Caelan Hermans spent seven years at ICHK and is studying at the Victoria University of Wellington.
What did you most enjoy about your time at ICHK?
I was a student at ICHK for 7 years, meaning that I have a lot of good memories of enjoyable experiences. I just loved coming to school everyday and had such wonderful and enthusiastic teachers who made learning enjoyable and exciting. I liked being able to have fun with my teachers and my friends and form long lasting connections.
A large amount of my time at school was spent in the drama studio whether it was during lessons, break times or after school activities – the drama department was a big part of my life at ICHK. I participated in every single drama production and showcase for seven years and was given the opportunity to take on more performative and directorial responsibility. I witnessed first hand the responsibility and independence given to students to creatively express ourselves without restrictions. Having control over what we devised was something that I believe is incredibly unique, and is a crucial part of what makes ICHK, ICHK.
I do have to say that my last week at ICHK was probably one of the best weeks of my life. As a year group, we became so much closer and nostalgic as we reminisced about every experience we had at school from 11 year olds to 18 year olds . We were also able to show all of our teachers how much we respected them, how much they meant to us and the influence they had on who we have become as individuals and who we are still becoming. Additionally, we were also shown how much we meant to the teachers and how much they respected us which isn’t something that a lot of people can say they have experienced. One of many examples throughout the years was when they organised a surprise tea party for us on our penultimate day leading to many, many… many tears. In short, my favourite thing about ICHK is the love we have for the teachers and the love they have for us, leading to the everlasting community spirit.
How do you feel that teachers at ICHK prepared you for life after school?
The learning environment created by teachers at ICHK in which students can recognise that they matter and that their voices are valued just as much as teachers, is something that has lit a flame inside me from which a love and passion for learning ignites. Learning is made easier when teachers are willingly open and vulnerable with you about all aspects about life which has been reinforced by the adult-to-adult relationships students and teachers are able to have. I am fortunate to have had this experience at ICHK and to be able to go into university excited about my studies and my future, instead of being stomped on and discouraged by the traditional, robotic and archaic education system.
The encouragement, support, care and respect I received from my teachers has motivated me to try my absolute best at everything I attempt whilst actively figure out all the ways I can improve, it has empowered me to ask questions without shame, I have also been taught to acknowledge the power of my voice and be able to state my opinions and beliefs without doubts or worries.
However, at this moment I feel like I’m not fully aware of how much my teachers have prepared me for life after school and the way that they will have an impact on my future. I feel as if this appreciation will come once I move into the next chapter of my life and start to experience the world differently and learn new things about myself.
How do you think that ICHK differs from other schools?
There are so many different qualities that ICHK has that makes it stand out from other schools, not just in Hong Kong but globally.
With this being said, I have never been to a school quite as unique as ICHK. Only at ICHK are you able to know every single student by name, as well as know every teacher on a personal level. Only at ICHK are you able to interact with teachers outside of the classroom and have genuine, adult-to-adult conversations with them and feel like they actually care about you. Only at ICHK is there an emphasis on your hard work and efforts instead of your grades. Only at ICHK will teachers go out of their way to support you and do everything imaginable to make sure that you are thriving and putting your best self forward. Most importantly, I came out of ICHK feeling valued and of importance. In a lot of schools, students aren’t given this much credit and it is these feelings that will continue to help shape my identity and drive me to have a meaningful and impactful role in society.
ICHK is more than just a school. It truly is a loving community that you are allowed to thrive in.
What were the key skills that you learnt at ICHK?
Developing a growth mindset was probably the most impactful and important things to have ever been introduced to me. Over a few years, I was able to accept that mistakes and “failure” are a part of the learning process and that they need to be encountered in order to improve because without them you’re not growing. I was able to accept that true success comes from hard work and the amount of effort you put in to something which was crucial for me when it came to taking my IB exams, because I wasn’t determining my success by the number I received. I was just proud of myself for putting in so much effort and working my absolute hardest in every single one of my classes and I could tell you for a fact that my teachers would feel the same way.
Just as importantly, I think that the ability to understand people is a skill that was nurtured at ICHK and will be of great benefit to me throughout my life. Being able to understand and respect people who believe different things, who come from different backgrounds, or who behave differently, is highly underrated and under appreciated. Not very many people can accept and learn from these differences in others, but the fact that ICHK promotes such skills is something that I take pride in having developed.