By Terence Young (LPC , class ’10-’12), who found action and understanding in Sino-Japan Youth Conference of 2011
I first joined the Sino-Japan Youth Conference at UWC because of a feeling of guilt. When I was young, my peers and I were often driven by the long standing hatred the Chinese felt for the Japanese because of stories of the atrocities the Japanese committed in the First and Second Sino-Japan Wars (1894-1895 and 1933-1945 respectively). Unfortunately, this led to our alienating an innocent Japanese classmate. Looking back, I feel terrible for the things I have done. This is why I wish to normalize the unstable relationship between Japan and my country, China, so that my mistakes will not be repeated. I believed that the Sino-Japan Youth Conference was the perfect curricular activity because it embodied all the qualities of a United World College education in a condensed version.
It wasn’t easy to find, however. When I first entered Li Po Chun United World College, I was sorely disappointed: even though everyone was very interesting and we all became fast friends, my classmates and I did nothing more than sit around and discuss the problems of the world. What happened to action? What happened to making a difference? Despite its noble goal of achieving peace I could see no form of progress or change coming of our United World College education.
I moved from one initiative to another to find a suitable community service for myself and put my desire to change the world into action, but left each group because of either its small scope or lack of action and results. I wanted to help as many people as possible – I wanted to find an initiative that actualized its vision, one which affected a large population of people in need.
Even the Sino-Japan Youth Conference turned out at first to be a perpetual drag; I needed to fill out mountains of forms and pen rivers of proposals before the conference itself, which required great planning and precision due to their scale and detailed nature. Although I learnt a lot about formal lingo, the conference bore a strong resemblance to the other initiatives I had tried. I still encountered meetings with no results; a situation I used to and still abhor. Endless hours of meetings and even more hours of staying up late rushing sponsorship applications (which bore no fruit) drove me to dislike the conference as much as the other projects I had left.
Nonetheless, during the course of the long preparation period for the conference I witnessed something unique to our team. Even though we were always swamped with a heavy workload that seemed to move us in no direction at all, the unity of our surviving members always shone through in the end.
And once the conference began, my pessimism about our efficacy was soon replaced with a glowing pride. When the Hong Kong, Mainland China and Japanese teams met, I discovered like-minded idealists who moved me with their unstoppable enthusiasm and determination. The most poignant effect the conference had on me came from the participants. After a marathon of workshops on the implications of bias, stereotypes and critical thinking, the young students from Japan, Mainland China and Hong Kong morphed from their cocoons of shyness into an extremely tight knit group. I was moved deeply when I saw these young students from countries that have been historical rivals embrace each other in tears after a cathartic session, acknowledging and forgiving each other for what happened in the past.
The participants still remain in touch with each other, ceaselessly planning their own initiatives and actions even as we organizers have returned to the hectic pell-mell of the IB.
Like them, I continue to work towards improving Sino-Japan relations in the form of the fourth Sino-Japan Youth Conference in 2012. Our team spirit and the enriching experience of the conference itself are what keep me looking for all the support we can get – because this conference embodies in all senses, what a United World College really is: change and progress.
Note of appreciation: Thank you Kanupriya Kapoor (AC Alumni) for editing this article.