HoWSC 5 | Suzu Kitamura

In May 2015, my parents told my brother and I that in exactly one month, we were leaving our home of 15 years in the United States to go live in my mother’s native country of Japan. I laughed. I found out the hard way that they weren’t joking.

I left a 4.0 GPA, an internship offer in the science department of a state university, and friends I had known since kindergarten behind and started school at my current school in Kyoto. Keep in mind: I couldn’t read or write a word in Japanese. I couldn’t understand anything my teachers were saying. I couldn’t even read my exam papers. I was devastated. The one thing I had been confident in my whole life was my grades, and now all I could do was watch them plummet. I lost all confidence in myself; I felt humiliated. I resented my parents for forcing me to move to a country I knew next to nothing about. I resented myself for not being able to catch up to my peers. I felt like I had been robbed of my future.

Fast forward to February of 2017, when my friend Kai messaged me and asked if I wanted to participate in the World Scholar’s Cup. Although I wasn’t entirely sure what WSC was all about, was kind of weirded out by the amount of stuffed animals involved, and uncertain of whether I would be successful, I agreed.

I quickly became obsessed with WSC (ask any of my friends. I never shut up about it). I loved everything about the competition, from the feeling you get after killing it in a debate to the awkward small talk at the beginning of each Scavenge. I spent all of my time reading Wikipedia article after Wikipedia article, making study guides, and relating the topics we were learning at school to those in the curriculum. In between rounds, I couldn’t stop thinking about and longing for the next time I would be surrounded by people from all over the world, taking a selfie with a Bowl clicker, or hugging a new alpaca. Every single hour I spent studying, every sleepless night of preparation, every cup of coffee I consumed to keep myself going was, I knew, 110 percent worth it. WSC was more than just an academic competition to me. It was my way of proving to myself that if I put my mind to something, I could do anything.

I was finally passionate about something again, and I had regained all of the confidence I lost since moving to Japan. For the first time in two years, I felt whole.

Since competing in the 2017 season, I’ve changed my outlook on life. Gone are the days of dwelling on my past life and feeling sorry for myself; I now have new goals and a new vision for my future, influenced by my WSC experience and by the many friends I have made. I am forever indebted to the World Scholar’s Cup for helping me realize that if I want something, I need to go out and make it happen.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you, to Daniel for creating this amazing program, to my coach Simon for pushing me through every step of this journey, to Kai for sending me that life-changing message, and to all of the amazing friends I have met through this experience.
Suzu’s responses
How has social media influenced your relationships?
In 2015, I moved from the United States to my current home in Japan. Up until that year, I had lived my entire life in America, and therefore I was devastated that I would have to leave the city I had grown to love and the friends I had gone to school with since kindergarten. Social media has helped me keep in touch with not only my friends, but also has helped me “stay in the loop” and keep up with the different events and changes occurring in my hometown. Social media helps me feel like I am still at home in the United States.

How does the medium in which we communicate affect what we’re saying? Why do you choose one medium over another?
The best example is the difference between Instagram and Twitter. Instagram is usually about aesthetics, and showcasing the best parts of your life through photos. Twitter, however, is more about sharing your thoughts, ideas, and emotions. These two platforms clearly serve two very different purposes, and therefore allow users to separate the content they post onto the Internet by what they are trying to communicate.

How did the internet help connect you and other members of the WSC Community?
Without the Internet, I don’t think I would have been able to stay in touch with all of my new friends I made throughout the past season. Without the Internet, I wouldn’t have been able to build stronger relationships with the people I met, join the OnePwaa team, or meet and talk to Scholars I haven’t even met before. Being in the World Scholar’s Cup Facebook Group has also opened my eyes to how big our community really is: almost 25,000 members strong.

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