“I wouldn’t have described Haruka as a typical Pursuits student. Many students come into the program with a clear idea of what they would like to study, whether it be marketing, theater, music, computer science, or finance, “says Drew Davis, ISKL’s High School (HS) Pursuits program coordinator. He continues, “When I first asked Haruka what she was interested in, she was considering marketing, philosophy, and filmmaking. “I like everything!” was her response.”
Grade 12 student Haruka created a documentary called “Boundless – A Third Culture Kid Documentary,” which is part of her semester-long Pursuits project. Haruka used her film editing skills, creative talent, and interest in psychology to research, plan and produce a film that looks at the life of a Third Culture Kid (TCK) in Malaysia through the lens of two ISKL students, Rika S.(’24) and alum Kiara T. (’22).
What started as a Pursuits Exploration course, where Haruka began learning about marketing, spurred her to enroll in a university online course in philosophy and take part in creating a film for the Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asian Schools (IASAS) Cultural Convention.
“‘Boundless’ is a short documentary that presents the infinite possibilities of what it truly means to be a TCK for more than just its umbrella term. From forming memories in unfamiliar communities overflowing with distinct cultural practices, food, and art, to the struggles and risks they take to embrace change and acceptance, this short film shines a light on TCKs within the ISKL community,” says Haruka.
Haruka shares that she originally came across the topic of TCKs in her International Baccalaureate (IB) Psychology class. “Researching allowed me to learn about the various struggles that TCKs face. From the inability to pinpoint a ‘home’ or the challenge of defining a cultural identity while constantly moving countries,” she says, adding that it pushed her to recognize how many TCKs there were at ISKL and how she connected so deeply with these statements, conflicted with the duality of her life in Japan and Malaysia.
Haruka realized that her purpose was to spread awareness of the beauty of being a TCK which spurred her to interview and survey the student body, encouraging students to find themselves through her film. “From there, my documentary was shown in faculty meetings, parent presentations, and advisory classes,” Haruka remarks.
Overcoming Cultural Disconnect
When asked about her experiences as a TCK, Haruka shares, “I wouldn’t classify myself as the typical TCK as I have only lived in two countries, having grown up in Japan for the first few years of my childhood and shifting to Malaysia at a young age.”
Haruka explains that as she grew older, she noticed the overwhelming sense of cultural disconnect she experienced when traveling back to Japan for the first time since her early childhood. “I experienced a form of ‘reverse culture shock,’ and I remember feeling a sense of alienation and detachment when I was greeted with faces I had only ever seen in photos and when places that once comforted me as a child felt strangely unfamiliar,” recounts Haruka.
She struggled with “the lack of belonging I felt in my ‘home’ culture – I didn’t feel “Japanese” enough because I didn’t speak the language fluently or because I didn’t partake in the customary norms or traditions. However, this made me realize that home didn’t have to be a particular place – home lies in the people I meet and the memories I create!” Haruka adds.
Why the PURSUITS program?
Throughout her life, Haruka has always had a vast amount of interests; however, she could never narrow her interest to one subject, knowing she flourished best when combining subject areas. “I loved straying away from what was traditional, and the Pursuits program allowed me to delve into a specific area of interest professionally by discovering what ignites my passion by experiencing it all,” she says.
The program allowed Haruka to find independence and flexibility that she had not known. As she dedicated herself to independently shooting, directing, and editing “Boundless,” she felt a sense of purpose and meaning in the reaction it provoked from others. “This made me recognize that I wanted to pursue a future in film,” says Haruka.
Haruka also completed a 60-hour internship with the Ilham Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur over the summer of 2022, where she utilized her film editing and social media marketing skills which contributed to one of the gallery’s most prominent events of the year.
Keen to learn more about ISKL’s innovative two-year High School Pursuits program? Go here.