Throughout my life, I have been thankful for the ability and opportunity to speak two different languages fluently. Speaking two languages has been a very important part of my life experiences and self-identity.
Through elementary and middle school I took part in a local Japanese soccer team. This was a very important part of my life, as I made many friends in Japanese and used my Japanese regularly with these friends. Although, English is my academic language Japanese was the language I was best at before attending YIS. Therefore, I was very motivated to maintain my skills throughout my life. The opportunity to take part in the Japanese soccer team provided me with a regular commitment to play soccer and other sports in competitive environments that are not as available year round for international students.
I am very grateful that the school has provided the class to continue to study Japanese, as well as maintaining my Japanese outside of school. I was able to transfer this skill into getting a job at a Japanese meat restaurant. Through this work experience, I had to learn how to use highly formal Japanese when speaking to my customers. This helped me develop not only my conversational skills but my conversational skills towards people in higher positions. This understanding of changing your formality and way of speaking depending on who you are talking to is one of the most important things, to gain the respect of people as a native Japanese speaker.
My ability to speak both languages has taught me that I am in a unique position to combine and unite both of my background culture as well as the international culture. I think a lot of people I talk to in Japanese respect me as I can give a unique perspective of internationalism because of my background.
In Japan, it is also very useful to be an English speaker. Unlike countries in Europe speaking English is actually a very rare skill, because the two languages are so different. I think this will be very helpful when getting jobs in Japan in the future, as globalization is continuing to change Japan.
I have a strong will to never lose my multilingualism as it is a part of myself and cultural identity. Speaking fluent Japanese makes me feel at home anywhere in Japan, and wherever I go in the world I will be proud of my Japanese background. This side of my identity is so important to me because Japan is where I grew up, and a lot of personalities and who I am has been shaped by my experiences with the Japanese language.
In my junior year of high school student council, I was elected vice-president of the student council by the student body. My main job is to manage internal communications, and workload between each student council member, supporting the president, and taking responsibility for soliciting the ideas and being transparent with the student body. One thing I learned from this experience is about being a leader in different ways other than being up in front of everyone and delegating the members. As vice-president, I had the luxury to lead in small ways, where I could focus more on the well-being of each member and helping them get what they wanted out of student council. This meant that I had to keep track of whether we were asking too much of one member or one was not doing enough to make sure that everyone was happy with their contributions to the student council. I did this through actions such as meeting with each member individually to discuss their thoughts or ideas because some people don’t like to share in front of the whole group. Another thing I learned was that being in an executive position doesn’t mean that we have to be in front leading the group the whole time. Sometimes we can let others manage meetings or lead events and our job is to simply organize the positions people are in so everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute to their council over the four years of high school.
From this experience I have become more of a leader, that is not always up front leading but is doing things behind the scenes such as managing the workflow and workload to try and create the best possible system for all the members to feel engaged and valued in student council. I have also had time to focus less on events, but more on student concerns that the student council can help address or make changes to improve the quality of school life. For example, one of my classmates had an idea to have a newsletter published by the student council so the students can know what is going on inside student council meetings. I shared this with the council, and we were successfully able to implement this and now have a monthly published newspaper.
Looking forward, I would like to continue to do some of the small and quiet leadership actions I do as vice-president, while I take on a more demanding role of filling in for the president as the seniors stop coming into the school. I aim to balance both sides of leadership as I continue to take on higher leadership roles within the student council.
After becoming a high school student in the Japanese student I was able to start working for a local Shabu Shabu Restaurant, in addition to my babysitting jobs. I learned that it is essential to report back to your co-workers on what tasks you have completed. For example, if I am bringing customers to their seat I have to let my co-workers know which table and how many people are coming in. I used to think that it was important to simply respond to your co-workers and get the tasks done efficiently. However, through the work experience, I learned the importance of following through your tasks by reporting back to your co-workers about what you did or if there was any issues that came up. This communication is vital for an effective system, because then everyone knows what has been done and we won’t miss something because we assumed someone else did it.
The entrance of the Restaurant
I also learned how work is not always about the money, putting in your full efforts and making connections with the people in the workspace, will help you feel appreciated by your co-workers. First, I felt nervous and afraid to make mistakes. However, at a certain, point I realized that I was going to make mistakes regardless of how hard I tried because it was my first part-time job, and first time working at that restaurant. After, I switched my mindset I made mistakes but didn’t let it bother me and moved on so I can focus on the next task, and try not to make the same mistake. Somethings can only be taught by making the mistake and learning for them. So I noticed that this was part of the learning process I couldn’t avoid.
A lot of my skills and work ethic was transferred from what I learned when I volunteered for a ski camp for children with special needs. HAL was a volunteer organization, so it wasn’t about the money. It was simply about making the “customers” or “participants” happy and giving it your full effort. I think this initial volunteer experience was great as a basis of how my attitude towards work should be. It really taught me that the reward can also come with connections and appreciations from your surrounding and not just money.
(Video from the Volunteer Camp)
Knowing this, it inspired me to find a full-time job in the future that I enjoy doing, with a journey that is fun every day. This is because I noticed that sometimes the joy or fun you get out of a job, and its importance for your mental well-being can outweigh the money side of things. I hope to work for something that has a clear vision and goal I am passionate about so I can feel motivated without the money as my main source of motivation.
In my sophomore year, I was very lucky to continue to have great wilderness experiences that have taught me a lot of lessons about life. One of the benefits of outdoor wilderness engagement is that you can connect with people from a different angle then you have before. By sharing a similar experience or being put into tough situations, you have similarity with new people and a unique connection. For example, at the Okinawa scuba-diving expedition I was able to become closer with some people because we had a new connection. It is also common to become closer with people you face adversity with. As the outdoors presents you with challenges with consequences, this adversity you go through with your peers can strengthen relationships. For example, at the Okinawa scuba-diving expedition we were relying on our peers to provide us with the secondary regulator. If they didn’t hand it to us we couldn’t breathe. These challenges force us to trust one another and strengthen our relationship. In addition, through the same expedition, I learned that the fun and freedom you experience in the wilderness is very beneficial for your mental well-being. The expedition was right after the personal project deadline, so all of use were relieving our stress at this expedition and hadn’t felt that stress-free for a while.
This was also evident in my volunteer ski expedition with people with special needs. A lot of these children did not have many social interactions, and little time outside of their house daily. This wilderness engagement allowed them to have fun and put smiles on their faces, as they overcome new challenges such as skiing down the hill for the first time. This showed how important the wilderness for mental well-being because they don’t feel that same feeling of success every day. The wilderness ski experience also presented them with opportunities for social interactions with the volunteers and other participants. This helped them develop their social skills in a safe environment that is hard to find for people with special needs.
These experiences raised concern in me that children are rapidly losing these connections and experiences with nature, as our lifestyles are spent in urban environments. I read a book called “The Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv. The argument he made that fascinated me the most was that we can’t expect our future children and humans to appreciate and protect nature from all the problems we cause if they don’t have the same interactions and connection to the wilderness like we used to. I am passionate about this and hope I can spread my way of thinking through wilderness engagement for others.
Through my MYP years, I have had to overcome challenges and make decisions best for both my mental and physical well-being. In my first year of middle school, I did a lot of sports and no arts activities. The sports were great fun, but the next year I decided to learn how to play the bass guitar and joined Rock School as a result of it. This taught me how fun it was to do a variety of activities, and hobbies. However, in my 7th and 8th year, I was the student council president and made a lot of new events happen such as Sports Week. Although, this was a great accomplishment I had a lot of work and stress because it was the first time we had done something like this. After, graduating middle school I was much less stressed because I learned how to keep track of all my tasks related to sports, music, academics and student council. I made a self-planner and used to-do lists so I wouldn’t forget meetings or small tasks. I also dropped activities, such as Aikido or an outside of school soccer team because I was doing too much. Although, I am very tempted to join other groups such as the school’s athletics council, or snow club I decided not to because I know this will be too much for me to manage, and I will not be living a balanced life.
In grade 10 I challenged myself to take on a homeless service group called Sanagitachi. This allowed me to explore service outside of the school community from a lens I hadn’t explored before. I noticed that although, some weeks may be stressful and hard to handle I knew that the reason I am happy and motivated is that I make myself busy. If I spend a whole day at home with nothing to do, I will become very restless and unhappy. Learning this about myself was very important as I had to find a balance between making myself busy, and organizing those different tasks to maintain the joy I get from each activity.
I hope I can maintain this balance variety of exercise, music, service in addition to my academics in university. I learned in my personal social health class, that having time for yourself and doing things you enjoy is very important for mental well-being. I know that I need daily exercise for my physical well-being as well as a variety of activities. However, I also want to have some free time for social life, and leisure time I need as a person.