Ascent Issue No.5

Page 1


The Magazine of Shanghai American School

> Story of My Life (p. 14) > Sibling Sound Bites (p. 24) > Why I Love SAS (p. 30)



Winter 2019-20 • Issue No. 05

> Fighting the Green Fight (p. 10) > Step One: Don’t Be a Jerk (p. 23) > You Can’t Calculate the Value of That (p. 32)

In this issue Winter 2019-20 Issue 05




Features 14 Story of My Life

What’s it like going through an entire school year as a middle schooler versus a high schooler? Deets from both campuses

24 Sibling Sound Bites

We sat down with two sisters from our Puxi campus to find out how similar or different siblings are from each other

30 Why I Love SAS

A group of elementary students tell us what is it about SAS that they love the most

HIGHLIGHTS 06 News + Updates 08 Humans of SAS 12

A Closer Look

37 Dear Juno 38 Horoscopes 39 Eagles In Flight

INSIDE SAS 10 Fighting the Green Fight 22 What is Ageappropriate 23 Step One: Don’t Be a Jerk

Ascent sits down with artist-in-residence

28 Summer Experience at YYGS

Cory Wanamaker to talk art,

32 You Can’t Calculate the Value of That

rituals and when a piece is done.

34 The Interview

See page 34

WINTER 2019-20



Channeling Rube Goldberg at the CID: sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail, but we always have fun.

Editor in Chief Abigail Torres Managing Editor Wansien Lee Art Director Beth Elzer Jasmine Jin Editors Iris Chen ’20 Valencia Park ’20 04



ASCENT / The Magazine of Shanghai American School Ascent is a partnership between the students of Shanghai American School and the Marketing and Communications Office. We aim to give an authentic snapshot of life at SAS, always seeking perspectives from within our community that dig into the excitement, challenges, and real heartbeat of our school. ➜ Want to be part of it? Email us at:

Pudong Campus 1600 Lingbai Road Pudong District Shanghai, China 201201 Tel: 6221-1445 Puxi Campus 258 Jinfeng Road Minhang District Shanghai, China 201107 Tel: 6221-1445

Write the Caption!

We are looking for your most creative captions to go with this photo! Winning lines will be featured in the next issue. We are also taking photo submissions for the next round of Write the Caption!

Illustration by: Emily Gu ’22

➜ Send it all to:


This won’t hurt a bit. — Egan Torres ’26


“Curiosity is the root of growth..” —Matthew Chwang ’25 “You should get that checked out.” — Kimbra Power, Librarian

WINTER 2019-20



News + Updates

STAY IN THE LOOP Catch up on new stories & videos of life in our community. SASChina



Shanghai American School

Visiting alumni

Ellen & Brian SAS alumni Ellen ’13 and Brian ’13, extremely popular for their K-pop dance covers, with nearly 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube, came back to SAS to host a series of dance workshops. In between classes with students on the Puxi campus, Brian also managed to slip in a surprise proposal at the very location the couple met and fell in love in seven years ago – the dance studio at the school’s Performing Arts Center!

A dear friend

Craig Davis Invitational This year, we renamed our annual golf tournament the Craig Davis Invitational in honor of a wonderful, cherished friend. Previously called the Eagle Invitational, we rechristened it after Mr. Craig Davis who, over the years, has contributed so much to our golf program at SAS Pudong.

Teachers, you rock

Faculty Friday At the heart of every great SAS educational experience is an exceptional faculty. But our faculty aren’t just inspiring in the classroom – they’re inspiring in life. This year, we will be sharing stories of how our faculty members are living the school’s mission of being life-long learners and having the courage to live their dreams. Check out the video series, called Faculty Friday, on our WeChat and Facebook platforms, and join us in celebrating the amazing teachers we are lucky to call ours here at SAS.




Fall fun

Puxi International Fair & Pudong Carnival Every fall, the PTSAs on both campuses pull out all the stops to host the biggest community event of the year respectively. Puxi kicked theirs off with an international flag parade, while Pudong took immense joy in dunking their high school vice principal in the dunk tank!

VIP guests

Visiting Artists and Authors Every year at Shanghai American School, we have the privilege of hosting some of the best artists and authors out there, to run workshops with our students. So far this year, we’ve welcomed mixed media artist Hanoch Piven, children books’ writer Elana K. Arnold, and murals and mosaics artist Joshua Winer.

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Humans of SAS Humans of SAS, inspired by the worldrenowned project “Humans of New York,” has the aim to photograph, in daily life, a sampling of people who make up our community.

Dr. Alan Phan When I was really young, I mostly wanted to grow up and learn how to run and beat my dog in a race (because as an adult I would be bigger). But when I was older, I volunteered at a homeless shelter tutoring kids and knew then that I wanted to teach. When I taught middle school math, I loved it. I’ve taught third grade and also high school, but my passion lies with middle school. I got out of it for a year because of the salary was rather low, but was pulled back in because I missed the students too much. I thrive on their curiosity, energy and goofiness.

Mr. Brian Chalmers Believe or not, when I was younger I wanted to be a mathematics teacher. I would come home each day from school, line up my stuffed animals, and teach them the lesson of the day. However, the path to teaching took longer than expected as I decided to follow different interests: financial planning in Los Angeles, tech programming in San Francisco, and healthcare management in Budapest. Eventually, I returned to my original passion and joined the world of education. Life is such a wonderful journey as it gives you just what you need – even if you don’t realize it at the time.




Mr. Jonathan Chambers I was a teenager excited by the PC revolution, but I was also an organist fascinated by synthesizers. During the 7th grade my dad inquired, “Do you want to be a musician, or a computer whiz?” Opting for the latter, I received a Commodore 64 computer for my birthday. I wrote thousands of lines of code, but I was also obsessed with electronic sounds. Concurrently, my mother employed me to type Bible translations in local dialects during summer visits to my birthplace: Papua New Guinea. My passion for technology, music, language, and creative synthesis is what I celebrate with students.

Ms. Glynis Hill It was not until the end of High School that I started to ponder career options. Dreams of entering work life rarely consumed my thoughts. I thought about being a dentist or perhaps an accountant but the one thing I didn’t want to be was a teacher. My older sister was a teacher, my father was a teacher and contributing to that legacy was not something that interested me in the slightest. My first degree was in Business Administration yet somehow, I found my way into education and four international schools later, I have never looked back.

WINTER 2019-20




Fighting the Green Fight BY IRIS CHEN ’20

It seems that many of us have accepted this: our planet is dying. The situation looks incredibly bleak but when we phrase it this way, it comes at the cost of one thing: our hope. Instead of subscribing to definitive statements like this, the bigger question we should really be posing to ourselves is this: how do we, as a generation barely old enough to vote, run for political positions, or become executives in the world’s industries, fight this fight? It’s still something I’m grappling with. guilty as my leftovers slid sadly into the This past summer I attended a camp at depths of the landfill’s trash bag. Stanford University. As an elite university It was a surprise to come back to in the most liberal state in America, their Shanghai at the end of summer and resources were devoted to a smattering of find out that trash differentiation had progressive initiatives, one of them being become mandatory city-wide. All around trash management. me, people were buying new trash cans, But instead of the traditional landdisseminating kernels of advice like, “if a fill-recycle duo, Stanford’s trash cans came pig can eat it, it’s compostable!” It was a in packs of four–metal, paper, small, but important victory. compost, and landfill (if all One of the benefits of living in else fails). Over the course China will always be its effiTHOUGH A HASSLE, THE of the three weeks that I ciency, which is unmatched in COMPOSTING SYSTEM was there, dissecting a meal the world. Once something is AT STANFORD PROVIDED often had me standing in agreed upon, it will get done. ME WITH A SMALL DOSE front of the trash for a good On the other side of the minute, as I picked cardboard spectrum, change can also be OF AGENCY THAT IS containers apart from leftohard to solicit. Because of this, OF TEN RARE TO FIND IN ver grains of rice, lettuce, and we squander large communities THE FIGHT TO REVERSE compostable forks. of privileged individuals, who CLIMATE CHANGE. Though a hassle, the don’t have the social responsicomposting system at Stanbility to combat contemporary ford provided me with a small issues. Between these two ends dose of agency that is often rare to find in of the spectrum, it then comes down to the fight to reverse climate change. And individuals to push forth an environmental although Stanford’s composting itself will agenda and influence larger corporations probably make no significant ecological to follow it. contributions to this fight, it cultivates a But for now, baby steps. new frame of mind. Simply pausing and By now, you’re probably aware of the sorting through leftovers catapulted me 2030 deadline. For those who aren’t, the into a newfound eco-mindset. Suddenly, if official deadline, decreed by the UN Intercompost wasn’t an option, I’d begin to feel governmental Panel on Climate Change, to 10



reverse climate change falls a mere ten years away. This statistic may seem alarming–rightfully so. But framing climate change as an emergency does little but enhance our dread and hopelessness. Instead, we should aim to inspire action. And in the face of these deadlines, we should ask, what can we do? Unfortunately, the answer doesn’t lie in paper straws. It makes sense that we should start with SAS. As an institution that is rooted in education, and one that promotes an involvement in the community and leadership, there’s a lot to be said about our role we could take in the global fight against climate change. Moreover, because students spend eight hours a day at school, there’s an immense opportunity to cultivate environmental consciousness across the community. And while we’ve made a lot of progress, there’s always more than can be done. We should be thinking big, about student involvement, about cultivating a mindset that continues for years.

But framing climate change as an emergency does little but enhance our dread and hopelessness. Instead, we should aim to inspire action. As a powerful institution, SAS can do much to catalyze the fight against climate change. Some pointers to what we could be able to do include: Collaborate with Sodexo to make meals more environmentally-friendly Sodexo processes hundreds of meals per day– getting them on board to help cut down on meat is a huge step forward. Even cutting down on red meat and serving more environmentally-friendly options like chicken and turkey can make an impact. And even though there’s temptation to get takeout, keep in mind that every box, plastic bag, and plastic utensil that you use will pile up. Making the composting process more visible We now have compost bins, though often times food still isn’t thrown out accordingly. Making the benefits of composting more apparent among the school community is a key step to making sure that we begin to adopt the mentality of composting.

Viable Solutions 1. Vegetarianism/Veganism I met a girl last summer who was dared to try veganism for a day. She’s been doing it for three years now. You never know until you try. 2. Carbon Offsetting We all travel a lot–most of it is unavoidable, as many of us are international citizens. Plane travel is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and all that gas is released higher up in the atmosphere. The way carbon offsetting works is you pay to fund a project that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, to equalize the deficit. 3. Buy Less Behind every product you own are fossil fuels, used to assemble, package, and ship said product to you. Although Taobao can be addicting, it’s also vital to be a conscious buyer. Get only what you need. 4. Ecosia! A search engine that plants a tree every for every 45 searches you do. Google alone handles 2.2 trillion searches per year. Imagine the forests that could grow. 5. Charging Unplug fully charged appliances. The “idle load” adds up to output of 50 large power plants in the U.S. alone (NDRC).

WINTER 2019-20







Microcampus 5 Parents go back to school In October, Shanghai American School debuted Microcampus 5–an extension of our award-winning Signature Program “Microcampus”–where a group of eight students, and their families, spent time immersing themselves in a village in Yunnan. The trip not only emphasized building student independence and responsibility, parents were also encouraged to take part in a series of exercises designed to help them learn to parent more effectively and efficiently.

WINTER 2019-20



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Caridee Chau ‘25 PUXI CAMPUS

Michelle Huang ‘22 PUDONG CAMPUS

September Middle school. Story of my life. What picture do the words “middle school” bring to mind? Rows of lockers? Distinctive clusters of people? Friendship troubles? Neatly arranged wooden desks and chairs? Middle school is so much more. I felt like Harry Potter seeing Hogwarts for the first time. He was excited and confused and shocked that he was magic; he discovered what would be considered fake by “muggles.” I felt the same when I first came to the cozy building of middle school. Every opportunity to make a new friend was like a moving portrait. New and unfamiliar, but fun all the while. Every choice I could make for the exploratory catalog was like choosing a wand from Ollivander’s. I wanted to be able to do every single one, but only four were available. Every difficult decision was a moving staircase. You had to grab it with both hands or release it as it moves away. So far, I have discovered that middle school is more than meets the eye and that those greyish blue cement walls hid more responsibilities and opportunities than classrooms and lockers. Middle school is friendship, being kindled like a fire in the deep folds of our hearts. Middle school is laughter, echoing into the depths of the hallways. Middle school is a forest, a gathering of people from all places, happy, alive, free.

The Era of Confusion. Story of my life. I often wonder what character I’d be if a movie was made on our grade. I’m not especially loud or cheery, or suave and cool. I’m not a legendary four-and-a-halfminute miler or a singing prodigy—the things that make me, me, aren’t necessarily photogenic— yesterday, I spent half an afternoon rolling around on the floor during an unsightly session of writer’s block. The day before, after feeling impossibly professional, I attempted to make ends meet with a stubborn cello peg and snapped a string. Maybe I wouldn’t be cast at all. Too chaotic and muddled to show satisfying character growth. What does growing feel like? When I was younger, I was told that those involuntary jolts in your leg after dreaming of falling down the stairs meant that your bones were growing. Whenever I lay down on a patch of lawn and closed my eyes to the sun, I would pretend to feel my hair growing, parting the grasses as it moved across the earth. No, growing isn’t as certain as that for sure. Nothing so automated as simply hitting “go” on a genetic code that’s been bred into plants for millennia. Before we even make our way through the dirt, we will have enough dirt in our fingernails for a terrarium, and roots spread so far and wide not even a tornado can uproot us.

WINTER 2019-20



October Spicy noodles. Story of my life.

Foggy 5 o’clock mornings. Story of my life.

CARIDEE I skipped joyfully to the noodle bar, anticipating the same burst of flavor, blossoming from taste bud to taste bud, bringing the flow of hot, spicy, soup. Before I paid, I took one look at the toppings and dumped in a large spoonful of spices. My friend shot a doubtful glance at me. The mist that rose up into my face was stiflingly… hot!!! My throat made a sound that might have sounded slightly like a cough if I hadn’t tried to cover it up. I was all right! I could handle this. I sipped and swallowed. My tongue tingled with the searing heat of peppers and chilies. It pierced my tongue like needles filed to an unrealistic sharpness. I coughed out loud and felt numbness on my tongue. I stared into the murky depths of the soup. It really was RED. It swirled with angry, bright red hot peppers and spring onions, and the very sight of this seemed to set everything ablaze. I gulped down water—impossible to quench the burning, scalding heat on my tongue. I spent the rest of lunch trying to swallow the fiery bowl of burning death… Overconfidence leads to consequences.

MICHELLE I’m beginning to think of students and their parents as sculptors, the students the unfinished work of art, and time as all the shavings that we have whittled away. As the time I head to bed sheepishly meanders from 10:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., I decide that I’ve shaved myself down too thin on one side so I switch to waking up at 5:40 a.m. instead of the usual 6:20 a.m. From there, I’ll pry my way through the surreal, silent slumber of everyone else at home, switch on the shower, and wash the stringy mess of hair that couldn’t be dealt with the night before. The water braces me some for the long day ahead—the eye-bags? Not as much. There is always a dreadful inertia to overcome before settling into homework. The worst part of it all? I’m sure we’re proud to some degree of the extra responsibility that is now being asked of us: the long periods of concentration, the synthesizing of new information, the delicious churning of socializing and working. The paradox lies in how forgetful our muscle-memory is towards that golden period, how demotivated we become after being paralyzed with its deceptive, initial appearance.

November Kayaks. Story of my life.

Nostalgia. Story of my life.

CARIDEE My first time in a cockpit was in a long thin boat, blue and spindly: a kayak. I carefully slid in and paddled with my arms as it glided across the pool with ease. We were learning how to react in case we lost control by self-capsizing, and then bring the boat to shore. As I rocked from side to side, choppy waves emerged in the surface of the pool. Then, I realized that I was actually flipping the boat upside down! Pictures of sinking ships blossomed inside my head. The world turned upside down and I turned from the shaking landscape of safe, solid earth to a world of chlorine and blue tiles. In a moment of surprise, I gasped, swallowing pool water. Closing my eyes, I blindly shoved the kayak away with a spurt of crazed panic and arose from the water. The kayak resumed its clumsy demeanor, floating away as I grabbed it and wrenched it to the edge of the pool. As I rose from the water, I felt like I had won a reward: the knowledge that I destroyed a doubt and built up the courage to face my fears.

MICHELLE My first overseas school trip was a MUN conference in the sixth grade. I kept every plane ticket, lanyard, receipt, folder, and dingy pamphlet. The event swooped me along like a gust of fresh air, invigorating me. Memories from the trip filter through my mind feather-light, and yet settle, as nostalgia often does, like bricks. They attach themselves to the backs of our minds like giant billowing parachutes that could have stopped that returning plane had they been real. It almost feels possible to let the captured wind in our parachutes whisk us away again once our feet hit the ground of missed schoolwork and responsibilities. Do we really have to cut ourselves free of nostalgia to move on? I hope not. I’m still figuring out where to cut loose some parachute strings, and where to double-knot those that have helped me stick my landing. Even if it means using a bit more strength, I’d walk with a collection of my fondest parachutes, carefully stowed away, to bring me color on the cloudiest of days.





throughmyveins. Strangelythough, Iwasn’tal lthatnervous.

December The most wonderful time of the year. Story of my life. CARIDEE During the final rehearsal before the concert, I lost track of time, so when the conductor told us to sit on the stage, I thought it was just a break. Suddenly, people began streaming through the doors. Parents, siblings, and even teachers began to find seats and chat. Incomprehensible murmuring clouded the PAC with noise. My heart began thudding inside my chest. I could hear blood roaring in my ears. Adrenaline rushed through my veins. Strangely though, I wasn’t all that nervous. As the conductor came on stage, the lights dimmed and spotlights filled my peripheral vision with a smoky white haze. I could see the faces of people I knew amongst the many other blurry ones in the crowd. I lifted my violin and began to play. The conductor made exaggerated movements to tell us when to speed up, slow down, get louder, and stop. The cellos provided a soft, lulling deep background. The violas provided a beat for the second and first violins. The melodies blended together in a perfect piece. At the end of our performance, we left the stage and watched the rest of the concert go by. The seventh graders performed a lively piece that would stay stuck in your head for the entire day. Then, the eighth graders performed a stunning show of theme songs from various movies, their bows lit up with blue and green LED lights strung across like Christmas ornaments. Everyone cheered, and at the end, every single middle school orchestra member got up and played a piece.

An ode to the long-term. Story of my life. MICHELLE I’m beginning to understand the weight of the word “long-term.” Planning things “for the long-term” was irrelevant a couple years back where the biggest projects included copying facts from Wikipedia into a MUN speech. Back when the words “long-term” and “burdensome” had little distance in between, I saw no satisfaction in burying my focus into the unforeseeable future. As a night owl, I would justify my habit of putting things off with the knowledge (supported by one TED-talk, but otherwise unfounded) that creativity came with short-term focus and effort. I built my passion for subjects based on how creatively I could express my understanding of what was taught. However, this ceased to remain sustainable come freshman year. In the miasma of fatigue that befalls every student at the end of school each day, dedication can no longer play favorites. Ultimately, my success in one class directly affects another. Working for longterm results becomes necessary. I’ve realized that satisfaction in short, immediate bursts of dedication will become rarer as time passes—instead, I will soon need to rely completely on gathering tidbits of it throughout the year. I have no doubt that my expectations for myself will only continue to stretch out further and further from my immediate focus, but a part of me is learning not to worry. Much of the learning curve involves trusting the unknown, and learning how to love the discipline required in working for the long-term.

WINTER 2019-20



January A gooey mess. Story of my life.

New Year, New… Me? Story of my life.

CARIDEE Glue, water, and borax, as we know it, can create slime. In this encounter, I was introduced to something, as impossible as it may seem, even harder to clean up. My science teacher, Mr. Barrons, had mysteriously told us in the class prior to the experiment not to wear bulky garments of clothing or to wear anything that you wouldn’t want to get dirty in. Fortunately, I was wearing black.

MICHELLE I believe no one is safe from one superstitious tradition or another. Before exams, we wear our lucky Harvard or Stanford hoodies from summer break. We eat a particular meal right before a swim meet. We throw coins into wishing wells and baby teeth onto rooftops, hoping to skew the odds of the universe, even if by a little, towards our side. At other times, there are moments of peace, of being so completely at ease with the present that we glide over milestones without even bothering to drop a marker. This year I fell promptly asleep before 10:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, unruffled. I struggle often with sentimentality. At the end of a MUN conference, do you brace the niceties and farewells and exchange social handles in hopes of remaining connected with another delegate’s life outside of the program? Or do you part easily, and throw future contact completely to chance? Which should you seek to preserve more, the secluded camaraderie of two people sharing a moment, or the downward spiral into all other aspects of their life that comes attached with a Snapchat contact? Thinking of one as more valuable than the other would leave one feeling cheated regardless: one tourist, after scrambling to take a picture of a monument, may have felt like he missed being in the moment; another tourist might have felt remorse at not having tried to take out her camera whilst at the same place. Today I decide to not fret: to treasure a moment, sometimes peaceful inaction can work just as well.

Mr. Barronsmysteriously toldusnottowear clothingthatyouwouldn’t wanttogetdirtyin. Mr. Barrons instructed the class to concoct a creation with two-parts cornstarch and one-part water. Well, the actual instructions were to make a model of the magical surface of “Planet Oobleck” and inspect its properties by using two-parts cornstarch and one-part water. The result was a gloopy substance known as oobleck. When I slapped it, it solidified. Yet, it sloshed around furiously when I shook the container. When I took a piece in my hands to inspect, it softened to gloop and slid through my fingers as though it had never been there at all. When we were tasked with stirring food coloring into the oobleck, the substance thickened and solidified, seeming to melt away like ice in a pool of lava. But whenever we smashed it, it formed a barrier. It turns out that the oobleck was neither solid or liquid. It was a little bit of both. In the minds of the sixth graders, this lesson will be remembered forever as both a wonderful experiment, and a lot of cleaning, wiping, and scrubbing.




February Fever. Story of my life.

Uncertain about Uncertainty. Story of my life.

CARIDEE I was sick for a week. Seven whole days of wheezing, coughing, sniffing, blowing my nose into a tissue, and heaving into a bucket. Just when I started to get better in the weekend, a startling realization slammed into me. I was behind on all the work, all the lessons, and all the homework at school. I leafed through Schoology and read through all the attachments. I had so much to catch up on. When Monday came, I was anxious to see what I had missed. In science, they’d blown up ping pong balls with liquid nitrogen. When I saw the video, it seemed like the ping pong balls exploded into the sky, falling hard like tiny pieces of ice from a hail storm. I felt shivers run up my spine as I wondered what the consequences would be if a person was placed inside the tub of liquid nitrogen. In math, there was an upcoming assessment, so I was going to have to catch up fast. Diagrams and models, of all shapes and sizes. In Language Arts, we were starting non-fiction. In Social Studies, now recording a film about preserving the ancient monuments of Egypt. With help from others, I’m starting to catch up. So much happens in a week, but this whole experience has led to the realization that no matter what, teachers and fellow students will always be there to help me get back on my feet.

MICHELLE One of the worst feelings in the world is uncertainty. Uncertainty about the present, uncertainty about the future…it’s always been a grey-area feeling that makes you itchy with frustration. A beloved teacher leaving school. Hesitating between revising a cluttered essay, or scraping the whole thing and starting anew. On rollercoaster rides, fear strikes not really during the big descent, but rather during all the seconds right before. What’s the deal with uncertainty? It unleashes the same butterflies in your stomach as positive stress but yields none of the rewards. You dread it as much as being reprimanded, and yet nothing of actual consequence happens from being uncertain alone. Uncertainty, much like a torch in the darkness, bears little weight and casts long shadows—we stray away for fear of the looming unknown. However, uncertainty paves the way for new stories to tell. Without it, we risk getting too comfortable residing in what we know. It’s essential to accept uncertainty as part of the overall “growing-up” package, treat it as one of the inevitable hitchhikers you’ll grudgingly pick up along the way. And who knows? Maybe they can help carry some of the burden.

March Working together. Story of my life. CARIDEE The week before, I took part in two activities that proved that teamwork was the most important attribute in a group activity. The first activity was a badminton CISSA tournament. During that time, my partner and I had to cooperate together and act as one. If we both lunged for the birdie at the same time, we would end up not catching it at all, and if we both assumed that the other person would catch it, we’d end up avoiding the birdie. We had to carefully coordinate our actions in specific scenarios. In orchestra class, we have been practicing ensembles. My team consisted of me, violin one, a viola, a cello and another violin player. To play the piece, we had to take all the elements into consideration and include all the players. We needed to share the parts evenly and allowed the melody of the piece to be heard. To do this, we had to cooperate well with each other. Without good teamwork, we would never be able to complete the piece together. Although we made mistakes, teamwork was the most important factor in this. Between a badminton tournament to a quartet ensemble, I will never forget that the most important lesson learnt from them is teamwork. Teamwork is the key to sharing success.

Speaking Our Truths. Story of my life. MICHELLE Sarcasm. Satire. Swears. Self-deprecation. Upon these four principles flow the haphazard, jangly style through which 16-somethings today speak their truths. Perhaps it’s a given that adolescents protect themselves through humor whenever they verge into the unfamiliar. The result? A compelling concoction for insiders, but somewhat incomprehensible to the wary adult. A friend of mine publishes a blog. One of her essays, ‘On Studying Philosophy,’ begins with a quip: ‘Now isn’t that the most pretentious thing to ever grace your ears?’ Then, her humor recedes and her thoughts take center stage. Scrolling down, another post comically trashes Peppa Pig. I see these shifts all the time: heartfelt thoughts gingered up with good wit and sarcasm. Is this a sign of weakness; our recessive ability to hold onto larger ideas for long periods of time? Or perhaps a sign of our greatest strength—our ability to synthesize these ideas in ways most significant for ourselves? As we mature, I hope our thoughts can last through this approach; and I hope those who can understand the way we speak our truths outnumber those that cannot.

WINTER 2019-20



April China Alive. Story of my life. CARIDEE The raging torrents were a mere two steps away from me. Rocks and pebbles and who-knows-what-else littered the river floor. From the riverbanks, tendrils of vines grew out of the mossy earth. River trekking in Tonglu for my China Alive trip would prove to be more difficult than it initially sounded. At first contact with the river, I shuddered. An icy torrent blasted my feet, freezing them in place. Another current pushed my feet back over the slippery rock into a deeper part of the river. The water now went up to my stomach as I struggled to gain footing. The tiny pebbles at the bottom of the river were constantly snatched from their place and thrown around like tiny bullets. As I tried moving my feet, my shoes filled with water and tiny bits of gravel seeped in. As I stepped forward, I slowly got accustomed to the chill of the river. Large rocks blocked the path ahead, leaving a whirlpool of sorts in the center of the river. I stepped onto the mossy riverbanks and attempted to climb the rock, but I struggled to find any handholds or footholds or even a hint of a tiny groove that I could hold onto. I tried to use the strong vines growing out of the river banks, but found that they were thorny. They stung my hand and I let go immediately. I very nearly fell, but my classmates grabbed my hand and heaved me up and over the rock. We continued to help each other. This experience led me to see that even in the worst situations, people will still seek to help each other, as best as they can.

Newton’s First Law. Story of my life. MICHELLE ‘Every object in a state of uniform motion will remain in that state of motion unless an external force acts on it.’ A universal law defining both a branch of physics, and a cornerstone for learning. Easily negligible when, say, rolling a pencil; flipping a table becomes another matter. Same goes for the following four years. High school gets hard. Where the force of middle school sends you down a smooth trajectory with all the ‘basic ideas’ of things, high school brings you to a stop with more external forces than most students could count on one hand. Do you get stopped by the arts—its intoxicating swarm of colors and media all but trapping you with a blank canvas unless you reduce, reduce, reduce? Perhaps it’s the sciences—a disorientating, infuriating maze crisscrossed with dead ends? Maybe it’s sports—with inertia seeping into every stiff, uncoordinated muscle? Let us not even begin trying to remain constantly in motion as we trudge through finding our identities.

Highschoolbringsyouto astopwithmoreexternal forcesthan moststudents couldcountononehand. We rejoice at the law of inertia during brief periods of smooth-sailing, then curse its existence as another concept arises and we are stumped once more. Grudgingly, we call this learning. After graduating eighth grade, I wrote a series of advice on surviving middle school. I suggested differentiating between a ‘good kind’ of tired, and a ‘bad kind.’ Now the newcomer again, I think high school will require us to ride out that aforementioned ‘good kind’ of tired. We’ll need to rewire our brains to get the endorphin rush siphoned from chiseling away at what challenges us, instead of hastening the arrival of inertia with harmful, easy indulgences. This has been one of the hardest lessons to learn this year; nevertheless, I consider it vital for the long road ahead. Perhaps this is what Newton will have advocated for when he created the First Law, if he were a philosopher: to become, after slowly cranking to motion with each halting obstacle, more resilient than before.




May Sixth grade. Story of my Life. CARIDEE My first year of middle school has passed by in the blink of an eye, but even as time continues to fly, I will never forget what I got out of the sixth grade. I was surprised at how much change there was. There was no more recess, less worksheets to fill, and more assignments with hard deadlines. Time and time again, teachers would tell us of responsibility, of how independence would matter.

Iwillnever forgetwhat Igotoutof thesixth grade. Iwas surprised athowmuch changethere was. My experience of the transition from the fifth to the sixth grade was similar to that of Harry Potter’s. Of course, there was no magic, no unicorns, and no dragons, but we both changed in a similar way. When Harry first arrived at Hogwarts, he did not know of moving staircases and secret passages. However, when he left, he knew all the shortcuts there were, and how to avoid cranky teachers while sneaking out at night. I arrived at middle school not knowing the quickest ways to get to classes, was unfamiliar with the schedule, and didn’t know what the teachers and students might be like. But now, I feel that I understand middle school much more, every obstacle a moving staircase needing to be crossed before it shifts.

Here’s to Freshmen Year. Story of my life. MICHELLE As I read my letter to graduating seniors, I waited in suppressed fear for the moment where my nose would plug up and I would have to switch to breathing with my mouth, my voice going silent in between—yep, that feeling right before crying. “We will miss you. And we wish you all the best of luck.” Spring. I associate a special myriad of feelings with my birth month—warm rains and the pungent smell of damp leaves, perpetual waits on the brink of sneezing as fluff falls from catkin trees, the refreshing arrival of mewling kittens, a reward from all the yowling cats in heat. There is something deceiving about spring. Sunlight that now pours into every crevice forces you to view everything with a squint. Look in awe at the blue skies and you’ll miss the fact that you left school for the last time that year; doze after exams, bare legs awash with the sunlight, and the bus will have left with younger siblings, growing taller by the month. As I lay on our school’s football field one afternoon, harvesting some well overdue freckles, I felt the school year withdraw from under me and felt a pang of sadness. I don’t want to become entrenched with sorrow for departed milestones; like everyone else, I’m slowly turning to face happiness and excitement at new beginnings, yet I doubt I’d be leaping off my final bus ride home beaming. Closure lingers, for me, like a dull ache. In the first monthly entry, I mentioned not knowing what growing felt like. Now, I think I’ve come closer to an answer—moving alongside our peers and mentors, we learn, we fall in love, we collect, and we let go. Autumn hustles us along, bringing forth new school years, passion burning red and orange. Winter tests our endurance, tests and exams arriving in fiery snowstorms, and we rise from our mistakes and ignorance, again and again. Spring, the season for milestones, colorless, still, waits for us to tie our own loose ends before leaving them behind for summer. When spring comes, allow to come with it reluctance at closing your own chapter; for only after we accept departure can we value new beginnings. That is how we grow.

WINTER 2019-20




What is Age-appropriate? BY VALENCIA PARK ’20 + ASCENT STAFF

What does it mean to be suitable for a particular age group? From young, we are taught to be “ageappropriate”; we are told to present ourselves in a certain way, think and feel a certain way, even talk in a certain way that “fits our age group”. But who is behind this concept? Who decides what is age-appropriate? In pop culture, movies and games that lean towards being violent or sexual are rated R for ‘Restricted’—those under the age of 17 are required to be accompanied by parents or an adult guardian. The very popular “Fortnite”, a survival-type game launched back in 2017 where players collect resources, make tools and weapons, and try to stay alive as long as possible, is rated PG-12, meaning that those under the age of 12 require parental guidance when playing the game. How did people justify that 12-year-olds were mature enough to handle the violence inside the game without supervision though? Who decides the restrictions placed on films and games, and how do they know when someone is ready for something? To me, maturity isn’t directly related to age, rather it is attained via personal experience. Back to the Fortnite example, one 10-year-old may be mentally mature enough to handle the violence that appears in the game, while another 13-year-old, technically old enough according to the ratings metric, might actually not be. Considering this, age, while certainly an important factor, shouldn’t be the only one when we’re determining if something is appropriate to a group of people. Interestingly, the metrics for which we determine how age-appropriate something is appears to have changed over time. In the film industry, movies like “Terminator” or “Die Hard”, which both came out 30 years ago, were rated R at the time of their 22



release. If they had been released today, however, they probably wouldn’t have received the same age restrictions; I’ve seen movies more violent than those being given a PG-13 rating nowadays. A report I read from The Journal of Pediatrics compares the films of today to those from the 1980s, and found that violence shown in PG-13 movies have almost tripled, and that violence shown in movies, in general, has nearly quadrupled. Movies screened within this decade, including “The Avengers” and “The Hunger Games”, are both rated PG-13, contain more violence than the movies that were rated R in the 1980s. It definitely feels like the film industry today is less conservative when it comes to ratings. But does it mean that young minds nowadays are truly able to handle more than those in the past, or might it be purely expectations on our part? It might be a mix of both—as society and standards evolve, people’s openness to various things change. This is most well-reflected in how guidelines for restrictions have matured. This only further emphasizes my belief that an individual’s maturity cannot be measured by their age. People shouldn’t be judged, restricted and corralled by the age rules imposed by society as the concept itself feels transient and far too general. We are more than our age, and a generic number like that shouldn’t be used to limit us from self-expression or used as the sole reason to restrict us.



Introducing… me! Real-Life Global Citizen, out there changing the world. (No applause, please.) Where to start? I mean, the world is a mess, am I right? So many people out there can certainly use my help, or at least my advice. Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. Picking a trip to learn about another part of the world (even though we haven’t spoken to that new kid, from whatever country, who eats lunch alone). Bringing in treats on the designated day to thank the ayis (whom we have mostly ignored the rest of the year). It can be an ironic existence. So, here’s one of those age-old lessons I’m actually taking the time to chew on lately: change is not just something to effect out there. In fact, it seems to me that before we take our show on the road and try to solve some complex world issues, it would do us good to make sure that in our everyday lives we’re not, well, being jerks. ----Two years ago the SAS Puxi campus Kindergarten noticed some trash and dog poop in the neighborhood surrounding the school, and they decided to do a service project. Students designed signs and hung them outside the gates of SAS, sharing their suggestions for how people could better keep the area clean. We took photos, wrote stories, held this up as a great moment of global citizenship. The trouble is that you can’t really nail Global Citizenship without being a legit critical thinker too, and so the Kindergarten teachers took to reflecting on this great project. They asked hard questions, considered complexities and context, built awareness of short and long-term impacts both above and below the surface. They thought about what was learned by the poster experience and what was achieved, what lessons may have been internalized (even accidentally), and what learning was actually most important at the six-year-old level. The teachers reflected, they grew, and the project underwent a major shift. The new, redesigned version of this project taught the students a different view on making change. They started by interviewing SAS guards, ayis, and bus monitors about their experiences in being part of our community. After sharing what made them feel welcome here at SAS, these community members were then asked if there was anything that students did that made their jobs harder.

From this, the KinderGlobal garteners learned about how Citizenship their own behaviors actually sometimes had a direct impact on the just starts with experiences of other people. D-BAJ—Don’t Suddenly Global Citizenship Be A Jerk. was not just a big project, it was a daily way they behaved, made choices, treated others. And instead of trying to change the behaviors of strangers beyond our gates, the kids had to think about themselves, their community, and ways they might want to impact the culture within their own hallway. -----I know—this all sounds so much less cool and less college app-worthy (although it isn’t). And I’m not saying we shouldn’t get out there and try to tackle some of the major challenges facing our planet and generation. We definitely should. I just think we could all do a better job at showing that we’re ready for Global Citizenship by first being decent regular-ol’-here citizens. To everyone we meet in a day. Global Citizenship sometimes just starts with D-BAJ— Don’t Be A Jerk. It’s way harder than it sounds. We live in a world full of systems of power and privilege that each of us benefit from. And when we take advantage of that power, even in a quiet way like blowing past the guards without showing our ID, we are reinforcing a system where some people are treated with less respect, or even less human dignity than others. Ultimately, I really don’t think that’s the kind of world that most of us want to live in. So, let’s actually build the world that we do, starting right here. It will demand of us some hard, critical thought, a bigger awareness of our impact, and loads of courage. But I also think we’ll find that being part of a just and equitable world is way worth it. I’m going to start by taking a tip from the Kindergarteners, and then try to make sure a Kindergarten lesson is just the start.

WINTER 2019-20



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Cherry Wu ’22

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Charlotte Wu ’20


At SAS, on both the Puxi and Pudong campuses, siblings are scattered across buildings, hallways, and classrooms. When you first bump into one of these pairs, you might find yourself exclaiming over the similarities you can spot: “Oh! So you’re her (sister or brother)! Yup, I knew I was right.” But just how much do they resemble…or perhaps differ from each other? To find out, we recruited a pair of sisters, Cherry ’22 and Charlotte ’20, to answer some of our questions.





Snapshot Describe your sibling in 5 words:


CHARLOTTE: Cherry is hilarious. She’s carefree but also reliable, a little immature at times but also ambitious.


CHERRY: Charlotte is disciplined and determined. She has a great sense of concentration, is studious and very target-based.

What memory with your sibling has left the strongest impression on you? CHARLOTTE: The way she takes care of our cat, really stands out to me. She has so much unconditional love for him. CHERRY: I was really young when this happened. We were walking in the park and my feet were tired; since there wasn’t any places we could sit, my sister piggy-backed me for the rest of the walk.

In the classroom and beyond Favorite subjects?

Clubs and activities?

CHARLOTTE: I enjoy English Literature and social sciences like psychology.

CHARLOTTE: I am involved in Forensics, the English Service Project, The Echo, writing, and NEHS.

CHERRY: I’m interested in social studies and English. I like math, but that’s dependant on the subject.

How would you describe your relationship with SAS? CHARLOTTE: I love that SAS provides me with a space to meet new people and try a variety of new activities. CHERRY: I feel very connected to the environment here, and I feel like the school has provided me with many opportunities to explore new interests that go beyond just academics. I also like how they acknowledge the need for social and free time for students.

CHERRY: I take part in swimming and debate. I like to do art as an after-school hobby too, if that counts.

How do you chill out? CHARLOTTE: The usual; I watch tv, listen to music, or hang out with friends. CHERRY: I like to work on room-decor projects, or art projects in general.

First thing you do when you get home? CHARLOTTE: I change into my pajamas! CHERRY: I seek out my cat. Then I change into some comfy clothes, procrastinate a little before finally tackling my work.

WINTER 2019-20



Words to live by What’s your life motto? CHARLOTTE: To never be scared of life, and to live it to the fullest. CHERRY: You can either walk away, or try harder. Choose one and commit to it.

Your favorite quote? CHARLOTTE: “Life isn’t how you survive the thunderstorm, but how you dance in the rain.” CHERRY: “Don’t stress the could-haves, if it should have, it would have.”

What’s your pet peeve? CHARLOTTE: It bothers me when people interrupt me when I’m discussing something important. CHERRY: I don’t like it when people sing over songs while I’m trying to listen to it.

Globetrotting Favorite vacation spot? CHARLOTTE: It would be Hong Kong. It’s always good to visit since my family is there.

Personal style

CHERRY: I really like Philadelphia for their beautiful golden hours. I would love to go to a place with beaches for vacation soon; I haven’t been in such a long time and I miss it.

Describe yourself in 5 words: CHARLOTTE: I would say I’m someone that is ambitious, open-minded, empathetic, easy-going, and hardworking. CHERRY: I’m efficient yet chill, sociable, messy, and crafty.


open-minded MESSY




Favorite type of weather? CHARLOTTE: Sunny and windy! CHERRY: Sunny but also breezy, as long as it’s not humid.

playlist Charlotte’s Losing H.E.R.

Big questions The most memorable event of your life? CHARLOTTE: When I saw volcanoes for the first time in Hawaii! CHERRY: When I attended a residential summer camp at UPenn.

What is the greatest challenge you’ve encoutered? How did you deal with it?

Running Out of Time Tyler, the Creator

LOVE Kendrick Lamar

Rule the World Ariana Grande and 2 Chainz

CHARLOTTE: When my grandmother was suffering from tumor in her brain, this had a really severe impact on my whole family, myself included. The way I worked through such a rough time was by trying to better understand her illness so I could keep myself more informed, and trying my best to spend more time with her. CHERRY: It would probably be on the subject of figuring out my future. I’ve always been someone who didn’t gravitate towards a specific path or interest; it made it hard for me to really concentrate on something because I didn’t have what others called a burning passion. I’ve since learnt to just focus on the present and not worry too much about the future. I feel that getting paranoid over this wouldn’t help and would only make things worse.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? CHARLOTTE: Trying all kinds of different, exotic restaurants and hopefully watching a variety of musicals. CHERRY: Having a good stable job in something art-related. Hopefully be in a place where I’m able to rent a small, cozy studio with my cat.

Cherry’s All-Facts G-eazy


Goosebumps Travis Scott

Ransom Lil Tecca

WINTER 2019-20




Summer Experience at Yale Young Global Scholars BY HANNAH WU ’20

This summer, I attended the Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) summer program at Yale University. Though YYGS was founded in 2001, the program I enrolled in was completely new to the system, which left me with more room for imagination prior to my arrival at Connecticut. My program, also known as Creative Arts reviewed my profile and found that some and Media (CAM), intrigued me during the areas definitely needed more refinement. application process because I hadn’t come I believe that being honest with yourself across a camp so specifically dedicated to and knowing where to improve on is vital the realm of humanities. With the applicant to our self-growth and development. The pool representing over 120 different counrejection only motivated me to invest more tries and all 50 U.S. states, the application time into my personal resume and polish process was intimidating to say the least. weak spots. Experience shapes identity and However, this also signified that I would be as I progressed through my sophomore surrounded by an incredibly and junior year, I found that my diverse range of nationalities identity was slowly reaffirming. and cultures. Having a clearer picture of I BELIEVE THAT BEING Unlike many, I’ve had a my identity allowed my voice HONEST WITH YOURSELF longer history with YYGS and passion to speak more AND KNOWING WHERE that dates back to my naturally through my writing TO IMPROVE ON IS VITAL sophomore year. Back then, which is why I believe my I applied for a different second application was more TO OUR SELF-GROW TH program under YYGS. I didn’t successful. Having applied again AND DEVELOPMENT. have a full scope on how this year and subsequently being selective the program was accepted for the program has and how large its applicant pool was. My also reassured this belief. lack of research really reflected within the Summer camps are usually split into application process and, understandably, I two general categories: the fun ones and got waitlisted. the academic ones. YYGS was first and I’ll admit that I was a bit bitter at first, foremost an academic one, with the day but ultimately knew this was a chance consisting of lectures, discussion groups, for self-reflection. After all, this was the seminars and a capstone. first time I went through such an elaboIn other programs, capstones were rate application process which required designed as a research project undertaken one long essay, two supplementals, two in small groups which sought to propose a forms of teacher recommendations, and solution to a real-world problem. However, so on. Upon being waitlisted, I thoroughly CAM took a different approach on its 28



capstones. We were all grouped into various themes such as love, family, identity, and so on. Within those themes, we were again split into small groups to make and present a creative project surrounding that theme. While the capstone project took place in small collaborative setting, lectures took place in a large auditorium every morning for two hours and covered topics such as the Physics of Dance, Dream Analysis, the Role of Technology, and so on. These lectures were led by professionals in his or her respective fields, many of whom who had extensive first-hand experience with the humanities.

I know it’s cheesy to say that “it’s the process that matters, not the product”. However, this quote really stuck close to heart… The lectures were followed by a breakout session which gave students a chance to debate and discuss about the lecture. In the afternoons, self-selected seminars took place on a wide variety of topics. I, for example, chose the politics of self-love, the aesthetics of food television, and impressionism from photography to social media. Though the seminars were eye-opening, they also introduced numerous challenging topics. I found it interesting that most of the seminars were actual courses or topics taught at Yale. This gave me a good idea on the

overall atmosphere and content I would be exposed to if coming to Yale or studying a similar major. One of the highlights for me at YYGS would definitely be the capstone project. My group, specifically, created a photography exhibition for our theme ‘images’. I’m sure we’ve all come across one of “those” summer camps, boring you with difficult concepts and monotonous lectures. So naturally, I became excited as I could finally create a piece I genuinely cared for. I also got to meet and collaborate with several other talented photographers that share the same passion as me. Within those two weeks, we explored the Yale campus and photographed some of the new friends we met to create our final exhibition. The exhibition consisted of 24 photos, ranging from black and white to color, happiness to sadness. I know it’s cheesy to say that “it’s the process that matters, not the product”. However, this quote really stuck close to heart because there were so many fun moments in the process of creating our exhibition. Don’t get me wrong, the final product was great as well. I could bore you with more technical details of the camp, but it was ultimately the new people I met from all around the globe that made me realize how different our life experiences were. YYGS exposed me to so many different cultures and beliefs thereby challenging some of my preconceptions. As a result, we all left the camp with a pretty different viewpoint of the world. Our camp director said that ‘to remember is to forget’ and though I’ve forgotten half of the lecture contents, it is the people and memorable experiences that stuck with me after. This is to the looks we share. The never-ending conversations and the sudden amazing getaways. This is to our friendship that will never fade.

Words hurt more than you think. Don’t forget to be supportive of our friends’ endeavors because we all need someone who has our back!

WINTER 2019-20




What’s the best thing about SAS? At the end of last school year, we asked a couple of Grade One students from our Pudong campus what they loved most about school, and this was what they had to say:




WINTER 2019-20




In my office, I have a modest collection of suànpán, or Chinese abacuses. I picked them up at an old office supply store near Fuzhou Lu, where they were piled up by the dozens, almost discarded, a relic of a time when they had been the primary tool of calculation. Over the thousands of years abacuses were in widethe forces of mobility at work in families’ lives. spread circulation, users developed a kinetic relationMy students and families often come to me curious ship with the tool, and a cultural identity and knowledge and confused by what drives college admission. Many system emerged. In 2013, UNESCO added suànpán and are looking to understand the concept of the university its zhūsuàn math to the Representative List of Intangible enrollment manager, the ultimate tiě suànpán, or calcuCultural Heritage, a set of quintessential habits not found lation wizard. They’ve zoned in on a “top” college – a elsewhere. These are meant to “maintain cultural diversity concept narrowly defined and rooted in the scarcity prinin the face of growing globalization.” ciple, and they’re looking for angles of entry. They look at The grandparents of many of our students carried me searchingly as they posit: Is this wishful thinking? abacuses in their backpacks like they do their cellphones; Seeing university admittance rates as a proxy for they do not leave home without it! When you consider quality can make it easy to fixate on minutiae, to aim at this, and that the math operating both devices is rooted shaping yourself in the way you perceive as ideal for a in the same number sense, it’s staggering to think that the limited group of magical colleges. These conversations environment in which our students are coming of age is can end up in a tricky loop as students reconfigure their dynamic indeed. formulas against external values for an entry point they I wasn’t thinking about this when I stumbled onto the feel certain must be there if they keep looking. That abacuses. I was drawn to them for their craftsmanship— effort backfires; it fades to black the unique spirit of each for their clean beauty, for how their smooth beads line up student. As I explain all of this, I watch the spinning beads; in perfect rows on slim bamboo rods, for in my office, the abacuses speak to their distinctly local feel. I’m someone fraught fingers. who agonizes over purchases, but, in my My suànpán sits on a table in the early days in China, these were an easy middle of my office. Some visitors pay Seeing university buy. them no mind, others reach out for admittance rates as a At first, I had been looking for ways them. They’re an easy tactile distraction proxy for quality can to soften the planes of glass, white in an environment that can feel loaded make it easy to fixate laminate, and anxieties that came with with expectation, judgment, and vulneron minutiae, to aim at my new office. Uncertainty and nerves ability. They’re an immediate Rorschach shaping yourself in the had always been part of my work, but test, revealing something about how and way you perceive as ideal shifting my career to Shanghai after a where students and parents have grown long stretch at an archetypical American up. In our cross-cultural environment, for a limited group of boarding school meant a change in how I’ve seen them level kids and parents, magical colleges. I experienced my profession. especially those in Chinese heritage I had been where people’s literacy families where some parents can lord of Western education was inherited zhūsuàn over their clueless children. and assumed; here in China, that was My visitors pick them up gingerly at replaced by a diffused, cross-cultural first. Gentle fiddling gives way to full on understanding strengthened by knowledge accumulated zhūsuàn, and stories and priorities begin to tumble out: from constant coming and going. Talking about college is “So, computation is in hexadecimal. Let me show you…” underpinned by the extra anxiety and expectation around “My accountant degree required a suànpán test. I can still 32




feel it in my fingers.” “When I was little, my mother made me take zhūsuàn classes. I hated it!” There is no scheming here; just unspooling of stories. It can appear to have nothing to do with college, but it has everything to do with it. Through the kinetic experience of interacting with the abacus, or simply through the work of good college counseling, students begin to tell who they are and what they value. Through translation or not, we settle into the details of each family’s migra-

than their core identity; they won’t, after all, be bringing their GPA, SAT scores, or transcripts with them to college. What makes them is the composition of their experiences; their originality in a burgeoning China, the mode of thinking they’ve developed in an American international school, and their ability to integrate their academic skills and personal priorities into a version of themselves they want to carry on and build onto from here. You can’t calculate the value of that.

When applying to college is grounded in self, students are empowered and expressive. tion, the particulars of how their trans-economic, trans-Atlantic, trans-Continental experience sits in their DNA, shapes their aspirations, and how the student engages in life at SAS. What does it mean to make decisions for a university landscape driven by Western values having grown up in a family influenced by Eastern concerns? There is space for that conversation. We talk about the collective identity of the family in relation to the individual identity of the student across the span of all cultures. We talk about course choices as a vehicle of intellectual expression, as a signpost of what interests might come. Students share how they relate to the languages that surround them, or how they don’t. Across the Pudong campus’ 119 seniors and 36 nationalities, each story is intricate, compelling, and absolutely unique. And as we go, applying to college becomes less calculated work and more soul work. When applying to college is grounded in self, students are empowered and expressive. “Do you know how to use it?” some visitors ask as they swish the abacus’ beads around. I once had no idea but I have a clearer sense now. Through my student’s stories, I know so much about the people they’ll be in the world, beyond the laboratory of school. Here, they can be confused into thinking the framework of data they’re building is more important WINTER 2019-20




Cory Wanamaker

Painter, bronze sculptor, member of the International Sculpture Organization, National Art Education Association and National Education Association, Fulbright Fellow, and artist-inresidence at Shanghai American School Puxi campus for the academic year of 2019-20.

Ascent recently sat down with Cory to find out what it’s like being an artist-inresidence, what the process of creating art is like for him, and if he has any interesting quirks or rituals as an artist. What does it mean to be an artist-in-residence, in particular from the perspective of a school? The idea behind an artist-in-residence is truly within the name – you’re an artist and you reside in a specific place to make art. What we’re doing here at SAS is truly unique, because artists-in-residences normally happen in universities or in big companies. In the case of SAS, students are given the opportunity to come in and see what’s happening in an actual, working studio. They, and the wider community, are welcomed into my gallery, which is stationed upfront, look at the work hung there, then walk around back to my studio. In this way, the students get to witness the entire process—what it takes for work to arrive to the artist, for the work to then be created, then for it to move into the gallery and display space. It’s the opportunity for them to see what’s in front of the curtain as well as behind. I think of it like this—I’m here as a form of resource that they can come up and talk to, in person, whenever they want. It’s similar to the idea of bringing the internet to life. Students can go online to look up information and do their research, or they can walk on down here, and have me answer their questions. I’m here as an additional form of resource, another voice that helps strengthen the school’s curriculum.




Aside from serving as a creative resource for SAS, what else can you teach our students? One of the areas that I think is quite important for students to understand is everything else that goes on outside of just the art-making process. For one, it’s essential they see that there is a discipline to having a practice as an artist. One of my favorite quotes is from an artist called Chuck Close —“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” That’s true; I come to SAS every day, and I work. Then we start moving on to all these other moving pieces that go into what it takes to be an independent artist. Recently, we had a group of students from IB Economics come to the studio, and we had a conversation about the business side of creating art, and of working as an artist. This is what the residency brings—the opportunity to see this from all aspects. We talked about selling merchandise, which comes in the form of archivable prints, the idea that we have to promote ourselves as artists, and even how we come up with pricing. This last point was especially interesting, because it doesn’t only involve a simple or obligatory understanding of how I, as an artist, value my work, but that it also takes research and understanding of the valuation of my work in the community that I am living in. It was a massive conversation we had.

What’s the process of creating art like for you? My process for creating art is based on understanding. As an artist, I owe a responsibility to the culture in which I live in and pull inspiration from. I’m not an artist that goes into the studio to make angry art, or politically-charged art. I go in to make myself a better person and to feel alive. I look for inspiration in moments and experiences, I search for them in the iconic images from a culture, from the stories within that culture-for

example in the burning ceremony of a temple, the lantern festival, going to a village and watching someone fish, the simple experience of driving home at night and seeing the Yan’an Elevated Highway being lit up in this beautiful, glowing blue. These are the moments we embrace as expats, and these are the moments I try to tell when I create art.

For writers, we have something called a “writers’ block”. Is there something like this for an artist—an “artists’ block” if you will? When you create art, there’s something called “the wall”—it’s that moment where you’re looking for an idea but it may not be there, or you’re in the middle of the process of creating and you hit a block. This is completely normal, and it’s also the type of thing we’re trying to talk to the students about when we have them here. They come in, they see me working, and they might see a painting that looks nothing like the reference materials I have hanging beside it. Or they might see that I’ve taken a painting, torn part of it off, or completely covered it. This isn’t so much about an “artists’ block” as it’s allowing yourself to have a dialogue with the work. It’s letting the work be smarter than you and embracing that, it’s about stepping back from it, and moving forward. It’s important for students to see this; we don’t want students to think that all the pieces that are hanging in a gallery look like that from start to finish. We want them to know that an artist has to make a lot of ‘bad art’ to get that one beautiful piece that ends up out there in the gallery for the public to see.

As an artist, do you have any interesting habits or rituals? I won’t sign a painting without friends over, and a glass of champagne. When I’m about to sign one, I invite some friends over, we pour everyone a glass of bubbly, we toast the piece, I sign it, and we wish that piece a long and courageous life. Another thing I do is not getting my brushes out until the rest of the studio is set up and I think it’s time to start creating. When I move, I pack my brushes in a lovely little case, and I don’t unzip that case until I’m ready. To me, that action of taking those brushes out is almost like a small celebration. No one is around when I do that, but for me, it’s important. The moment signifies something.

Last question, when do you think a piece is finished? I don’t think there’s a proper answer to that question. I have work in people’s home that when I visit now, I look at it and think, “hmm maybe I could do that a little bit differently here” or “maybe I can change this. I wonder if they’d give it back to me so I can play with it more.”

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So, to kind of answer your question, I don’t think a piece is ever done, certainly not in the traditional sense. I sign it, we toast it, we wish it well, but I don’t think it’s ever done.

How do you decide when it’s the right time then? To sign it and let go? When it’s visually ready and I can walk away from the piece, come back a week later and not dissect it further, then it’s probably time. Even then, I tend to walk away for another few days and come back once more before we actually sign it. That,




I think, is when the piece is as close to being created as it’s going to get.

FOLLOW US on WeChat (SASEagles), where we will be doing periodic check-ins on what Cory gets up to throughout the year, as well as to see all the amazing artwork our students put out through our monthly “Campus Canvas” series.

DEAR JUNO Dear Juno, I’m scared. Not scared of something like spiders or heights, but I fear the teacher getting angry at me if I don’t understand something. Every once in a while, either I forget to pay attention to the teacher or I misunderstand something the teacher says, and I feel like I’ll get in trouble for it. I don’t know what to do, and I don’t want to talk to the teacher about it because they might get mad, and I’ll look dumb. Help! Sincerely, Fearful

Dear Fearful , Ugh. I hate that sense of worry that I’m going to upset someone. Hate it. Especially a parent or teacher. You’re right, it feels downright scary. Because if I screw something up, of course people are going to react and judge me because of it. (Right?) I still remember a time in second grade when I did something wrong, and I was sure my teacher would be mad and think less of me, like, forever. (Did she? IDK.) Fearful, I hear ya. And yet, no one wants learning, or our reactions to uncertainty, to be filled with fear. That’s not going to get us where we’re trying to go. Living from a place of fear is never what brings out the best you. (Think about it. It’s true!) In fact, letting fear control us is often what stops us from living our best lives, dear Fearful. Sometimes fear can be a friend. Fear of not keeping up or understanding is part of what motivates us to pay attention, or pushes us to work hard so we don’t get behind. Thanks, fear. But then, when we don’t understand something, what do we gain by staying quiet? How do you feel inside? Safer, maybe, in some ways. Except… then there’s that other nagging fear because you’re still stuck not getting it… so you somehow also don’t feel safe at all, right? And do you know where that leads next? More fear. In fact, it’s only going to grow and grow until you figure out the problem. The longer you go without understanding how to subtract fractions, the bigger a deal it will become. We might save some face in the moment, but in the long-term we’re totally hurting ourselves. Now that once-friendly fear is running our lives. So here’s a plan, dear Fearful. First thing to do when that fear seizes you is look around. Are there

instructions or clues from other places that could help you figure out what’s going on? Don’t jump straight to panic, use your noggin. If that doesn’t work, remind yourself that what you’re learning is difficult and new. We’re always learning new stuff, right? That’s kind of the point of all this. So, think about what you’ve been learning in the lesson, and try to apply it. If that doesn’t work, ask someone sitting next to you. And then on the other side of you. If they don’t understand either, good news! Now the teacher has a role in teaching this part differently or better. Remember, your teacher wants you to understand, that’s what teaching is. Try to think of it this way: by asking, you’re helping your teacher do his/her job better! Plus, now you and your classmates can go at it together. “We’re not understanding…” (And you know what? The almost hilarious part is that after all this you’ll see your teacher is not mad after all.) You’re not dumb, fearful, you’re learning. I promise. And venturing into new waters where we don’t understand things yet... that’s life. It will keep on, year after year, so we have to keep practicing how to advocate for ourselves, to get the resources we need to make the most of, well, everything. Here’s one last secret I want to leave you with, Fearful: this learning you’re doing? The only person that is for is YOU. You can come out of this grade having understood 80% of what the teacher taught, or 40%, or 98%. Eventually you’re going to walk away knowing how to subtract fractions, or not. And whether or not you learned it won’t actually impact your teacher’s life. It will impact yours. Knowledge, as well as every chance to not just take life quietly sitting down, is something available to you every day. You can take it or leave it. So go get ‘em, you sweet, brave scaredy-cat.

Sometimes fear can be a friend.

Yours, Juno

WINTER 2019-20




WINTER 2019-20

By the Unlikely Astrologer


Think you prefer to be wound this tight? Ha! You’re probably still trying to prove something. Since we can all agree that’s a black hole leading nowhere good, maybe you should give yourself a break and start the day with simpler goals than perfection. Like, “How about today I’ll drink enough water.” Hydration is no accident, you know.


Stubborn much? You can budge an inch once in a while, and world won’t end. We checked. Or if you’re gonna be that stubborn, at least use those skills to help your friends not get ripped off at the fake market like they always do.


You’re going to let go of some things you’ve outgrown in this season. If you need to cry, that’s okay. When you’re done, wipe off that face, and get back to your new, bigger life. Oh, and don’t neglect your math homework in the meantime, that stuff waits for no one.


No time for yourself? That’s because you let everyone else plan your time. Put on your best, kickin’ shoes, order your bubble tea with double the bubbles, and be your own boss one of these days. Rainy days are lucky, as long as you don’t forget your yu san.





You’re on a roll, and you know it. Keep that forward momentum but don’t miss out on the details. (Sick of the details slowing you down? That’s fine, just be prepared to be tripping over your own shoelaces for, like, ever.)


Creative energy is upon you, and your inspiration will know no bounds if you give yourself time in the day to let your mind wander. No, we don’t mean when you are also doing eight other things. Let go, Virgo. And avoid dogs in sweaters. (If that’s even possible.)


You’re smart, really smart, but you’re not feeling it lately. Try some meditation to get plugged back to the bigger picture. Then go visit an old teacher and do your homework in the library. Everyone feels smarter in there.



If you’ve been waiting for the right time to assert yourself, it has arrived! For maximum success, you’ll need to eat a turkey leg and 2 tea eggs before school on Monday mornings. A bing on the weekends. A full belly and strong self-esteem are your best friends right now. (But don’t forget your real friends. Seriously, don’t.)


Feeling gutsy? Good. Take initiative this month. Not the wimpy kind like raising your hand in class, the big kind: talk to someone you wish was your friend. Do a project in a whole different style than your teacher expects. Make a grand gesture. And avoid anyone in a green jacket.

Lemme guess. Your plan this weekend is to… do whatever’s expected of you. (Homework for starters?) Do you even know who you’re trying to please? Figure it out, mate, they hold too much power over you. Then try a little yoga and spend the day doing only things you want to do.

Remember nature? We didn’t think so. At least take a stroll around your neighborhood and shake up the monotony of it all. And for goodness sake, don’t bring your phone. WeChatting your friends a million half sentences all the time is like, so last year.



All your work is finally paying off! It’s about time. Make sure your parents see it, so they get off your back. In fact, give them this magazine and then tell them to get out of your room. Ready for what comes next? It’s a good time to take a stand on something important to you.



WINTER 2019-20