Core Value: Intercultural Communication

Having lived in Thailand for 10 years, and not speaking a word of Thai for anypoint of the 10 years, not knowing the local language has been a norm for me. Now living in Japan, this fact still hasn’t changed, yet it has allowed me to appreciate the ideas of different forms of Japanese works without taking it for the normal, as I would if I was younger, and without the ability to understand it when it’s a literary work.

With it being 3 years since I moved to Japan, there have been numerous times where my friends and I have been karaoking. Most of the time to western songs but often songs sung in Japanese too. This ideas of karaoking has taught me two things. The first being that social norms cannot be learnt through pure internet research in a short time, and that to fully understand a society, or even idea, one needs to explore it either in depth or become familiar with it. When I first came to Japan in 2015 I always thought the culture ran on the salarymen that crammed onto the train to work every morning. However, I learnt that an activity like karaoking is ingrained in the Japanese culture too, which took me by shock to begin with.

The second being that entertainment can happen in any language. Prior to moving here permanently I was only exposed to three languages, Thai, Spanish, and English. Not knowing any Thai I never thought twice about what people said to one another as I had no reason to. When friends spoke to each other I would faze out for a bit until they came back to English. The same could be said for Spanish, except that I was able to use it as a tool for communicating, or at least was trying to learn how to. However, after karaoke experiences with my friend group everything has changed. I began to realize that language can be used for entertainment and expression, not just to tell someone something blankly. And I started enjoying entertainment in other languages, like movies and songs, which I went from exclusively English music to a collection with over 10 songs, which I understand only 2.

While it’s easy to say I can communicate between cultures, mainly through hand signals when approached by someone that doesn’t know English here, it’s difficult for someone like me who solely speaks English. The IB has given me a platform for an introduction to another language, Spanish, but more in an academic manner. The special side of language and intercultural communication is that of when one is integrated into a culture and can transfer knowledge between two.

Core Value: Community Engagement

The past year I helped set up, as second in command, an ‘indirect’ service club called ‘Underwater Explorers’ comprised of scuba divers and partook on 3 separate occasions trips to Atami and Osezaki, two prominent dive sites near Yokohama. The purpose of the club is to monitor and record data at these sites to help contribute to a database called ‘Project Baseline’ that then allows for the creation of awareness for the marine life and support to fix the issues caused by multiple problems. Having already been a ‘seasoned’ diver (I had only dived 4 times before, all for my initial license), I had an open water diving license and had not done any recreational diving or serviceable diving. So, while I was kind of worried that I had forgotten skills in the year that I had not dived since getting my license, I knew that once I got in the water the first time I would feel comfortable once again.

Throughout the first year, while trying to find the group’s identity, we went on multiple trips to places like Atami, Osezaki and IOP (Izu Oceanic Park) as well as a trip to Anilao, Philippines. Thinking back on the first set of trips, the local dives, it was really interesting how the data from databases are collected. I’ve always assumed it to be complicated, but after being familiar with the equipment and methods it seems rudimentary and surprises me not more people are focused on collecting data around the world to track the effects of climate change and pollution.

Collecting Data in Osezaki (M. Broughton)

The trip to the Philippines was the trip that really engaged me with the situation in the country and the entire world. Whilst we did learn new skills when it came to diving, which was thoroughly enjoyable, the point of the trip was to recognize the issues the Philippines is facing. The biggest of which is plastic and pollution. Through 4 days we had two dives solely devoted to collecting plastic and other pollution in an area that, according to our boat driver, ‘did not have that much plastic’. Despite that, my partner and I collected over 2kg of plastics in just under 30 minutes. Other groups collected upwards of 4kg. This really shocked me because all my previous dives had been to dive sites that were litter free and really put perspective on what we were trying to do with engaging with the aquatic community to try and show the dire situation.

Anilao Beach a Day After Cleaned (A. Czubak)

 

After all the trips, it has definitely changed my opinion on the work we do for Project Baseline, but it feels unfortunate that we’re at a point where to fix a problem we have to collect data, which will take years, to be able to show others that this is a problem. So while it has strengthened my opinion on the problem and that what we’re doing will help, it ultimately also weakens it as the trip shows the severity of it and that it can’t be fixed overnight.

Competency: Personal Goal

During Grade 10 I set to work on my personal project in which I explored the history and evolution of video games through creating an exhibit with a retro arcade cocktail table that I made and a custom gaming PC to show how the ideas and practices have changed. Looking back now, this project of creating the arcade from scratch was one of my proudest moments yet during the time it felt like a chore to design it, build it, and program it.

Playing the Final Product (Without The Top Layer On)

Looking back at the Personal Project, I can clearly see what I’ve grown in and things that I’ve learnt for the future. The biggest thing I realized was the importance of organization and planning things in advance of starting working on something. At first, started the project with minimal planning and expected the arcade table to come to fruition along the way. However, this became a problem when I had to collect equipment and get the larger pieces of wood cut down to a workable size. Because of this, I ended up needing to return to the hardware store multiple times for the smallest of things. A few screws one time and black paint another. This not only wasted time, but it also frustrated my parents, who had to drive me there each time.

Midway Progress

Another thing I learnt was how to research and have a deep enough understanding to present it in my exhibition and report. Using websites like JSTOR and other databases was a unique experience for me, as I was not used to reading research papers that these websites provided. I was used to reading the first few websites presented on Google and calling that a day. This opened me up to look in different places for research, one of which was a video game museum located in Helsinki, Finland, which was very different for me as it never occurred to me that research could be information found in physical museums or other places I had to physically travel to.

Video Game Museum in Helsinki

The final idea that I realized was how perspectives of societies can change over time, and not just from culture to culture. Through my research, and playing on my newly created arcade, I realized that the genre of video games that were played and the rituals behind them were completely different to how I was brought up. Just before I was born, the platform genre was the major type of game on the market. Games like Super Mario Bros and Sonic The Hedgehog. Nowadays, major genres include first-person shooter games and open world games. While I was very familiar with these genres, what I learnt was the games of the 80s were more based on achieving the highest score as they had a set number of levels and were completed in a short amount of time. This complemented the social aspect of gaming that was present then, with a group of friends going after school to the local fish and chips shop that had an arcade and competing to see who was the best. Today though, most video games are played by children in their rooms with their doors closed, and while on Skype or other forms of calling application, there is no physically social aspect of gaming anymore.

Grade 10 Personal Project

While I initially created the arcade table with the intention of playing it often, that hasn’t happened. At all. I attribute this to the impracticality of the physical device, and the repetitive nature of all games compared to modern games. Despite this, if I were to do the project again I would touch nothing of the arcade, but improve the way I created it. I would’ve created a better plan, designing it prior to buying everything. Nonetheless, the lack of planning has shown me how important it is which has helped me massively during the past year. An example of this is most of my Spanish essays, where now I understand that planning what I want to express, how I want to express it, and what new words do I want to use to show my knowledge of the topic.

 

Core Value: Global Understanding

Recently I took part in an international MUN (Model United Nations) conference representing our school in Bangkok, Thailand for the annual IASAS (Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asian Schools) conference. Personally, this was my very first MUN conference overseas and my first full stop. This trip possibly had the steepest learning curve I’ve ever experienced because of this. Unfortunately, this was one of the first times in my life that I came to realize my own ‘fragility’ through bad periods of anxiety throughout the trip, struggling to find the ability to speak as well as my confidence, which is normally one of my strong personality aspects. In addition to this, seeing it was my first conference I did not really know any technical procedures of conferences, how speeches and resolutions were meant to be formatted, and the preparation needed to have your voice heard throughout the three days of debating.

Standing outside the official UN building in Bangkok (Mr Hutton)

A few months after this, I have since grown drastically in both my mental health, the importance of research and preparation, and started an interest in international relations.

The slippery slope of bad anxiety was possibly at it’s worst in Bangkok because of the overwhelming knowledge I lacked which was amplified because of how much I knew that I didn’t know anything I did need to know. However, since then I have managed to learn from the experience, now knowing things that I can do to calm myself down like limit big meals and snack more often, also spending time with friends and getting into the activities like debating and resolution discussions got my mind off of it and helped.

I learnt the importance of research and preparation when two of the girls in my council came with 14 pages of resolutions each, whereas I was not aware that coming with that would help myself and my group. In the end, we combined both resolutions, yet I felt that I hadn’t contributed much nor learnt a lot as I wasn’t extremely involved with the creation of the resolutions or the combination of the two. From here I’ve wanted to take parts in activities, even when I didn’t have the prior knowledge, so that if/when I take part in similar activities in the future I can at least get involved and when I gain enough knowledge lead the team with the combination or create a resolution myself.

Finally, I found an interest that had the opportunity to shape my life, for better or for worse. Prior to this trip, I didn’t care for international relations as I felt I wasn’t aware enough to discuss global issues and solutions to them. However, after sitting in the general assembly I started to enjoy debates and ideas that were flying around left, right and center. The entire idea of multiple bodies with their own interests working together to come up with resolutions and ideas to better themselves is one that fascinates me as it seems to unusual for it to occur, but massive treaties and resolutions are created, both in MUN and the UN, that every country agrees on. I am so interested in this, I am currently looking at double degrees in ‘Economics’, my primary interest, and ‘International Relations’ or ‘Politics’.

One of the few times I overcame my anxiety to ask a ‘Point of inquiry’ (Mr Hutton)

If I were to do the experience again I would try and involve myself, no matter how anxious or worried I am. I think that the practice of putting myself out of my comfort zone would help me in both advancing my skills, taking advantage of the steep learning curve, as well as helping me overcome my anxiety as I would soon learn it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was, and that people didn’t care or notice how inexperienced I was, as proof by telling someone it was my first conference and him replying, “Oh really? You don’t seem nervous or amateurish at all.”

Currently, going into my last year of school, I am not done with MUN nor learning from new experiences, whether about myself or new ideas for the future, in school and out.