Dreamy School Project 2021: Going Beyond Boundaries

by Norielle Eco || Photo credits: Mai Sakajo

The question “Would you be interested to join this?” kept echoing in my mind as I stared at the ceiling above. 

The Ritsumeikan High School is once again hosting another project, and Ma’am Remz, my former English teacher, had just asked me if I were interested in joining. 

I consider myself an introvert, so the thought of whether to grab this rare opportunity or to just stay in my comfort zone kept me awake in the middle of that night. 

For the past two years, the Ritsumeikan Junior and Senior High School, through RitsMentor, has hosted multiple projects to strengthen bonds and foster friendship among students worldwide amidst the pandemic. This year’s project was named “Dreamy School Project”, which intended to create a magazine through the collaborative efforts of participants from different countries. It aimed to boost the conversations among students by letting them establish their ideal schools by using their imagination. However, as the borders of some countries are still closed due to COVID19, the event was held online. 

My hesitation notwithstanding, I decided to take on the challenge and said yes. Together with Kuya Jim Cadion, Ate Minoelle Aralar, and Patricia Galapon, we set out as representatives for PSHS-EVC in this month-long activity. 

The participants were divided into two major groups: one group scheduled to meet on Saturdays while the other on Sundays. For the Saturday schedule, participating students were mostly from Asia and Europe. On the other hand, the Sunday group was composed of students from Asia, North and South America. The groupings were in consideration of the time zones and schedules of the participants. We, students from PSHS-EVC, were scheduled to join the online meetings every Sunday at 9:00 am, JST from October 3 to November 14. 

On the first Sunday, we were grouped into five teams of five, with each team containing students from different countries. Three of my group mates were from Mexico, Japan, and Texas, while our fifth member did not show up. When we first met in the Zoom breakout room, the atmosphere was utterly awkward. Everyone was shy around each other, but we pushed ourselves to be as active as we could in getting to know every member and sharing different information about ourselves. 

The first few Sundays were allocated for the group discussions. We were tasked to share about our school and country. We talked about how similar or different we were from the time the school would open, the schedule we follow, the events we conduct annually, the facilities we have, and much more. As the holidays were fast approaching, the topic of our culture was also brought up. We shared about how we celebrate yearly occasions in our country, and it was interesting to note that even though Philippines and Japan are both located in Asia, the culture of Philippines was a lot more like Mexico’s. 

The remaining Sundays passed by in a blur. After talking about our individual experiences, we combined what we had discussed and used them as references for our ideal school. We, then, finalized the details of our dream school and placed them in a shared Google document so that anyone can feel free to add their ideas anytime. Afterward, we assigned each other to write some specific parts of the magazine and create a layout for these on our shared file in Canva, a graphic design platform.

Below are the pages that the PSHS-EVC students had created with their individual groups:

This three-paged portion was created by Kuya Jim and his group, Group 17, who were composed of two students from the USA, a student from Japan, and from Spain. Kuya Jim was able to contribute the first page, the articles about the daily schedule, lunch menu, and location. 

Patricia was in Group 15, together with students from Japan, Columbia, Mexico, and USA. They were able to create this detailed and pleasing to the eye, two-paged section. Patricia was the one who wrote about the subjects, clubs, transportation, dormitory, and some of the rules. 

These two coastal-designed pages were created by our group, Group 16. Unfortunately, only three of us, me and the students from Mexico and Japan, were active during the whole course of the project. I was assigned to write the introduction and the annual events.

The group presentations were held on the last day, November 14, through Zoom. It was such an amazing experience to witness each group proudly presenting their creations. A poll was conducted afterward to see which presentations the participants liked. Surprisingly, Patricia’s group got 50% of the votes, Kuya Jim’s got 21.4%, our’s got 14.4%, and the remaining two groups got 7.1% each. We finished the day with a photo op., and sadly, it was time to say goodbye. It was such a bittersweet moment to watch our newfound friends leave the Zoom call one by one while bidding their farewells, signifying that this month-long endeavor had come to a close.  

Honestly, the whole situation was nerve-wracking for me as it was my first time joining this kind of event. I was not sure how I was going to survive this month-long activity as I was not used to interacting with new people. Nevertheless, the anxiety did not stop me from looking forward to the Sunday meetings with my groupmates. I was determined to push myself beyond my boundaries, and I am proud that I was able to pull it off. The excitement and curiosity that I felt were indescribable. I have gained a lot from this experience, and I can now say, I do not feel any ounce of regret saying yes, as it was all worth it.

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