Empowered Learning: Finding My Voice and Becoming My Best Self at YCIS

Written by: Janelle Garrett (Lower Secondary Coordinator and MUN Director) and Fred Fang (Year 11)


Fred Fang is a thoughtful, friendly, fun-loving, and hard-working Year 11 YCIS student. With a maturity that belies his 15 years, Fred advocates for students taking control of their learning so that they can engage the many learning opportunities available to them at YCIS with passion and become their best selves. When 15-year-old Year 11 student Fred Fang  arrived from Toronto and joined YCIS Pudong in Year 6, like many 10-year-olds, he was used to his parents making all of the decisions around his education—from what school he would attend to what classes he took and what activities he participated in after school. Unfortunately, this meant that although he had incredible opportunities, he hadn’t stayed in a school longer than 2 years, was painfully shy and struggled to connect as a learner, and he spent a lot of time taking classes like swimming and piano, which he didn’t enjoy. At YCIS, he finally started to put down roots and eventually felt more grounded. By the time Fred was in Lower Secondary, he said, “I had forged strong friendships with classmates from all over the world, and I put my foot down, and chose activities I actually enjoyed, like chess, and tried different sports through CISSA like basketball, floor hockey, badminton and table tennis.”


Although Fred struggled with being shy and felt a bit awkward in those early adolescent years, he enjoyed his friends and his teachers and the tight knit community at YCIS that gave him the space to explore and learn. When his parents considered moving him to another international school in Shanghai for high school, Fred was adamant that he wanted to stay.  He was just starting to gain confidence to try new things, was encouraged and supported by friends and teachers here, and felt this was a place where he could become his best self.

“I think that having a choice in my education is definitely important. Our parents may have certain expectations for what we should do in the future, but I think that students should be the ones that decide ultimately what subjects or CCAs to do. After all, we have to live with the choices, so why shouldn’t it be our own? YCIS has so many different subjects and CCAs to choose from, which allowed me to explore different things and discover which things that I truly have a passion for and figure out those things that I have no interest in, which are both important life lessons.”

As Fred learned to self-advocate, he became a more empowered learner, bringing about impressive changes in the classroom and beyond. Fred continued, “Working with Tess Robinson, Priyanka and consultants at TEAM Edu supported my learning at YCIS as they encouraged my self-discovery with fresh ideas and strategies on how to be more engaged as a learner, strengthen my weaker skill areas, and push myself further beyond my comfort zone. I began to participate more meaningfully in my lessons and engage my teachers outside of the classroom and take advantage of new opportunities for learning. Math was something I used to be terrible at. But after a lot of work, I’ve really improved as a mathematician, and found joy in it. TEAM Edu also introduced me to several amazing summer camps, where I met friends that I am still in contact with.”

“I used to be a really shy kid who was barely able to ask a question in class. But from being challenged to ask one good question in each class each day in Year 9 to being encouraged by my teachers and friends to join activities like MUN (Model United Nations) and Social Enterprise, I have been forced to speak more, have come out of my shell, and gained confidence. I couldn’t have imagined speaking in front of an audience two years ago. But I’ve been to ten MUN conferences over the past 1.5 years in Shanghai, Beijing and even Singapore. At my first conference, I was only brave enough to ask one Point of Information. Now I actually love giving speeches about any topic, and earlier this month, I served as the Deputy President of the Security Council at the DISMUN conference, chairing the committee and encouraging other delegates to make their points. After joining MUN, I started to take an interest in global news, and I started reading news websites and have real informed opinions about the world around me, becoming a much more engaged global citizen. I also forged deeper bonds with my MUN teammates from YCIS as we traveled and spent time debating together and I broadened my network with incredible students from other schools around the world.


These friendships are important because they inspire me to be better, to try new things, to think differently. One of my good friends was the reason that I took Computer Science and it is now my top choice for a major in university. Another friend reintroduced me to the wonders of chess, which has bonded me even closer to him because we both had a passion for the game. Chess allowed me to considerably improve my thinking and analytical abilities. The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award offered me the opportunity to explore other different activities, all the while getting to challenge myself with outdoor hiking, cycling, camping and exploring with my friends.”

After almost 6 years in Shanghai, Fred’s family is moving back to Toronto in 2020. Fred will miss his YCIS friends deeply, is sad he won’t get a chance to participate in the Job Shadow programme next semester, go on the IB Trip to Thailand in Year 12, or graduate with his classmates. Fred is grateful for his years at YCIS—especially because he was able to choose and forge his own path towards success, with great company along the way. He is excited for and empowered to navigate his next learning adventure.