Dear Class of 2025: Reflections from the Class of 2021


Article by Sena Chang, Editor

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This fall at ASIJ marks a fresh start for many as we enter our first school year of uninterrupted in-person learning since March of 2020. With over 150 students in this year’s freshman class making the transition from middle to high school, this time of year may be especially overwhelming, having to choose from a plethora of extracurriculars and adjusting to high school academics. 

All across the globe, recent ASIJ grads and current college freshmen are experiencing a similar transition—from high school to college—but are guided with the wisdom that they have accumulated throughout their high school years. What has your experience at ASIJ taught you? What would you have told your freshman self? are just some of the questions I asked numerous graduates, their reflections hopefully an oasis in the dynamic transition that many freshmen are experiencing. 

Academic Validation and Pressure

Maia Macek ’21

Within ASIJ’s educational environment, students can easily become vehicles for the dreams and expectations of those around them. Maia Macek, a former Hanabi staff member, says, “High school isn’t just about doing well for college; it should be about having fun, finding balance, and discovering all the possibilities of who you could be,” emphasizing the importance of viewing high school as a launchpad for lifelong learning, instead of a cut-throat environment where effort is equated with how sleep deprived one is. 

Johanna Krueger ’21

Johanna Krueger provides a similar view on this matter, advising students to “work hard and play hard” while exploring Tokyo to its fullest before college, noting that most students choose to attend institutions abroad. 

With the enrichment that rigorous academics brings, it is also important to note that school can also very easily become a breeding ground for declining mental health. Shuly Zuo talks extensively about how easily she forgot about her mental health due to “all the stresses that come with high school.” For Shuly, establishing her own unique identity within the community was fundamental to staying composed within the whirlwind of pressure she experienced from her peers and family. 

Shuly Zuo ’21

Marina Ten-Have agrees with the notion of clearly defining one’s own identity, encouraging students to “not spread yourself out too thin,” as “being in a lot of clubs or doing hard classes just for the sake of it isn’t helpful mentally, nor for your future.”

Marina Ten-have ’21


The Value of Exploration 

With our individual interests constantly changing shape, much of high school may seem like fumbling in the dark, only getting glimpses of blurry silhouettes on the path that awaits us. Kai Hartman advises freshmen to embrace this uncertainty, stating, “Chase those dreams, become a learning sponge, and don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone, because that’s when you really grow.” He adds, “[High school] can get daunting at times, but the best way to not get overwhelmed is having the ability to keep your world small and take things step by step, hour by hour, day by day and week by week,” explaining how taking small steps at a time can help quell the fear that often accompanies uncertainty and failure.  

Kai Hartman ’21

For many, the stress to excel academically is coupled with the pressure to succeed in activities outside of school. “My point would be to spend some time in HS looking for things you like to do, regardless of skill level, and be fine with mediocrity. It’s especially important to have a go-to activity and take your mind off work,” Kai Nakazawa says, describing how he’s observed many of his peers give up their activities simply due to the pressure to excel in them. 

Kai Nakazawa ’21

Ryusuke Suehiro’s advice dovetails with Kai’s: “Freshman year is the best time to explore your passions and interests, so make sure you take interesting classes, join clubs that appeal to you even in the tiniest bit, and partake in any competitions or initiatives that look enticing.” 

From the various sports teams one can partake in, to the 75+ co-curriculars that ASIJ offers, an abundance of opportunities are provided to students — and it’s especially important to take advantage of them, Juri Kimura explains. She adds, “Always know that there is something you can gain from every experience and approach everything with a positive and open mindset — there is no useless opportunity.” 

Juri Kimura ’21

On Searching for Identity 

As adolescents, we often grapple with our own identity, especially as conversations about career paths and college applications commence. Regarding the fear of uncertainty that many students have, Kai Hartman comments, “Honestly, a lot of things in life we can’t control and that’s part of what makes it exciting and terrifying at the same time.” He adds, “What you can control, though, is your attitude, your choices, and your desire — in essence, your mindset and your character,” explaining how important a foothold one’s moral character can be in navigating uncertainty. 

For many class of 2021 college freshmen, finding balance in academics, embracing uncertainty, and defining exactly “what kind of person you aspire to be” seems to have served them well in high school. After all, college simply marks the beginning of another arduous but enriching road.