Recording Wisdom – An English B Collaborative Project


“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” – Anne Frank

An adult is not someone that has outgrown being a child but rather a child that has grown up. The transition from adolescence to adulthood is a magical journey, and for a child who seeks permission to do anything, adulthood appears to have the greatest degree of freedom. However, as adulthood approaches, the awareness of how daunting and intimidating this stage of life may be taunts the mind. Thus, we, a group of high school students, resorted back to the same individuals that we turn back to every time we face an issue, our family members. 

Through the insightful experience of those who come before us, different life advice have been collected in Spanish, Arabic, German, French, Lao, Thai, Haitian Creole and translated to English. For this task, we made a call to our places of origin, to our home, asking for advice from a valued elder in a thoughtful manner. This activity was conducted under the English B theme of “Experiences” and in line with the International Baccalaureate learner profile of “Reflective” and “Inquirers.”

Below is a set of questions that we used to ask family members and the responses they provide. We invite you to traverse through the wisdom passed down to us from our elders and hope you can find some relevance as you also prepare for a life beyond MUWCI. 

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

“To lift myself up. I did some actions that could have been prevented if I had believed in myself and my abilities.” (Aichetou’s mom, 50, a businesswoman in Senegal)

“If you struggle with something, get help and ask for advice. Otherwise, you will still struggle with the same things 40 years later.” (Lina’s mom, German language support coordinator)

“Life is a package of surprises; you will experience peaks and troughs, so be prepared. Take risks, but be cautious about the risks you take: don’t take risks that endanger your life or the well-being of others. Never let yourself down during a trough since the peak is just around the corner, and vice versa.” ( Liu’s dad, 42, an independent worker from Venezuela)

“Read as many books as possible, exercise and talk with people, your future self will thank you for this. Make use of for your time and energy and don’t forget about your family or where you come from.” (Ali’s mom, 39, a biology teacher in Iraq)

“Firstly, I would listen to more advice from parents, and focus on learning. Secondly, I would try to focus on one thing at a time and do it effectively. Thirdly, I wanted to spend time traveling, at least I could travel around the country and explore more about Laos.” (Herpor’s dad, 54, a farmer in Laos)

Would you have done something differently in life? What would it be? Why?

“Something that I would change is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the school I went to. I wouldn’t have done business school as everyone expected me to do. I would have listened to myself and studied agriculture because that’s what I am really passionate about.” (Giulia’s dad, 49, a winemaker in France)

“Giving up my studies for a job that made money quickly ended up impacting me in the long run. The personal growth I would have had if I had continued with my studies would have been exponential. This, and not having smiled every day of my life are things I regret.” (Joaquín’s grandmother, 78, a retiree in Argentina)

“Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail, but the beauty of life is learning from one’s mistakes and becoming a better person in the process.” (Jaime’s mom, 56, a businesswoman in Spain)

“Challenging yourself with new things frequently in life will give you experiences. More importantly, you will learn more things and be stronger as you mature.” (Herpor’s dad, 54, a farmer in Laos)

“Rather than overthinking and stressing over everything, I would have lived with less stress and taken many things with a pinch of salt. It is sometimes better to sit back, relax, and enjoy the moment rather than worry about everything and everyone else.” (Ali’s mom, 39, a biology teacher in Iraq)

“It is probably not possible but I would go back in time and start life, accept Jesus as my savior, go to school and study what I like. Then, I would become independent. I would not get married; I would have a child by other means. I only got married because of society’s pressure. I always wanted to have a child and my dream was always to become a single mother.” ( Sanorah’s mom, 50, a businesswoman in Haiti) 

Did you expect life to be the way that it was? Why or why not?

“My life is not the best, but I am happy that I have air in my lungs and a smile to take with me everywhere I go. I grew up in a humble, lower class, but very educated family. I wanted to provide the same to my children, that although they were not wealthy, they should be well-behaved and kind to others. I didn’t expect to be a widow with debts to pay, but knowing that I have raised kind human beings makes me very happy.” (Joaquín’s grandmother, 78, a retiree in Argentina)

“No, because I thought I would be able to accomplish everything I wanted. However, ‘Life is just a bowl of cherries.’ Still, I also accomplished other things I had not thought about and I did not plan to get.” (Jdeiya’s mother, 42, a teacher in Western Sahara) 

“No, no, I never expected that. No one was expecting the internet! I remember seeing a TV for the first time at the age of 12. I am happy because of my faith, but I was expecting a happier life.” (Sanorah’s mom, 50, a businesswoman in Haiti)

What habit would you recommend sticking to? 

“A habit that we tried to stick to is to keep a good balance. We tried to put you in both private and public schools. We have friends who are 20 years old as well as friends who are 70. We meet people who come from different economic backgrounds. We bring you to see ballet but also hip hop … It’s important not to lock ourselves into a stereotype or only have friends who look like us.” (Giulia’s mom, 45, a winemaker in France)

“It makes no difference how clever you are; steadfastness is the key to success. The more you labor, the more you will receive. The only habit you must keep is working with a grin on your face and considering work as something to be enjoyed rather than avoided.” (Liu’s dad, 42, an independent worker from Venezuela)

“Reading for one hour every day, at least.” (Jdeiya’s dad, 50s, from Western Sahara)

“Volunteering!” (Jdeiya’s mother, 42, a teacher in Western Sahara)

“Start saving the money and have conscious spending. Learning how to invest is also a good idea. You never know what will happen so you need to make sure you have stability.” (Noon’s dad, 55, a restaurant owner in Thailand)

“Face fate and have faith in God. Whatever the hardships are in my life, having God and a purpose helped me go through everything.” (Aichetou’s mom, 50, a businesswoman in Senegal)

“Keep up being consistent. Don’t drop out easily and be persistent. Effort is the key that leads you to accomplish things. Dedication as well!” (Mafe’s dad, 46, a nuclear energy regulator in Colombia)

“To keep in contact with classmates, friends, neighbors, and relatives. Life is too short to hold grudges, especially now that technology and the internet have brought everyone closer together. Simply live; don’t overthink what others may say or perceive of you; attempting to please others is a futile effort; you can only satisfy yourself and your loved ones with your actions.”  (Ali’s mom, 39, a biology teacher in Iraq)

Some Personal Questions:

What advice do you have for me about going to University? (Lina)

Have the time of your life in university, while also achieving your goals. Find a balance between social life and all the great things the university environment has to offer and the academics. Find a student job at the university because it can help you with your own studies and gives you the opportunity to get a glimpse of research and sometimes you can even get involved.

How can I maintain relationships in life? (Noon)

First of all, you can’t keep everyone in your life and you have to let them go sometimes. But when you find someone you want to maintain relationships with, keep in touch with them and spend time with them. Be kind and considerate towards each other.

How did you find your life purpose? (Mafe)

I think one’s life purpose is to be happy. However, I don’t think the right question to ask includes the word “find,” since happiness is not something you find. It’s not as if I will lift a rock and find happiness; instead, I will construct my path to it. Hence, the moment dreams started to come to life I started to feel happy. I started to construct my life project from there.

What was it like to raise a family as a single mom in the face of social criticism? (Jaime)

It was hard but I realized that there’s always going to be someone to judge, just turn a deaf ear and try to be as happy as you can. I always tried to support myself with the people that I surround myself with..

Would you take your parents as a role model? (Joaquín)

“I see them as a model in the sense that they have never stopped fighting for me. There are some things that have changed due to the social context of the time. For example, I couldn’t go out to see friends as freely. However, I understand that they did that to protect me. As a parent, you always want the best for your children, and sometimes it is difficult to understand that.

What would be your ideal life? (Aicha)

Being a housewife in a beautiful house, having my children by my side, being able to go deeper into my religion, living a peaceful and stable life. 

How to choose your best friend? (Sanorah)

Get to know each other.
Choose someone who shares your faith.
Choose someone with whom you have things in common.
Choose someone who respects themselves and you.

Upon completion of the project, here is what the writers felt in reflection of their conversation with their loved ones.

Noon: This was an opportunity for me to have deep conversations with my parents and know more about their lives. It made me realize that they are normal human beings who make mistakes like I do. It also made me think that they are such inspiring parents that I can look up to. This project brings us closer to each other. 

Lina: While talking to my parents, I realized that even my parents struggled with similar things that I do right now. However, I already had similar discussions with my parents like this before. I think I learned that everyone has a unique way to achieve their goals.

Jdeiya: I have learned that it is so important to learn as much as life offers to you, and always try to do what I can to help my people and my community. Now, I think there is nothing such as “I will be happy just if I get this thing.” Happiness and sadness are not just related to you to your major or job.

Mafe: It is not usual for me to have this kind of conversation with my parents. Therefore, this was a great opportunity for me to understand them, and the set of expectations and hopes they have for me.

Jaime: Sometimes you just have to stop and look around as what you might be looking for could be in front of your eyes. Through this conversation, I learned that sometimes the answers and advice that you need are in the people who are closest to you.

Herpor: Asking these questions to my dad, I have learned a lot about his life of being a dad; life is not easy. I am now aware that I need to do something different from what he did if I want to have a better job. Furthermore, I understand poor education is the main problem for my dad. I need to put more effort into my learning, and am able to go to a good college. 

Sanorah: I want to be able to answer with a smile on my face when I am asked this set of questions in 40 years. It was a reminder that I am the one responsible for my actions and the outcomes of my life. 

We would like to dedicate this blog post and project to our loved ones, who have always provided valuable guidance in our lives. Thank you for spending the time talking to us and sharing your life stories and lessons.


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