Life is a learning process. It’s taken me that long to realize that what I chose as my initial career path isn’t necessarily what I want to do anymore.
WM sat down with our very own Patricia Khalil-Warren former student, Alumni World Magazine magazine editor and American International School of Bucharest Communications Coordinator and now alumna, to chat about her strong connections to the AISB community. Mrs. Khalil-Warren shares with us her journey of “firsts” as a student, alumni, staff, and how she will carry the lessons and relationships of AISB with her through her future endeavours.
WM: Tell us a little bit of family history in relation to AISB
PKW: My brother, Eddie, and I both went to AISB since pre-school, well, ASB – the American School of Bucharest at the time. Being from a multi-ethnic family, my parents picked AISB as the best choice for us because they wanted us to grow up to be global citizens. At home, we spoke Spanish, Arabic, and Romanian, and at school we spoke English and learned French. Eddie also took a few years out to focus on his Arabic before returning to AISB for High School and it was great for him; his fluency is incredible and so much better than mine! My mom started volunteering at the school when we were little. She was an orthodontist but loved being at the school to support our learning and the learning of our peers. She then became a full-time employee at AISB and twenty years later, she’s still there, sharing her passion and talents as enthusiastically as she did her first day there. While the three of us worked to fulfil our responsibilities as students and employee, my dad also worked incredibly hard to support our family and our schooling. Both my parents worked together to ensure that my brother and I would have access to the best international curriculum delivered by world-class teachers and Eddie and I are both so appreciative of the hard work and sacrifices our parents put in and made to offer us an AISB education.
WM: To build on that incredible story, tell us the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions AISB to you!
PKW: WOW! How do I answer this question with one thing? It’s impossible. If I had to capture it in one item, I guess I could say that AISB is my second home. I suppose that’s an appropriate and all-encompassing term for my particular situation. AISB is the only school I’ve ever known; I started there in Pre-K on the Laptari campus, spent some time at Costinescu in Elementary School and finally moved to the new campus in Grade 5. It was from this incredible location that I graduated in Grade 12. I never did have the pleasure of taking classes at the Dorobanti campus but spent a lot of time there for schoolwide events – I especially remember the annual Halloween Party and the spooky Haunted House; there couldn’t have been a more perfect location! AISB is where I learnt… basically everything. It’s where I found my love for theatre and music, where I discovered my passion for learning, and where I celebrated successes and learnt from challenges. It’s where I took my first test, tried out for my first sports team, and performed my first piece on stage. It’s where I first experienced trips away from home, where I engaged in opportunities to volunteer, and where I cheered the Vampires on at the top of my lungs.
AISB is where I met some of my best friends with whom I’ve shared a lifetime of incredible experiences and fun times, and with whom I will continue to laugh hysterically and, inevitably, sometimes cry. It’s where I fell in love, at 22, to the man who would become my husband, a smart and talented educator who opened my world to once-in-a-lifetime opportunities in all corners of the globe.
AISB is so many things.
After 14 years there as a student and another 5 as an employee, how could it not be? It’s impossible to capture 19 years in a few paragraphs. AISB is the place that afforded me so many incredible opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. I am so thankful to my parents and brother for making it a reality for me growing up, and later to my colleagues for giving me so many opportunities to learn and grow, and for making sure AISB remained an incredibly special place to be.
WM: Can you talk a little bit about your college experience following AISB graduation?
PKW: My university experience was fantastic. I ended up going to Bournemouth University, on the south coast of England, to study Advertising with Marketing Communications. At the time that I applied, there were very few schools offering the combined course that I was looking for, so I applied to them all. The best thing I did was visit my top three choices in February of my high school senior year; as soon as the train pulled into Bournemouth, I knew it was the right choice for me. Without a doubt, this was my best fit.
I fell in love with everything about Bournemouth; the University, the course, the town, the pace of life, the people. As well as the University being ranked highly from an academic standpoint, the town itself was also incredibly charming and full of life. I loved how close everything was, the balance between the vibrant nightlife and the ambition to do well in school, kilometers of sandy beaches only a stone’s throw away, and the internationality of the place.
From an educational point of view, I feel that my AISB education and the Diploma Program (DP) prepared me incredibly well for what was to come at University. It was a combination of the rigor of the DP combined with the caliber of teachers at AISB, who set me and my classmates up for success. The teachers at AISB, their methods, care, dedication, and belief in us as learners and young adults really supported our accomplishments. They saw our potential and helped us develop our strengths.
At university, not only was I able to produce high quality work in a timely fashion as a result of my learning at AISB, I had so many transferable skills from experiences and assignments in the Diploma Program that I could easily apply to projects at University. The type of work I completed as part of the DP did a fantastic job at making sure that I was not only going to be successful at University, but that with a little hard work, dedication, and persistence, I would end up with top marks and graduate with a first-class degree.
At University, I also really enjoyed diving into all the activities available outside of my academic course. I joined so many different clubs and societies – horseback riding, rock climbing, skydiving, St. John’s Ambulance first aid volunteering, and street dancing, to name a few. I made friends across all course subjects and met inspiring students and teachers who encouraged me to be the best version of myself and try new things.
WM: Where are you now, what are you doing and what does the future hold for you?
PKW: Right now, I’m living in Shanghai, China. After five years at AISB as Communications, Alumni, and Yearbook Coordinator, my husband and I moved to Shanghai in August 2018 and we now work at Shanghai American School (SAS). Joel is a Grade 8 Social Studies teacher and I am the Development Coordinator within the Advancement Office, a position that focuses on fundraising, donor relations and visibility, and alumni relations. Again, my experiences at AISB in the workforce have certainly supported and informed the work I do here at SAS.
SAS is Shanghai’s premier international school and operates across two campuses around 60km apart. One campus is in the East of Shanghai (Pudong), home to around 1,000 students, and the other is in the West (Puxi), home to nearly 2,000 students. I am primarily based at the Puxi campus but work school-wide to support Development work on both campuses and travel between both on a weekly basis.
Although I’ve really enjoyed the depth of the work I’m doing in Shanghai and learning about the intricacies of my specialization, I miss the opportunities I had in Bucharest to dabble in work with students. I miss working with students in a variety of capacities; through the numerous alumni programs developed alongside the Alumni Association, Yearbook design with High School students, chaperoning CEESA or outdoor education trips, or going into classrooms to deliver guest talks about my work in media and communications.
For a long time, I’ve been considering diving into the world of teaching and this year is finally the year that it’s going to happen. This fall I’ll be starting an online Master of Education with Teaching Licensure. I’ll also be shifting gears and transitioning into the classroom to gain practical experience.
WM: A message to the next graduating class of the American International School Bucharest.
PKW: Your High School experience is going to be very different from that of your peers and that’s okay. High School is different things to different people, it always will be. Some of you will have had an amazing time and some of you may feel that you’d rather be somewhere else. To those who have loved it, awesome. To those who found it challenging, keep your chin up.
Know that your University experience will also be very different to that of your peers. So many doors will open that will project you into a world you didn’t even know existed.
You are going from a Grade of maybe 80 students, to a University of thousands of people around your age with different experiences, backgrounds, interests, and more. You will all find your place among the masses.
Life is a learning process. What I knew at 18 is very different to what I know now, ten years of experiences later. It’s taken me that long to realize that what I chose as my initial career path isn’t necessarily what I want to do anymore. Ten years later I’m still learning and figuring it out, but that doesn’t in any way discount all that I’ve done over the last decade. I’ve learnt so much about a fascinating industry that I’m sure I will revisit at a later stage, in a different way.
So remember to always look at the positives of the experiences that you’ve lived and take out all the great things that they’ve brought to your life. In the heat of the moment, when something isn’t going our way, it’s easy to forget that we can still learn from the experience.
Stay positive, be thankful for all the opportunities you’ve had, and trust yourself to create the future you want for yourself at any point in time.
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