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.
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.
We can’t avoid slumps in our lives. However, for some people, the difficulties can be more frequent than others, and usually we call them ‘unlucky people’. The book Holes is a story about an unlucky boy—Stanley Yelnats, who was innocent but falsely charged for stealing sneakers and forced to join Green Lake camp— a detention center where they made the delinquents dig holes in a desert. Because of Stanley’s bad luck, many poor and unfair situations happen at the camp, but at the end of the story Stanley finds happiness.
Many things happen in this book and most of the situations Stanley faces are unfair, but they are also critical. The scene that left the deepest impression on me was when Stanley taught Zero, his illiterate friend at Green Lake Camp, how to write the alphabet and when Zero helped Stanley dig a hole. At first, Zero was a boy who only knew how to speak, but one day when Stanley was reading his mother’s letter, Zero approached Stanley and asked if he could teach him to read. Stanley refused at first since he was so tired and the time Stanley would have to teach Zero was his only break time to recover and recharge his energy to dig holes the next day. Zero’s request was too heavy for him. When Stanley tried to refuse Zero’s request, Zero came out with a new suggestion: Zero would help Stanley dig holes and Stanley would teach Zero the alphabet. Stanley accepted Zero’s deal. Despite receiving resentment from others, they continued to help and comfort each other. From this moment, I found that helping each other and having cooperation can help us overcome “unluckiness”. This life lesson can be applied to my life. For example, we have study groups in Wanbang which are small groups where students gather together and share what they learn. We not only can learn what we’ve lost during the class but we also share our knowledge. We understand that this is a way to overcome the limitation of knowledge by a single person. Therefore, cooperating habits can make us both proud and pleased and help us overcome “unluckiness” or other negative factors.
I was also deeply impressed when Stanley was finally freed from Green Lake camp. In my view, he was able to be freed because of his justice. Throughout the whole story, Stanley always did the right thing no matter how risky it was for him. He was a boy who risked himself to help others and finally received the reward of his actions. Justice brought good luck to the unlucky Stanley. We can find many moments in the story that show Stanley’s justice. He risked himself to find lost Zero, he always said the truth and patiently waited until others realized the truth, even when they teased him. If I was in his situation, it would be really hard for me to be truthful and just, especially if I had to risk something. However, the honest and kind Stanley was able to boldly dedicate himself to his values and cope with his difficulties. He is a consistent boy and his kindness brought everyone happiness and gave a positive influence. I decided to be honest and just consistently like Stanley, even when it has a risk.
Overall, I enjoyed this book very much. This book was my first English book that I completed in middle school, and it captivated my attention with many interesting and fun scenes. Not only was the book interesting, but it also taught me an important life lesson. I am often pessimistic about my life, especially when I’m unjustly misunderstood by other people, or unluckily fail to do something I really put an effort on doing. However, after I read Holes, I found that a mindset like Stanley can help us find true happiness even in an unlucky life through cooperation and being just. These kinds of happiness aren’t easy to find, but as long as we find them and remember them, we can be positive and happy.
After reading ‘The Hobbit’
Celine Myoung(10th grade)
In the beginning of the book, Bilbo Baggins, the main character, was very unambitious and preferred his comfortable life at home. To be honest, I, myself, have also felt the same thing as Bilbo. Since I was young, I secured myself in a state which I was familiar with. I locked up my school life, habits, current situation, etc. and I never dared to do something new because I was afraid of failing and losing. I could whole-heartedly understand Bilbo when he refused to leave his home to go on an adventure, because I sympathized with his comfort of being stable and safe. However, it was not when Bilbo was safe and sound in his own hobbit-house that he was able learn something, but it was when he was out on the adventure and when he was in the middle of dangers that he was able to grow. When I read this part, I learned that in order to reach or achieve something, I must not be afraid. Also, when I take a step out of my comfort zone, I gain the opportunity to become a better person. So from now on, I made a decision to not to be too comfortable or satisfied, but instead to be ambitious and have courage throughout my life.
Also, in the book, Bilbo becomes afraid and anxious when Gandalf tells Bilbo that he would be leaving their expedition a while. Gandalf was the only mighty one among them that had the ability to save them from various dangers. I also had a similar experience with Bilbo. When I was young, I had numerous troubles with my classmates. My mom helped me to deal with these problems, and thanks to her, I was able to work the whole thing out. But suddenly one day, my mom declared that she would not help me anymore, since I had already grown up and should learn how to make relationships independently. That’s when I started to be nervous and fearful. I had a hard time socializing and making relationship with friends for a while. I blamed my mom for abandoning me in the difficult times and doubted if she even cared for me. But through this book, I could make sense of why she left me on my own - she wanted me to get through the difficulties without her protection and help. Similarly, I believe that the reason why Bilbo could gain so many valuable lessons and new traits during his adventure was because Gandalf left their expedition for a while. Now, I am very grateful to my mom in that she let me face the difficulties on my own. I believe that’s how I could become better at making relationships. I decided to be thankful whenever I face difficulties without protection or guardians to help me because it can be a great opportunity for me to learn and develop. Even now, I am facing thousands of new challenges every day. Since I know that these challenges and hard times will be stepping stones to success, I am determined to accept them and deal with them with my full effort.
Lastly, this book made me think about the true definition of "friendship”. Before I read this book, I always thought that friends must be loyal to each other and never anger one another. However, this book told me that this isn’t always the case. For instance, when Thorin was obsessed with the treasures he regained, Bilbo was worried about him. And although Thorin longed to find the Arkenstone in the piles of his treasures, Bilbo didn’t give it to him, and instead handed it to Bard in order to help them both. When Thorin found out about the Arkenstone, he was furious and thought Bilbo was a traitor, but Bilbo gave up the stone because he was whole-heartedly concerned about Thorin. Sometimes, these kinds of things happen in my life as well. Until I read this book, I thought my “friends” were not really my friends because they were not on my side. Looking back, I feel embarrassed and grateful to them for stopping me from improper actions. I realized that my friends here in Wanbang School are my true friends. I decided that if they try to help me, I will be thankful to them, although their help might not look like they are being loyal to me.
The book, ‘The Hobbit’, is filled with many great lessons. Through this book, I learned that I shouldn’t be afraid of trying something new, true development happens when I face difficulties on my own, and that real friends act according to the best decisions that fit one another. I think I could accept these lessons sincerely because I could understand and connect with the characters in the book. I decided that I should not stay miserable thinking that I am not good enough, but always try to overcome just like the characters in this book did.
Don’t limit yourself, but believe in yourself.
I’m Kyu Choi from Harbin Wanbang international school, who was the CEO of the company ARES. Throughout the competition, each team has shared its blood, tears, and sweat together. Especially as a foreigner, I was deeply honored to see the efforts of prospective leaders of China.
Before I begin my actual speech, I would like to introduce an interesting tale. Do you know how a trainer tame elephants? Do elephants not have the power to unbind themselves from a chain?
Indeed, they do. However, the reason why they can’t break the restraint is because they don’t try anymore.
Since their youth period, elephants are bound to a shackle. They try their best to break the chain; however, it doesn’t work, and they would say, “Man, I can never break this thing.”
After this moment, they give up. And the elephants never try again.
Some of you might feel confused, thinking, “Why this dude is talking about elephants in a business competition?” But what I feel like is, these elephants are just like us.
When we were young, we didn’t really care about what others say. Everyone has once dreamed of something great, and we believed that we could achieve it. However, as the time passed, we met obstacles, we met critics, and we reduced our dreams to nothing. We compromised. We limited ourselves.
A famous businesswoman, Mary Kay Ash has once said, “You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve.”
We should never limit ourselves. What we believe is something we can achieve.
But, I’m here to tell you that mere belief is not the key. What we really need to hold is the earnest belief and vivid vision, because we all have purposes and missions to complete. And I tell you that after I realized I can do anything through my earnest belief, my life changed dramatically. Opportunities came to me: the opportunity to study, opportunity to learn in China, opportunity to be here. I observed so many miracles in my life. And today, I genuinely believe that one day a student from this competition will change the world; and I wish, all of you do, too.
As we close the conference, I would like to invite you to take my offer. My offer is that all of you should not limit yourselves. Then, your leadership, relationship, and even your life will then be drastically changed.