Academica Skills

In my high school life, I have demonstrated several academic skills, such as research, organization and collaboration skills, in a variety of classes. To begin with, research skill is an academic skill that I used in most of my assignments for almost all of my classes. By using this skill, I was able to find reliable information that helped me see the issue from different perspectives. For example, in Grade 10 Individuals and Societies class, we had to write a history essay about our chosen research question using the research that we did in previous classes. For my essay, I chose to answer the question “To what extent did medical science evolve during the Edo period due to the interaction with the Dutch?”. In order to answer this question, I had to research with a range of reliable sources and identify the biases of each source, depending on who it was written by. Moreover, I had to be careful of the time the source was created in because time is a key factor when researching about history. Here is the research outline that I made for this assignment. Another assignment that I used my research skill was when I wrote an opinion blog post on the use of e-cigarettes and whether it is the solution to the tobacco epidemic or not. For this assignment, I had to find sources from both sides: ones that were for using e-cigarettes instead of tobacco, and others that were against using e-cigarettes. Then, I had to validate and synthesize this information to come up with an argument of my own. Both of these assignments developed my research skills because I am now able to understand that research is not just about the top hits but about reliability and the sources themselves; when it was created, whom it was written by, and so on.

The second academic skill is the organization skills. I believe that this was one of the skills that grew the most in my high school life because of all the assessments that I had to go through. For example, the whole of Grade 10 challenged my organization skill because of the Personal Project. The Personal Project added to the workload we had from all the other classes, making it very hard for me to catch up and make sure everything finished on time. To overcome this challenge, I made a schedule of all the due dates for assignments, including the Personal Project, in one place so that I can compare and see how much I need to work beforehand to complete some assignments. This was especially useful during the last few months of Personal Project because there were so many tasks to complete, like the essay, the product, and the process journal. However, now that it is over, I realize how managing my time lead to my success in Personal Project because it relieved my stress and allowed me to concentrate on work. Another time I demonstrated my organization skill was in Art and Design. For both classes, I had to finish making a project by a set date and even though it seemed like a lot of time, I had to make sure to manage my time well because the project was both very big. To finish this, I had to come before and after school, as well as on some weekends to the classes so that I completed what needed to be done for each stage. During this process, the plan that I created beforehand helped me a lot because I had small deadlines and stages in the plan that guided me and told me what I needed to get done by when. As you can see from both of the examples, there were many times my organization skill was challenged that helped me to become good at organizing.

Lastly, I demonstrated my collaboration skills whenever I had a group project in any of my subjects. From these experiences, I learned how to work as a team and the importance of listening and accepting different ideas and opinions. One example of this was the Further Oral Activity assignment that I did in English class with my partner. The assignment was about exploring the magazine’s brand through the different text types presented in their magazine. My partner and I decided to do this presentation in the format of a conversation between two chief editors of two different magazines; the Maclean’s and the New Yorkers. To complete the assignment, we both assigned tasks to each other and made deadlines on what we each needed to do by when. By making this timeline, we had time to practice the actual presentation before the real deadline. In the beginning, we had trouble coming up with the format of the presentation because we did not have a common idea. So, to solve this we came up with a new idea together, not individually and decided how it will go together as well. This lead to our success because we both understood what we had to do and were happy with how it was done. Another time that I demonstrated my collaboration skill was in Physical Education class when we had to choreograph and dance performance in groups of three. For this, my group decided to dance to Singing in the Rain and we thought of the choreography together. Some times along the way, we argued a little because we had different ideas but overcame those by combining the ideas together into one. From these assignments, I learned to collaborate with different people and how groupwork can achieve more than individual work.

All these academic skills that I demonstrated were not only demonstrated in these examples but in more places and more times. These helped me to grow as a learner and will continue to do so even in the future.

Playing the Violin

Playing the violin is something I have started when I was young and continue to this day. Outside of the school, I take lessons with a teacher where we have a concert every year, and at school, I am a part of a string ensemble called the Tanner Ensemble. Moreover, I was part of an orchestra that played in the High School graduation ceremony. When playing individually at my lessons outside of the school, I try to interpret the songs by myself and try to play so that the notes from my violin stands out. This

is especially important when I play in the annual concerts that we have because I have to be careful so that I would be in synch with the background piano but also stand out at the same time. However, this is completely different when I play with others in an orchestra because then, I have to play so that I do not stand out compared to others and listen carefully to the melody of other instruments. I also feel like I have to follow the music sheet more closely with the dynamics, tempo, and pitch because we have to play as one. Even with these difficulties, I really like it when different instruments and different parts of the orchestra harmonizes together to create a new sound.

From these practices, I learned many skills such as the skill to adapt accordingly to the environment as well as collaboration and social skills. For example, I learned the skill to adapt accordingly to the environment because I had to change my play style depending on whether I was playing by myself or as part of an orchestra. This learning can be used in other areas of my life such switching from classes to outside classes. When I am in class, I need to make sure to listen to teachers and my peers and behave in a way that is appropriate for school. However, if I am outside of school with my friends, I can have more fun and act, however, I want to. The other skills that I developed, which are my collaboration and social skills, were mainly from my experiences playing as a part of an orchestra. Whenever I am playing with an orchestra I need to work effectively with others and listen carefully to their sound as well so that I can synchronize with them. Moreover, even when we are not playing, being in an orchestra taught me the importance of respect and engaging well with others. All these knowledge that I gained is transferable anywhere in my life, like friends, family, school, and workplace. Therefore, playing the violin not only improved my music skills but also taught me to become more adaptable to the environment and to work collaboratively with others.

Grade 10 Niigata Snow Expedition

From March 12th to 16th, we went to Niigata for a snow expedition. Even before going to the expedition, I was excited to gain new experience to widen my comfort zones. Also, I wanted to get away from the constant Internet-based, noisy, life that I have right now for a short amount of time.

 

Hiking With Snowshoes

Building the Quinzee

On the first day that we arrived, we did an exercise to appreciate silence by just sitting in the snow for 20 minutes by ourselves. For me, that experience felt very short and I was able to realize how noisy my everyday life is and how I usually don’t take time to sit back and think because my ears rang with silence. On the second day, we made a snow cave that we would be sleeping in on the next day. This was a new experience for me as and I learned how tiring it is because we were all in our T-shirts when shoveling snow. The next day, we packed our bags for camping and went hiking with snowshoes. During the hike, we collaborated together as a group by caring for each other and matching the walking pace so that everyone feels comfortable walking. That night, we came back to our snow caves and cooked dinner for ourselves. After dinner, I slept inside the snow cave for the first time in my life in an extreme heat-insulated sleeping bag.  On the fourth day, we came back to the lodge that we were staying and skied for the rest of the day. It had been about 3 years since the last time I skied, so I was surprised to see how much I remembered how to ski.

 

Inside the Quinzee

Through this experience, I learned the importance of shared leadership and silence. Firstly, I learned how leadership does not need to be just one person leading the whole group. During the hike, we all cared for each other and looked out for each other to collaborate effectively. For example, when a person tripped the person behind them would call out to all the group members to stop and wait for a second until he/she stood up again. It was because of this shared leadership that we managed to complete the hike safely on that day. Secondly, I realized through this expedition how important silence is. Silence gives us time to think, relax and reflect on anything or nothing. In our current everyday lifestyles where there is constant noise – whether it be the cars, the construction sites, the phones, and the people – we usually do not take to just sit back and do nothing and our bodies and minds are restless most of the time. Therefore, from now on, I would like to take some time once in a while to just sit back and relax. Overall, I really enjoyed this meaningful experience because I was able to gain a new perspective on the world and the lifestyle I go through every day.

 

Personal Project – Raising Awareness About the Barriers of Escaping Poverty in Japan and Cambodia

As part of my Personal Project, I decided to raise awareness about the barriers poor people face when escaping the poverty cycle in Japan and Cambodia. A poverty cycle is when a poor person lacks access to more than one areas of basic needs such as water and food, creating a cycle that is very hard for them to escape from by themselves. To achieve this goal, I decided to make a choose your own adventure that provides a simulation of poverty in both Cambodia and Japan, showing what kind of barriers the poor face even in their daily lives. The reason I chose to Cambodia and Japan is because firstly, I am in the HOPE Cambodia Service Club and secondly, because I am Japanese and I recently learned how Japan has an unexpectedly high poverty rate. This goal was a challenging goal for me because I have never made anything like a choose your own adventure book with this much research put into it. As the topic of poverty is an issue that requires very specific and accurate knowledge, I had to make sure that I had reliable sources that I can trust as well as some opinion sources from different perspectives. In order to collect these research, I searched online for news articles, reports, websites, videos and other secondary sources as well as conducted an interview with Ms. Elena Omura from HOPE International Development Agency. The interview was especially hard for me because it required me to use my communication skill to a high level, but it was worthwhile because I was able to gain meaningful insights on the issue of poverty that I would not have gotten anywhere else.

When planning action for this project, I made an action plan, as you can see in the screenshot below. I used a table format because I find it easy to organize information this way. It is also easy to readjust the plan as it is digital. This action plan really helped me get through the project because I knew what I had to do by when and become organized with other school tasks or extracurricular activities. In the action plan, I have several columns: tasks, the time required, resources, notes/reflections and date completed. Although there were times when I had to change the action plan, it was still helpful.

 

Screenshot of Action Plan

Throughout the project, I recorded what I did on each step in my Process Journal, which can be seen in the screenshot below. In the Process Journal, I included reflection on what I did, what learner skills I used, and what I might do for the next step.

Screenshot of A Process Journal Entry

Here is the product I made, which is a choose your own adventure of the situations of poverty in Cambodia and Japan:

Personal Project Product

I am very proud of the accomplishments that I managed through this project because I have never done anything like this before and all the research that I conducted were very new to me. Moreover, the creation of the product itself was new to me too, and the time management that this project required of me was also another challenge that I was able to overcome. Through this project, I learned a lot of new knowledge on poverty, especially in Cambodia and Japan, and how it is extremely difficult for people suffering from extreme poverty to escape the poverty cycle by themselves. Therefore, the experience made me more interested and motivated to help combat the issue of poverty around the world through advocacy, donations, and other forms of services.

Tennis

I have been learning tennis since I was small and from the beginning of High School, I have joined the school’s tennis team. The tennis season is from September to November every year and our tennis team participates in a big tournament every year and small matches against other schools. After November to before September, I play tennis in a local tennis club twice every week. In Grade 9, I was one of the girl’s doubles 2 players at the school and participated in the AISA tennis tournament. This was a tournament between four schools, Senri Osaka International School, Seoul International School, Korean International School and Yokohama International School. In the tournament, my partner and I became 5th out of all the girl’s doubles group. In Grade 10, I became the singles 3 player of the school tennis team and participated in the Kanto tennis tournament, where several schools in the Kanto plain competed against each other. In this tournament, I went to the quarterfinals of the consolation. Even though I did not get the consolation award, I was proud of how much I was able to play. In my regular practices at the local tennis school, I practice some specific skills each lesson and apply them in a game at the end of the lesson. For example, in my last tennis lesson, we learned how to return low, sliced balls. When tennis balls are sliced, it means that there is a backward spin applied to the opponent and the ball does not bounce very much. This makes it hard for me to receive the ball, especially if it is low, so the coach taught us that we should return by applying forward spin to the ball and dropping our stance so that we are level with the ball. Through this regular physical wellness practices, I am able to keep my body fit and develop my muscles as well as other body functions such as the cardiovascular systems. I believe that this is important because I am still in the midst of growing my body and having regular practices help me to grow more healthily and strongly. Moreover, these practices sometimes become a good way to release my stress and just enjoy moving my body. When I have a lot of work due and am stressed out, I can exercise and play tennis, which makes me loosen up a little and restart my work refreshed, improving my mental wellness as well. In terms of mental wellness, I also feel happy and focused when playing tennis so even if there were disappointing or sad events previously, playing tennis lifts my mood greatly. Therefore, tennis has been a great part of my life as it improves my wellness in both the physical and the mental aspects.

Working at HOPE During the Summer

During the summer vacation from Grade 9 to Grade 10, I did a two-weeks summer intern at HOPE International Development Agency Japan. The whole internship was from July 10th to July 21st and I worked at the HOPE-JP Tokyo office from 10:00 to around 17:00. I have decided to do this short internship in the first place because I have been involved with the HOPE Cambodia Club in our school, which workes together with HOPE, since the beginning of Grade 9 and was interested in the issue of poverty and what is being done about it. However, since this was something very new to me I was very nervous before going there and was not sure if I would be able to help out successfully. There were mainly two main things that I wanted to get out of this experience and those were knowledge about poverty and experience in working. For knowledge about poverty, this was because as mentioned previously, I became interested in the poverty and wanted to learn about how people are being affected as well as what measures are being taken to reduce them. For the experience in working, it was because I have never done anything like this before and was curious to see how it was like to work. I also thought that maybe this working experience could be useful in the future when I need to think about my careers.

 

Throughout the internship experience, my job was an assistant, researcher, and translator. Some of my job as part of an assistant was to catalog all the name cards on the email list for the newsletters HOPE sends to every sponsor/donor monthly and to decide on the menu for a charity lunch. As a researcher, I researched about basic facts of Ethiopia to make some questions that will be used as a quiz for the charity gala HOPE organizes in October as well as searching for water container companies that would be willing to provide HOPE with water containers for a charity event called the Walk for Water. Finally, as a translator, I translated reports, documents, Facebook posts, volunteer recruitment texts, and etc from English to Japanese or from Japanese to English. I did these tasks every day and it was unlike anything that I do at school.

 

Overall, the two weeks internship experience passed very quickly and I think my understanding of poverty, as well as me as a person, changed a little compared to before the experience. This is because before I only had vague ideas about what poverty was and did not necessarily know what NGOs like HOPE were doing in order to combat them. However now, I can explain a little more about poverty and that HOPE combats poverty through projects such as the construction of well and schools, micro-credits, and animal banks. One unexpected learning was that I was able to gain the knowledge of poverty cycles. This was unexpected as I did not know anything about it or have ever heard about it before the internship and since it came up quite a lot during the translation and the research, I was able to gain this new piece of knowledge. Before this experience, I considered my strengths as organization skills and research skills and my weakness as communication and social skills. It turned out that this was quite true and that my strong organization and research skill came in very handy for my interest towards poverty because I needed to do a lot of research about the current situations as well as be organized so that I can actually complete the tasks that were given to me fully. In the end, the experience matched my goal and expectations quite well as I was not only able to gain work experience and learn more about poverty but also learn more about what I am good at and how much I am capable.

 

I believe that this is not the finish for my interest towards poverty and I would do the same experience again if I could, possibly for a longer period of time or for a different job because I only had two weeks and learned this much, which made me curious to see how much more I can learn in a longer period of time or what else I can learn from doing another job. I am also using this experience for my Personal Project because I have decided to do my Personal Project on raising awareness about poverty in different parts of the world and how organizations help reduce it. Therefore, my journey in learning about poverty is not finished yet and I am still looking forward to finding out more about it.

Grade 9 Niigata Expedition Reflection

From October 17th to October 22nd, I went to Niigata as Grade 9 school expedition. I did a lot of new things that were beyond my comfort zone. Before we went, we had a meeting with all the people going to Niigata and we talked about what we wanted to get out of it. Some keywords were self-reliance, responsibility, leadership, and resilience. I decided then, to make my goal for the expedition to become self-reliant, responsibility and leadership. However, I have never hiked for three days or hiked for that long of a distance or stayed in a tent for two days. These things scared me a little bit. Also, when the teacher told us that we would have to navigate by ourselves and that we would have to carry everything on our own, I was very worried. I was also excited, though. The thing that I was most excited for was to spend the whole week with my friends and to expand my comfort zone. I hoped that by going to the expedition, I would be able to feel big accomplishment.

Me Holding the Map and Navigating

Me Holding the Map and Navigating

On the day before the first day of hiking, we decided on our role in the group. I chose to become the navigator of the group, who will use the map to get us to campsites. On the first day of the hike, I was a little bit nervous because I was not so sure of my navigating skills, but my group members assured me that they wouldn’t care if they get lost. That lifted my worry. As we started hiking, I started to get really tired because there were many steep hills and the trails were very hard to walk on with branches and muddy ground. On the way, we ate lunch and we hiked for about 6 hours. Finally, we made it to the campsite and I set up the tent for the first time in my life. It was very hard.

Setting Up the Tents

Setting Up the Tents

From this experience, I learned many things. For example, I think that I was able to become more self-reliant and have more leadership than before. By navigating by ourselves and getting to the campsite without getting lost, I was able to become self-reliant and by leading people the right way, I was able to learn more about leadership and how leaders should interact with others. I also learned how to build tents as well as other survival techniques like how to pack my bag correctly. All these things will stay with me because things like leadership and self-reliance are things that I can use in other places in my life. I also took risks on the first day. An example was when I was not really sure which way to go, I took some risk and half-guessed by the shape of the trail on the map. These risking skills might be important in my life too.

Washing Dishes

Washing Dishes

On the second day of the hike, we got lost. We took two different turns and had to go back the way we came. However, after 5 hours or so we finally managed to get to the campsite. At the campsite, we cooked by ourselves. We cut vegetables, washed dishes, started the fire and cooked stew. When washing the dishes we made sure that we used environmentally friendly dish soaps and use as little amount of soap and water as possible. When cooking, we also made sure to not drop any garbage and if we do, pick it up and take it with us, not leave it on the ground.

Cooking Stew

Cooking Stew

From the experiences on the second day, I learned to be more responsible for my actions. I learned these through getting lost and when cooking. Using the smallest amount of soap and water as well as using environmentally friendly soap helped me become more responsible. By dishwashing, I was able to find out what effect we have on nature even without us noticing. I learned that bad kind of dish soap can damage the rivers and by damaging the river, the fishes will be damages and that will lead to the whole food chain. Therefore I learned how each small actions can affect a bigger thing. This will help me in the future too because then I would be able to think before doing anything reckless and that might help me make lesser mistakes.

Overall, this expedition taught me a lot of things. I learned about responsibility, self-reliance, and leadership and all these things made me a better person. This made me feel very accomplished and proud of myself. All these things that I learned could be used in many places in my life, both now and future. An example for that will be when I am trying something new, I might need to be responsible for myself and be self-reliant. I really enjoyed the expedition and I feel like I want to do it again. This is because I feel like I could do better now that I went to Niigata. Maybe next time, I might be able to stay on the mountain longer or try harder trails. Lastly, if this expedition was a metaphor for something in my life, it would be my school life. Like when I was hiking, there would always be ups and downs, both literally and not, and this can be said for my school life too because sometimes I would do well at something but sometimes, there might be things that I find very hard to do and struggle. Also in the expedition, I learned new things about myself and about my friends and classmates. This was very fun and I enjoyed it very much. Therefore, this year’s expedition was really helpful for me and I thought it was full of excitement and interests.

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