10th Anniversary Campaign

How Winter School Delivered the Warmth of Summer

Written by Jason Underwood, Winter School Director

In late December, UWC ISAK Japan held its first-ever Winter School. Initiated in response to the Summer School program of 2020 that was cancelled due to Covid-19, Winter School aimed to introduce young people to UWC ISAK Japan’s leadership-focused approach to education.

Thirty-nine youths living in Japan made the trek to Karuizawa to take part in the first-ever Winter School program. The participants were shy and quiet when they were picked up from Karuizawa station; however, that soon changed as they worked through the program and made new friends.

students gather to discuss leadership with Lin Kobayashi

Our Winter School Courses

Four courses ran during Winter School, each one designed to develop the participants’ self-knowledge, attitude to leadership, and awareness of different perspectives.

Here is a quick rundown on the courses.

Introduction to Leadership. The goal of this class was to learn skills that help us better align our actions with our values. One of the biggest learnings for the participants was that Leadership is the practice of focusing our attention and taking action based on what is important and what is most needed.

Students and counselors gather around to listen to instructor

Introduction to Cultural Identity and Diversity. In this class, we explored the construction of individual and cultural identity. We took a theatre-based approach and challenged the participants to push past their comfort zones!

Introduction to Design Thinking. Design Thinking is a creative problem-solving framework that centers on humans for whom you are trying to design (your users). The participants learned about the design cycle and completed a short user-centered design project.

Perspectives and Global Issues. This course was designed to help participants uncover the complexities of group decision-making and how to understand other people’s perspectives in order to successfully engage with them.

Winter School Outdoor Activities

We were fortunate to have wonderful weather during the first-ever UWC ISAK Japan Winter School and we even enjoyed some snowfall, which is a bit of a rarity for this part of Nagano! This made for a very exciting hike and ice-skating experience.

Winter School students enjoy hike up Hanareyama with Mt. Asama in the background


Without a doubt, the most valuable experience during Winter School was Advisory in the evening. Each day, the participants separated into small groups of five and spent time with UWC ISAK Japan’s high school students. This gave the participants a chance to meet and talk with other young people who come from very different backgrounds.

The Final Day of Winter School

Winter School students and staff gather for group photo

On the final day of the first-ever UWC ISAK Japan Winter School, we experienced the full range of emotions. Participants were excited to return home and apply what they had learned, but sad to say goodbye to new friends and exciting experiences.

The participants showed off their learning in a gallery walk of amazing posters and a visit from Ms Lin Kobayashi. We were fortunate enough to have a Q&A session with Ms Kobayashi that highlighted each person’s ability to affect positive change in the world.

Sadly, we said farewell to the amazing young people who stayed with us for five days. We only wish we could have had more time together to explore everyone’s ideas.

All in all, Winter School was wonderfully successful, and we hope to see more people join us for short courses in the future!

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Imagine… if there was an ISAK lower school!

Dear Friends of UWC ISAK,

UWC ISAK is celebrating its 10th anniversary! We are proud of where we’ve come from, and we are excited about the next decade.

At this important milestone, we are wondering – in pursuit of broadening our impact, could an ISAK Lower School be considered as one of the options and would it be feasible? A school that embraces ISAK values and vision for a better future?

As we embark on this journey, if you would like to participate in possible market research and receive updates, please subscribe to our mailing list.