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High School in a Taxi

July, 2008
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Four years ago, with knots in my stomach, I left my hometown of Vancouver, Canada and I arrived in this unknown place, called Shanghai.

I was no stranger to travel but had never lived internationally before. I left everything that was familiar to me to embark on this new adventure. I went to school, made new friends that came and went, went to class, laughed, cried and studied in between. I met new people that appealed to interests I never knew I had and loved every minute of it. Coming from where I do, it was a big change, a big wonderful change. Fast forward four years, and I have graduated from school and, once again, with knots in my stomach, I am heading off to another big, unknown city called Chicago to go to University.

IMG_7031 “There are a lot of things that I will remember about high school, and a few I hope to forget. The life lessons I have learned here and the wonderful people I have met during my time in Shanghai will stay with me forever. But the MOST memorable thing I learned here is that it is often easier to follow the rules to get what you want out of your education. I have learned to choose my battles and compliantly tuck in my school shirt. Those silly little rules are much easier to just follow. It pays off in the end. "

High school was much like a Shanghai taxi ride. There were sections of clear road that sped by quickly with images flashing in and out of the periphery of my vision. Then there were times when the pace lagged (traffic congestion), and it felt like I was sitting forever in one spot. There were plenty of scenic vistas and scary twists and turns on the way. There were times when I was certain that I would crash, but I ended up safely at my final destination. To take this taxi analogy further, teachers, like taxi drivers, steered the vehicle of education, against all obstacles. Some taxi drivers enlivened the journey with their unique perspectives and their informative tales. I am grateful to those drivers (with multiple stars), who competently glided over the bumps and curves of the road.

These past four years have been about much more than earning scholarships and receiving good grades. Human compassion is important and getting involved and contributing to the local community became part of my education and daily life. Some of the best parts of my education happened outside of the classroom, and I have learned the importance of giving back to the community. In my first year at I.B., I joined the student council, where I was fortunate enough to be assigned the task of finding a worthy charity. I met a woman named Christine Cullen at a Christmas Fair and knew instantly that I needed to work with her. She runs a non-profit organization that provides heart operations to children in rural communities who suffer from heart defects. The organization is called Heart To Heart, and their website is www.heart2heartshanghai.net.

I proposed the idea to the student council, and it instantly became our goal to fund an entire operation for one child. Happily, within a matter of months of the fundraising initiative, we reached our goal and were able to change the life of a child by funding his heart operation. One of the best experiences of my life was meeting the boy that we sponsored, and his parents, days after he received the life-saving surgery. The joy on his face and the relief on the faces of his mother and father have been engraved in my memory forever. Through this experience, I learned to never be complacent and yes, it is true, one person can make a difference. Christine Cullen’s boundless energy and determination are an excellent example of this.

I have documented four years of life in Shanghai through the written word. I have had the great fortune of having my writing published as I have been a monthly columnist in a Shanghai magazine, and I have written bi-weekly articles for a newspaper back in my hometown (The Tri City News). Being a columnist has forced me to constantly get out into the city to find things to write about. Truly, it has never been difficult to find a topic as Shanghai is a diverse and vibrant city. I have been so fortunate to have the opportunity to live and to learn here. The experience has been surreal and amazing, and I am so happy that each week I was forced to think creatively and put my thoughts and experiences into words. I am so grateful to my two editors and to all the people who actually read my words. Writing has become such an important part of my life.

Living in the international community has taught me that the sky is the limit, and your home country does not have to be your place of residence. I am proud to be Canadian, but I will always credit my experience here in Shanghai for making me the person that I am today. I now believe that I can live anywhere on the planet as long as I can maintain a respect for and understanding of other cultures. Along with my peers, I can now call myself an official Yew Chung International School graduate. I have to admit that I am a better person having been through this experience and having graduated from this school. It is now time for me to hang up my graduation cap and move on to a new adventure, but I will never forget my years in Shanghai, a perfect city for a girl who never sleeps.

For those of you still working your way through high school, enjoy every minute of this taxi ride because it all ends way too fast. Be sure to practice your Chinese and make an effort to talk to the driver who has a wealth of knowledge to share. 

 

By Naomi Yorke,Yew Chung International School of Shanghai

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