Letter to Wanbang Students
by Dr. Walters
The summer has ended. School is starting. My emotional connection to Wanbang remains strong. Miri, a senior in the Wanbang international program, visited my daughter Emma in August. We spent a fun day at the San Diego zoo. Speaking of Emma, she just left for her first year at Calvin College – now Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Emma will be studying Chinese. Her dream is to work in China as an English teacher. However, she is also entertaining the idea of working as a University recruiter or an Embassy employee. Emma’s dream was established when she studied at Wanbang in 2017.
In the United States, we use the Latin phrase “alma mater” to reference a school we have attended and that has taught us valuable information. The English translation of the phrase “alma mater” is “loving mother.” Clearly Wanbang has been and continues to be an “alma mater” to Emma, to me and to my family. Given our personal experiences, I know that over the course of this year, the Wanbang teachers and staff will be your “alma mater.” Therefore, I can with confidence say that the lessons you learn this year will impact you today and beyond. More important I know that the lessons you learn this year will help you become a person who will make our world a better place.
I believe that one of the important lessons Wanbang will teach you can be connected to the American acronym ETA. Americans use this acronym when they are trying to guess when an important person will arrive. Within the context of Wanbang, this acronym describes the steps the teachers and staff will take to nurture you into a person of impact. In other words, the type of person who makes me excited, thrilled, and honored to welcome into my home.
The ETA process starts with the letter “E” which refers to excellence. Each teacher and staff member will push you to achieve excellence. This can at times be upsetting. The extra homework assignment, the extra morning exercises, and the extra effort to be kind to and supportive of your roommates or classmates can all be overwhelming. Yet, it is the extra work that will shape you into a person who will change the world. So, I encourage you to welcome the extra. Strive to view each challenge as an opportunity to grow. Remember becoming excellent in head and heart is the greatest way to show your thankfulness to the Wanbang teachers and staff.
The idea of influencing others is connected to the letter “T” which refers to transform. We live in a time where interacting with people on an international scene is normal. We can use these interactions to get our own way or we can use these interactions to bring peace. Joy and happiness are the outcomes of peace. Helping others is the first step toward bringing about the transformation that will impact the world. Remember each teacher and staff member is committed to training you to become a leader who will influence the future in a bright and prosperous way.
Embedded within the idea of transformation is the letter “A” which refers to agile. Agile relates to being open to change. It is not change for personal excitement or wealth but rather change as a means of helping others. Please remember that each time a faculty or staff member corrects you or challenges you they are pushing you to be agile. Following your teachers’ lead will ensure you are prepared to leverage forces such as artificial intelligence rather than being left to respond in fear. Becoming an agile leader will guarantee you are prepared to make a positive impact in your city, your province, your national and our world. I can share that I look to the future with optimism because I know Wanbang is preparing you to be the next generation of wise and discerning leaders.
As I close this letter, I want to send you my blessings for this new year. If you believe, I know you will find many exciting and life-changing opportunities this school year. Listen to your teachers. Embrace their wisdom. Finally, seek to fulfill their vision for you. Trust your “alma mater” as they use ETA to teach you each and every day. You will feel the impact today and throughout the rest of your life. Enjoy the journey.
Yunji Lee(12th grade)
Throughout three years in SAP, we have been guided by the people sitting near, right behind you, as always. Looking back on my time here, there were all types of guidance from them, our teachers.
I still remember Mr. Yun coming every break time to wake us SAP 10, the people who were the youngest but who loved to sleep the most, and leading wake-up exercise. I thought I was back at Kindergarten.
During SAP 11, there were bunch of assignments to find “who I am,” and “what I like.” There was an assignment to find three adjectives that describes me and to present it in creative ways. I thought it was a waste of time, because I wanted to start my college research. But, I decided to work on it wholeheartedly, and thank you Ms. Sarah, I didn’t know then that it would help me show myself so much during college interviews and my personal essay.
And finally, during SAP 12, we are guided even further to jump out of Wanbang, and to take the first big step away from adults’ protection, but still under their guidance.
Through all the guidance, we begin to find that the guides here are somehow different. They want us to be honest in any situation. They want us to stand up by ourselves when we fall down. Just think about it, who says “I’ll let you drown” to the poor students who are worried about all those college applications and AP courses scheduled at the same time? Only Mr. David would. But through it all, I realized that they wanted to give us something that was “best for me,” and not simply “the best.”
Because, these guides are different and unique, do we feel just wonderful and admire it? No. We doubt it. And I doubted it too because the guidance I received seemed so different from what other students like us received anywhere else. It definitely wasn’t easy to believe and follow something so different and so abnormal while there were other guidelines out there, that were regarded to be “right.”
The guidance in Wanbang and in SAP tells us to keep our values and mottos with us anytime and anywhere, no matter what happens to us. Sometimes, I didn’t like this. Because many times, what I really wanted didn’t always match with the school’s values. Many times, it seemed like it was better not to follow the values because it felt like a waste of time and cost, and at times this was true.
But, because I was in Wanbang, I trained and learned to eventually hold onto the school’s and my personal values through the hundreds of choices and decisions I made - from small actions to big choices, such as college. And as I leave here (finally!), I realize how thankful it is to be able to leave this school as a grown-up individual who is able to make decisions consistent with my values.
Imagining myself in the future, walking step by step consistently within my value, I’m already proud of myself, and I know that I couldn’t have felt this if I wasn’t guided by my teachers.
So trust me (sorry to tell you to believe me when I myself struggled to believe, but I know that to you right now, we, the graduates, seem more believable than those people in the back. So again, trust me). Those of you who have been skeptical of what is happening here at Wanbang and in SAP, start believing and trusting this place. A school that will push you and guide you towards what not just the best, but what is truly best for you.
Sunyoung Park(12th grade)
Dearly beloved, teachers, friends, and fellow juniors and sophomores! Thank you all for being here today, and I must say that it’s such an honor for me to stand here and deliver a speech. Since this is the first time for me to graduate a high school, please understand if I get too nervous and start to stutter in the middle, or even suffer a heart attack.
Today, I’m going to share a story, and this is not going to be any kind of advice regarding academics or college application. If you need help in this kind of aspect, don’t ask me – just go ask teachers. I guarantee that they will give better advices than I could ever make.
Anyways, it was a hot summer day, and I was sitting in front of a fourth grade boy. He was crying because one of the classmates told him not to eat popcorn, which was supposed to be shared with everyone. He sat by the corner, and with eyes full of tears, told me that he wanted to go back home. I sat in front of him, gently held his hands, and tried my whole best to make him smile again. I told him how happy I am to be with him, and how it means a lot for me to have him in the class. By the time I saw a small smile on his face, I knew that this is why I’m here for: to be with him in this moment.
Now you might wonder what on earth this story has to do with this commemoration. Don’t worry – I’ll explain.
This story is an example of moments that are unforgettable for me. They are unforgettable because they mean a lot to me, and they are meaningful because I was profoundly engaged in all those moments. I personally have dozens of these kind of moments throughout my life in Wanbang, and these scenes created one story of myself as a high school student. And I know for sure that this story will endure time, stay in my heart, and give me joy and purpose whenever I look back.
Being wholehearted means to be authentic. It also means to be who you are and give everything you have no matter how good or bad the situation. And I believe this is the key to collect special moments hidden in our life. True. Being wholehearted can be lonely sometimes. There will be times that you might feel that you are not receiving back as much as you poured out. You might doubt yourself when nobody acknowledges your genuine love and passion for things that you believe is precious. Yet, you should remember: just because you don’t get rewarded, just because there is no one giving applauses, it does not mean that your efforts and passion were worthless.
I’m here today to encourage you to embrace the risk and have courage to be wholehearted. I want you to be brave enough to love someone with your whole heart, pour all your effort to whichever subject you are studying, and trust your teachers and don’t be afraid to follow their guide. When you participate in any kind of activities, and even when you say “hi” to someone on the hallway, be who you are, and share your genuine heart with those next to you. And I wish that from those events, you will find your moment that could touch your heart, and ultimately become part of your story that you will never forget.
When you truly engage into your life, you’ll understand how wonderful it is to see a child’s smile, how grateful to have a teacher telling you to go eat dinner, and how it is like a miracle to have a community that you belong and have friends to walk with.
Thus it is my only hope for you to cherish all the moments you live and discover those scenes waiting for you. When you find those moments, don’t hesitate to love them. The more you do, the more you care, the more your story becomes special and meaningful to you.
The majestic first image of the black hole by the Event Horizon Telescope project was released and viewed by millions this past week. The Event Horizon Telescope project involved hundreds of scientists around the world and had to utilized a global network of radio telescopes to be possible. It was an astonishing achievement accomplished by the development of modern technology to track and observe the black hole (roughly the size of a quarter on the moon seen from Earth). But in the most ironic way, this dreamy image would not have been possible without the help of traditional technology like the computer hard drives since the five petabytes of data gathered from the telescopes would have taken years to travel through the internet.
The use of typical hard drives in achieving the scientific breakthrough of imagining a blackhole came at an interesting point in time, when the reliance and increasingly faster shifts towards newer and better technology is observed throughout the world. New phones, computers and technology is annually released and continue to attract people’s interest under the claim of being modern. In most cases, newer does mean better and should be embraced; however, when it comes to raising a child and educating them, newer isn’t always better.
At Wanbang, we base our way of nurturing our students on traditional values and methodologies. As an example, our school’s motto, “Diligence, Honesty and Loving Others” are at the core of each lesson and interaction teachers have with students and are taught not by the latest technology but through the time and effort of our teachers modeling them for the students. Instead of FaceTiming with students after class, our teachers spend face to face time eating, playing and teaching. Instead of focusing on instant gratification, our teachers encourage and guide students to achieve long term goals and build their confidence throughout the process. With this traditional values and teaching methods as our foundation, we begin implementing new methodology by offering computer classes, utilizing newer class models like flipped classrooms and incorporating the newest pedagogical methods suggested by neuroscience research in our daily classes. Ultimately, it is when the values we believe to be true are the focus of our education and the latest methodology and technology merely a supporting tool that we are able to nurture our students to be astonishing and accomplished - just like image of the black hole.
The ‘6th National Arts Festival’ was hosted at Suzhou this year and was held from April 15 to 21. The arts festival also known as “Youth Olympics for the Arts” is held every three years and is the biggest art festival for Chinese teenagers with more than 10,000 final contestants participating throughout the six-day event. In the past two festivals, our Wanbang School Choir received the honor of 1st place both in 2013 and 2016. This year, performing on live TV broadcasted throughout China, our choir team once again won the honor of 1st place for their choir performance. Moreover, the choir team was invited to perform at the closing ceremony, a stage reserved only for the top of the 10,000 performers from the festival.
It is with great honor that I am here to represent the class of 2020. I’m Kyu Choi, and today, on behalf of our class, I would like to extend my gratitude to all teachers, parents, siblings, and friends.
Time flies. I still recall the first day when I came to Wanbang, confusedly staring at strangers who were madly dancing to the . It was a total culture shock for me, not only because of the dance moves themselves, but because it was actually the first time I saw such genuine smiles all around me in my lifetime. However, in just a single year later, I found myself also perfectly possessed in other quirky dance moves but more importantly the smile full of joy, which would have been equally shocking to the new students we welcomed.
Already four years has since passed, now I stand here with an opportunity to share and sum up my and our journey at Wanbang as we also look forward to a new start in college.
When I started preparing for this speech, I first asked myself, ‘what is the biggest lesson I take from our school?’ While there were many competitive candidates, my final answer to the question was ‘service,’ more familiarly, 헌신. And to elaborate, I would like to share a personal anecdote of mine.
My second semester at Wanbang was when I wasn’t perfectly settled yet. I wasn’t sure why I was here, nor what will I become after four years at this place. Perhaps it was because of my insecurities but that winter, I caught a very bad cold. I had severe headaches and the thermometer was stuck around 40 degrees. Lying down powerlessly on my bed, a teacher came and started to wipe my body with a wet towel. As my body temperature slowly fell, I was finally able to fall asleep. I woke up after an hour, and to my surprise he was still there. After two, three hours, and even until it was 6 o'clock in the morning, he was still there to check if I was ok. That morning, he came back to school exactly after an hour and started his work as if nothing had happened. That was the moment I first realized the profoundness of Wanbang teachers’ convictions to serve students, to change the next generations, and to really make multicultural global servant leaders.
There are numerous more examples. I see teachers flying to everywhere in the world to help students to take a better next step, and especially when each application cycle starts, I see our school’s counseling team struggling with sleepless nights for each student’s application. However, these are only macroscopic. There must have been so many people’s service for our success that I wasn’t able to detect. Just as a duck needs to have tremendous kicks underneath the water to swim gracefully, we were only able to continue to grow and succeed, because of countless kicks done by the teachers. And these examples that the teachers set up moved me and us graduates to do the same.
With the guidance and help of my teachers, I am heading to the finest university I can ever go to. But I don't go there for success. I go there to serve. I head to the university in the sincere faith of believing that the greatest among us was here to serve and that I too will be a servant.
Teachers, thank you very much and think you very much.
You are our shepherds. We are your disciples. And Yes, We are a family.
SAP 10 Ivy Chun
The story begins with the warning from a character named Moishe, who stated that he escaped from the cruel concentration camp. Even though he claimed people need to leave their homes right away to be safe, people did not listen to him. Soon after, Nazis herded out the Jews along with Elie, the main character, and the nightmarish journey ensues. People including Elie arrived at Auschwitz and they eventually arrived in Buna, a work camp. There, anyone who was weakened were put to death. Anyone who resisted were put to death. Anyone who had failed to survive with only one piece of bread a day were put to death. All in one, most of the Jews became inhuman to avoid their inevitable death and the main character, Elie has to suffer all of the crisis to survive.
After reading this book, the first biggest message I learned was that silence can bring harm to many. Elie Wiesel stated, “What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.” Even though silence is something that should not be kept, unfortunately, in the story, silence was chosen among the people and it further exacerbated more people’s life. To be specific, with the increase of Anti-Semitism there was a pervasive decimation of the Jews with impermissible defamation of character. Surprisingly, what the whole society chose to do was remain silent about it all. While there was no action to fix the problem, a countless people faced a deep dark night which was an unprecedented terrible pain caused by silence. By reading this book, I now know that there is always a possibility of this great night or even smaller injustices in the future unless people desire the right things by raising their voice and breaking the silence.
Furthermore, the forgotten gratitude in my fast-paced semester could be unearthed after reading this book. “When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity,” the author states, “a person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.” I absolutely agree that attitude toward gratitude can define a person as it is really important. However, I also admit that so far, I have complained a lot. In retrospect, the Jews during the Holocaust period had literally nothing. They had no house, no family, no freedom and no foods. These to me are too basic to make me grateful. However, because of the lack of these fundamental things, people in Auschwitz deserted their morality and even discarded their parents to have one more piece of bread. The inhuman circumstances resulted in inhuman behaviors. In light of this story, when I looked upon my own life it was full of not only the fundamental things but also love. A piece of bread is not important in my life because there are enough food for me to eat. Instead I was also blessed with the comfort of dealing with a flow of thoughts on morality due to the endless perseverance, guidance and care of the teachers, not to mention the freedom I have to experience diverse opportunities. Nevertheless, I sought for more things for my own growing greed. For most of the time, I was in the midst of complaints, trying to get the things that were not provided to me. When in fact, I already possessed numerous things that satisfied all of the criteria for happiness.
Night. The word that used to mean tranquility now is a word that reminds me of the attitude to seek for the right thing and gratitude. Although it is a word that expresses a miserable history in the past rather than stopping there, I wish to use it to remember the lessons that I learned from the long, nightmarish journey so I can help create a better influence for our future.
"Make It Start"
I hated myself the most.
But I was the only one I have.
Cold nights covered me with dust.
I don’t even know am I brave.
But you make me move.
To me, you are the sun.
Because of you, I can love.
To you, I’m just a moon.
On a dark night when the sun and moon were hard,
The tingling of my heart,
On a dark night still, you are the only one in the world,
Maybe it is a new start.
If someone said
You’re covered in scars.
It's all my sign of stars.
Michael Joo (11th grade)
“…as Joe and Biddy became more at their cheerful ease again, I become quite gloomy. Dissatisfied with my fortune, of course, I could not be, but it is possible that I may have been, without quite knowing dissatisfied with myself.”
This is one of the quotes that stimulated Pip’s ambition: his abhorrence of himself and the desire of reputation.
My ambition also started similarly. My family or friends who were talking about my shortcomings have always stimulated me to achieve more, gain recognition and no longer hear these words again. I wanted to show them my potential and aptness. I’m sure everyone has ambitions, which can be both an impulse towards success, but also a driving force to failure. As for myself, I regard my ambition as a diving force to failure. I regard it as an ardent desire for rank, fame or power. For instance, I always have to get a reward in any extracurricular activities that I participate in. Whenever I register for an activity, I start only with the feelings of great excitement and anticipation. However, as the competition approaches, my ambition to get a reward and to do better than others, which is settled deep inside my heart, starts to grow. And after competitions where I failed to get a reward, my conflicting emotions start to flush out of my mouth. This kind of ambition not only impeded my growth but also gave a negative influence on my surroundings. For example, Pip’s life completely collapsed. But with me perceiving this issue earlier than Pip, I know that if I don’t solve this egocentric problem now, it can and will only get worse. Thus, in order to diminish this problem, I began contemplating my perception of extracurricular activities and also stopped having the mindset of wanting to be better than others. I began reconsidering the reason why I attend competitions.
Is it for brightening my resume, or is it for my personal growth? After reflecting, I realized that every time I attend a competition, no matter what the result, I always have learned something precious through it. The result of the competitions gave just a momentary happiness, but the process and experiences were lifelong lessons. Some examples of how I grew are seen in the progress in my English proficiency, the significance of teamwork to me and a trivial but a closer step towards achieving my vision. And this is now the reason why I participate in competitions. I want to develop myself through it. I would not let my ambition outweigh my reasons for participating in competitions, since it just drives me away from my original purpose of participating. Once my ambition takes over my reason for participating, I won’t have the opportunity to learn through it but be overwhelmed with greed.
While reading this book, I learned that people shouldn’t live base on their ambition. When we think that ambition is controlling us, we should struggle to escape from it or seek support from others to break away from it. Because excessive ambition will eventually lead to an irreversible tragedy. As closure, I would like to share a quote that captures my lesson from this book with everyone.
“Ambition is not itself an evil: nor is he to be condemned whose spirit prompts him to seek fame by worthy and honorable ways”
– Francesco Guicciardini.
Please remember that we all could have ambition, but we should never let ambition have authority over us.
The Right Mirror
We are now Juniors, but we were all once in CSL like you guys. In the process of training in Wanbang, we were able to see our true selves through many mirrors.
The Mirror of Responsibility
CSL was the time we were introduced to new mirrors we had never seen before when we were in Korea. The most important mirror we learned to appreciate was the mirror of responsibility.
Everyone has a responsibility to be a servant leader in our community. At first, we were really shocked to see students clean the classroom, only because they loved their peers and felt the responsibility to provide them a clean environment to study. These acts of students became the mirror of responsibility that everybody in the class soon could see their reflections on. One by one, students began carrying out their responsibility and soon we were all one step closer to being servant leaders in our classroom.
The Mirror of Study
There were many times that we thought we had studied really hard, but our scores remained the same or our passion to study didn’t last really long. Do you know why? It is because we were pretending to study, in other words, we were studying for high scores - even studying just to score higher than a certain person. However, through PBL, campaign fairs, and Solomon Project, we were able to look into another mirror, the mirror of study, to help us realize that we should study not for college or comparisons but to improve ourselves and to complete our duty as students. Through studies, we also acquired new knowledge and was able to expand our understandings about our own passion or dream.
Mirror in Relationship
For young teenagers, there are so many times that we choose to use how others view us as the mirror that defines ourselves. However, in that mirror, our flaws are always badly exaggerated. Focusing on the mirror of others, we even started to deny our positive qualities and lost confidence in our daily lives. Finally, with the help of caring teachers, friends and genuine room leaders, we realized that we had been looking into the wrong mirror. In the end, we learned that the true mirror we need to see ourselves in is through the mirror of the perfect love. People’s words are worth considering, but they are not everything.
We can see that the training we are completing here at Wanbang all strengthens this “mirror of the perfect love”. Our dear friends and dorm family, we hope that you will explore many more different kinds of mirrors like the mirror of responsibility and the mirror of study, but most of all the mirror of the perfect love.