Tashi D is a Year 11 Student from Sinaia who started his Spark experience because he wanted more than the traditional education system could offer. Today, he is part of a global community of students, nurturing his passion while going through school in his own rhythm. Last week, Tashi participated in one of our Spark Open Day events, where he logged on from a sunny Bulgaria beach and talked about what it’s like studying at a hybrid high school.
In this interview, he talks about how he found out about Spark and why he chose to join a community like this one. In case you only knew Tashi as that student who is very passionate about maths, now we can get to know him better, as a person.
Tashi & his Spark
Q: Nice to meet you, Tashi! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your life growing up, some of your favourite memories, up to who Tashi is today.
A: I am an IGCSE student studying Maths, Physics, Computer Science, History and English.
I grew up in Sinaia, a mountain town which is a very famous ski resort in Romania. Because of this (but also because of my parents), I had the amazing opportunity to spend a lot of time on the mountain and practice sports like skiing, cycling, trail running and skimo (ski mountaineering, also named ski touring), which is my favourite.
For example, I remember when I was in primary school that during winter, I would go skiing for a few hours with my dad at the end of the school day (around 1 o’clock). Apart from that, I also have countless other good memories of hikes or skimo trips we had, which are clearly my favourite memories growing up. And today, if you ask me what my hobby is, I will probably answer “mountain activities”, so I can say that I did not change much since then.
Apart from these activities, during my primary and middle school years, I was a straight-A student and also developed interests in various academic topics, many of which I still have today (like maths, for example).
Q: How did you end up at Spark School?
A: At the end of middle school, I had to decide what high school I wanted to attend. I had the option of going to the high school in my town, which was not my favourite option – I went to school there for seven years, and it was quite an unpleasant experience. Apart from this, all the better schools were in other cities and required me to live in student accommodation (away from home) at under 15 years old, making things even worse.
Since my last two years of middle school were during the pandemic period 2020-2022, I knew that online learning would be a very nice solution to these problems, so I tried to search for schools which would offer this. And after a lot of searching, on 15 June, my parents somehow discovered a hybrid international school.
At first, I was a bit sceptical because I was not very confident with my English skills. Also, I wanted to be sure I could participate in the maths olympiads as a hybrid school student. When I learned more about Spark, my initial scepticism disappeared – actually, at Spark, I had the opportunity to participate in maths olympiads in two countries – and instead, I realised how lucky I was to find Spark.
Q: When and How did you realise maths was one of your superpowers?
A: Actually, I think the most important thing for me was to realise what maths actually is and why some people like it so much.
As the famous physicist Richard Feynman once said, “There is no miracle people. It just happens that they got interested in this thing and they learned all this stuff.”.
Some important moments were when I was in 2nd grade, and I realised, with the help of my dad, that the maths that is being taught in school is uninteresting and irrelevant compared to what true maths really is. So I started to do maths with him. Then when I was in 4th grade, I started learning it seriously, and I participated in the national round of the Romanian Maths Olympiad at the fifth-grade level.
Another very important moment was in 5th grade when I failed quite badly at the district round of the 5th-grade Romanian Maths Olympiad. Do you know what I did at that moment? I started learning 7th-grade maths. And more importantly, I started learning it by myself. This way, I became very good at self-studying, which is also a learning style practised at Spark.
Q: Did Spark help you in your journey to discovering yourself and nurturing your interests?
A: I discovered many things about myself, including my current interests, before joining Spark. But what Spark did for me was also very important. It helped me in the best possible way to keep and then grow these interests by giving me freedom and also by giving me the possibility of interacting with amazing people (e.g. teachers) – some even experts in the fields I was interested in, which was also very helpful.
Life as a Spark Student
Q: Do you feel like you belong to Spark? What gives you that feeling?
A: Yes, absolutely. There are many things that build this sense of belonging, this sense of community. First, at Spark, everyone is so nice and has a lot of positive energy. Then, I feel that we (the people at Spark) have something very similar in us. We are all here because we want something different from the mainstream system, and we are not afraid to leave such a system because we don’t want to waste our time; instead, we want to actually do something about it.
Q: What does a typical day in your life look like as a Spark student?
A: As I said on many occasions, I don’t think I have a typical day. That is, after all, the beauty of Spark – since you are studying at a hybrid high school, you design your own day and can have a lot of variety.
But if you want an example of a quite common type of day, I wake up, eat, go outside for a few minutes, and start working (schoolwork, maths, etc.). After lunch, I usually go outside (for example, for a walk in the forest), and then when I return home, I can have one or two online meetings. After that, I work a bit more, then do something more relaxing before bed.
Q: Describe Spark in 1 sentence.
A: A school which offers you multi-dimensional flexibility.
The importance of flexibility & authenticity
Q: Do you think the Flexibility provided at Spark benefits your lifestyle?
A: Of course. For me, having multi-dimensional flexibility is the best thing about Spark. By multi-dimensional, I mean that we have both spatial and temporal flexibility, but also flexibility to choose what to study and at what pace to study.
This benefits me in many ways. First, this flexibility is crucial for any kind of performance because this is the only way to focus on something you like (maths, in my case). Then, it benefits me from a wellbeing perspective, which is even more important. For example, because I study at Spark, last year I could travel to Greece between 20 September and 10 October while doing schoolwork, which is the best time to be in Greece since it is not so hot outside.
Q: How do you imagine life would be right now without Spark School?
A: I think there is a big possibility that without Spark School, I would be in high school in my town. I would go to school for 35 hours per week and study many subjects (I think around 14), many of which I am not interested in at all, and even for subjects I’m interested in, I would probably be terribly bored.
This would mean that I would be very tired and only have a little time to follow my passions. Then there is also the part where I care about the type of colleagues I have – the current ones are students with whom I can have meaningful conversations, which matters to me.
If I never knew about Spark, I would probably turn out OK, but the quality of my life would be lower. And the saddest part is that in a scenario where I would not know that a high school like Spark exists, the life described above would seem fine as it is.
Social life at Spark
Q: How do you find the social life at Spark? Do you make friends while studying at a hybrid high school?
A: Because the social life outside of school cannot be affected negatively by more free time, which is a characteristic of Spark, I will talk only about social life in school, which, less obviously and quite paradoxically, seems better at Spark than in a physical school.
My theory is that when it comes to social life, the quality of the people you talk to, and hence the quality of discussions, is way more important than if you meet in person or not.
For example, when I was in a physical school, I would not have almost any social life because my colleagues were playing video games on their phones most of the time, and in the time that was left, I could not initiate any kind of interesting discussions without being called an antisocial nerd 🙂
On the other hand, this year, we had a lot of online meetings, like Global Education or Wellbeing meetings, where I and some other colleagues participated. Even though there is always an adult leading such meetings, many times the discussion is between students, and there are plenty of topics which allow us to learn, to debate and also to socialise. For example, I remember discussing how to be a conscious tourist, where we told funny travel stories at the end.
Q: What makes your experience at Spark unique to you?
There are many unique things at Spark. Actually, I already talked a lot about things like the freedom/flexibility you have here or the amazing people you meet.
Another unique thing at Spark is that we have many non-academic activities (remember, the school is built on three pillars!). These activities were good for socialising, but more importantly, they also taught me a lot of useful things, for example, how to manage my emotions, how to build good habits, what are the different types of intelligence or how far social media is a benefit and how far it is a threat to democracy.
Q: What do you dream of doing after finishing high school?
A: I don’t have something very concrete in mind. I will certainly go to university and study mathematics or something related (like a double degree containing mathematics), but I don’t know what I will exactly do after this. I think this is a good thing because I like to keep my possibilities open. And with mathematics, you have many possibilities (from teaching to research, from computing to engineering to finance, from mathematical biology to mathematical physics, your possibilities are endless).
Q: If you could change one thing about our future, what would it be?
A: I would probably de-activate all atomic bombs. Or, to be more ambitious, I would convince all governments to dissolve their armies and adopt Gandhi’s strategies in case of conflicts.
Q: What inspires you? Where do you get your ambition from?
A: It depends on what I am doing. For many things I do, I am inspired by the fact that I like to do them.
For example, I am motivated to do maths because I like it. Even though most of the time when you do maths I feel very stupid, very confused, there are some moments when you have some insight. When you “switch on the light”, which fills you with incredible joy.
Q: Who is a person who inspires you?
A: Richard Feynman. He was a Nobel prize-winning physicist who pioneered an entirely new area of physics. More than this, he was physics with a human face, and his fascination with the world knew no bounds. He was passionate about bongo playing, biology, poetry, painting, computing, cracking safes, and many more.
And most importantly, he was a great teacher. Many people say that he was the most captivating communicator in the history of science – and I agree with that. After reading his autobiography, watching a few videos and reading some bits from his famous lectures, his story really impressed me.
I will leave you with my favourite quote (which is actually from Feynman’s autobiography), from which I think that many students can learn something:
“I cannot see how anyone could be educated by this self-propagating system in which people study to pass exams and then teach others to pass exams, but nobody knows anything. You learn something by doing it yourself, by asking questions, by thinking and by experimenting.”
We thank Tashi for this insightful conversation. He has been open and honest about his past experiences, which inspired him to search for an education system that truly supports his needs and interests.
If you want to follow in the footsteps of Tashi, this is a reminder that during August, you are entitled to 15% off on any Spark products.
Whether you want to join the full high school experience or you want to taste the hybrid environment by enrolling in one of our self-paced courses, we encourage you to take your first steps towards a quality education today. An education that doesn’t just teach students but also cares about them.