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Once, Always | The Far and Long Road Home

The Jacobs family attended SCIS for four years before moving back to the United States over the summer. In the midst of a global pandemic, the family has persevered to settle back to their native home of California. They share with us their experience transitioning back, as well as the importance of continuing Mandarin language learning and how SCIS has helped prepare them for their new normal.

Welcome to Once, Always,  a series celebrating the wonderful stories from former students, parents, and staff that all share something in common - their time at SCIS.  #OnceADragonAlwaysADragon


The transition back to a new normal

How has the transition back been so far for everyone?

The transition back to America has been challenging for all of us from packing and shipping our things to even trying to get a direct flight out of China. It was expensive. We had to wait for the airline to get permission from The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to fly direct from Shanghai to San Francisco. Our departure was plagued with constant flight cancellations and uncertainty.


Once we arrived in the US and settled in, most local shops and restaurants were closed or open with limited hours. We no longer had the speedy convenience of deliveries we enjoyed in Shanghai and now have to order groceries at least a day in advance.

The boys couldn’t meet new friends and teachers because they were enrolled in schools, but only Distant (online) Learning is offered because of the Statewide mandate for school closure.

So, imagine moving to a new place at the most logistically inconvenient time and having no social life! We miss our friends and the community in Shanghai. However, we’re making the best of it. We’re grateful that we have each other and that the weather is beautiful here and there are many natural hiking trails. The beach is about half an hour's drive to breathtaking scenery.


The search for a mandarin program

How important was it for Lucca and Jaiden to continue their Mandarin learning?

We knew that we wanted to continue with Mandarin language learning for the boys. We initially thought that there would be a lot of options in the Bay Area, however, that wasn’t the case. After some digging, we found one Elementary School and one Middle School, Greene Middle School, that offers a Mandarin Immersion program.

There were limited spots for the program and the spots were reserved for the students already in the program. So, there would only be an opening until a student dropped out of the program. When we initially contacted Greene Middle School, there were no spots available. We asked to be put on a waiting list and were told that students would need to take a placement test to make sure the Mandarin level was high enough.


Two weeks before school started, we received an email inviting Lucca to take a placement test. On the day of the exam, Lucca had to wear a face mask for the duration of the test when it was a hot August day. Alongside ten other test-takers, he was placed in a big auditorium to keep social distancing.

The test generally took about an hour. Lucca took almost two hours to complete. He was the last student to leave the test hall and the teachers and staff were waiting on Lucca to finish to go to lunch and closed out. We were so nervous that Lucca took so long for the test. We checked to make sure that taking a long time to complete the test won’t affect his score. Lucca was nervous when he walked into the test but wasn’t sure how he did. He said he tried to complete as much as possible. What took him so long was the written portion. The question was to describe your friends and what you like to do together. Lucca said he had so much to write about and he just kept on writing because thinking about friends made him missed them and Shanghai even more.

Five days after the test, we received an email with the report that Lucca’s assessment results indicated that he is at grade level bilingual fluency appropriate for placement in the Mandarin Immersion Bridge program at Greene Middle School. We were so thrilled!


How has the integration with the new schools and distant learning been?

Lucca enjoys his Mandarin classes. It was a connection for him to remember Shanghai. In the beginning, he felt that the level was a little easy. There was not as much daily homework as SCIS Experience Level Mandarin with Ms. Sunny, and he would only need to spend about 15 minutes on Mandarin homework now compared to an hour at SCIS. He also knew about 75% of the new words and the teacher also spoke about 25% of the time in English instead of only in Mandarin like Ms. Sunny.

Homework instructions were sometimes in English. They would read a story in Mandarin and then write a summary in English. Homework was broken up into smaller more manageable tasks. Lucca felt more confident with the Mandarin level in his class. One major difference for Lucca was that most home and classwork now needed to be completed using a computer as opposed to handwritten assignments back at SCIS.


How prepared are you for distance learning after going through it at SCIS?

Both the high school and middle school have been very well organized considering we’re just doing Distant Learning. We’re in the Palo Alto public school system and unfortunately, because of COVID-19, school grounds are closed. Only a few essential teachers and administration staff are allowed on campus. A lot of the teachers teach from home. The teachers have been fantastic in keeping the students engaged. It is synchronous learning, so they log in around 9 am with 10 minutes breaks between classes, 30 minutes for lunch, and finish the day at 3 pm. Unfortunately, sitting in front of the computer for that long makes both the boys tired, but all teachers have been supportive and great at keeping learning engaging.

SCIS has definitely prepared the boys for reintegrating with school and classes here. Mandarin is easier here and having the teachers available twice a week for one hour after school helps when they have questions and needed help, they just log-into the teacher’s after-hour time. Math and Science were a lot of repeats and re-learning for Jaiden. He likes the smaller projects and smaller daily tasks to complete. The pacing is broken up and easier to manage instead of a large big deadline.


Looking back, what do you miss most about SCIS?

Although we seem to have made it work here in our new home city and school, the boys miss their friends from SCIS the most, then Soccer Day, Field Trips, China Trips, the swim team, and swim meets. We miss the SCIS Campus and not physically being able to go to school. We miss the community of teachers, parents, students, the fun decorative classrooms, the warmth, and the care of our friends.

What does SCIS mean to you?

Looking back, SCIS for the boys will always be “Once a Dragon. Always a Dragon.” We will never forget our experience there. SCIS is special because of all the students and families from all the different countries around the world making it a very rich and culturally diverse community. It’s the very definition of being at an “International School.”

Do you have any advice for current or future SCIS community members?

The boys highly recommend for new students arriving at SCIS to not be shy or afraid to meet friends because they might be friends that you will make and remember forever. Make meaningful friendships and keep them. Enjoy your time there because you won’t be there forever, so make your time at SCIS count. It’s a special adventure. Treasure it!


The far and long road home

Although we’re now far away from our once home at SCIS and we’re still on a long road to settle into our new life in Northern California. We’re very grateful for the time we’ve experienced and shared with the community at SCIS and will always think back fondly.

SCIS. Once a Dragon, Always a Dragon.

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