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My International School Life

June, 2010
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justin-l-s1September 1st, 1999. This was my first day at Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS Beijing), as I prepared to enter the monumental year of the second grade. My mother dragged me to school as I went through the usual motions of crying and wailing. I remember taking in my surroundings and seeing grey stone steps and pale painted walls. That’s how my time at YCIS Beijing started – at a tiny, start-up school.
At that time, there was only one school building. We had a playground a short distance away, comprised mainly of concrete floor with equipment dotted sporadically across the area. Occasionally, the teachers led us out to the adjacent Honglingjin Park to have our recess. The rest is hazy but I do remember having a good time.
Now, I can say I am privileged to have grown and developed with my school over the last 11 years. We’re in 2010. I will graduate in two weeks. Things have changed. Those grey steps have since been given a bright new paint job, the original building has undergone renovations and the campus now has eight buildings. There are now three and sometimes even four classes per grade. My class is the largest graduating class in YCIS Beijing history with 27 students. As further evidence of growth; next years’ graduating class will soon topple this record.
justin-1sYet even as we are growing, we are still a relatively small school, both in terms of population and campus size. This is why I stayed here all these years. Not a year goes by without someone asking, “Why don’t you move to a bigger school?” When I was younger I would simply retort, “No way!” but as I grew older, my reply changed to, “Because I like it”. It is as simple as that.
I consider  the small size as being YCIS’ strength. There is a sense of family here.. As the school bus pulls in to the campus, I greet the faculty and administration. I feel the same closeness with my classmates who are like my brothers and sisters. While this puts a damper on any teenage romance, it does help us to form incredibly close friendships. The size just made the school a comfortable place to work, with little to serve as distractions.
justin-8sYCIS Beijing has a reputation for being an academically driven school, and while I thoroughly enjoy the academic competition, I must stand up for the athletic drive in our school too. Another reason for my desire to stay in YCIS is its encouraging attitude towards sports teams. I was given an opportunity to practice and improve. In fact, every student is given the opportunity to join the sports team they love, giving them a chance to learn, practice, build competence and improve. In retrospect, after earning a few Most Valuable Player awards and winning a few championships, I’m glad that I stayed at YCIS. It allowed me to develop my passion for athletics and it also taught me that sports and studying are not mutually exclusive.
Perhaps the only two things that have remained constant during my time at YCIS Beijing are our uniforms and the sense of community. While the uniforms are forgettable, my best memories undoubtedly come from the sense of camaraderie that I have experienced.
justin-5sOver the years my class has formed a strong support group. There was one time where our class was expected to take a statistics exam. Due to an unfortunate lapse in our memory, we were caught completely unaware. But our class has a knack for pulling things together and so for a very intense week, we made notes for each other and pulled through. In the end we all managed to earn “A” grades, which was very pleasing. We also have done the IGCSE and IB program, and throughout the year we would frequently help each other, and combined with the dedicated teachers, worked together as a unit to complete our work.
Today, I can walk into almost every classroom and have a conversation with the teacher, even if he’s not my teacher. Everyone knows everyone on a first name basis and every day between classes I exchange greetings with countless people. Over the years, my classmates and teachers have become my extended family and the school has become my second home. A few months ago, I tallied up the number of years that I have known each of my classmates and the average came to about 5 years. In fact, I even have a handful of friends that I have known for 8-10 years. justin-6sFor an international school, this duration is ridiculously long given the fact that most kids are expected to stay a couple of years and then move away. I am able to walk into any class and just hang out with students from every country and year level. How many people can say they can do that?
By the time of publication of this article, I will have graduated. I’m going off to the University of California, Berkeley in August. I am sad to be leaving all these experiences and memories behind but change is to be expected and embraced. I am excited and confident about starting the next part of my life in a completely different environment.
By Justin Lei, 2010 graduate of Yew Chung International School of Beijing


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