On Aug. 13, while most Taipei American School students tackled first-day nerves and back-to-school excitement, new student Ruby O. (‘22) awaited her first day of school, which would not come until two weeks later in order to comply with quarantine requirements.
Because Ruby’s family made the difficult decision to stay in the U.S. for her older brother’s wedding, they endured an uneventful quarantine for three weeks, knowing that postponing their travels would mean a late start for Ruby.
Dr. Tim Mulligan, an upper school Academic and Personal Counselor, recognized some of the difficulties of a late start. “Everyone who starts together is kind of in the same boat, whether they’re new to us or not,” Dr. Mulligan said. “It’s the first day of school [and] everyone goes through that whole process together. So, for students arriving late, it just means they kind of have to jump right into the middle of things.”
Jumping right into the middle of things was not going to be easy, so Ruby prepared herself for some of these challenges. “I was kind of nervous because I knew that I was going to be missing a lot of things. I did some online school, which was helpful, but being [two weeks] late is a lot, and people are already starting to get tests and quizzes and big assignments,” Ruby said.
These pre-transition nerves are especially strong when arriving late, but luckily, Ruby is no stranger to overcoming the emotional challenges of leaving old friends and stepping into the unknown. However, saying goodbye to her Arizona friends was more heartbreaking than usual because of concerns about COVID-19 (coronavirus). “I couldn’t really hang out with friends or say goodbye to everyone, which was really hard, but we had to be really cautious about it.”
Despite this lack of closure, Ruby was also eager to start anew in Taiwan, having already lived in many other places, including the Philippines, Vietnam, South Africa, Nigeria, and around the U.S. “Part of me was excited. Every time I move I’m always kind of excited. You get to see new things: your new house, your new school… but it’s also kind of nerve wracking because you have to go there, meet new people, and start all over,” Ruby said.
Starting all over meant choosing new classes, joining sports teams, and finding new activities to be involved in. “I am doing soccer right now and next season I’m probably gonna end up doing swimming,” Ruby said. She is currently a floater between JV and Varsity teams for soccer, and she looks forward to being involved in Opus choir and some service clubs in addition to sports.
Though TAS is very different from her previous school, Ruby enjoys many things about TAS and is starting to adjust. “I was just going to public school in the US, and it was a lot smaller. This place is really big. And the food is really good! There’s just so many more things you can do and classes that you can choose from,” Ruby said.
Fortunately, Ruby has not been alone in her transition. Her teachers and counselor, Dr. Mulligan, have been supportive. Her Reach Out buddy Madeline McCarthy (‘21) is also in a uniquely perfect position to help Ruby. “I came [half a year] late when I was in eighth grade. Coming in the middle of the year is really difficult, and any point when you’re late is hard,” Madeline said. “I think [it’s important to not] worry and take advantage of the resources that you’re given. After that, it’ll all settle in.”
In the end, there is always a silver lining to Ruby and about a dozen other student’s circumstances arriving late to school. “Many have decided that they would rather be late to a school where they can attend in person, than to get started on time, someplace where they have to do remote learning,” Dr. Mulligan said.
So despite the masks, mounds of homework and general mayhem of starting late, Ruby is taking it all in stride. “It’s really hard to get going with the flow [of] everything,” Ruby said. “[The positives are that] more people know that you’re coming, so a lot more people are super friendly and super nice to you when you come. [They all say], ‘Oh you’re the new girl.’ [And I’m like] ‘Yeah, that’s me.’”