By Rosemary K. Otzman
Yu-Yoa Bai, 16, is headed back to Taiwan after spending the school year as an exchange student at Belleville High School.
He graduated from BHS on May 12 with 364 other seniors at commencement ceremonies at Eastern Michigan University.
Yu-Yoa Bai calls himself Albert here in the states.
Albert had just finished his sophomore year in Taiwan, but he was put into classes for seniors at BHS, because that’s the procedure for international students.
He earned a B+ in physical education and ran track after school. He liked the Animal Science class during the first semester and Horticulture in the second semester and earned a C-. He earned a C+ in World History/Geography and a C- in Library/Film. The school put him in Calculus first, but the host family pointed out he hadn’t had the necessary background for that, so he was put in Algebra 2 where he earned a D. The family said he didn’t have the background for that class, either.
His host family said Albert was a sophomore placed in classes with seniors and it’s amazing he did as well as he did.
Albert plans to be an engineer. He will have to take two more years of high school when he gets back to Taiwan before he graduates there, so this year was mainly to get an American experience.
His older brother had spent a school year in Minnesota and so Albert’s businessman father asked him if he would like to spend a year in America, too. He said he would.
Gene Schulte and his wife Kattia live on Martinsville Road out in the country in Van Buren Township. Gene met Ilene Bosley of Cultural Academic Student Exchange last year at BHS. He and his wife thought it would be a great idea to get an international student and it might help Kattia’s children, as well.
Kattia is from Columbia and she and her son Daniel (a student at McBride Middle School) and daughter Sarah (a BHS student) speak Spanish most of the time at home. Gene grew up in Port Hope, MI, so he speaks English. Albert speaks Chinese.
Albert said the strangest part of going to BHS was that everyone spoke English and nobody else spoke Chinese. He had taken some English classes last year in Taiwan after signing up for his trip to Michigan, but his English is weak.
Before joining the Schultes in VBT, Albert spent a month at the Cultural Academic Student Exchange’s training in American Culture held in Boston. And, there was a week in New York when foreign students got together. There were only two other Asian students at that gathering, Albert said.
The Schultes gave Albert free room and board for the school year and lots of new experiences.
Gene laughs while remembering Albert’s first experience with snow. Albert ran outside, took pictures, and sent them home to his family.
Because of electronic devices, Albert was able to talk to his family in Taiwan every day if he wanted to.
The Schultes made sure he had lots of American experiences. They took him to see the Pistons, Shrine Circus, the Frankenmuth Christmas City, Saginaw (where Gene’s son graduated from college), and Port Hope, where Gene grew up and his family lives.
In Port Hope Albert got to go snowmobiling and snowboarding. He really liked that.
He went to church with the Schultes and said he goes to temple with his family at home. He learned about the strange American holidays of Thanksgiving and Halloween, which have no corresponding holidays in Taiwan.
And, he learned about Snow Days. When he was told last winter that there was no school because it was a Snow Day, he had a big smile and was very happy, Gene said. There turned out to be lots of Snow Days last winter.
Albert said seniors didn’t have to make up the Snow Days like the other students did, who are attending classes through June 19.
As part of his community service, Albert helped build scenery and worked as part of the stage crew for the BHS presentation of “Noise Off.” He spent 211 hours of his time on that project.
He also helped at Forgotten Harvest in Oak Park, packing family boxes of food for the disadvantaged.
And, Albert learned about pets. He said his family has no pets in their home in Taiwan. But, the Schultes do. Kattia has a miniature pincher named Maya and that little dog has a little yellow duck that she plays with in the house. They wrestle and chase and play together exuberantly.
There are also ducks and chickens and roosters outside and a goat named Willie that is outside mostly, but comes inside for his Cheerios.
Albert likes to wrestle with the goat.
Gene prompted a question to Albert: “Do you like duck?” Albert replied he did, with a big smile.
Gene said Albert likes to eat duck. In the U.S., however, his favorite food is pizza and the ducks are family pets.
On June 18, Albert was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles, where he was to meet up with his girlfriend from Taiwan who is also an international student in the U.S. Then, the two of them will fly back to Taiwan together.
There were four foreign students at BHS this year. Besides Albert, there were two students from Denmark and one from Brazil, who was spending his second year.
Those wishing information on international students may contact Van Buren Township resident Illene Bosley at Ibosley@sbcglobal.net .
By Rosemary K. Otzman