Something amazing and unexpected happened recently - I was in Manila, trying to connect to Wi-Fi, when a woman stopped me and asked me how old I was when I visited Cebu, as she had overheard me talking about it. I said that I didn't remember as I was living in Beijing at the time, and was a little kid. To my surprise, the woman responded that she lived in Beijing as a kid too, and she asked: "Did you go to pre-K at the Western Academy?". I said "Yes, I did!", and we quickly realized we were the same age and had possibly been classmates. She asked for my name, and as I responded and asked for hers, I was thinking that this couldn't be Grace, one of my best friends in Pre-K class... "Grace!". Excitement hit both of us. From the two blonde girls in the class photo, we've grown up to those two young women today.
Last Friday, I attended Grace's birthday party in her home in Zhuhai, which is the bordering Chinese city to Macao where I am living right now. After 20 years, we randomly met again, although we had no idea of each other's whereabouts or looks. After 20 years I attended another birthday party of hers.
This is what makes life and relocating so great. Life is full of surprises, good and bad, but really anything can come your way. And that is what makes it so spectacular. Words are not enough to retell this story, and how it has made me smile every day! Wherever life takes me next spring, no matter if it is Hong Kong, London, Amsterdam or Helsinki or any other city in the world, I will let it take me there.
TIINA HEINOLA is 23 years old. She is from Espoo, Finland. Her time at WAB started when she was three years old, on the 1st of September 1994, when WAB opened its doors, and stayed until December 1996, when her family had to move back to Finland. She remembers her teachers Ms Ash, Ms Derks, Ms Hamid, and Ms Lefever. She returned to WAB again in January 2004 and attended 7th grade with Mr Armstrong and Mr Farrol. Tiina is now living in Macao, completing her study abroad, which is a part of her degree in Tourism back in Finland. She is planning on graduating in December 2015.
Tiina feels that the time spent at WAB had a significant impact in her life, as a member of the community, and while forming her identity as a teenager. "WAB taught me so much more than the things we learned at school, for example, in terms of cultural diversity. I cannot imagine any other school being as genuine as WAB", she said.
She fondly remembers recess at WAB – "There was a big bell that needed to be rung to end the recess. I got to do that with one of my friends once, and it felt cool", she recalls. She also remembers the warm atmosphere at WAB and the songs they used to sing. "A few songs that remind me of WAB are 'Somewhere over the rainbow' and 'What a wonderful world'. If we did not sing those, then at least they were in the yearbook videos!".
Finally, Tiina concluded, "My time in Beijing and at WAB has made me who I am. I love to travel and live in different places. There is one thing that I have known since I was a kid - the world is a small place and the people I have met from different backgrounds is something that I would not change for anything."
GRACE MCLAGAN attended WAB from 1994-January of 1998. She fondly remembers her teachers Mrs. Mickdon, Mrs. Lefever and Mrs. Hasseldine.
When her family left Beijing in 1998, they moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for two years, and then to Florida, United States for eight years. After graduating from High School, Grace attended Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota and majored in Social Work. She is currently working in Zhuhai, China at United International College as a teaching assistant in the English Language Center, and the Social Work and Social Administration Program.
"I have fond memories of the old factory campus", recalls Grace. "I remember that there was a greenhouse that often had exotic animals. Not long before I left WAB, it was turned into a dance studio or something, and I was very disappointed! I also remember a huge sand pit with bridges over it that we would play in during recess".
This story was first posted in the WAB Alumni Network Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/wabalumni