Panthers of ISKL #88 – The Leader of Change

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Mizuki S. ('23) - Panther of ISKL

This week, we met up with Mizuki S. (’23), a passionate swimmer and athlete with a desire to help others and the drive to continually improve herself. Hailing from Japan, Mizuki has faced her fair share of challenges growing up as a Third-Culture Kid (TCK) including having to learn a new language and adapt to a very different cultural environment. Undaunted, Mizuki has demonstrated unwavering determination and adaptability in achieving her goals

Here is her story.


“I was born in Tokyo and lived in Japan until Grade 4. I then moved to Malaysia in Grade 5. My dad grew up in New York, surrounded by different cultures, and learned to speak English fluently. He wanted me to be exposed to different cultures and perspectives and to learn English because it is the key to communication worldwide, and that’s why he moved us to Malaysia. Other reasons included the fact that he didn’t like the cold, and that it was easier to get a visa and receive an English education compared with the other countries we were looking at.  

‘When people ask me where I’m from, I say that I have a Japanese passport, but I feel like I am also part of the Malaysian community and, culturally, half-Malaysian. Third Culture Kids (TCK) are all unique; many of my friends are TCKs, so I don’t feel different. It doesn’t feel like you’re different just because you’re a TCK kid. ISKL creates a comfortable and harmonious environment where everyone feels accepted and part of a community.

Mizuki's participation in sports

‘My parents enrolled me at ISKL because they wanted me to learn English and benefit from the different perspectives that an international school can give. I was nervous when I first entered ISKL as I could not speak English, but ISKL has a great support team, and now I’m very fluent in English and enjoying my time here. The English as an Additional Language (EAL) teachers gave me so much support and access to resources. My teachers encouraged me to speak and open up in my second year. I’m very appreciative to them for this.

“I started swimming when I was five years old. I thought joining the swimming team at ISKL would be a good place to make new friends. I joined the Selangor swimming team in Grade 7 and went to Nationals as a state swimmer. Now I am part of ISKL’s Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asia School (IASAS) swimming team and look forward to the IASAS competition next academic year.

“One of my most memorable moments in ISKL involves the IASAS swimming team when our relay team won silver in 2020. This occurred during my freshman year and we trained hard for it (about 3-4 times a week). Our coaches motivated us to work hard; the best part about the swim team is the team itself and how we are encouraged to improve.

‘Apart from that, I went to India for the Global Action Program (GAP). We went to a rural area and taught the students a little bit of every subject. We also had a dance-off, and it was so much fun and wholesome. In Rishikesh, Northern India we saw a snake charmer on the streets, and I got to sit with a cobra wrapped around my neck!” 

On Building Student Leadership 

“It has been three years since I began my student leadership journey when I joined the Student Council (StuCo) in Grade 8. I was shy growing up, but I have become more confident and expressive when I speak by putting myself out there. It was a massive step for me to apply for StuCo because you have to speak up, run for the election, and get voted by your peers. It was a considerable risk, and it did make me nervous at first, but by constantly pushing myself to my limits, I have surpassed my limits and grown.

Mizuki participation in music concert & service

‘I started off being a representative and then took the initiative to become a leader of the leaders. I wanted to be involved in leadership because it is a skill that can be used in all aspects of life – in high school, college, and the workforce. Everything you do requires leadership, including leading a team in group work.

‘Being part of the leadership team means I can learn from other leaders. It’s a great opportunity to become a better leader as you need to take in and learn from others. I learned how to be an expressive leader, and from teachers like Ms. Amber Kotcher, I have learned how to facilitate events and meetings. It’s great to learn these things as they will be useful later in life.” 

“I am also part of the Student Admission Representatives (STARs). I joined the Admissions team because I wanted to represent the student body to prospective students and families. STARs make the first impression, and I want to help new families get to know what kind of students ISKL has and how amazing ISKL is.

‘Besides that, I am the Head of Committee for the Student Leadership Team (SLT) and have joined many summer camps, such as the leadership-based Economics for Leaders (EFL) and Camp Rising Sun. I was the first person from M

Malaysia to represent Malaysia at that camp. Everyone worldwide selected one boy and one girl from each country, but Malaysia wasn’t part of the list of countries. I applied anyway, did some interviews, and managed to get in. The camp was two weeks long, and it was my first time attending last year. As a second-year camper this year, I led a 30-hour instruction with almost 60 other participants via Zoom.

‘I am also part of CARE, a club affiliated with the Malaysian Social Research Institute (MSRI), where we help educate refugees while having fun to brighten their day. We hold interactive games and classes, and it has been great to see them happy on our Zoom calls. I am trying to look into how I can help them this summer, especially regarding the White Flag movement. We may look different, but in reality, we are all the same.” 

“Over the summer, I collected donations of toys and books for the children at MSRI. I sent a message to my condominium group chat and posted stories about the project on my social media, and had people reply. I even collected some donations on foot! In the end, I received such an overwhelming response from everyone that I had trouble figuring out how to transport everything to MSRI. Fortunately, with the help of Mushamir Mustafa, an ISKL Advancement staff member, I was able to transport all the donations on his truck and deliver them safely to MSRI. I’m so grateful for the support and help that ISKL faculty and staff have given me to get the toys and books to my refugee friends. I couldn’t have done it without all of them!”

“I hope to be able to use my leadership skills to make a positive impact on the world. Maybe I could establish an organization and create free websites to educate people – sort of like the Khan Academy, where they host and provide educational resources for all. English would be one of the topics – as I struggled with English when I was younger. It could also be a platform where people can share their interests and teach others. I don’t know what it will look like yet, but it is one of my goals in life to help others and make everyone happy.”

“I like playing on my alto-saxophone, and I enjoy photography and writing poetry. I took up photography during quarantine last year when my dad passed me his DSLR! “

What does Be All You Are mean to you?

“It means to be proud of yourself and all your individuality. It means relentlessly challenging yourself to reach your goals and being your best self. Not settling for anything less than your potential. It also means embracing your background and being proud of  it, not changing yourself for anyone else.”

Do you know a student, faculty, staff, or alumni with a story to tell? Nominate them to be featured in our Panthers of ISKL stories by sending in your submissions here.

To find more inspiring stories of our students driven for change, read about The Bioverse Team or The Colour Away Covid Brand Ambassadors Aditi, Ira, and Sana!

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