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What Will You Take in Your Backpack?

June, 2016
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What Will You Take in Your Backpack?

—YCIS Class of 2016 Graduation Speech


0j7a1150e589afe69cac-2Do you guys all remember when you first came to Yew Chung International School?

I want you to take you guys back to the night before your first day at YCIS. You laid out your uniform, shoes, and socks, all ready to go. Then, it came to choosing your backpack and you spent quite a time, like me, thinking about what backpack to carry and what to put inside it. Now, let’s think about this: why did we spend that much time choosing a backpack, when all it did was carry our things? Well, that’s exactly why. It was the only part of our uniform that did not have any rules for. It was the only way we could show who we were. It was what made each and one of us different from everyone in school. Which is why when teachers tried to stop us from carrying our backpacks to classes, we just couldn’t leave that unique part of us sitting inside the locker all day.

When we went to school, everyone had all different kinds and colors of backpacks. But as we got to know each other and discovered things that were inside each others backpacks, we were frankly amazed because each and every one of us carried our own culture: books in many languages, unique ethnic foods, and favorite treasures from “home.” We also carried with us our own world views, unspoken assumptions, and unique personalities.

However, as we spent time studying in classes and traveling in Thailand, we started to have common things in our backpacks. (Thai pants woohoo!) We not only shared our own views, took in new knowledge of other cultures and built memories, but we also learned that our world perspective is just one of many. It’s just a version.

Some of the best times that we will remember are our mini UN meetings that we held during lunch times when debates came up about culture, ethics, history, even music. In the beginning, the conversations fired up so quickly and massively, we often ended up with disagreements and denial. This was our kind of drama: arguing to defend our own cultural values and identities. However, after many of these, we understood that being international does not mean that we come together to agree on one thing and come up with an ultimate solution. What it truly means is that we come to recognize each othersdifferences, accept them, and learn to appreciate each other. We’ve evolved to respect others’ backgrounds and be more open minded.

0j7a1578e589afe69cac-21This is one of the many things that were added to our backpacks.

Something else we wore proudly with our backpacks was our year level reputation for being…well, chill. At first we thought it was bad - maybe we weren’t good enough or maybe we weren’t special. But as all of us spent more and more time together, we realized that being chill is actually a very positive thing. It was what made us special.

Because for us, being chill meant that no matter how occupied and busy all of us were, we were still chill enough to help each other out during classes, after school, even late night someone would post a question on WeChat group (yes, we do have WeChat group for every subject) and someone would reply right back the answer, willing to spend the next ten minutes, cutting their sleep time, to explain and make sure you understood. We still had the heart in ourselves to always squeeze in time to help our friends and tell each other : tsk aiyooo it’s okayyyy (I didn’t do it either.) We were chill, compassionate, collaborative, and competitive. As a result, we learned so much more.

Take a look around and notice that some of them, you will remember forever, but some of them not. But hey, they say that one good friend is enough to last a lifetime. And that is what we will take with us. We will always leave a space in our backpacks to remember and help our friends.

It’s normal that in the future, YCIS graduates will not be in the same university, country, or even continent. But it does not mean that we will forget that we were all once a YCIS student.  And we all arrived here with different backpacks in the beginning, but carried common things in us. And that common ingredient will be enough to bring us back together and to give each other warm hugs if we meet again in future. Or if you come back to school to visit, there will be teachers who will warmly greet you as if you were still a student here. and we thank, YCIS for creating such an excellent community.

Some of us have been at YCIS for 2, 4, up to 8 years sharing important moments of our lives. And during the last two years of IB, we were overloaded with so many textbooks, knowledge, and memories, that we had to unpack some of our basic assumptions. We discarded many things in our backpacks and added new things which fit us better. Therefore each of us, as individuals, grew more by understanding ourselves and each other better. What a privilege it has been to have learned and grown together.

Although we have unpacked our textbooks and papers along with old judgements and stereotypes, we have maintained our own cultural identities. We have become citizens of the world. And we have to thank the school, our teachers, and families to leading us to this point.

Now, we have the opportunity to repack our backpacks for the future.

So, what will you take in your backpack? 

By Jenna Jung,

Class of 2016, Yew Chung International School of Shanghai

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