This season many high school seniors across Beijing will be graduating from high school, packing up, and moving to various countries in pursuit of their next calling in life. Today two awesome seniors, Esther and Sophia, are joining us to share about their high school experiences, their plans for the future, and their wisdom they gained along the way.

So ladies, how long have you lived Beijing? What brought your families here?

Esther: I’ve been in Beijing for 13 years. My dad came here first because of his work, and after a year, we followed him.

Sophia: I have been in Beijing for almost 6 years. My parents moved me and my siblings here when I was in the middle of my 7th grade year for my dad’s work. He worked as a pastor at BICF City Church for the past couple of years.

Quite a long time for both of you! Where do you currently go to school?

Esther: I’m currently studying in Hope International School in Beijing, and I’ve been here since 9th grade, so four years.

Sophia: I also attend HIS and I have been at this school the longest I have ever been at any other school, five years. My first year at Hope was my eighth grade year, after a year of homeschooling so it was a very refreshing and exciting beginning.

I know that senior year is a year of making big decisions. So what does the next chapter in your life look like? And how did you come to that decision?

Esther: I’m planning on going to university in Indiana, in the U.S.. I’ll be studying Food and Nutrition in Business at Purdue University. It was one of my top choices. I prayed over the choices I had and I was lead to this one.

Sophia: I have applied and been accepted to numerous colleges this year but after each acceptance I never felt a peace or confidence about attending that school. That is when I begin to consider taking a gap year.

An opportunity opened up in Israel where I will be volunteering and helping at a church in Israel for six months. I will be doing this as well as a bit of traveling in Europe. In this time, I hope to really seek God’s will for my future in terms of where and what to study as well as gain a lot of life experience before I enter college.

I think there is value in taking a season of not rushing ahead and just waiting on God. There is a lot of unknowns that are ahead, but I am confident this is the right decision for me.

Esther (second from left) and Sophia (front right) with friends

After many years in Beijing, you are both moving on to other places! What will you miss about Beijing? What will you not miss?

Esther: I will miss the ancient sights, especially the Forbidden City. And of course, my sister, my dog and my house. I basically grew up here, so Beijing has most of my childhood memories.

I will not miss the air for sure…

Sophia: Although I am filled with so much excitement for the year ahead and all its adventures, I am definitely going to miss Beijing and China which has been my home for 11 years. I have spent all my teenage years in Beijing, so it has played a big role in who I am. I will definitely miss the international community, Chinese culture, the rich history in Beijing, the convenient transportation, and the food.

I think the only thing I won’t miss about this beautiful city is of course, the pollution. Regardless of the air, I would love to come back to Beijing, possibly even live here again.

Well Beijing does have a lot to offer! So how do you feel about moving somewhere new?

Esther: I’ll be going to college on my own, and to be honest it feels pretty scary but I’m also really excited about it. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of culture shock, but I’m excited about trying to live in another culture.

Sophia: Growing up I have moved around a lot so I am excited for the new place I will call home for a few months. I know living in Israel will be a big change, especially with language. Even though I have lived in China, a foreign country, I can still speak Chinese. I am expecting a new kind of culture shock when I go somewhere where I cannot speak the language.

Senior trip to Japan, 2019

You’ve done it before Sophia, and you can do it again! What are you both excited about for next year? What are you nervous about?

Esther: New school, new culture, new people, and completely new places. I’m both excited and nervous about those. Since I know no one there, I’ll really have to do everything on my own, and make huge decisions by myself.

Sophia: I am excited to experience life independently. It is something that I have never experienced fully, but I know that my parents have prepared me well for it. Although I am very excited about this, it is also what scares me. I am going to have to get used to things like making all my meals, traveling, navigating airports, and applying to jobs. I know there are so many other small details I will have to figure out in the upcoming months which are daunting yet exciting.

Think of a teacher or mentor that really inspired you during your high school years. Who was it? And how were they a good role model to you?

Esther: My highschool art teacher. She such a lovely lady, always smiling, and was always able to blend in with us. Sometimes we’re pretty annoying and loud, and I even feel that, but she would just tolerate us and joke with us. I feel like she really cares about us, our feelings and our lives. She also plays with us and we obey her. I feel like she’s a friend that I could talk to, and a mom that could understand and comfort me, but at the same time she’s also a teacher who’s really professional, caring, and kind.

One more point, I also love how she always gives us the space to do whatever we want, if we are actually doing art, not just copying. She inspires me both on art and life. It is just such a joy to have her class and end every day so happily.

Sophia: A mentor that I had during high school was my friend Nastia. We would always see each other at church, she led my youth group for a couple of years, and we would always make time once in a while to meet with each other.

She taught me so much about how to maintain a healthy heart that pursues God actively. She talked to me like her equal even though I am much younger, but she was also able to teach me and correct me if was wrong. I admire her because of her directness and as someone like me who does not enjoy confrontation, with her I was able to learn how to be confident but gentle with others.

Sophia (second from left) and Esther (front right) with friends

That’s really inspiring to hear! There are many teachers, coaches, and youth leaders who really strive to be that role model you both just described. What is some advice you would offer these leaders so they could serve students better?

Esther: In my personal opinion, teachers should be professional. And since our school is a Christian high school, building connection first, and then influencing students will be so much more accepted by students than just trying to teach them how to do life. Teachers are in a position where they are students’ role models, so I think it’s very important for teachers to be good models.

Sophia: I would like teachers or any leader of youth to remember that we are always listening, watching, taking things in, and forming our own views and opinions, so be wise with how you interact with us and other adults. Also, be honest with students, do not always sugar coat things, trust your students and this trust in them will help them to feel valued.

Calibrate: Spring 2018 Camp.

That’s great feedback! How about those students in the year behind you? Now that you are experts on being high school seniors how would you say juniors should approach their senior year?

Esther: Trust yourself and believe that you’ll go to college. Don’t think that no college will ever accept you, don’t underestimate yourself. Senior year goes by really fast, so enjoy your time, and be happy.

Sophia: Juniors! You are almost done but don’t start to slack off. Rest during your senior year but also take advantage of the time you have left with your friends, family, teachers, church, and city. It will go by so fast so make time to do the things you love with excellence.

Do your last things well so you can look back and know that you did your best and didn’t waste your time. But also, do not say yes to everything, even though you may want to because it will be the last chance. Choose and do it well.

Awesome! And while you’re giving out free advice, what can you say to students starting high school next year?

Esther: Work hard. Also, it’s a great time to explore yourself, figuring out who you are and what you want. It’s not too early.

Sophia: Get ready because it is going to be a couple of hilarious, stressful, fun, and formative years. Forgive easily, do not waste your time being upset with people. Don’t gossip, it only leads to hurt. Stop worrying what others think about you, because they are too busy thinking of what you think of them to think of you. And be wise with your time. Balance well, make time for friends, schoolwork, church, and most importantly family.

Prom night, 2019

Finally, a question a lot of adults ponder is how they would do high school differently if they could do it all over again. Since high school is fresh in your memory, how would you answer this question? What would you do differently?

Esther: I would study harder, make wiser decisions, and try to connect with more people.

Sophia: I do not think there is anything I would do differently. Looking back, I can smile and know I survived those math classes I thought I would never make it out of, I sang my heart out in those musicals, I planned prom well with Student Council, and had fun leading. I was myself and I connected with people who were just classmates but are now lifelong friends.

Amazing! Well ladies, thank you so much for sharing your experiences and advice with us today. I am really excited for both of you as you graduate high school and move on to bigger and better things!

Readers, let’s be in prayer for seniors graduating this season as they make big transitions and follow God’s call on their life.

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