Senior salutes 2021


Natalie S. (’21)

Throughout my childhood, my mom often went on tirades against her former profession in the journalism industry—arrogance and incompetence, she loved to tell me. In hopes to see truth for myself, I signed up to write for The Blue & Gold. Admittedly, I witnessed some truths my mom spoke of; but the hard work and teamwork that came with overcoming censorship, backlash, and publishing deadlines cultivated my humility, competence, and an almost visceral hunger for truth. 

My curiosity has always drawn me to unconventional stories. That’s how I came to meet defense lawyer Leon Huang, one of the most reviled personalities in Taiwan. I had read stories about him, but never the truth. I wanted to understand if not him, at least his motivation for defending murderers who publicly decapitated a young child, dismembered a young girl, and stabbed 28 people. Society had already passed judgement, conflating him with his job. These heinous offenses shattered the peace of Taiwan, one of the safest countries in the world, and the courts doled out swift justice. Images of Huang and his efforts to protest his defendants’ death sentences saturated the media to make him incredibly unpopular.

Naturally, when I let slip my plan to interview Huang, my family responded with disbelief and concern; like them, I was aghast at the crimes.  But in my eyes, that discomfort meant I was making the right call. 

After exchanging pleasantries, I wasted no time in pointing out the criminals he defended were undeniably guilty. Surprisingly, he agreed. With resigned but reflective candor, he said to me, “I took their cases knowing I would lose.” He openly acknowledged the evidence had been overwhelming and perhaps certain criminals deserved the death penalty. “Yet my job is to facilitate legal proceedings, the cornerstone of our democracy, by zealously defending my clients,” he said; if everyone deserved legal representation and fair trials, he explained, then defending the indefensible was the best way to prove it.

Huang turned out to be the gadfly to my linear worldview and made me rethink the values of education. Abstract concepts such as the rule of law became more concrete within the context of history and government, showing me the multi-faceted relevance of due process and the presumption of innocence, challenging my passion to become a journalist in a similar way. 

On my way home that day, I kept going over his words. Even though he defended monsters, he was not the monster I imagined him to be. Instead, he helped me see that my intellectual interest in politics and justice were more nuanced and interconnected than I had realized. Writing the article on him was one of the hardest assignments I have had as a journalist. I constantly had to ground myself in practical skills in the ethical context. 

But, I’ve realized that, to me, an education is the process of personal intellectual growth and change. In middle school, I developed skills in mathematics that made life seem logical, my education had offered reassuring narratives about the world. In high school, however, my experience writing for the Blue & Gold and working for The China Post challenged the comforting perspectives encapsulated within the textbooks and showed me a complex, layered society beyond the confines of my classrooms and my community. Particularly, the interview with infamous defense lawyer Leon Huang shattered my binary, right-versus-wrong understanding of justice and in that moment, I realized I wanted to be a journalist.


Nicole C. (’21)

Oftentimes, when TAS students hear about the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma, they either get intimidated or falsely believe that colleges in the United States do not prioritize or accept IB diploma students. Having toured U.S. colleges and attended various information sessions with college admissions officers, I can confidently say that this is not true. U.S. colleges weigh both the AP and the IB equally, and students who have completed the diploma can even receive certain credits for their courses.

Although the IB diploma has a reputation for being a rigorous and academically challenging curriculum, this should not stop you from pursuing it. Yes, the IB diploma is definitely hard work, but as someone who has just recently completed the diploma, I can say that my experiences and hardships were all worth it in the end. I made a close group of friends, learned so much about myself, and had deep and meaningful discussions with teachers and students about important topics around the world. But most importantly, I now feel better prepared for college. The IB diploma teaches you how to write (multiple) research papers, how to be more independent, how to manage your time,  and how to keep going during stressful times. 

If you are certain that you want to pursue the IB Diploma, but are feeling nervous about navigating the course load and the external requirements, here are some tips that got me through the process: 

  1. Learn how to manage your time effectively. Create a calendar. Don’t procrastinate, and start your assignments early! Make some time in your schedule to relax
  2.   Meet with your teachers 
  3. Create study groups with your IB friends. Studying together can be extremely beneficial!
  4. Create study guides for your in-class assessments. By the end of the two years, you will thank your past self as you will be prepared for your cumulative final exams! 
  5. Begin your External Essay (4,000 word research paper) before your senior year   
  6. Coordinate Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) experiences with other IB students. CAS is fun, so don’t stress about it too much
  7. Lean on your IB friends for emotional and mental support 

The IB diploma is definitely not for everyone. However, if you are someone who enjoys the challenge and strives to grow both academically and personally, I definitely recommend taking the diploma.


Phoebe C. (’21)


When a fellow peer of mine once told an administrator that they hated TAS, he corrected them by saying, “you don’t hate TAS, you hate the people at TAS.” While this may be true, the administrator failed to see that the student’s hatred was still rooted to a single source—the school. 


TAS’ tendency to evade its responsibilities and turn a blind eye to the immorality that happens right under its nose has spoiled students sick, and while students are partially accountable for their actions, the hand that feeds and encourages them is the true culprit.


Still, Taipei American School is great at many things: preparing students academically for college, getting students into top universities and creating a bridge between itself and the world’s top institutions. As a high school senior and veteran student of 14 years, I feel confident in tackling the rigor of my future college education. I couldn’t say the same, however, for my future as a global citizen, Asian American woman or my ability to navigate right from wrong. 


When I was in lower school, my sex education covered the biological changes that appear during puberty. When in middle school, I spent hours in health class learning that healthy gums don’t bleed from flossing. In upper school, my health teachers frowned upon any other forms of birth control that were not abstinence. 


Meanwhile, in my core history classes from grades 6 to 11, I studied white history and success. Despite America’s multicultural heritage, my textbooks were filled exclusively with the history of privileged American populations. 


Given this blurred projection of history, society, sex and culture, it came as no surprise that I had little to no experience when it came to maneuvering a moral compass.


By the time I was a rising senior, I became desperate—where was I going to acquire a well-rounded education that didn’t force abstinence down my throat, taught me all sides of American history and granted me with the facilities to discern between wrong and right? 


With very few options, I signed up for Honors History of Minorities in America (HHMA): a history elective that studies the perspectives of minority groups who are not covered enough in mainstream U.S. history courses, which include women, Asian Americans, Black Americans, Native Americans, the Latinx and LGBTQ+ community, just to name a few. 


In class, I received what 13 years at TAS had failed to deliver: I studied the struggles of American minorities and examined the obstacles I may face in the future as an Asian American woman. I participated in seminars every other day, in which the class openly discussed topics such as sexual violence, sexuality, racism, discrimination and much more. I learned more about STIs and contraceptives than any other sex education course offered to me at TAS.


I also, most importantly, discovered right from wrong; HHMA taught me that unlike the facade of a disciplined community TAS quivers behind, the real world does not forgive its members as easily. In reality, it’s not okay for people to graduate early for sexually harassing women, nor is a slap on the wrist considered proper discipline for committing inexcusable offences. 


Unfortunately, I shared this realization and abundance of knowledge with only four other seniors, though the class is open for both juniors and seniors.


I understand there is little incentive to enroll in HHMA; it’s an elective course that fulfills no graduation credits, and it may not be as impressive as AP Physics C or Calculus BC on a transcript. Yet, if I take away anything from my time at TAS, it will be the context and perspective the class has provided for me.  


Sabrina C. (’21)


I remember the days when my 5-year-old figure would weave through imaginary shadows towards the plastic basket in my room, eyes gleaming with the image of gold medals and overflowing crowds. Little did I know that only nine years later, the glorified image of a varsity athlete would become my identity. 


Sports have always been a huge part of me. I was basically born into it, following in my brother’s footsteps and learning to play basketball at a young age; I still joke that it was my “first love.” Yet high school made me realize that I no longer wanted to be just the “tall basketball girl.” I wanted to be known for my work with different clubs, my love of poetry and even my passion for this publication.


It was all about finding a balance. This didn’t mean that sports became any less important to me, in fact, with the introduction of IASAS and the excitement of playing with upperclassmen that I had always admired, I felt more motivation than ever. What it meant was being more open minded, exploring other opportunities and stepping out of my comfort zone. I started to embody what it meant to be a true “student-athlete.” 


I learned how to look at each of my passions as “outlets.” Outlets for freedom, creativity and insight. When I bombed a test, I would flush it out on the court. When I went through a shooting slump, I would recollect myself through some absent-minded drawing or writing. I also found inspiration in the people that I met through these outlets, encouraging me to put maximum effort into everything that I chose to do. 

I also learned to stop worrying about what others thought of me. It takes a lot of confidence to stop caring what others think, but it also takes passion. You have to be invested and interested in the subject to continue to want to work at it. And when you develop such a deep passion for something, that is when you truly do things simply because you love to. 

My advice: explore while you get the chance, but also stay true to yourself. I knew that sports would always be part of me, in fact it was and continues to be my “backbone.” Yet I was also able to discover and pursue other passions, bridging them together in a high school experience that allowed me to form my own sense of identity. Don’t let yourself be defined by others; you decide what your own aspirations are and what legacy you ultimately want to leave behind. 

Kara M. (’21)

I didn’t want to move here—at all. Instead, I actively proposed wild plans to my parents of how I could stay in Northern Virginia with my familiar friends at my familiar high school, plans ranging from moving in with a friend or graduating a year early. I had already moved schools six times, and I knew it would be uncomfortable to be a new student as a senior. After three years of living in the same place, I finally felt comfortable. But, I knew I had to leave because of my dad’s job, despite my unrealistic proposals.

Then, my perspective shifted—and the whole world’s perspective shifted. COVID-19 spread throughout the world, taking away the final months of my junior year like they meant nothing. I was devastated. But I was still moving to Taiwan—even a pandemic couldn’t change that.

Before I stepped foot into TAS, I set my expectations low,  deciding that, if necessary, I could get through any situation for just one school year. After I actually arrived on campus, the abstract ideas of who I would meet and what it would be like suddenly solidified into reality. That first day at TAS was an adrenaline rush. Masked faces were hard to recognize, the cafeteria food was surprisingly good, and the hallways were so much emptier than my previous school’s. I look back on those first days, weeks, and months, and I’m filled with gratitude and appreciation. 

By moving to Taiwan, I was able to escape the harshest effects of the worldwide pandemic that has kept my friends back home stuck in their bedrooms, stuck behind a screen for their senior year of high school, the year we’ve waited for all our lives. I feel so lucky to have a real senior year—normal classes, being able going out with friends, having prom and graduation. 

If I’ve learned anything from this unusual senior year, this pandemic, and a life of constant transitions, it’s the importance of getting out of your comfort zone and appreciating where you’re at. TAS can be a bubble, yes; my advice to students is to not forget that there is a whole world out there waiting for you. Allow yourself to grow, change and expand your perspective. Appreciate what you have as a student at TAS, and do what you can to take advantage of it.

Perspective is everything. This school year passed by in an instant, and now I’m saying goodbye to my adolescence, my high school experience, and my senior year. I’m saying goodbye to friends and family, people who I love. The present only happens once. Make sure you live in it.


Alice C. (’21)


Most of my family members are doctors, lawyers, or businessmen. Growing up, talks at the dinner table often revolved around the successful lives of people who chose to pursue those professions. My grandparents and aunts expect me to follow a similar route, but I refuse. 


At a really young age, I realized that my passion laid in connecting with people through speech and art. I loved meeting new people and could easily have long conversations with anyone from my grandparents’ friends to my teachers because their stories intrigued me. Just like reading an adventure novel, I found myself learning valuable lessons from their stories, whether that was about trust, self respect, courage, or love. After each story-filled conversation, I would leave feeling extremely inspired and happy inside. 


At the same time, I became more passionate about sharing my own stories. In addition to providing my own insight into issues such as mental health through online platforms, the act of documenting my own journey also helped me reflect on the highs and lows of my life, which allowed me to learn from my own experiences and identify the values that I wish to live by. 


Ever since realizing the positive impact that it brings to my life, I realized that I wanted to pursue the field of digital media and journalism. 


However, when I first brought this up to my family, everyone except for my parents were against it and extremely worried about my future. They believed that the industry is way too competitive for me to “stand out” and get a fulfilling job, and doubted my ability to be truly happy if I were to pursue this profession in the future. 


At first, I was discouraged and found myself beginning to see truths in their words. However, I soon realized two problems with their concern. 


First of all, their opinions are based on their own experiences and could be biased. There is no saying that my story would turn out that way if I don’t try it for myself. 


Second, their priorities are different from mine. To them, one’s profession brings them joy if it brings external validation and monetary gains. However, these two things don’t bring me much happiness. I agree that having a stable income and being respected by others are nice things to have in life, but can also be achieved even if I chose to pursue a profession that I’m passionate about. More importantly, the joy I feel from doing creative work and engaging with other people is far more important to me. 


If you are struggling to pursue your passion due to opposition from others, my advice is for you to listen to your heart and go for it. No matter what others say, this life is yours, and you have the permission to live it the way that you want, instead of letting someone else become the author of your story! 


Amanda D. (’21)


One of the most shocking realizations I’ve had in the past year was on a seemingly ordinary Tuesday night when I realized that I actually enjoyed the math I was scribbling frantically into my notebook. I was further startled by the thought that maybe, just maybe, I could enjoy this. For a split second, math was not only tolerable but fun. 


If someone told this to my past self, I would have never believed them. Unlike my friends and classmates, math remained an enigma to me, no matter how hard I tried. I went through the five stages of a struggling math student: Kumon, failed tests, tutors, learning the abacus, erratic sessions of frustrated crying, and an unhealthy amount of hours on Khan Academy. Later, once I was able to limp through the problem sets we were given for homework, I would hit an insurmountable wall with tests and exams. One of my teachers even remarked that while I scored high on worksheets and textbook examples, my application skills were unsalvageable. 

Math was my sworn enemy, my self-proclaimed rival. Instead of trying to understand, I chose to antagonize it. 

But while my hatred for math persisted, my surroundings did not. As my environment shifted with each move and people faded in and out, I came to realize that math was the only constant in a sea of unforeseen variables. At its core was a patient equation to the complexities of what my surroundings had to offer. The methodical process of multiplying, solving logarithms, and mapping bearings was almost therapeutic in its mundanity.

I took a class one summer on paradoxes and infinities, and while struggling to comprehend complex theories such as the Fermi Paradox or Turing Tests or Bootstrap paradoxes, I could find a calm within all the chaos, a soothing continuity that lasted for millennia and even more to come. If these questions had been pondered on for so long, then my own inability to find the answers was a challenge that many had faced. I was not alone. 

Math was beautiful. And as an appreciator of all things beautiful, how could I deny it? 

I will never be a mathematician. I will never be an actuary or a financial analyst. I even hesitate to dip my toes into the realms of physics, which rely so much on principles of mathematics. But what I have learned from my time at TAS is that math is part of our world, whether we like it or not. If we can cherish the symmetry of flowers, marvel at the massive infrastructural masterpieces that make up a city skyline or laugh over simple card games, then loving math may not be as difficult as it seems.