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Teaching (and learning) from Taipei

STISD Science Academy senior continues education remotely overseas

For high school senior Daniel Yan, continuing his education with South Texas ISD while living in Taipei was not a matter of if, but how.

Dun-You Yan (Daniel), from Mission, is remotely attending the South Texas Independent School District’s Science Academy from over 8,000 miles away. When the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States in March, the Yans opted to move their annual summer trip to visit extended family in Taipei, Taiwan up, as they weren’t sure when the next opportunity to visit would present itself.

Science Academy senior Dun-You (Daniel) Yan
Courtesy photo.

Yan, along with his brother (Science Academy freshman Ethan Yan), completed the 2019-2020 school year overseas, and have been continuing their 2020-2021 courses on a schedule 13 hours ahead of our own central time zone.

For Yan, this means class usually starts at 11:30 p.m.

“I wake up at around 3 or 4 [p.m.], go about my day, do my homework, and then my school starts – I used to start at 10:30 p.m., but because of Daylight Savings Time now it’s 11:30 p.m.” Yan said. “I’ll go through school, do homework at lunch, and end my school day around 5 a.m. From there I’ll go to sleep, then it starts all over again.”

He found the adjustment only took a few days to get used to.

“At first it was weird, it felt like I was in a different universe a little bit,” Yan said. “But it wasn’t too bad. Everything shifted a couple of hours later, so after a day or two I got used to it.”

In his time overseas, Yan has found a deeper connection with his family and culture than ever before.

“I’ve never in my life been able to spend Chinese New Year or Christmas with them [my extended family],” Yan said. “So this is kind of like the best of both worlds – I get to do school but also involve myself here. I’ve been enjoying it, and am excited to spend more time with them.”

On top of acting as a Science Academy student advisor, and competing with the Technology Student Association (TSA), Yan is an English tutor for a few families in Taipei.

“A lot of kids here are really interested in how a native English speaker would speak English,” Yan explained, noting the English language is taught in schools in Taiwan. “That interest really motivates me to want to help them.”

Yan is very interested in architecture and design, and intends to study that when he graduates next year.

“I’ve always drawn houses, and I realized it could be something,” Yan said, adding he decided to transfer to the Science Academy in his sophomore year of high school to pursue it further. “I’ve been working with TSA, and we’ve really gotten into the process of designing.”

After spending nine months in Taipei, Yan has realized time zones are not as rigid as most people think.

“I’ve realized that time doesn’t really exist like we used to think it does,” Yan said. “I used to think that at night we sleep, and during the day we do school and work. But for me, it’s all shifted now – so I just feel like you make your own time.”

Lorena Madrigal, the assistant principal at Science Academy, explained how the district has been able to accommodate the Yans and ensure their education is continued without interruption.

“We’ve worked with our teachers as well to ensure they are flexible as far as their attendance,” Madrigal said. “If a student is not able to attend the Zoom for whatever reason, but the student does turn in the work by midnight, they’re going to get attendance credit. Students like Daniel, that may have things come up, they have an extended time frame to turn in their assignments.”

STISD understands students are all in different circumstances, so the virtual environment means students can get the instruction and knowledge in different ways and different times.

“We want to support that,” Madrigal said. “Especially when students are able to benefit from the experience of being overseas while still being part of our SciTech [Science Academy] family.”

Yan noted the district has been very helpful throughout the process. Now that he is a senior and needs to meet with a counselor more often to prepare for college, he said they’ve been excellent at replying to his questions right away.

“They’ve been really good at giving me information,” Yan said. “They don’t reply hours later when I’m sleeping or not really working on college applications, they’ve been really good about getting me information when I need it.”

Madrigal’s understanding is that Yan is the first overseas international student to attend Science Academy. Madrigal said Yan’s work ethic is indicative of the dedication from the entire student body at STISD.

“We’ve learned that we don’t have to be rigid, we can be flexible and the students will rise to the expectation if we give them that help they need,” Madrigal said. “We’re very fortunate here to have students that are very motivated, driven and competitive – who want to thrive. And that pushes all the students to want to progress.”

Yan’s family will be returning to the United States in the new year, so Daniel can complete his senior year, compete with TSA and graduate locally.

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