Selina and Cici: Getting Involved with Giving Back
In this week’s edition of Student Blogs, we meet YCIS Beijing Year 12 students Selina and Cici. Selina and Cici are heavily involved with a range of charitable activities in Beijing and beyond. Here they discuss their most memorable experiences, why charity is so important to them and offer advice to other students looking to follow in their footsteps.
Please introduce yourselves
Selina: My name is Selina and I’m a YCIS Beijing student in Year 12. I’m from Hong Kong.
Cici: My name is Cici Lin and I’m also a Year 12 student from Hong Kong.
What activities and charities are you involved with at school?
Selina: I’m involved with A Voice for Animals, The Zebra Project, Migrant Children’s Foundation (MCF) and the Charity Dinner which this year is raising money for A Voice for Animals.
Cici: I’m part of Student Leadership and Help a Child Smile and I’m the school’s leader of Migrant Children’s Foundation and A Voice for Animals.
As part of Student Leadership, we organise different school events such as the Christmas Bazaar and Global Community Day. Proceeds for these days go towards our school charities.
Help a Child Smile raises money to provide cleft palate surgery to children in Beijing.
A Voice for Animals rescues stray animals and provides shelter.
Migrant Children’s Foundation supports migrant schools around Beijing, offering education and healthcare to the children of migrant workers. We visit these schools and give additional lessons to the children. We also have plans to run some events and outings with the children there because we want them to feel more involved in local culture and feel at home in Beijing.
What’s it like to be involved in so many organisations?
Selina: I like being occupied, and charity work makes me feel good because I know I am making a difference to people’s lives – even if it’s only a small one. We are so fortunate to have everything we have and be part of a great school such as YCIS Beijing, but there are people all around us who haven’t been so lucky. While we may not be able to change everything, we can make small changes around us.
How has YCIS Beijing helped you pursue your own interests?
Selina: YCIS Beijing gives us lots of opportunities to pursue our interests by allowing us to choose what clubs and activities we join – all my charity work has really been my choice. We also have more free time here than at other schools – there is time to explore interests outside of the curriculum and we are really encouraged to do so.
How have teachers and friends at YCIS Beijing helped support you with your charity work?
Selina: For most of our charity work, we plan activities and come up with ideas as a group – of classmates and friends. It’s been great experience working so collaboratively. You can’t do these kinds of things alone!
Cici: Teachers help us a lot with our charity work. If we want to put on a fundraising event at school, teachers will help us with school policy and organising dates. Parents are enormously helpful too – for example students, teachers and parents were all involved in the organization of the Christmas Bazaar and Chinese Temple Fair.
What has been your most memorable experience and why?
Selina: The Zebra project has been the most memorable experience for me. The Zebra project was initiated by YCIS Beijing a few years ago – it’s not connected to any charity. We donate clothes and books to children in a county called Banma (which sounds like Chinese for Zebra but the characters are different). The memorable part of Zebra this year was when we received photos of the children wearing the clothes and holding the books that we donated. It made me feel like I’d made a real difference.
Cici: My most memorable experience has been visiting the migrant school. The quality of their lives is very different to ours and we witnessed it first-hand. The children were so happy with the learning materials that we bought them – but I actually think we can never fully understand how much it meant to them. It’s been incredibly special sharing an experience like that with children we otherwise wouldn’t have known. I’m looking forward to working with them more and showing them new things.
Do you have any advice for other students who want to do the same thing as you?
Selina: I would really encourage others to get involved with charity. I initially started because it was compulsory for me as part of CAS (Community Action Service), but as I got more and more involved I discovered that I really enjoyed it. I felt really positive about the difference that I was able to make and learned a lot about myself.
Cici: I would suggest joining a cause that you are interested in and passionate about. If the school doesn’t offer something that you are interested in, you can create your own group to pursue it instead. It’s important to care about the cause as it’ll motivate you to work harder and you will find that you make more of a difference.
Vani Gupta: The Superlative Senior
In this week’s edition of Student Blogs, we introduce Year 13 student Vani Gupta. Originally from India, Vani has been with Yew Chung International School of Beijing for seven years where she’s developed into one of the student body’s most charitably active and academically high-achieving members.
Fresh off the news of her scholarship offer to the University of British Columbia, Vani shares details of her favorite school memories, her plans after graduation, and her advice for younger students during their time at YCIS Beijing.
Please Introduce yourself.
My name is Vani Gupta. I’m from India, but I’ve lived in China for almost ten years. I’ve been at YCIS Beijing since I was in Year 6, and I’m currently a Year 13 student.
Do you still remember your first day? What were your first impressions of the school?
I do remember, actually. I was extremely shy, and I didn’t talk to people very much, so coming to a new school was very terrifying. The first thing I remember was that I walked into a classroom and sat down, and the student next to me immediately asked me, “What’s your name?”. Then she started a conversation with me.
My first impression was that everyone was so friendly and welcoming. I hadn’t expected that, as such a shy person, I would be able to integrate into the community as easily as I did.
In what ways has YCIS Beijing influenced your personality over the years?
I’ve always been an academic person. I’ve always been really invested in my studies, but YCIS Beijing helped me come out of my shell. It encouraged me to open up and be more extroverted. It helped me with my confidence as well because everyone is so supportive. In that way it really changed my personality, because of all the support you get from your teachers and your friends.
Do you have a favourite memory of your time here?
I don’t have a specific favourite memory, but I do have lots of little ones, and most of them involve my friends and I laughing together for absolutely no reason. It’s the little things for me that make my day.
I remember one example, a friend and I stayed after school to do some work for Roots & Shoots. Though there were some problems we had to solve that day, and the situation normally could have been stressful, we had a great time working together (at one point laughing continuously for 10 minutes), and it ended up being one of my best memories here at school.
It’s the many little memories I’ve collected along the way that have made YCIS Beijing great for me.
What are your plans after graduation?
I plan on going to the University of British Columbia (UBC), and I want to study behavioral neuroscience. I’m hoping that, at the very least, I’ll do a master’s degree, and possibly do a PhD.
Why did you choose UBC, and how do you feel it will help you to achieve your future career goals?
I chose UBC in part because it has a very good international community. We’ve had students from YCIS Beijing go there, and I’ve heard a lot of great things about it. It also has an amazing research programme, which I think will help me if I decide to pursue a career in neuroscience research.
How have your teachers helped prepare you for university?
One of the many examples was my English teacher during IGCSE. He made me very tough, in a good way, compared to how I was as a shy young student.
When I go to university, I’m going to be completely alone, halfway around the world, without family or friends. And in times such as those, it’s important to be strong. My teachers have helped me to become more independent, and I believe that it’s small things – such as encouraging me to speak up, for example – that will help me most in university.
What advice do you have for younger students as they continue their studies at YCIS Beijing?
I think that the best piece of advice I can give to younger students is to make the most of your time, because it’s not going to come back. In dealing with procrastination, for example, even when you think you don’t have a lot of time, take advantage of the little bit of time that you do have. Work hard, and use that time however you feel is best – whether that’s studying, reading, spending time with your friends, etc – make a decision on how you want to use that time, and don’t regret it later on.
David Clotworthy: A Star in the Making
In this week’s edition of Student Blogs, we introduce Year 11 student David Clotworthy. Originally from New Zealand, David has been with Yew Chung International School of Beijing for 6 years, where – through his passion for drama – he’s become one the most well-liked and visible students on campus.
In speaking with David, he shares why he feels that the YCIS Beijing student community is so special, what he hopes to accomplish during the Year of the Dog, and offers advice for other students who are interested in getting involved in school performances as well.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is David Clotworthy. I’m a Year 11 student from New Zealand.
How long have you been a student at YCIS Beijing, and what was your first impression when you arrived?
I’ve been at YCIS Beijing for a long time, since Year 5. I remember that our family arrived in China on a Sunday, and then I started classes on Monday, the following day. It was a lot to take in, as it was a totally new environment, and I definitely experienced culture shock at the beginning. It was a good experience, but it was just different from what I was used to back in New Zealand.
How do you feel about the YCIS Beijing school community?
We have a great school community, with students from all year levels being able to get along and connect with each other. I think that in many schools there are clicks within the student body, such as groups of athletes staying together, and academically-focused students forming another group. But at YCIS Beijing, I find that students from all different backgrounds and interests get along. We’re a diverse student body, and we’re able to share our uniqueness with each other.
What do you feel are the unique advantages of being a student at an international school?
I was just speaking about this to my mom the other day. I think that if we’d stayed in New Zealand, I’d be an entirely different person.
New Zealand is a small country, and we come from a tiny city of only about forty thousand people. On the weekends, the things you’d do for fun would be to take bike rides or go fishing. But here in Beijing, when I ask people what they’ve been up to recently, some of them say that they’d flown to Shanghai, the States, Europe, etc. It’s quite amazing to see the different experiences that everyone has. And it makes every day exciting because you never know what’s going to happen.
What is your best memory of your time at YCIS Beijing?
I have many, but if I have to single out a specific thing, I’d say the school musical (Legally Blond) from last year. It was a huge production, with a large cast and crew and elaborate stage designs. I played two roles, both the abusive ex-boyfriend and the father of the main character.
Is there anything specific that you hope to accomplish during the Year of the Dog?
Of course, I want to do well in my academic coursework, but I also want to become more outgoing. I’ve found that if I’m in a large group, I tend to stick to one or two people. But I’d like to expand a bit more and talk to everyone in the group.
How was your experience being the MC for the concert?
Actually, I wasn’t meant to be the MC originally, but one of the co-MC’s got sick, so I was notified the day before. It was a bit stressful because I didn’t know the script too well, but Bobby (the other MC) and I are good friends, so we were able to improvise a lot.
The thing I enjoyed the most was entertaining the audience. It’s very fulfilling to get a laugh out of the crowd.
What advice do you have for your fellow students who are interested in becoming more involved in school performances?
Just join. Once you’re involved, you can’t really back out. But the commitment to the group will help motivate you to keep going. Once the performance is over, chances are that you’ve done a great job. If for some reason it wasn’t your best performance, then give it a week and people won’t remember it anyway.
But just join to start off with. And if you believe you can do it, then you can.
Artists’ Impressions: Year 11 Students Published in INKBEAT
In this week’s edition of Student Blogs, we’re delighted to highlight the achievements of Year 11 students Amy Yin and Sydney Lee, both of whom were recently published in the latest edition of INKBEAT Youth Journal – a literary journal that celebrates the writing and art of students in the Beijing area. Sydney’s artwork is featured on the cover, while Amy had a short story published.
In speaking with both girls, they share more about their first memories of living in Beijing, what inspires their artworks, and tips for other students who would like to develop their own creativity through the arts.
Can you please introduce yourselves?
Amy: Hi, I’m Amy Yin. I’m from Hong Kong, and I’ve been at YCIS Beijing since 2007.
Sydney: My name is Sydney Lee, in Year 11. I’m from the United States, and I’ve been attending YCIS Beijing since 2014.
What were your first impressions when arriving in Beijing, and how do you enjoy living here?
Amy: That was ages ago, so I can’t really say that I remember it all that well. The weather was great during the Olympics, though – it’s good to see that’s been making a comeback recently. On a scale from one to ten, I rate Beijing as a solid six. It’s a bit iffy at times, especially when the air quality takes a dive, or when all the cool concerts and comic book conventions have to happen in Shanghai. But the subway system is pretty great here. It’s hardly ever late and quite cheap, just a bit squishy during rush hours, but you can easily avoid that. I really enjoy public transport here in general.
Sydney: My first impressions of Beijing definitely included the air quality, and how diverse the city was. Although it took me a while to adapt to the culture, I do enjoy living here.
How do you feel about the YCIS Beijing school community?
Amy: It’s pretty great. The community is small, but tight-knit, and everybody’s very welcoming and polite, which is great. Met some wonderful people here.
Sydney: Personally, I enjoy how tight-knit the YCIS Beijing school community is, as it makes it easier for every member of the community to get to know each other better and do our own thing without being afraid of being judged.
Please explain the process through which you were featured in the INKBEAT Youth Journal.
Amy: Our English teacher Mr. Locke told us about the magazine last year and told us to submit some of our stories, because they were surprisingly okay. Spinning those stories in such a way that they met the requirements of the magazine was pretty easy. After a while, I was contacted via email by one of the magazine editors who asked me to edit the story she liked in a specific way. So I did the edits, and next thing I knew I was standing at the release party with a bunch of people I’ve never met. It was pretty fun. I met a nice person who takes these amazing pictures of signposts and bus stops.
Sydney: One day in English class, our teacher suggested that all of the students submit our short stories to the INKBEAT Youth Journal. While submitting my story, I learned that the magazine also included and visual arts section, and thus decided to simultaneously submit my art pieces.
What inspired the artwork and short story that you created?
Amy: The particular brand of self-deprecating humour you can get in certain online communities was a big influence on the story that got published. In fact, the whole thing was a long (and arguably pretty silly) joke. It was originally written for a class assignment of some sort, with the prompt, “write a story that begins with a disappointment”. I titled it “(Auto)Biography”. At this point you can kind of guess what the punchline is…
I had another story submitted and accepted as well, but the magazine only publishes one short story per writer every issue. That story was largely inspired by Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” and “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure” by Hirohiko Araki, because they both had a great post-colonial magical realism-thing going on. Is that even a thing? Also David Bowie’s “Starman” from his Ziggy Stardust album had a lot to do with it, too.
Sydney: What initially inspired the artwork was the complexity of human facial expressions. Personally, humans are my favorite subject to work with, as I have always been deeply interested in the way that we work and function. Moreover, I had just gotten into embroidery, and was experimenting with ways to make the dry media imitate the effects of wet media (aka oil or acrylic paint).
How do you cope with stress as a student?
Amy: I drink a lot of tea and try not to think about it. Also, there’s a great BBC documentary about penguins called “Penguin Spy in the Huddle” where these spy cams disguised as penguins infiltrate three penguin colonies and record the daily lives of some penguins. It’s very calming.
Sydney: As a student, there is an undeniable amount of pressure that one has to deal with. Personally, I do feel a lot of pressure to keep up my grades, while simultaneously exploring my passions, and developing skills and talents outside of schoolwork. However, I feel that this exploration of things that I love doing is what helps me cope with stress. For instance, I genuinely enjoy drawing/painting, writing music, and dancing. All of these things definitely help me in relieving stress and relaxing, which I feel is extremely important to do.
What tips do you have for other students who are interested in developing their creativity through the arts?
Amy: Acquire good taste by consuming a lot of the style of media that you enjoy. And then try to make something that isn’t “bad”. If that doesn’t work out, get rid of all traces of what you made earlier, and do it again until it works, which might take a while. What matters most, however, is to keep an open mind about everything you see.
Sydney: A tip I have for other students is to not be afraid of trying new things. I’m fully aware of how cliché that sounds, but I genuinely believe that this is so important for students my age – as this is the time that we have to really explore and learn more about ourselves and what we want to do with our lives.
The thing is, you’ll never truly know yourself as much as you could if you never push yourself out of your comfort zone and try new things. Who knows, maybe you could discover that you really enjoy doing something that you never imagined yourself even going near – and I speak from experience. I only started dancing about a month ago, and now it’s one of my most favorite things to do. Honestly, the learning experience is so valuable, and is something that I promise you will never regret.
Natalie Rader: The Humble High-Achiever
In this week’s edition of Student Blogs, we’re delighted to highlight the outstanding achievement of Year 13 student Natalie Rader, who was recently named a Commended Student in the 2018 United States National Merit Scholarship Program. Commended Students are recognised for their exceptional academic promise, as determined by placing in the top 2% of scorers from more than 1.6 million entrants in the 2018 competition.
In the interview below, Natalie shares details about her life at Yew Chung International School of Beijing, the process through which she received the Commended Student honour, and her advice for other students who would like to try for the National Merit Scholarship as well.
Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Natalie Rader, and I’m currently a Year 13 student working on the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). My family has been in China for two years, and my sister is also a Secondary student here at YCIS Beijing.
What do you feel are the unique advantages of being a student at an international school?
It’s wonderful to be surrounded by people from so many different countries. Through exposure to different cultures, even small things like getting to try the foods from your friends’ lunches and seeing what YouTube videos and television shows they watch, allows you to find new interests and broaden your horizons.
What was your first impression of YCIS Beijing?
Compared to my old school, YCIS Beijing is smaller and has a more familial environment. The closeness of the community is very different from what I experienced in the US, because at my old school there were so many people that I wouldn't recognise or know everyone’s names. But here, I know everyone in my year level, and we often go and do things outside of school together, which is great.
How has YCIS Beijing prepared you for the academic successes and recognition that you’re now receiving?
The teachers here are extremely knowledgeable, so I feel that I’m being well prepared for the upcoming IBDP exams next semester. Regarding the National Merit Scholarship Commendation, that was based on the PSAT examination – so though that’s not a subject that is specifically taught, I feel that my teachers helped to give me the confidence that I needed in order to perform well.
What was the process through which you received the Commended Student recognition?
The process is quite simple, actually. You just need to be in your junior year of high school, you have to be an American citizen, and you have to check a box when you take the PSAT that says you’d like to be considered for the scholarship. Depending on your score, you’ll then proceed through several rounds of selection in which Commendations and Scholarships are awarded.
What are some tips you have for students who want to apply for the same scholarship?
Prepare for the PSAT before you take the exam. Learn some of the techniques and strategies for eliminating wrong answers, reading passages strategically, etc, and then make sure to get a good night’s sleep before the exam.
The work that you put in for the PSAT can also be applied later to the SAT exam, which is then important for university admissions.
How was your experience meeting President Trump?
During President Trump’s recent trip to China, he visited with all of the local diplomats, of whom my father is one.
Meeting the President was cool, because you always see these figureheads on television, but you never see them in real life. It felt unreal in that way. But it was also interesting because, in person, President Trump isn’t that different from what you see on television; his real life and television personas are quite the same.
Deborah Qu: Becoming a Better Me
In this week’s edition of Student Blogs, we speak with one of Yew Chung International School of Beijing’s most active members, Deborah Qu.
From YCIS to UCL: An Alumnus’s Journey
In this special edition of Student Blogs,
Overcoming Shyness with Music
In this edition of Student Blogs, we speak with Year 13 student Liyong Wang, recipient of the Yew Chung International School of Beijing Performing Arts Scholarship, about the scholarship process and tips for students looking to apply. Also, as a member of the popular student rock band CHROMA, Liyong shares how he first became interested in music, the story of his favourite performance, and what he plans to do after graduation.
Zach Engler: Conquering Middle School
For the past two years, Zach Engler has been an international school student in Beijing. Originally from Key Largo, Florida, he moved to China in the summer of 2015, unsure of what to expect from the country he’d known only from newspapers and movies.