Did you know they serve instant coffee in cafes in Ecuador? Or that you would never give someone four gifts in Taiwan, because odd numbers and the number 4, specifically, are considered unlucky?
Incoming Grade 9 student Naomi lives in the Ukraine, attends Pechersk School International, an IB World School, and is of Lithuanian descent. Nevertheless, her experiences and imagination allowed her to create a five-minute podcast
called “Diaries of a Third Culture Kid,” about a well-travelled young male explaining countries’ specific customs, in essential and compelling detail. Her work earned her the Grand Prize among Grades 5 to 8 students, at the 2021 International Student Podcast Competition
, sponsored by the American Community School of Abu Dhabi, beating out hundreds of submissions from 42 schools in 26 countries.
“I have only truly lived in Ukraine, but going to an IB World school, and meeting people of all backgrounds, has shaped my life,” says Naomi. She wrote this piece as part of an assignment for a Language and Literature class.
Naomi has Canadian roots. Her mother’s family immigrated to Canada from the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine. Brought up with Ukrainian traditions, she learned to play the bandura (бандура), celebrated its holidays and learned fluent Ukrainian. Her father’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Lithuania and Poland, and he was brought up in Illinois. Although both moved to Ukraine, their family of four made frequent visits to relatives in North America.
As a result, Naomi definitely feels a product of multiple cultural identities.
“Europe's culture has impacted me just as much as North American culture has, or other international cultures have, making me too random to fit inside of any box or label,” she says.
In addition to the cross-cultural content of her podcast, the intentionally sparse and specific detail made it stand out from the pack. An aspiring writer and poet—she’s already working on a novel and poetry collection—Naomi is a voracious reader who loves authors Neil Gaiman and Brit Bennett. Her writing advice is workshop worthy.
“Many people fill their writing with buffer language,” she says, “and often that ends up cushioning the impact that your piece may have on an audience. To create a truly authentic piece, writers need to strip down their writing to what they know will impact the audience.”
For this incoming student, learning and inquiring are definitely a way of life already, not tasks reserved for the classroom only.
“I've found complete comfort in getting lost in other people's lives through books, and reading has become a way for me to relax, not just for taking notes for English,” says Naomi. “My mind is constantly contemplating climate change, gender expression, womanism, identity, intersectionality and anything else I can think of.”
We look forward to welcoming Naomi in September.