Children’s Village
After spending the morning at the water park we got to meet thai children from the SOS Children’s Village. This was nice as the majority of them could understand and even partially speak english, which meant that we could ask them questions and they could respond and vice versa. Spending time in the pool also made connecting easier because it was a fun activity where everyone could do what they wanted. I also thought this was better than dodgeball as swimming did not make us competitive.
Traveling on roads
In my opinion one of the biggest cultural differences between Yokohama and Phuket was the way people traveled. No matter where we drove there would always be people on motorcycles and often these people seemed to be underaged. Also they somehow managed to fit five people on one bike. It was always very shocking how risky they were on the roads.
On the third day in Phuket we went snorkeling. We went into the water in two different places. This was a fantastic opportunity to see the differences between alive and dead coral. It was quite interesting to see all the colorful fish and bright coral as a contrast to the grey, dead coral with only a few fish but mainly sea snakes. We also learned about the main causes of the death of nearly 50% of Phuket’s corals. As many of us expected tourists were high on that list. It is important for tourists and others who go into the sea to be careful not to step on the coral and especially not to take any of as a souvenir.
On the second to last day we went on a hike through the rainforest. This was meant to take about 3 hours. However a tree had fallen in our path so we had to take a completely different route. I do not know how long exactly we were walking around but it must have been around 5 hours. This hie was the most any of us had sweat in our entire life. The air was incredibly humid and it was very warm. About half way through the hike it then also started to rain (which could have been expected as we were in a RAINforest). However bad I just made this seem, it was actually quite a lot of fun. Maybe it was just because I like hiking or maybe because of the sense of teamwork we created due to the slipperiness that made us help each other.
The gibbons sanctuary
Once we were done with the hike we ended up at a gibbon sanctuary. This was a place where gibbons who had either become to reliant on human help or who had no chance of survival were held. Those who could eventually become independent could go out into the wild again, however some of them had to stay in the sanctuary for their entire life. Going here really helped all of us to learn more about wildlife in Phuket, especially as we were experiencing it first hand.
Planting the Mangroves
After we had eaten lunch at the gibbon sanctuary we went to a mangrove plantation to each plant five mangroves (it may have been 4 I don’t quite remember). Previously we had been told why the local people could no longer plant mangroves out in the sea where they are usually kept. This was also why we went into a smaller area with an optimal place for the mangroves to grow. This meant that the floor was very swampy and full of tiny red crabs. However I don’t think anyone was bitten. Planting the mangroves was a fun experience. Whenever we dug a hole it would immediately fill up with mud again so we had to be extremely quick which made us less careful. This meant that some of us fell into the mud.
Overall I think Phuket was a great experience. Seeing the cultural and environmental differences was amazing and helping the children who were so much less fortunate was so rewarding for everyone. Seeing the smiles of the kids when they saw our murals and got all of our presents was heart warming. I would recommend this trip to everyone.
What can I do now that I am back in Japan?
To continue helping those who are less fortunate than me, I am part of two GIN/CAS groups (Combatting Human Trafficking and Student Service Committee). To specifically continue helping the burmese children the SSC has helped create a group dedicated to this service trip. As I am in the SSC group that helps new service groups, I make sure that this group has everything that they need, including support and members. I will also encourage all 8th graders to go on this trip when their time comes as it will definitely be worth it for all of them.
This is the certificate I received for helping redecorate the Burmese school