Aki Mustonen came to Beijing and to WAB in 1998 as a bilingual (Finnish and German) student from Finland. Unfortunately, he didn't speak either Chinese or English, languages that would have been of more immediate use to the 7th grader at the time. But Aki did bond quickly with other Finnish students at WAB who spoke English and were a great help in translating for him when he needed assistance. And his Finnish teacher, Tuovi Pahkasalo, was always there to lend a hand, even literally when he passed out in her arms after completing all of the events during one hot Sports Day.
He also recalls the great support provided by the ESOL program and his other WAB teachers, fondly remembering WAB teachers Bob Blanch, Elliott Bowyer, Derek Davies, Greg Dorge, Greg MacIsaac, and Andy Murphy, all still teaching at WAB, and also his Grade 7 homeroom teacher, Ana Kelly, who is no longer at WAB.
Says Aki now of his first experience with an international school, "I really enjoyed the atmosphere, the friendliness, at WAB as a youngster. It was a very comfortable place for me." He picked up English quickly and even a bit of Chinese, while staying active in WAB athletics throughout.
As WAB only went through middle school at the time, Aki transferred to ISB for high school where he continued his passion for soccer and other sports. He also continued to expand his language repertoire, by continuing his English studies while completing his IB in Spanish, a fifth language.
Following graduation, Aki returned to his home country of Finland for mandatory military service after which he enrolled in a Bachelor's (BA) degree program in Sports Management and Leisure at the Sports Institute in Finland. As part of his degree program, Aki must complete an internship of his choosing in his field of study. As he began his search for an internship, his older sister Minna was working at WAB and encouraged him to look into the WABX program.
Aki began his internship at WAB in August as Intern Program Officer with WABX. His responsibilities include coaching Grade 5 and Grade 7 soccer, substitute teaching ES swimming, and supporting event planning for sports events such as the MS Badminton Tournament on October 23. His internship program requires participation in coaching, instructing, lesson planning, and feedback sessions under the guidance of WABX teachers; Aki submits written reports back to the Sports Institute regularly.
So what does the future hold for Aki? At just 24 years old, his plans are uncertain. His current program's focus is on coaching, but there are many directions his BA degree, expected to be complete by Fall 2011, could take him in. "This is a very experimental year to learn more about myself, provide as much as possible to WABX, and see what is next." At present, Aki is very happy at WAB, saying, "It is fantastic right now;" he is also pleased to be back in Beijing. "Though I am Finnish, I still consider Beijing more of a home than Finland."
For this athlete who has played soccer for 19 years, ice hockey for 8, and played bandy, rugby, and floorball, as well, the only certainty is that sports will play a big part in wherever life leads Aki.