Shih-Yu Huang, known to her classmates at New Vista High School in Boulder as Vivian, is an exchange student visiting Colorado from Taiwan. The shy eighteen year old senior is about halfway through her year of studying abroad (she arrived in Colorado in August of 2017, and will go back home in July of 2018) with the
Boulder Rotary Club exchange student program. The way the program is set up, Vivian is scheduled to stay with three different host families in the Boulder area, in order to broaden her experience.
Currently she is living here in Lyons with the family of Tim Oakes and Julie Smith; their son Angus is a sophomore at New Vista. The fit could not have been more fortuitous. Tim is a Professor of Geography and the Director of the Center for Asian Studies at CU in Boulder, and has traveled to China numerous times with work. Julie studied Eastern medicine and acupuncture in China decades ago, and practices here in Lyons at the Lyons Community Accupuncture on Second Avenue. And coincidently, the Oakes/Smith family spent a six-month sabbatical in Hong Kong just last year.
Growing up, Vivian never had a dream of being an exchange student. But her father, in the construction business, is a member of his local Rotary Club, and Vivian occasionally attended talks and slide presentations at her father's luncheons when other Taiwanese students returned from their year abroad. The presentations piqued her interest, and she enrolled in the program.
Despite the fact that she has studied English in school since she was in kindergarten, speaking American is not the same. All the years of practicing grammar, spelling, verbs, nouns, tenses, and sentence structure, doesn't compare with the total emersion into a group of teenagers. And like all teenagers, Vivian is a wiz at texting, even in English.
Coming to America was not actually her first choice. She was hoping to go to a Spanish speaking country so she could become fluent in a third language. That didn't pan out, and she found herself here on The Front Range. “Very different from Taiwan.” is how she describes Colorado. She loves the beauty of the mountains, was a little surprised at the snow and cold temperatures. In addition to being an after-school regular on the Pearl Street Mall and an avid skateboarder, she has also enjoyed visits to Denver and Durango. The first few months of her stay were a little difficult and lonely. She was in almost daily contact, via FaceTime, with her younger sister. But eventually she adapted, things got better, and the calls are now more or less weekly.
In Taiwan, Vivian studied business and computers. The school system in Taiwan is a little different than here in Colorado, and as a consequence the credits she earns here in Boulder will not apply toward her graduation at home, so she will be repeating her senior year at her old school next year. Not a problem, Vivian has been enjoying herself filling up her class schedule with music and photography courses, a couple of her other interests. When she graduates from high school she intends to go to university in Taiwan.