Circles to a younger Rachel equated to a mistake. A bold, red circle drawn on my work always made me feel somewhat guilty. My school years prior to SJII have always placed emphasis on correcting mistakes and becoming better through a process of teacher-student feedback. However, I have learnt over time that circles mean much more than an error, and learning is much more than just finding mistakes. The simple shape of a circle becomes more than a mistake, but a symbol of unity, of wholeness, of timelessness.
The SJII community embodied the unity of a circle. The relationships I made were not just limited to my circle of friends, but a community that was bound by a common desire to learn and to serve. I am surrounded by students who are willing to share their notes to strangers, who offer their time and heart to the school community and society at large. Teachers, school staff and a network of generous donors and parents make this possible for us through their effort and sacrifices. I found that we were driven towards something bigger, towards creating an environment of generosity both within and out of SJII, and it is through this common desire that we embody the unity of a circle.
I find circles being relevant even in my IB studies. In Geography, we draw circles to represent feedback loops – cycles that amplify themselves. What we take will cause us to lose; deforestation accelerates climate change. But what we give will return doubly; an act of generosity becomes a catalyst for a better world. As a scholar, I recognise that I have received from the generosity of donors, strangers whose faith in me enabled me to grow in heart and mind. I grew from the generosity of teachers who emphasised not my mistakes, but my potential, who were willing to give me their time to read my extra essays, and to encourage me on my bad days. I am made whole by the generosity of faith to see me for who I am and who I can be.
Receiving means that I have a duty to continue this virtuous cycle in SJII and beyond. It is humbling to be able to contribute to a Southeast Asian project on organic farming in Vietnam, lead my CCA Comm-Unity in helping to raise funds for the Purple Community Fund, and build Safe Water Gardens for villagers in Bintan Island as part of my Challenge Week. I can now truly say to my juniors that IB is worth the effort not because of the chase towards the elusive “45”, but because our learning allows us to go out into the world and become a leader, ambassador and pioneer for change. This, I believe, is the heart of Lasallian education, and will continue to be a part of who I am as a learner beyond the classroom, beyond SJII.
Months after my graduation, I look back at my time here and realise that I have truly come full circle. I came in the very first time with eyes full of awe, a curiosity for what is to come in my next two years in SJII. I leave the school as an alumni with the same eyes of wonder, excited for the years ahead reading Land Economy in Cambridge. Just two years ago I was listening to a guest speaker talk about her experiences in IB. Now, I am talking to the part of the graduating class of 2021 about how I worked towards my own small successes. Just as I have received, I am finding small and big ways for me to give. I recognise this privilege, and I recognise that I am now finally able to leave to serve.
The beauty of a circle is that there are no edges. There is an infinite number of possibilities in how my circle of life will end up like, but it is in that excitement of not knowing what, not knowing how, but knowing why: To leave to serve. I continue to move through my life’s story arcs, I continue to endeavour towards a fuller life marked by a circle of amazing people, a cycle of generosity, and a path of infinite possibilities.