Creating a string of useful habits

Kyu Bak preparing a presentation for the Global Issues Network Conference

Kyu Bak preparing a presentation for the Global Issues Network Conference

Post contributed by Kyu Bak Lee

I am a Korean national who grew up in Thailand. During my time in Thailand, I attended an international school that largely followed the British model. So, one can say that I saw the meaning of the word “education” being used and explained in many different ways. For the most part, due to my exposure to three different “worlds” (in a nutshell) from such a young age, my immediate answer to the question of ‘what makes a good education’ would differ tremendously in different cultures. However, now that I have gone through the likes of university, first job and now at a point where I can safely say that I have a career ahead of me, I have yearned for the ‘simple’ things in life.

A good education provides a student with a clear definition of what they are studying. Having a clear understanding of what they are studying provides not only guidance but fosters curiosity. Being curious is, and always will be, the pillar of human innovation.

A good education encourages the student to ask why and how.

A good education shows the student real-life case studies of what they have studied, so that they understand from the beginning that there are external and indirect factors that need to be considered.

A good education provides questions, discussions and potential scenarios for the student to show their understanding, and their ability to apply their knowledge.

A good education provides feedback that opens up a dialogue to foster more discussion with the interested parties.

Kyu Bak and Nics, a great Head Boy and Head Girl team - student leaders

Kyu Bak and Nics, a great Head Boy and Head Girl team – student leaders

I believe my time in University had the most profound impact on my life. You are at a place where everyone was a star pupil in their high school, the quarterback, the debate champion, the community leader, the superman of their respective school and organization. It was a place where I knew I had to challenge myself constantly. Not only that, but the responsibility that life threw me during my days as a university student was also a great lesson for me. From having your teachers, parents and friends help you one way or another to having nobody in a foreign land and culture put me on survival mode 101. I was excited to see myself change and adapt and I also learned to be appreciative of the people that I have in my life. I saw a new me that was scared, excited, sad and jubilant. Some turbulent times that proved that without education, there really is no basis in life that you can turn to. Another thing that I want to mention here is to look at “failures” differently. A profile in failure is as important, or even more so, than a profile in success. Failure should be welcomed if you want to better and further yourself in any given situation.

In Europe at the Global Issues Network Conference with friends

In Europe at the Global Issues Network Conference with friends

So far, my greatest achievement that I have experienced thus far is surrounding myself with awesome people. I have always believed in the power of storytelling and discussions. If you are able to surround yourself with people that not only carry different experiences but also are able to effectively communicate that with you, then you have all the tools you need to succeed. Human beings have always seen each other as part of a collective unit; part of something much larger than them. It only makes sense that we are able to draw out the best of ourselves through the collective help of people and their diverse and dynamic experiences. Finding the “right” group is always hard and I am not saying that it will always come naturally, but how do you know what works for you and what doesn’t from the beginning? You always need to fail, to succeed and to achieve.

DSCF5347

My next challenge is to push myself and become the owner of my own business. One of the things that I learned about myself in university was that I liked the responsibilities, I liked the leadership, and I liked the fast pace and ever changing environment that I found myself in. This all pointed to one thing, and that was entrepreneurship. I tested myself with a few serious projects here and there during my time in university, but those all failed. They were absolutely fun and enriching, but they all went up in flames. The failures only cemented my view that I would need to be my own boss and it only made me content that I was fortunate enough to do what I wanted and fail at it, and be okay.

Being reflective

Being reflective

I would like to share what I wish I had heard when I was a student at school; which is “to create a string of useful habits from a young age.”

Get in to a habit of carrying a small notepad around to write down your thoughts and opinion at any given time. In this day and age, it could be an app on your mobile device, but I like my piece of paper and a pencil. People could argue that they have diaries that they keep but having to recollect your feelings and ideas at the end of the day is a daunting task. So, why not keep it simple by writing it down throughout your day? By doing this, you will find your own efficient way of note-taking and drawing diagrams that you can always go back to and reflect on your days, weeks and years.

Get into a habit of reading. Whether they are books, magazines or online articles; find your interest and passion, and read about them and other people’s, take them on to help you gain an all-round understanding of your interests and passions. This will not only put you closer to your interests, but it will also surprise you as it will expose you to thoughts and ideas that you would not be able to generate on your own.

Get into a habit of playing sports. Playing sports is a great way to make new friends and to learn more about yourself as well. How are you different to playing team games to individual sports? What is it that gets you motivated? Was it the spirit of competition and sportsmanship? Was it the chance to win something? If you play sports, you will always learn more about yourself.

Get into a habit of joining social clubs. If you are a part of a club, then you start experiencing different responsibilities that will be different to finishing your group project, or your homework or your class presentation. It gives you a glimpse of life outside of school that we all need to prepare for.

 

Was it worth the wait?

What a day...

What a day…

Good things come to those that wait…

Plastic bags in between double layers of socks, thermos flasks filled and rations packed away, we are all ready for a full day of family sledging for the first time. There can’t be many better days than this…

The snowman is still there!

The snowman is still there!

I think Jonah’s reflection on the day sums it up:

Snow, snow, snow

I just can’t believe it’s snowed when I’ve been in England for just six weeks! I LOVE SNOW! (well nearly everything about snow) I made two snowmen with my dad. The big one is Sniggles and the child is Snuggles. I said “The snowmen are at a pub drinking beer.” because Sniggles was holding a can of Guinness beer. 

Advice from two older generations of sledgers - who to listen to?

Advice from two older generations of sledgers – who to listen to?

I'm just going to go for it!

 

It was also fun going sledging at the countryside in a field. I had the speed record and the longest distance record.

Why is the sand white mummy?

Why is the sand white mummy?

Don’t worry, I made loads of snow angels and I think the first one I made was the best. We didn’t do many snowball fights.

snow2

There’s nothing but my iPad and Yellow Ted that will stop me from playing with snow.

You can follow Jonah’s blog here.

We were so lucky to experience snow during our visit to Derbyshire two days after Christmas.  It didn’t snow at all in the north west where we are living now and apparently, as I have fed back to colleagues back at work our Christmas highlights, it very rarely does along the Fylde coast – once in the last four years.  I have also realised that there are no slopes or hills for us to access by foot if by some miracle it did snow. Although I am considering an alpine dash up the M6 to the Lake District for some extreme sledging if the conditions and timings are right!  Realistically, it could be some time before we have a day like this again but I think that is what makes them extra special and a must for taking full advantage of.

What will you achieve in 2015?

Public speaking

Public speaking

As we begin 2015 I thought it might be interesting to reflect on the the Global Citizenship Award website and to review some of the statistics so far.  I would like to thank everyone who has followed the development of the site and award over the last six months and especially to all those people who have contributed, commented and (especially) achieved their award – 9 amazing global citizens so far.  I am sure that there will be many more in 2015.

Patrick and a piano

Patrick and a piano

A London underground train holds 1,200 people. The GC Award website was viewed about 7,850 times in 2014. If it were a London underground train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.  The busiest day of the year was November 11th with 328 views.

The most popular post / blog was: One Man and a Piano.  This post was inspired by a talented young man, called Patrick, who we met at Heathrow Airport back in November.  He was playing one of those stand alone pianos and instantly caught the imagination of my two oldest kids.

A Christmas Gift

A Christmas Gift

The next four most popular posts in order were:

2. Thailand Reflections

3. The Rice Challenge – A Scottish Perspective

4.  A Christmas Gift

5.  Congratulations to Karen Partyka on achieving the Global Citizenship Award

 

Where are you reading about the GC Award?

Where are you reading about the GC Award?

 

People who have viewed the GC Award website are from 101 different countries; with the UK, Thailand, US, Australia and Brazil the top five countries that have made the most views.

The New Year has arrived and what better time than to make new targets and to challenge yourself to bigger and better things through learning and reflective practice.

Personal target setting

Personal target setting

The GC Award team would love to hear from you and will monitor and celebrate your progress as we bring new ideas and developments together through a global citizenship approach to education. Remember you can choose to submit all 16 Identities together once completed (see these Global Ambassadors for example) or submit them one at a time as individual reflections / posts (see this post by Manoj on service learning).  You can submit your post / reflection/s here.

We will always give individual constructive feedback and can guarantee that your achievements and experiences are inspiring others elsewhere around the world at the same time helping you to build a digital portfolio of personal achievement through global citizenship learning – something you will always have and use in the future.  Don’t let those amazing opportunities and experiences be wasted.  2015 is your year – go grab it!

Good things come to those who wait

Will they ever get used?

Will they ever get used?

When deciding on our next family adventure and weighing up the options, the children’s opinions obviously always mattered and were going to play a big part in our decision making. When going to the UK became a serious option it was obvious that this was a popular choice for both my two oldest kids for a number of reasons and top of that list of reasons was that they really wanted to see, feel and enjoy snow.  For the last 2 months I have been telling them both that snow is unlikely and that it may only happen once a year if that.  They all got a plastic sledge each from Santa (grandma) for Christmas, wrapped up in black bin bags (Santa doesn’t seem to do large wrapping paper?), and momentarily used on the living room floor as they tried to imagine what it would be like to use them but not knowing when.  Little did we all know that they would be in full action less than from 48 hours from then.

It's real snow!

It’s real snow!

We were driving back from the sales as the light was fading late on the 26th. In the car headlights large flakes of snow began to glide through the beams and we all shouted out that it was snowing!  It got denser as we drove home, a lot like going into ‘hyper-drive‘ on the Millennium Falcon (apparently).  The kids were desperate to get outside and to feel the snow and as soon as we parked up the car they pulled on their winter coats and dived into grandma’s backyard to adsorb the new experience.

One happy snowman

One happy snowman

I explained to the kids (and my wife, who was just as excited) that the snow may not last for long and can soon thaw and turn to a brown slush, especially if it rains overnight. Even though it was now night time we decided to make the most of the opportunity and had our first family snowball fight, making sure a few snowballs also found their way through grandma’s front door at the same time!  The snow was settling and the conditions perfect to build a snowman.  I showed Jonah how to start with a small lump of snow at the top of the road and then roll it down the hill, “this is perfect rolling snow Jonah” – constantly flipping it over as it increased in size and trying to maintain a rounded shape.  I worked on his body and Jonah made his first ever snowman head.  We added some small stones for eyes, his mouth and buttons, and of course gave him a carrot for his nose.  The garden bush was hacked for some arms and a forgiving grandma donated an old scarf and hat for him to wear. The finishing touch was an empty can of Guinness which had helped keep dad warm through the activity and we both thought the snowman would appreciate (the idea of) it – hence his larger than life smile, he had waited a long time.

Even a snowman needs a friend

Even a snowman needs a friend

Before going back indoors and facing the not so pleasurable new experience of very cold toes and feet meeting a hot steaming bath, we decided to leave the snowman with a small friend to keep him company throughout the night.  Pleased with our spontaneous fun and achievements in the snow, we looked forward to a content sleep – the type you always seem to have after being active outdoors and in challenging weather conditions.  The only concern on the kid’s minds was if the snowmen would still be there in the morning.  They peeked out of the upstairs bedroom window every time they passed it informing the household “the snowmen are still there!

They're still there dad!

They’re still there dad!

Is there anything better than waking up to find the world covered in a crisp blanket of dazzling snow with clear blue skies and a sparkling winter sun?  Seeing your two special snowmen friends smiling up at you and coaxing you out to play?  Knowing there are three brand new shiny plastic sledges in the shed that are going to be christened today?  Plastic bags in between double layers of socks, thermos flasks filled and rations packed away, we are all ready for a full day of family sledging for the first time. There can’t be many better days than this, they are definitely worth the wait.

A Christmas Gift

waiting

waiting

A picture tells a thousand words.

It is never easy being away from loved ones, especially when unexpected and for reasons that seem unfair.  It makes you think how many thousands and probably millions of families will not be together around the world this Christmas.  Some possibly never reunited again for reasons out of their control.

airport hugs

airport hugs

One of my colleagues took an assembly yesterday and reminisced about his outlook on Christmas as a young man (many) years ago.  It was a touching story that was based around the fact his father for 12 years always invited an elderly, widowed neighbour around for Christmas Day.  He and his brother resented this as they always missed out on watching the Christmas movie they had looked forward to for weeks since scanning through the Radio Times delivered at the start of December – the example given on this occasion being the Star Wars movie: The Empire Strikes Back.  When this elderly lady died their father was left a letter in her will acknowledging the kindness and importance of that one day of each year to her. For 12 years – the thing she had most looked forward to was being with his wife and children and spending time with them on Christmas Day.  My colleague concluded his assembly by telling our Year 7, 8 and 9 students that that message had totally changed his outlook on Christmas and what a real gift should be all about at this time of the year.

 

When 1000 pieces all come together

1000 piece festive jigsaw - who would do that?

1000 piece festive jigsaw – who would do that?

Jigsaws were not at the top of my ‘must do activity list’ on returning back to the UK. Mother has always insisted on a family jigsaw around Christmas time and for some reason brought one up with her when visiting our new house last month.  I did have to question why she thought it a necessity to pack a jigsaw, and the specially tailored homemade plywood board for doing jigsaws on, and impose it on us when we are just settling in to a new routine and way of life and trying really hard to de-clutter.  I acknowledged it and quickly tucked it to one side in the back room with other boxes and items that could be forgotten about for the time being.

A long way still to go...

A long way still to go…

The festive jigsaw didn’t stay tucked away for long though as over the weekend of her visit she persuaded me to open it up suggesting “it would be a nice family activity to do over the Christmas period.”  So we plonked the plywood jigsaw board in the middle of the living room carpet and opened the musty box of 1000 intricate pieces of cardboard and started looking for the edges.  Both my older kids asked “why are we looking for edges dad?” both thinking they would start putting together the big santa being the main feature in the middle of the puzzle.  I explained carefully the importance of a patient approach to jigsaws like this one and forming the perimeter or boundaries of the picture first before constructing the images in the centre – “we need to no what we are working with and where our limits are.”  I gave them the challenge to look for the four corners and they eagerly set about searching for them as if it was a festive Christmas dip.

Pieces everywhere!

Pieces everywhere!

The thing with jigsaws is that they take time to get going.  You have to be resilient and focused to get beyond the early stages of locating corners and edges and sorting similar colours, shades and patterns.  It can be a lonely affair in those early stages with no sign of a successful completion in sight.  It is always better if you can recruit a team of jigsaw helpers and all agree on a role for each other – delegating specific shades and patterns to be found, distributing personalised collection and sorting (Tupperware) boxes for maximum effect and ownership.  This organised and strategic approach is key to jigsaw teamwork and avoiding the ultimate chaos and predictable disaster of vigilante jigsaw building when every one is in it for themselves and not thinking big picture.

Satisfaction

Satisfaction

There is an addictive satisfaction to that click of a jigsaw piece slotting neatly into place.  In the box a midst hundreds of other coloured pieces a single piece is lost and has no sense of place and is easily overlooked as multiple hands rake through the box on their own agenda.  The picture on the front becomes key, this is your guide – the code to success, the plan that enables you to focus on what you are trying to achieve.  It also gives you the confidence to know what unique pattern is required to make the selection of other shades and colours complete and form the picture you have been working on.  Even though it looks nothing like it in the box each piece plays a key role and you must put in the time to look for the right one and find it.  Clicking pieces into place is a satisfying process and encourages you to continue doing it (long into the night!) – and before you know it you have 1000 little pieces all coming together and the picture is clear.

How to do a hand-stand

Post contributed by Eline Postma

Developing personal confidence

Developing personal confidence

For a year or two, I have decided to change my new year’s resolutions from something behavioural (e.g. study harder) to something more tangible (run 5k without stopping). I made this change because it seems like they are more realistic goals that have more clear steps that would lead up to the attainment of it.

handstand1

My New Year’s resolution for 2014 was actually to learn how to do a handstand without the use of a wall. For some reason, I am terrified of being upside down, so this seemed like a nice goal for this year where I would have to go out of my comfort zone to gain an interesting new experience. If you think about it, being able to do an unsupported handstand symbolises personal confidence in several manners: you have to trust your body’s ability in being strong enough to support you, and have the general confidence to eventually practice it without a wall (note to self: learn some safe exit strategies!).

handstand

After a month or so, I adjusted my goal to learn how to do a ‘head-stand’. I had seen some people do it in their yoga practices, and it seemed like the coolest thing to be able to do. When I was in Edinburgh at the beginning of May, a friend showed me what it felt like to be upside down by holding my feet so I wouldn’t fall over. I realised it isn’t as scary as I once thought, and If you haven’t tried it, I would recommend it, because it is the best energy booster I have ever come across. After a little over a month of daily practice, I managed to do an unsupported headstand. This was the best thing I did this year for boosting my self confidence and positive body image. More so, than any amount of public speaking ever could 🙂

Future target: clearly, an unsupported handstand in 2015!

What shall we do today?

Can we ride on the beach in England dad?

Can we ride on the beach in England dad?

Last weekend as I was compiling my list of important things to do I set myself a back-up target of getting the bikes out (now arrived safely with 90 other plus boxes) and reassembled ready for an unlikely family bike ride in the next 6 months or so.  To be fair though the weather has been great since returning home and although the temperature is obviously a lot colder we have seen and enjoyed plenty of sunshine and such was the case the Sunday just gone.

The Ribble salt marshes

The Ribble salt marshes

As soon as the bikes were ready the kids were on them like a flash, woolly hats over their helmets!  They had obviously missed their bikes the last 6 weeks and I hadn’t realised how much.  They were out in the back street riding up and down and amazed at the lack of sweat being generated but anxious to pull their sleeves down over their quickly numbing fingers.  Provocatively I suggested that we go for a bike ride and much to my surprise they both agreed.  So we set off across two busy roads (another novelty to them getting off their bikes and pushing them across a road) and onto the promenade at St. Annes thinking we could ride along the beach but soon realised nobody else was and that push bikes and soft English sand don’t work too well together.  So we pushed our bikes back up to the main promenade and decided to take on the pedestrians heading towards Lytham with the sun shining on our faces.

The Lytham St. Annes spitfire

The Lytham St. Annes spitfire

Sometimes you (well I do) think things are not worth the hassle and it is easier to keep things simple.  Unpack the bikes in the summer, leave them in the garage and worry about fixing them then when they will be most needed.  Do the shopping today, clean the house, get the kids homework done and put them in front of the TV.  How many times do we fall into that trap and what are we missing out on?  The last Sunday in November and it was an amazing afternoon to be out on our bikes, in fact everyone seemed to be out and it was great weaving in and out of people walking off their Sunday roasts. We made a point of saying ‘hello’ to our new neighbours as we passed them and a ‘thank you’ for making way at the same time taking in the new sights and points of interest of our new home, community and environment.

Not as hot as Thailand but still need a rest

Not as hot as Thailand but still need a rest

The Lytham Windmill

The Lytham Windmill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Story of Stuff to-do-list

The Story of Stuff to-do-list

One of my favourite Tweets that I read and decided to re-tweet this week was from The Story of Stuff a website that I have actually written about before. What I love about this Tweet is the simplicity of the to-do-list but the effectiveness of how powerful the outcomes are from doing it.  We sometimes take these activities, opportunities and outcomes for granted and almost always, from my experience, gain and discover a lot more (the value-added) than we ever imagined by getting up and outdoors and doing them.  A 10km bike ride got nowhere near my original to-do-list last weekend let alone at the top up amongst: Tesco shop, clean the bathrooms, find the bathroom scales in the shipping boxes, research electricity provider rates, Christmas decorations, etc… but I am so glad that impulse plus a bit of sunshine found a way and that I was reminded of the important things to be included at the top of any to-do-list.

The Season of Giving

Contributed by Brittany Tang

Christmas post

Here in Michigan, the winter months seem to set a much needed peaceful atmosphere in the hustle and bustle of exams. As the snow falls gently from the sky and accumulates on the ground, sparkling ever so slightly, a quietness blankets the city of Ann Arbor. Students study in the warmth of the residential halls and cozy up next to soft velvet blankets, sipping hot beverages as they work hard to make their mark on the world. I’ve met some very inspiring individuals who are motivated to constantly do their part to benefit others. They lead organizations that help the impoverished, raise money for better education/health systems overseas and work hard to share with others their philosophies of kindness and global citizenship.

As Christmas approaches, I think of those who aren’t so fortunate to have a warm place to sleep during the bitterly cold and windy evenings. I also think of the children and adults who have limited access to medical and educational resources whose Christmases are consumed with worry and distress. In my local community, these people are the homeless. They roam the streets during the summer, spring and fall seasons and desperately seek shelter during the winter. I do my best to help these individuals by volunteering in the Food Gatherer’s kitchen in the basement of the homeless shelter. We make hot soups, pastas, and steam vegetables. There is always coffee, juice and water as well as fruit and dessert and all of the food that is used to make the meals is donated by local grocery stores and educational institutions. It is so heartwarming to see volunteers filling the kitchen with smiles, enthusiasm, excitement and the hope that they can help make a homeless person experience a few moments of joy by eating a delicious meal.

Is it about giving or receiving?

Is it about giving or receiving?

The giving doesn’t stop there. It’s wonderful! In my residential hall, students are collecting donated hats, gloves, mittens and scarves in an event called the “giving tree” with the hopes of sending these donations to Safe House. This organization provides support for individuals who have been impacted by domestic violence and/or sexual assault. We are also holding a knitting session one evening to make our own winter attire to donate.

The holiday mood has engulfed my dorm. The halls are decorated with paper snowflakes and the doors are covered in Christmas wrapping paper. Despite the small stresses of university, joy is in the air and the desire to help others is prominent and it is a beautiful sight!

To read other posts by Brittany please click here.

The gap effect

Challenged with a sense of personal adventure

Challenged with a sense of personal adventure

Post contributed by Dan Bowie

Just thought I’d update you on my latest exciting news! Today I found out I got the QUEST Scholarship – sponsored by VINCI.  It’s an amazing opportunity not many get to experience and to say I’m pleased is an understatement. Sheffield University seems to be a bit of a hot spot for successful candidates so – as I’m sure you can imagine – a few celebratory drinks will be had!
There is a teacher in everyone

There is a teacher in everyone

I want to take the opportunity to say thanks, the experience I gained in Thailand is without a doubt the reason I got in – especially when I look at the high standard of unsuccessful applicants. Accepting me into the Gap Programme was a stepping stone that has (and will continue to) lead to so many amazing opportunities. So thanks to all who supported me at the school.
Trekking in the north of Thailand

Trekking in the north of Thailand

Uni life is very good, the course is fairly intense and I’ve already handed in coursework and completed online tests that count towards my 1st year grade, which is a little surreal.  The social side is definitely a change from Thailand, but a change I am very much liking. I have joined the hockey team and this of course means socials (and some hockey!).  I will keep you posted.

If you liked this post then read more about gap year experiences here.