“From Kentucky to Taiwan” – Thoughts on a Relevant, Engaging & Transformative Education

By Kia Allen, a Gatton Academy Senior

I was fifteen when I first moved two-and-a-half hours away from my friends and family, and made the decision to put my education first. I was ready to be challenged in a way that I had never been before. And–believe me–it has been very challenging. Not only has the Gatton Academy pushed me and my peers mentally but it also opened doors for us to wonderful opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible anywhere else.

Last year, I was presented the opportunity to spend the summer in Taiwan with another academy student and five other Western Kentucky University students. I was told that I would be doing chemical engineering research at National Chung Hsing University in Taichung, Taiwan. When I was first presented with the idea I was quite nervous, and I didn’t know what to expect. But this was one opportunity that I couldn’t pass up!

To me the trip wasn’t exclusively about working in a lab; it was about learning and experiencing a new culture.

The Taiwanese were some of the nicest people I have ever met. Every day there was always a random stranger saying hello and helping me as much as they could when I looked very confused. Each weekend in Taiwan was a different adventure, we went to night markets, amusement parks, we climbed mountains, saw the second tallest building in the world, and many other things, too. Most of all, it was an opportunity for something both intellectual and personal that not all gifted young people get to do.

One day while I was walking to the university to start my full day of work, I realized how much I have changed as a person. I was living thousands of miles away from home and I wasn’t scared. I really grew up on the trip and I realized that if I could live on my own at the age of sixteen, then I was going to be just fine when I actually go to college or move away from my family. I have never felt so good about myself and my future then how I did that day. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support and the guidance of the Academy as well as legislators, educators, and other leaders who believed in the Academy and gave it a chance to exist, grow, and thrive. I hope you realize how much you—and all advocated for young people who are gifted and talented–have changed the lives of students. From me and all the other Academy students, we thank you for changing our lives by making this and other wonderful opportunities possible.

For more information on the Gatton Academy, click here. To see the Gatton Academy’s 2010-2011 School Profile, click here.

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