Green School Alumni Voices
Changemaker. Green Leader. Big words and big expectations for Green School’s first graduates. In 2018, ten years after Green School opened, its first cohort of alumni graduated from college.
Ira Warastri, a Balinese Local Scholarship student, was amongst those first graduates. She shared her experience.
It all started with a phone call from my dad back in the summer of 2008. I was at my grandparents’ house in Karangasem, East Bali for the summer holiday and my stay was cut short because of his call. He told me that there was an opportunity to study full-time on scholarship at the Green School, where he was working, and they were having an open house later that day.
Four hours later, I was standing inside a beautiful bamboo building that was to become my future classroom. At the end of the tour session, there was a sign-up sheet for scholarship interviews. I was excited by the idea of befriending people from around the world and studying in a cathedral-like building. I took the pen and wrote down my name.
Three interview sessions later, I officially became a Green School student. I was on my way.
In June 2013. I was part of Green School’s first graduating class. Two months later, I was on my way to Vancouver, where I would study for four years at Quest University Canada. I received my Bachelor’s degree in May 2017 and have been working in Vancouver at a rock/heavy metal merchandise store as its Social Media Manager and Retail Supervisor.
“As much as I am still trying to figure out my role in the world, I would like to think that all of these things happened because I thought ‘why not?’ when an opportunity to experience something new came to greet me.”
“It was quite a journey,” Ira said via Skype. “Seeing how much the school has grown since then is pretty incredible. There were fewer than 100 students when I started in Grade 8.”
Integrating local Balinese scholars was always central to the school’s mission, but support mechanisms for scholars and their families were limited in the early days. Local scholars took a leap of faith. They helped the school nurture and expand its Balinese community, which now has its own Banjar (local council) and counselor to help support 43 enrolled scholar students.
“I remember my first day of school,” Ira says. “It was nerve-wracking. My friend Gika and I were the only Balinese students at the time. I had only learned a little English in a classroom setting, and now I was about to be surrounded by English speakers. It took us quite a while to understand what teachers were saying and what students meant due to the cultural differences. Things like TV shows, movies, and pop-culture. Learning English in the classroom and hearing the language first-hand was very different.”
Learning in English was not the only cultural difference. In Bali and Indonesia, students are not encouraged to ask questions at school; at Green School, asking questions is expected and encouraged. “Everyone had to be very patient with me because it took me a while to catch up and speak up.”
Ira persevered through the early days of nerves and adjustments. She now credits Green School for opening up doors for her to study internationally and securing a scholarship at Quest University.
“The block system at Quest University is similar to Green School’s High School block system,” she says. ”It was a good fit for me. Quest is a liberal arts and science university and my focus of the study was on music. You can design your own major and towards the end of your second year, you start to decide your focus. My thesis was what influences my musical tastes. I wrote a 40-page literature review on this area of inquiry. At the end of writing the review, I presented a 13-minute keystone presentation. It was very similar to Green School’s, Greenstones, a TED-style capstone presentation.”
When Ira boarded a plane with her Green School classmates on a service trip to Cambodia, it was a big deal. Unlike her international student peers, Ira had never left her homeland and had never been on the plane. The Balinese connection to land, family, and temple is strong. Traveling abroad was as exciting for Ira as it was terrifying for her mother.
Ira is still a young, talented, independent, Balinese woman moving through the world. She is infused with deep tradition and cultural commitment while remaining open to future ‘why not?’ But is she a changemaker?
“I try to be, mainly through my arts,” she says. “This is how I communicate my ideas to the world and make a positive difference. It is a lifelong process. I try to be a changemaker, to keep asking ‘why not’, to follow your dreams, to take a risk and to encourage others.”
Having the courage to leave the familiar to go to school with very little knowledge of English, to move on your own to the other side of the world as a young Balinese woman, to work to support yourself financially while simultaneously carving your niche in the world sounds like a changemaker.
Asked what she misses most about Bali, in addition to family and food, Ira says she misses the ceremonies and celebrations that are so interwoven into the fabric of Balinese culture.
What are your words of wisdom for the Class of 2019?
“Stick to your guns. If you have a passion, just keep doing it. Eventually, you will find a way. Stay open and someone will see how passionate you are and be supportive of you and, in turn, you can support others.“
We could not be prouder of Ira. Stepping up, making a bold move, taking her culture and traditions with her on her journey, living her life philosophy of ‘why not’ and finding her place in the world as a changemaker.