Class of 2021 alumna, Claire, developed a variety of skills during her time as a student at Shanghai Community International School (SCIS). From Model United Nations to theater to leading conferences, she has proven her determination and skill. We asked Claire to look back at her time at SCIS, her adjustment to university, and if she had any tips for next year's graduates. Here is what she had to say.
Hi! Tell us about yourself. Where are you from, and what brought you to SCIS?
Hello! My first name is technically Ying Xi Claire though everyone calls me Claire. I am from Hong Kong but only lived there for two years before my parents brought me to Shanghai. Since they enrolled me into SCIS for kindergarten, my memory of their reasoning is hazy. However, I imagine they felt SCIS had an open, caring environment conducive to learning. After spending 13 years there, I am happy to say that my classmates and the faculty were always willing to support me.
Do you remember what your first week was like?
Funnily enough, the main thing I remember from my first day of school is not going to school. The abnormally heavy rainfall stranded some kids at school and meant my school bus never arrived at my apartment.
As for my second day, my biggest challenge was getting lost in what felt like an enormous campus, but some generous teachers standing on the soccer field resolved the issue, directing me to class.
How soon after joining did you start getting active in extracurricular activities?
It took a while before I started getting involved in extracurricular activities. I joined Weslandia, my first-ever theatre production, in 4th grade and was fortunate enough to be given a primary role. I suppose that others’ faith in me and the friendships I made encouraged me to seek new experiences and trust that everyone wanted what was best for me.
Still, it took a little longer before I understood the concept of balancing my responsibilities. I distinctly remember anxiously finishing a weekly homework packet on the bus ride to school in 5th grade. Since then, I have learned that organization is fundamental and have been emulating another student’s planner, of sorts, using computer sticky notes to keep track of homework and other tasks.
Tell us more about your participation in Global Issues Network (GIN), Model United Nations (MUN), and Interact. Were you a part of any other student clubs or organizations?
In between participating in (and occasionally directing) theatre productions, I was also a part of the GIN, MUN, and Interact leadership teams. In GIN, our most significant accomplishment was organizing a conference that hosted over 200 students. Students at the conference participated in workshops and listened to guest speakers talk about their contributions to a more environmentally conscious world. GIN, though a short-lived club at SCIS, holds some of my most memorable experiences. One example is a trip to Thailand where I learned about sustainable practices and stayed in a rural town, sharing aspects of our different cultures with the townspeople.
My high school years were mostly taken up by MUN and Interact. Despite being introduced to MUN in 9th grade, I became co-captain the next year and was quite nervous teaching what I had only recently learned, especially to my upperclassmen. Fortunately, the other captains and I soon developed a repartee, apportioned our responsibilities, and tested different teaching methods. For instance, one challenge we encountered was the tedious nature of learning MUN procedure. To combat this, we tried moving club members between 5-minute stations where each captain summarized a stage of MUN conferences, effectively teaching MUN procedure in an hour-long meeting. Even if it is cliché, participating in MUN conferences and voicing my ideas as a partner and mentor taught me to communicate more effectively.
As for Interact, I became one of the leaders in 11th grade, a year promptly interrupted by the coronavirus. However, that daunting obstacle ultimately led to one of our more prominent achievements: Heart of Stars (HOS). HOS, a yearly talent show Interact began hosting when I first joined, raised money for Heart to Heart (H2H), a charity that sponsors heart surgery for children in need. Working around the pandemic, Interact held meetings online and decided to approach HOS as a Livestream. I eventually co-hosted the event with performers across the globe, raising over 10,000 RMB for H2H.
As mentioned before, I also enjoy theater, taking part in school productions including Backstage, The Hobbit, Games that People Play, Little Shop of Horrors, As You Like It, among others. While these events acted as a counterbalance to my more academic pursuits, I would not trade the camaraderie between my cast and crewmates for anything.
How did you develop the confidence to take on the task of being the main cast member in theater productions, mentoring other students, and leading initiatives to raise money for those in need during your studies?
Simply put, my teachers, classmates, and other faculty members supported me by just being there. Their recognition of my effort and continued encouragement towards other opportunities helped me develop a sense of self-assurance in my skills and potential. Of course, there were moments of doubt, more than I care to admit, especially during the International Baccalaureate (IB). Yet, their confidence in me remained when I had none.
Who were some teachers or lecturers who provided you with support and guidance during your studies?
Mr. Simmons is the first to come to mind, my Global Politics teacher and Extended Essay (EE) supervisor. Almost as soon as I took a Global Politics class, I decided I wanted to pursue the field in college. So, Mr. Simmons’s enthusiasm for the subject and the many hours he spent assisting me during the planning and revising stages of the EE and other papers were invaluable.
My English, Mr. Dunbar, was also a great help during my IB years. At first, the increase in difficulty from 10th to 11th grade English caught me very off guard, resulting in many panicked moments during assessments. Nevertheless, Mr. Dunbar’s color-coding of literary devices and choices, unending breakdowns of text types, and dedication to reading through my sometimes questionable work helped me improve slowly but surely.
You scored a 45/45 in the IB Diploma Programme! Can you tell us more about some of your favorite classes?
Besides Global Politics, a lighthearted class despite the sometimes heavy subject matter, another one of my favorite classes is, unsurprisingly, Theatre. Though it involved the most writing, Theatre also allowed me to invent by physically moving set pieces around the stage, experimenting with light and sound, and trying unfamiliar acting styles. Truthfully, I would recommend most students take an art course, if only for the change in setting.
Also, more so than in other classes, peer feedback is crucial in Theatre, allowing me to observe my classmate’s works. From rooms adorned wall-to-wall with newspapers to red lipstick smeared across an actor’s face, I was always enthralled and inspired by their ingenuity. Ultimately, Theatre made my day more varied and motivated me to continue one-upping myself.
Upon graduating, did you feel well-equipped to take your next academic step? What inspired you to pursue a Politics BA at King’s College London?
I was apprehensive about the increased workload and difficulty of college. Yet, having undertaken the IB, in addition to my other responsibilities, I am confident in my ability to adapt to new challenges.
Regarding my choice to study politics, I look toward current events. With the ongoing pandemic and recent changes in global leadership and governance, there is much in politics I do not understand. Ironically, perhaps growing up in an international community made the idea of cultural borders foreign to me.
While UK college applications are relatively simple compared to those of other countries, my college counselors were always nearby, suggesting revisions to my writing and reminding me of deadlines.
What are the top three skills you feel you developed during your time at SCIS? How are you using these skills today as a college student?
Being organized is one skill from my formative years that has served me well in the subsequent years, allowing me to manage my academic and other responsibilities. A second skill might be perseverance, but not in the traditional sense of never giving up. Instead, I mean knowing to take breaks when even simple tasks appear overwhelming and willing yourself to continue once the worst has passed. Lastly, though I am not sure this qualifies as a skill, I learned to surround myself with caring people. Throughout my academic and personal life, I constantly cite the contributions of others. The mutual support from stable relationships, even if not all close relationships, provided me with a sense of reassurance that makes everything more manageable.
Whether I am finishing assignments on time or forming new relationships, I imagine these skills will be instrumental in maintaining a work-life balance.
What advice would you give to future SCIS students who wish to follow in your footsteps? How can they make the most of the experience?
With most things, I would recommend just going for it. Use the limited time in school where there are so many new things to experience, and it is easy to do so. Despite my relatively packed schedule until examinations neared, I sometimes wish I engaged in more activities, such as sports (which I mostly avoided beyond a brief stint in a badminton club).
Do you have any tips for our upcoming graduating students?
Stop mindlessly worrying about something you cannot change. Many of my friends were anxious about being rejected from schools or not meeting their requirements. Of course, there are actionable steps to take to reach your goal, but once you pass a certain point, worrying can do more harm than good.
Try to finish assignments on time, even if you procrastinate and the work does not meet your highest standards. Speaking from experience, not meeting deadlines causes a domino effect leading to more unfinished assignments. If you already missed a deadline, try scheduling out a weekend or sometime during a school break to get back on track.
Finally, do not blame yourself. Sometimes, an undesired outcome is inevitable. In these cases, try to learn from the experience and move on. For one school, I foolishly applied to a course I did not meet the requirements for, making my rejection feel unwarranted and preventable. Still, after some time, I chose not to dwell on the result and continued with my other applications, albeit more carefully.
- once, always