Through the practice TOK presentation in grade 11, I was able to develop more flexibility in regards to time. My partner and I had been working on our TOK developments, and we thought that things were running quite smoothly. However, we ran into the issue of our developments being related to both the natural sciences and the human sciences. This was an issue because we needed to choose one for our presentation to be focused. When we went back to our real life situation that we based our knowledge question off of, we realized that the real life situation itself was not purely about the natural sciences or the human sciences. We recognized that this overlap between the two Areas of Knowledge presented an issue, and discussed this with our TOK teacher. She advised that we change our real life situation.
So, we found another real life situation, created a new outline of our presentation, and asked our TOK teacher for feedback. She approved our new RLS. Although we had resolved the immediate issue of the real life situation creating an overlap between the natural sciences and the human sciences, we now had the obstacle of time. We clearly lost time to work on the new real life situation. This was also challenging because we needed time to talk to each other about the topic, and to make sure that we were both on the same page. Thus, we needed to arrange times that worked with both of our schedules.
We were able to manage this by planning everything together on that day. We planned out the days that we were meeting, what we were to get done during that time, and what we were to get done during our individual times. We knew that we would run out of time if we did not follow this schedule. I think we were successful in finishing our work on time and finding time to practice our presentation because we communicated well with each other and we did not need to depend on the other person when we worked alone. I learned that when working with a partner or group, it is important to do work together, but it is also important to know what to do when working individually; it is crucial to separate those times and to be aware and realistic about what needs to get done in the short term and the long term. Although the mistake in our real life situation was not a pleasant surprise, this experience proved to be very valuable in teaching me about the skills needed to adjust and become flexible with my time.
While I was in Korea, I studied Mandarin for my language acquisition. Since I was in an international school, I was able to ask native speakers in my class to help with the pronunciation, which I had trouble with because Mandarin is a tonal language. I was also able to pick up a little bit of Korean because of my friends. I noticed that between Mandarin, Korean, and Japanese, there were words that were very similar and my friends and I were able to communicate about these similarities through English. Even for the words that were difficult to translate into English, we were able to use body language and onomatopoeia to confirm our thoughts about the parallels across the languages. I thought this was an incredibly valuable experience because initially, I expected it to be challenging to talk about “untranslatable” words but found the importance and convenience of body language.
I also found differences in these languages that I had not considered before. For example, many loanwords in both Japanese and Mandarin are directly translated by sound; however, it was interesting because while Japanese has katakana for loanwords, Mandarin only has one set of characters. During my conversations with these friends and my lessons with my Mandarin teacher, I also learned about the origins of the vocabulary. I found this to be very interesting; I enjoyed learning about the meanings and origins of these words, and the cultural elements that affected them.
Now, that I live in Japan again, I am more aware of the role of language and communication – both verbal and non verbal. Although I do not have as big of an opportunity to practice Korean or Mandarin, I do have friends at YIS who speak the language. I am learning Spanish now and I am applying this new perspective on language. I have learned that it is important to really understand the culture of the language and to always keep my eye open for any connections that I can make to further develop my understanding of the word or concept. I am particularly excited to learn about the culture behind Spanish because there are so many Spanish-speaking countries that I have to learn about.
I have been participating in Model United Nations (MUN) since grade 9. From the many practice debates and actual conferences, I have learned about many global topics and different countries’ perspectives on them. While I enjoy the actual debate of MUN, I also always find myself fascinated with the research that MUN requires. I would spend the first part of my research on the delegation that I am assigned, looking at its history and how it shaped the current situation in that country. Then, I would look at delegations that my delegation has ties with, and then do the same for any other delegations in the committee. I learn so much from this research process, particularly about the differences between the countries. The research that I do in MUN also encourages me to be more attentive towards global news. I found this experience to be important as a global citizen.
Furthermore, in economics class, we learned about inflation. Although I knew what inflation was before this class, I had never taken a look at inflation in terms of real world examples. When we watched a short video about the inflation in Zimbabwe. I was shocked to see the devalued currency, and how people were struggling to purchase vegetables even though their currency indicated them to be billionaires. Through this single video, I had a completely different understanding of inflation and the inequality that it created in Zimbabwe.
Another economics lesson that developed my global understanding was a lesson about the Gini coefficient. This is a measure of wealth distribution in a country. After learning about how to interpret the graph and what factors cause changes in the graph, the class had a quick look at the Gini coefficients of different countries. Similar to the inflation I learned about previously, I was already aware of what the Gini coefficient was, but did not think of it in context of the real world. Although this one number is not representative of all of the economic and political factors involved in the economic state of a country and I should look more into each country, its history, and its current events to make a clear judgment, this realization was important. I believe that I found this realization to be important because I had been aware of the inequality between different countries, but had not considered the inequality within those countries. This particular economics lesson has created a new understanding of the word “inequality”.
In grade 10, I joined Sanagitachi, a group dedicated to raise awareness about homelessness. In this group, we learn about homelessness in general as well as homelessness in Japan. We also go on “patrols”, where we go to Kannai Station or Yokohama stadium and give out basic necessities such as soap, toothbrushes, and jackets.
We would meet up at the parking lot, and greet each other. Then, we would take a bag, each filled with a good, and separate into two groups: one for Kannai Station and one for Yokohama stadium. As we walk around, we asked the homeless if they would like a cup of soup as well as any other goods. In my first patrol, I would hand them the good that I was responsible for, but nothing more than that. However, as I became more comfortable with the flow of the patrols, I was able to go up to the homeless and offer then whatever good I had in my bag. Through this experience, I feel that I can now take more initiative on the patrols.
Although our patrols ran smoothly, our group found that it was difficult to keep track of what we needed in terms of the basic necessities we hand out. In response to this issue, we now keep track of how many of each good we had as well as how many were needed. This gives us a better idea of what we specifically need to do, especially when we ask for donations during school events and fundraisers.
This experience of being in Sanagitachi has been one of the most impactful. I have learned to take more initiative, and how to better help our community. Lastly, I learned how close this issue was to myself. I feel that this has created a new depth or layer of understanding regarding homelessness. I learned that to understand causes, effects, and statistics about homelessness was different to having an experience such as the patrols. I now have this new knowledge when I go on the patrols, and this is something that I keep when working to help raise awareness about homelessness in events such as Food Fair. I look forward to future patrols and advocacy events.