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Aug 24 2018


Greg Choi

The BCIS mission is to challenge and empower students to be compassionate and inspired people, who act for the good of all and for the sustainable development of the world.

Being a high school student is no easy walk in the park. There is a seemingly endless list of tasks and assignments to complete in a short span of time that leave no room for proper rest. Therefore, when the holidays roll by, most students are happy to sit idly and binge on television shows or computer games. With all the work and studies they have endured during the academic year, this is actually well-earned personal time. However, many of our students simply can't let time go to waste. As the first article of our graduating Class of 2019, it is an honor and privilege to share an interview we conducted with Esther Wu, Grade 12 student. She is a normal teenager that likes to play tennis, read novels, and more. However, it truly is remarkable what she has accomplished already in her life (including having her own online bakery shop, for which "healthy" is the key word!). Please read more to learn about some of her accomplishments, and please be prepared to be amazed.

In Grade 10, she stated, "I didn't want to sit for months and just watch TV and soap operas. I realized I'm going to move to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP), and so need to grow up. I couldn't waste my time. I wanted to do something that could show my perseverance." With these words and determination, Esther began a journey that led her to translate one of the most comprehensive books on sexually transmitted diseases in China written by her own mother, Dr. Lijun Sun. When no one could help in translating the book, Esther took initiative and volunteered. "I know English and Chinese. I know the professional terms of her work because when she talked on the phone, I could hear her conversations and the terminology she used. So I started to do the translation of the book immediately. My mother provided a guideline to follow. After I handed her the first part, she said, 'Wow, it's pretty good. Keep doing it. It's pretty useful.'" With her words of encouragement, I continued to do this after my exams were over. During that time, assessments were not as difficult as they are now, and I was not as busy, so it was a good time to work on the translation."

Working on this translation project was not always easy, however. As Esther mentioned, "I thought about giving up many times actually, and experienced several breakdowns because it was overwhelming and just too much. Even though there were many words I knew, there were some translations that I could not do because some words in English do not exist in Chinese. So when I had no other choice, I had to make-up new words. Of course, I wrote these down and their meanings in Chinese to create a list to show my mother and her colleagues. To determine what words or expressions to use as standards, we later went over this list and then reached a consensus." In addition, due to the material being a little sensitive for people, let alone a young high school student, Esther expressed she "definitely felt a little uncomfortable while working on the book. But just by thinking this is all part of human anatomy and we are all humans, I felt at ease with the material."

When asked why she took on this enormous challenge in the first place, Esther replied, "In Grade 10, I began to feel anxious about my high school studies. I didn't want to have any regrets or leave anything unaccomplished. So I set some goals for myself, including improving both my English and Chinese skills every day. I honestly didn't know how I would accomplish these because my parents never told me or forced me to do anything. Maybe every child realizes at a certain age that something must be done, sooner or later." Interestingly, she never had any real desire to pursue studies in biology or the natural sciences, perhaps due to the fact that both her parents are doctors. She quickly stated, "My parents have never pushed me to become a doctor or apply for a job related to natural science. Personally, I am not willing to work in such professions like my parents because they are always so busy. They have no control of their lives or time. For example, my mother used to work 14 hours a day delivering newborn babies, all while standing." However, her perspective on entering the medical field changed for the positive after she started the IBDP and took Biology. "Some concepts learned in class were difficult for my classmates, but I never thought they were hard. These came very easy to me for some reason." Another important factor why she enjoys this particular class is her teacher, Ms. Emma Parker. "One day, I was crying in the bathroom after a long day. Ms. Parker found me and she comforted me. She let me know she was there for me. After that, I started to pay more attention in her class just because of that personal connection involved. However, she helped me became more interested in the subject, along with psychology, which she also teaches."

Regarding Esther, one of her star pupils, this is what Ms. Parker had to say:

I have taught Esther for a year now in the DP Biology course, and it has been a real pleasure to teach such an able and interested student. Earlier in the year, Esther mentioned to me that she had done a translation for a sexual health publication on behalf of her mother who is a doctor. However, she was too modest and didn't explain the full extent of the work that she had done for this! She was not overly keen on studying Biology initially, but I believe that helping out with this inspiring work helped to spark more of an interest in the subject, and now she tells me that it is one of her favorite subjects! It is wonderful to see a student empower herself in such a meaningful way, and I am sure that Esther's contribution will make a real difference to people.

Now with an abundance of motivation and determination, Esther is studying towards entering the healthcare industry. Even with one of the most important books to be translated in the medical field in China under her belt, she has continued pursuing her goal by regularly volunteering at her mother's hospital and helping patients register and doctors receive documents. To accumulate even more firsthand experience in the field, this past summer, she also interned at AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which she carefully chose among several offers from some of the largest international pharmaceutical companies in the world, including Merck Sharp & Dohme, GlaxoSmithKline, and Abbott. According to their website, AHF is "the largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider in the USA and currently provides medical care and/ or services to more than 400,000 individuals in 36 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/ Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Asia." About her time there, she stated, "I met people that have worked in Africa, Latin America, India, and Yunnan province. I translated some articles and legal contracts, sent some emails to some important people, and helped design a handbook and marketing brochure; planned a campaign; and of course, handled lots of paperwork." Even with some mundane tasks completed, she feels she made the right choice joining AHF since she was able to contribute more there than if she would have at another institution. More importantly, she stated, "the most precious thing I took away from my internship were the conversations I had with the experienced workers, who I also shared a kindred spirit in wanting to improve human wellness."

It is always empowering to learn when a young adult knows what path they want to take for their future career. Esther is certainly a great example of this, having already decided she will pursue a medical career. She is quick to note, however, "that doesn't mean I will become a doctor. Perhaps I may become a pharmacist, or someone that creates drugs capable of treating the most serious diseases. I don't want to just study already established concepts. I am interested in the research and technology aspects of the industry." She is fully aware she will face the world on her own soon, and is preparing for this inevitable chapter in her life. "My parents will not be able to help me academically, so I have to start taking responsibility. Anyway, I will continue work hard in my remaining days in high school and persevere."