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Students attend ISAS, AsEA and French Symposium

Charles Tsang
All levels of French students attended the annual French Symposium. This year it was held at the British International School of Houston.

ISAS (Independent Schools Association of the Southwest)

While traveling on the bus to the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest, freshman Olivia Calabrese looked forward to joining fellow theater students and artists and learning about their experiences. She did not expect to find herself listening to a rock concert on the first night. 

Even the students who spent three days at ISAS last year were shocked to see a rave party on the first day of ISAS. Although unexpected, the concert provided an entertaining start to the festival.

“I was in the front and everyone was so hyped,” Calabrese said. 

ISAS is a celebration of the fine arts where schools from all across the southwest come to perform one-act plays, interact with other students and attend workshops. This year, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School of Austin hosted ISAS from April 11 to April 13. 

The upperclassmen performed Hamletish, the lowerclassmen performed Our Town and theatrical students performed a coffee house — which consisted of different singing performances from students of every age..

Besides participating in productions, sophomore Raka Agrawal also attended dance classes, played volleyball and made new friends. On the other hand, Calabrese participated in vocal, film and acting workshops.

“Out of all of those, I enjoyed acting the most because the instructor really knew what he was talking about,” Calabrese said. 

Agrawal enjoyed the interactions she made at ISAS and hopes to return next year to continue building off of those connections.

“It’s my favorite time of the year because it’s nice to celebrate the arts and meet people who are really similar to you,” Agrawal said. “It’s a time where I can kick back and relax and go to shows, which is something that I absolutely love.”

AsEA (Asian Educators Alliance)

Before arriving in Atlanta, junior Ryan Shen was unaware about the activities planned for the Asian Educators Alliance conference besides the presentation he would give with fellow East Asian Affinity Group members at the end. The junior was surprised to find himself in a circle of people answering questions about their experiences as an icebreaker–including, “have you ever been misidentified for others?” and “have you ever been stereotyped?”

AsEA is an annual conference that provides networking and support to independent schools involving issues concerning Asian Americans. There are also interactive activities and workshops available to the attendees to bond and learn new ways to improve Asian American life in schools. Students applied for attendance in early January, and the admitted attended the conference at the Westminster School in Atlanta from April 18-20.

Each year there are new themes and guest speakers for the conference; this year, the conference focused on the theme of “flipping the script.” The keynote speakers were authors Constance Hays Matsumoto and her husband Kent Matsumoto, writers of the book “Of White Ashes.”

The theme of “flipping the script” resonates with AP U.S. History teacher Jack Soliman, as he found it to mean that people need to take ownership of their own lives. 

“Oftentimes the narrative is dictated by somebody else, and this theme is saying that we have the power to dictate our own narratives and our own understanding of who we are,” Soliman said.

The students participated in icebreaker bingo activities and participated in a game in which students arranged themselves in a circle, stepping forward when they shared a commonality with each other.

“It was surprising to see a lot of people have nearly identical experiences,” Shen said. “It was an interesting way of bonding us together.”

After returning from Atlanta, Shen found the conference gave him a better understanding of his identity and the knowledge that other people had experienced similar biases as well. 

“You’ve been in the mixing pot of America, and been sucking in all the soup through your roots, but you’ve never tasted the richness of the motherland soil,” Shen said. “How do you know where you’re really from? How do you know your heritage?”

French Symposium

In freshman Maya Kadia’s first year of French Symposium, she found herself enjoying the presence of French students and engaging in activities that allowed her to demonstrate her linguistic abilities. 

French Symposium is an annual competition in which students partake in activities testing their knowledge of the French language. Between April 12 and April 13, students from schools around Texas came to the British International School of Houston to showcase these talents.

Once the students arrived, teachers assigned different events for them to compete in. Students were also required to take a reading comprehension and listening test on the first day of the competition.

Following the first few activities, returning sophomore Bryanna Micu also competed in an impromptu skit and poetry memorization.

Each student is allotted a specific time period to compete in each event with other kids in the same level of French. Based on students’ performance in these activities, judges rank the top eight players in a pre-elimination round. The remaining competitors compete in a sudden death bracket.

The top ten individuals from various levels that score the most points overall are given a Sweepstake Award. The School won the competition in back-to-back years. Kadia placed eighth overall and Micu placed ninth overall.

“Before the awards ceremony, most finalists and arts groups present their work, but we didn’t go this year because we did not feel very prepared,” Micu said. “We thought we got dead last in the competition, but it was funny when we found out we won.”

Micu was glad to find students at the Symposium who shared the same passion for the French language.

“French is really special because it is one of the few languages that’s spoken on every continent, and I think it’s really important to me because I can see a corner of the world everywhere I look,” Micu said.

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About the Contributor
William Liang
William Liang, Staff Writer
William Liang ('27) joined The Review in 2023 as a freshman. He is Richard's brother. He likes ice cream and, for his first job, he wants to work at Baskin-Robbins.

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