The Where Are They Now blog series looks at the lives of Beijing International School alumni after the last school bell has tolled. 19 year old Christina Arbenz is a WAB alumnus from Switzerland. While at WAB she was captain of the varsity girl’s soccer team, soprano II in the APAC choir and received the Gold Level International Youth Awards (IYA).
Timeline Since School
What have you done since leaving high school?
Since leaving high school I have begun studying Interior Design at the University of Edinburgh. I am now starting second year. My day to day routine includes going to uni for classes, learning how to design the interiors of buildings and spaces, learning the history of interior design and design in general.
What led you choose your current path?
My current ideas of what I would like to do in the future include working in the area of sustainable development and design. I decided to take the path of interior design to get to this stage, but throughout university I plan to broaden my knowledge in history, design, biology and the world in preparation for the future.
What do you miss most about high school?
I had many moments throughout first year where I felt that I really missed high school because I wasn’t sure how to handle the current situation. Sometimes I miss the sense that I am in control of everything going on because there are so many new factors playing part in my life that I still don’t fully understand and don’t completely know how to cope with. Nevertheless the thing I miss most about high school is the teacher to student relationships that were present at WAB. At university the professors don’t really make a personal connection with students and you are left to fend for yourself.
What do you wish you knew then that you know now?
I think the biggest shock moving from high school to university was the difference between an international student and a Third Culture Kid (TCK). Counselors and university admissions offices advertise universities based on their ‘percentage of international students’ which to me previously meant people like me, TCK’s. However once arriving at university I came to realize that their definition of ‘international’ was what I would call ‘foreign’. A large amount of these students come from a different country however grew up in one place their whole lives which also is their home country. While TCKs are culturally confused, these students know exactly where they come from and where their identity lies.
How has your time in Beijing helped you in your professional and personal life?
Being an international student has definitely helped in having general knowledge about the world and being more open minded to anything that comes towards you. Depending on the people you talk to it can become a curse; closed minded people become much harder to communicate with. The feeling of being in an international school however makes it easier to talk to and get to know new students as it is something we are trained to do from a young age at school.
What has been your greatest lesson?
People are very different and yet all very similar. I have learnt that international students and TCKs are very different types of people, but that ultimately no matter where people are from there are people with visions and interest in the world and others who don’t really care about what is going on outside of their little bubble.
Advice for Students
What insight would you give to students and parents who are researching career paths and university choices?
When researching universities I would advise talking to students that go to that school. Ask the university to provide you with the Skype details or Facebook details of a TCK attending that university and have a conversation with them about how they are enjoying university. Also make sure you really research the course in depth so that you don’t think it is something different to what it truly is. Another piece of advice I could offer is to either take a trip to visit the campus before attending, or at least get a good idea of what it would be like before completely committing to a city or campus.
What does the future hold for you?
I don’t know what the future holds for me however I hope that it involves meeting many interesting and new people and continuing the travels and worldly experiences I have been lucky enough to experience throughout my childhood.
What are your dreams?
I would really love to be able to give back to the world that I have so appreciated. I would like to be able to work with NGO’s and help out in third world countries to as much of my ability.
Photos courtesy of Christina Arbenz and Western Academy of Beijing