HPHS Students Extend Friendships Overseas

[pullquote-left]Annual trip to Taiwan set for March[/pullquote-left]Wenzen Chuang moved to the United States from Taiwan when he was 8 years old, but is taking advantage of a unique opportunity to return.

Chuang, an AP chemistry teacher at Highland Park High School, will be one of the chaperones for HPHS’s Youth Ambassador Program over spring break. He will lead 11 students and use his fluency in Mandarin to assist with translation.

Chuang said he’s eager to see how much he remembers about the school system in Taiwan and compare it to his experiences as an educator in the United States.

“At our school we have lots of different types of probes we use to do data collection and then we analyze the data and so forth,” Chuang said. “That’s not anything I think they’ve seen or have been exposed to.”

Members of the Taiwan Chamber of Commerce Dallas/Fort Worth helped start the annual exchange program in 2009 for Taiwanese students to experience life in an American high school. HPHS students then visit Taiwan each March.

HPHS junior Madison Sheahan said the meet-and-greet and homecoming dances are often Taiwanese students’ favorite part of the trip to Texas.

“My student brought a purse just for the dance and special shoes with gems all over them,” said Sheahan. “I know she was really excited.”

Edna Phythian, HPHS global connections liaison, said painting fingernails is often a priority because that isn’t allowed at their school in Taiwan. The Taiwanese students also enjoy American fashion, barbecue, and a chance to explore Fort Worth during their two weeks in Texas.

LaManda Mallard, an HPHS biology teacher, saw a lack of hands-on learning in Taiwanese science classes that didn’t match student interests.

“They have a high development rate of students who go into science and industry,” she said. “I was shocked to see how their implementation at the high school looked very different than ours and we have numbers trending in the other direction.”

Phythian said part of the reason the program is so successful is because of the kind nature of the Taiwanese people.

“They love so quickly,” she said. “You don’t leave thinking, ‘The place was this, and the trees were this.’ You leave remembering people.”

Due to the success of the exchange with Taiwan, HPHS students will travel to China and Argentina next year. They will be required to research projects on the countries’ social issues and present them to classmates.

Sheahan still talks regularly with her “host sisters” in Taiwan through an app on her phone. She is considering a gap year in Taiwan after high school because of her experiences there.

“I want to learn the language and hopefully that will open up other opportunities,” she said.

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