Being a senior is an exciting experience; you are edging towards the end of a well-trodden path and approaching an unknown, waiting for mists to clear so you can take your first glimpse of a murky future. You fervently hope it’s going to be the idyllic scene you’ve always envisioned, but are also bombarded by regular fears and anxieties. It all comes in the waiting _ and during this long, protracted wait, where some of us fall victim to indolence and complacency (good ‘ole senioritis it is), there is much time for reflection. As I begin to take the steps away from the familiar _ comforts of home and days are measured and lost, I find myself looking back to where it all began.
When I entered Nakornpayap International School in 1994, it had a net population of about 60 or so students, from fledgling toddlers like me to teenagers on the cusp of adulthood, waiting to enter new worlds. We all mingled in the same building, ate at the same cafeteria and queued in the same lunch lines. Its community was close-knit enough that as a first grader, I saw the high school students every day and knew their names. Though the school grew continually, even in seventh grade I still found myself in a class of only five mainstream students, I being the only girl. On any scale, NIS was miniscule.
Yet NIS’ small size never limited its students from a range of opportunities and cultural experiences. In fact, within its walls lay a crossroads of cultures where at three, I found myself immersed among students of all personalities, vibes and hair colors. I had the privilege of growing up surrounded by international teachers and a mix of kids from all over the world. In the first grade, I competed with Petra, a Malaysian boy, for the best grades. I had a secret crush on Jeremy, a French boy with a sweet smile. Caitlin was the homesick American girl and the only one with so many freckles. Tom was the loud English boy who liked to talk about ‘bangers and mash.’ And me _ I was the tall and boisterous Thai-Chinese girl with scabbed knees and dirty sneakers. School was the home for us cultural mutts that never fit into any preconceived molds, escaping precise classifications.
From those beginnings, my personal journey is intimately linked with that of NIS’. I watched its growth; and the eventual transitions it would make, from the size of its student body to its ownership and even its location, somehow peculiarly linked with mine. As I ended my last year of elementary school, NIS went through its own renaissance; it bade farewell to the sports-complex-turned-school building that laid its foundation and moved to new and spacious purpose-built facilities. The number of students grew, new classes were added to the curriculum and a new chapter began for the school. Since then, NIS has grown in every way. Last year we saw the opening of a beautiful new Early Childhood Center and NAPA, a bilingual kindergarten that offers an alternative choice for parents. Our new auditorium will be opened by a musical production from the elementary class, a feat that has not been performed in quite some time. Not only have our facilities seen improvement, but our student body is ever increasing, and their accomplishments mounting. Our alumni network stretches across the globe, and my graduating class will be setting off to universities in the US, UK, Australia, Canada and Thailand.
Today, as I prepare for a new life on a different continent, NIS celebrates its 15th anniversary. Like me, it stands on the brink of change, a journey to a hopeful future of many more positive developments. Not even a year after my departure, NIS will transform itself once more _ new buildings will rise and students will enter and leave as is their circulatory nature. NIS will change _ but not completely. For in all its 15 years of improvement and evolution, there is something about NIS that has remained a part of its fundamental nature. Maybe it is because of the dedicated teachers and staff I have known for over ten years, some of whom leave but return once again to stay; or maybe it is found in our students. It has survived financial troubles, changes in management and changes of campus, but the immutable soul of NIS lies in something more nebulous than these. It is our core values as an open community that embraces individuality and personal freedom, with no lines of demarcation between ethnicities or religions. Our perseverance and integrity coupled with rapid progress _ this is what we celebrate in our 15th year and that is what makes us a center for excellence in education.
Yu (17) entered NIS as a preschooler and has since served as student council president, managing editor of the school newspaper and currently as editor-in-chief of the yearbook. She has also helped found a community service club and participated in several sports teams. Yu has recently received the first place award for the 5th Junior IMPAC Dublin Literary Awards in the northern region. After graduating, she plans to attend college in the US as an English major.
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