Letters from the dorm: Putting things into perspective

By Hana van de Wiel, UWC ISAK Japan

It can be hard to remember, but one bad grade is not the end of the world

By Hana van de Wiel, UWC ISAK Japan |

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I have always had a keen sense of adventure, a desire to see the world and explore. I thought I would get to do more of that if I started living independently in a completely different environment. So I decided to fly the nest early, and applied to do the last year of my International Baccalaureate (IB) studies at UWC ISAK Japan, a school in Japan’s remote Nagano region.

And so, I found myself in the middle of the countryside, surrounded by a forest and a volcano, ready to start my new life. But while living overseas and sleeping in a dorm have both certainly been an adjustment, the thing that had hit hardest is the IB itself.

It has become the all-encompassing force in my life. Now that I’m in my last year of the curriculum, I understand just how much pressure my seniors were under when they went through the same process I am going through now.

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It’s hard to believe it’s already November. The past two months have been a whirlwind of predicted grades, assessments and university applications. And this has been wearing students down, myself included. Friends, classmates, pretty much everyone, seems to be panicking about something. As a result, stress levels are through the roof and sleep deprivation is at an all time high.

In this highly-charged environment, it’s easy to blow minor incidents out of proportion, especially in a small school where everyone lives together.

You get a 4 for your mock chemistry exam, and somehow your brain instantly jumps to “I’m failing chemistry and I’ll fail IB and I won’t get into a good university and I’ll be unemployed after graduation and my life will suck”. I am pretty sure that is not how it works.

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After watching countless students fall into this mindset – one I struggle with as well – I just want to say: this isn’t the end of the world. One bad grade is not going to dictate the rest of your life. Of course, I am not saying that failing school completely won’t affect your life. It would be naive to assume that grades do not matter at all. I just suggest you do not take things to the extreme.

Take a breather, take a nap and try to recognise that you might be leaping to the worst conclusion. Be kind to yourself. This is the goal I’ve set for myself. And hey, perhaps I’ll finally get to have some of those adventures I was yearning for. I want my time at this school to count, and not just academically.

One final thing: a comforting word here and there can do wonders for a stressed-out IB student. Take it from a stressed out IB student.