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I Remember…

June, 2012
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img_3356I remember. I remember arriving here in Year One, a tiny wide-eyed child that sort of bumbled around our old campus in Hong-Mei, darting and dashing around the rooftop playground. Ms. Turnbull was my first teacher here. I remember when the first computer arrived in our classroom, and everyone crowded around to watch grainy, coloured pixels flash onscreen. I remember dressing up as the Ancient Egyptians, listening to our teacher talk of the Romans and the gods of Greek myth and legend. I remember writing and illustrating the first book that Nigel and I made and bound together with yellow string.

I remember the day we moved into Gubei Campus, and just how enormous our new classrooms seemed. Those were the days when the North Gate and the Parents’ Room was a basketball court, and B block wasn’t even done! There was this tiny hole where we now walk from the gate and straight to B block, and we clambered through it and were struck dumb by the sheer size of it. Three floors!

I remember our class sitting on the carpet at story-time while Mr. Johnstone read A Series of Unfortunate events. There were warm, summery afternoons spent in the Art room playing with clay and pigments while Ms. Raye was sat reading at her desk. I remember the first time I was away from home and family, camping at Oriental Green Haven. Soon after, I hung up my Year Six ‘Graduation Certificate’ in my room and it’s stayed there ever since. I remember our art trips to the Water Village, and to the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, and feeding baby sharks at the Shanghai Aquarium. I remember Hong Kong, Xi-An, YangShuo, Hangzhou, and all the feverish excitement buzzing on the bus rides to the airport.

And more recently, I remember the anxiety of cramming our way through the IGCSE exams that the Y11s have just written. I remember Mr. Evans, our English teacher who could not stress it enough, that Y11 is very short! That summer between Y11 and 12 was a bewildering one. Bewildering in its power of transformation. We came back as IB students, laughing in sheer incredulity at just how EASY the IGCSEs now seemed; how ridiculous it was that at one time we had actually worried about it!

And so we began IB, frightened by all the stories the seniors had told us. That shadowy, abbreviated cast of villains: The EE, IAs, TOK, RI, MI, IPP, PPP, TPPP. Thousands upon thousands of words, mounds upon mounds of projects. So much to do, so little time to sleep. Most of us are probably going to sleep the summer away, just to begin to make up for it. Like all good students, procrastination was our trusty guide. It’s amazing how productive you can be two days before the deadline. Of course, our pleas to push the deadlines back probably helped. But in the end, we vanquished our foes and here we stand. Whining about it all. If we’re to be perfectly honest with ourselves, the IB really isn’t AS hard as everyone makes it out to be. But it’s … pretty close. We darken the nightmares that the IB brings for the next graduating class, because we’re perfectly entitled to ramp up the drama! After all, isn’t life enriched by the ongoing drama of shared experience, and the synergy of a kind of symbiotic empathy? Or something.

The important thing is that we’re through. We’re done. Ms. Turnbull, Ms. Raye, Ms. Seccombe, Mr. Johnstone, Mr. McLean, Mr. Gallogray, Mr. and Mrs. Banfield and Mrs. Polson are gone. Our computers are now sleek, sophisticated and high-tech. This school has undergone so many facelifts it’s unrecogniseable! Every year a new coat of paint. New gymnasium floor, a new auditorium. We don’t hold our concerts in the third-floor Hall at A-block anymore. Nor do we eat there, as we now have a cafeteria of our own. From unknown providers, to SodexHo and now Eurest. Teachers come and go, as do we students. Perhaps one of the saddest things about living in Shanghai, being in an international school, is that we are always in a state of perpetual flux. We are always arriving, always leaving. It is the rare student or teacher that stays here for long. Some of us have been here since the beginning; others have joined us midway or maybe even recently. We watch our friends move away from us, and sometimes we lose contact. We also often forget our teachers and the staff. Thumbing through the school diary that hardly anyone uses anymore, I came across a page which said that teachers act ‘in loco parentis’. In school, they become our parents. These parents watch their children move on, and they too must move on. And then I think of my own parents, and the approaching day when I must leave the nest. I cannot imagine how difficult that must be.

Even now, I struggle to recall the faces of former students and teachers. They all… blur together. A thing we may be loath to admit is that all too often, friendships are bound only by distance and proximity. They drift apart, and we forget. They fade from memory. Maybe Tennessee Williams is right, and time is the greatest distance between two places. When we begin to lose hold of one another, it’s hard to halt that fraying of friendship. Of course, in today’s world we have Facebook, Skype and maintaining contact is much simpler. But even so, we can only hope for the best, and that we each have forged deep, enduring friendships that will last.

This is not the school that I once knew, and hasn’t been for quite some time now. But as I stand here, and when I leave, I will be staring at this auditorium. At these steps that I have climbed and will walk off of. The clatter of my footsteps on the gymnasium floor. The cold banister of the stairs outside. As you sit here, I am staring at the faces of friends, family and teachers, trying to transfix this memory in my mind. The culmination of thirteen years, and of the life I have known here. I don’t know if I will ever return to visit, for in several years, what is left for me? Another coat of paint, another round of renovation and the faces of people that I won’t recognise. These are the last memories that I will make, for the school that I know now. This is the school that I will remember. In the days, months, and years to come, I will speak of this place, this establishment, this community in the past tense. But in my mind, it will be as it is now: in the present.

For me, saying goodbye is that moment where you begin to turn a page in a book, but can’t help but want to read that incredible passage over and over again. It’s indulging in nostalgia while caught between past, present and future. And that’s all well and good, but the page has to turn if we’re ever going to get on with the story.

So goodbye, and thank you.


- Graduation Speech by Xing Jun NG,


Class of 2012, YCIS Shanghai


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