Small Girl, Big Impact
She is a writer, a poet, a dancer, a musician and an activist. As part of the THINK Global School (the world’s first travelling boarding school) she’s visited over 30 countries. She’s also studied economics, launched an online think tank, started her own dance initiative to empower hospital children, and is working with the Thailand Research Development Institute developing policies that will shape long term economic development in Thailand.
Her name is Yada Pruksachatkun, and wait, did I mention that she is only 15 years old?
“I guess I’m not like most people,” she muses. “I just don’t see these things as work!”
Yada hails from Chiang Mai, where she grew up running along ill-paved roads crowded with noodle stands. “It never occurred to me, as a seventh grader, that I was about to embark on a series of turning points and I’d be able to say that I went to a travelling boarding school,” she says.
THINK Global School is an independent, non-profit high school that travels the world, giving students the opportunity to study in 12 different international cities over the course of four years. “The vision for THINK Global School is to take the wonders of the world and make them our classroom,” says executive chair and founder, Joann McPike. The school’s mission is to develop “true citizens of the world, young people whose unique skills, values, knowledge, and experience will make them leaders and innovators in the multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual world of the 21st century.”
“Sadly, it’s my last year with the THINK Global school,” says Yada. In the last three years, along with her classmates (there are 15-17 students in each grade), she has relocated to a different country every term. She has studied in Ecuador, Argentina, China and even here in Chiang Mai.
One major highlight was Bhutan, a country known for its majestic hills, nature, and cultural conservation. Yada’s group was involved in the “Good Governance” pillar of the Gross National Happiness policies, and explored anti-corruption methods and Bhutan’s struggle to maintain its identity amidst a rapidly globalising and developing world.
While THINK Global has certainly opened up Yada’s world in a big way, the precocious teen credits her parents (who are both doctors) and early experiences around hospitals as her inspiration to give back to the community. “A year and a half ago, I saw some video footage taken after an impromptu dance class I taught at a hospital,” Yada says. “There was a girl my age. I saw the impact that this single class had on her and thought, wouldn’t it be amazing to help shift kids’ perspectives around their abilities?” Today, Yada is working with young patients to choreograph a dancing flash mob called Light Footsteps (www.lightfootstepsdance.wordpress.com).
Apart from her charity work, Yada is already working on her second book, about a post-apocalyptic world where the human race is being wiped out by the common cold, and recently won an award from the Argentina Independent international writing competition held in Buenos Aires.
Last year, Yada launched a worldwide think tank at a global education conference, recruiting other student leaders from five different countries. “The goal is to create a voice for students, a way that students can discuss “adult issues,” and create a space for teens to get engaged politically and become more socially aware.” Currently, they are using social media portals like Blackboard Collaborate, Padlet and Popple, which connect with Twitter and Facebook for maximum visibility.
A self-proclaimed busybody, when she’s not out saving the world, Yada is often found immersed in her other passions: fashion, sewing, piano, guitar, aerial yoga and dance. “Tango is actually one of my favourite dances,” she says. “It is such a deep part of the South American culture. The music itself is actually quite sad and beautiful. Surrendering to the dance is challenging. It took me a month to learn to give up control and just let my partner lead.” She’d now like to learn a dance from every country she visits.
Feeling terrible about your own lack of accomplishments yet? Yada swears she even finds time for “normal teenage things, like hanging out with friends, watching Gossip Girl, singing in the shower and cracking jokes from ‘How I Met your Mother’ episodes.”
As for the future? Yada plans to attend university in Boston, Massachusetts to study Business and Economics, picking up several more languages along the way and being involved in making change happen. Where does she find the time to do all of this? She states emphatically, “You always find time to do the things you love.”
On the next page, read Yada’s rather daunting tips for finals studying, a fascinating glimpse into the lives of today’s uber ambitious teens. For more Yada, visit her blog at
“Just shoot for the stars, if it feels right, then aim for your heart…” In a darkened room in Boston on a midsummer’s night, 34 teenagers were hunched over their computers. Some were on chairs, others in their beds, and even more on the floors. The lyrics to Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger snaked its way up the hallway, through the stairways, and into the room on the second floor, accompanied by bursts of hand clapping, dancing, and even some singing along.
It was Finals Week during the International Baccalaureate, a phrase usually synonymous with dread, chocolate, and coffee. But for a girl on the second floor, also known as me, it meant dance music, focus, and then movies with friends.
How can I be so calm, relaxed, and “chill” when finals are next week? Instead of trying to study harder, I try to study smarter.
I was drilled to study hard, even staying up until 11 p.m. as a seventh grader to do homework. But after awhile, I didn’t find any passion in it, which resulted in me staring at the computer screen and pretending to do homework when I was actually writing fiction. I started writing on a slightly worn-out, black covered journal, which is now an artefact of the development of my current work ethic.
At the beginning of my journal, in very messy handwriting, are the words, “Why are you in the educational system?” A basic question. But really, why? Are you there to learn? To have fun because you love learning? For me, it was a combination of a love for learning and a desire to go to college.
The next dozen pages are filled with potential colleges, with their standing-out points and brochure clippings pasted in. Building a dream is the second step. In a world of routine and hardship, you have to dream to find passion for what you do. Whenever you feel unmotivated, slip into that dream, and remind yourself of the dream in as many ways as possible, whether that be a college sticker on a laptop cover or a picture of the Google logo.
After that, when you’re done with the motivation build-up, try creating the perfect relaxed, focused work environment. Experiment with sound, visuals, and smells. Personally, I work best with light music turned on and a warm-toned light, with fashion posters hung on the walls and a cup of cold chocolate within my reach.
I make great use of my calendar, marking off test dates, important meetings and deadlines. I never wait until the night before to study for a test.
In such a digitalised era, there is so much potential to make studying fun, using the internet. I recently found 8Tracks, which is an entire free database of music. You’ll find playlists organised into compartments and tags such as “Study,” “Party,” and “Happy.” Here, you can save time with out clicking on YouTube every four minutes to search for a new song, or sulking over a very limited iTunes library.
There are also a variety of study apps – downloadable for smartphones of tablets – that can help. The WhiteRoom app gives me the ability to write without distractions, while Rescuetime acts as a Big Brother for procrastinators. OmmWriter provides another option for serene writing, and Conjuguemos.com taught me Spanish conjugations through games and quizzes. Create mindmaps with MindMeister, and voice recordings for memorisation or language conjugations. Evernote is for sharing documents from your laptop to other devices so you can study even if you’re in the car going to school, and iProcrastinate acts as a personal secretary for homework and projects.
Often, there are many former tests and syllabi for courses online, which make amazing jumping points for study groups. Speaking of study groups, they work best if everyone uses the group to fill in holes in knowledge, instead of re-learning every single topic together.
And remember, it’s imperative to ask questions – just ask it, no matter how easy or basic it is. It’s your teacher’s duty to make sure you have learned.
Most importantly, take a break! If you feel fatigue slowly numbing your mind,
it’s time to close down technology and do something non-academic! Go to the movies, catch up with friends, write, draw, do anything other than work. Even if finals are next week, find a few hours to completely relax the weekend before.
So now, you’ve been preparing for two or three weeks. Information is so inscribed in your brain that you can answer questions in the middle of the night. Tomorrow’s the test. The one test that will determine 20-50 percent of your grade for the entire trimester. Breathe in deeply, create a last minute to-do list. Wake up, shower, do a final skim of the syllabus, and dress. Lay down all of your clothes the night before and have a good night’s sleep. In the morning, do some exercise to get the blood pumping, skim over the syllabus, and then stop thinking about the test!
On the last page of my yellowing journal is a simple phrase. “There is more to life than just numbers.” And it’s true. Grades are simply numbers, and even if you do not receive the grade that you thought you would, just be content with the fact that you’ve learned, which is what education is set out to do.
Last, but not least, keep a tattered old journal to write down your own discoveries, so that maybe one day, you’ll be sitting on a comfy sofa, sipping iced chocolate, and writing a “how-to” article of your own.