她在前法国殖民地塞内加尔度过了大约一年的gap year(间隔年),在那里的一所高中她用刚学的法语教英文,离开时法文已达AP水平。她也学会了当地土著语言。她还和两位同伴创建了英语学习电台,从募捐买下黄金时段的频道到播音制作节目,临离开时又制定规章使之传承给接手人,完全亲力亲为。这段"非人"的生活收获极大。结束非洲的项目后的那年秋季,她开始了在牛津的大学生活。
女儿的这篇文章最初发在她自己的博客上,然后先被著名的Huffington Post看中,经考虑女儿拒绝了该媒体转载,后来被另一家专注教育的媒体看中而刊登。

Taking Charge of My Own Learning
作者:Shannon Yang, 翻译:《奴隶社会》编辑
Why are you taking a gap year?”
为什么你决定“gap year”(间隔年)
The question would often catch me unprepared, like astorm coming earlier than forecasted. I would often shrug and tell the curious askerthat I just needed a little more time, or that I felt burnt out, or that I was young for my grade anyway.
Though all of these answers were true, they felt shallow and incomplete and, most importantly, they lacked a sense of direction – a narrative that made my goals clear. So after reflecting on this exact question all summer, I was able to determine what my intentions were. I can now tell you basically a million reasons why I’m taking a gap year or why you should, too. And most central to this reasoning is the idea of learning.
尽管所有这些回答都是真实存在的,它们却让我感觉浅薄、不完整。更为重要的是,这些回答缺少方向感,而那是一种让我的目标更明确的表述。我花了整个暑假沉思这一问题的答案,终于,我想清楚了自己最真诚的意图。这也就是为什么尽管我可以告诉你一百万个进行gap year的理由,我还是想说,最重要的原因,是(我想要真正地/自主)学习。
The word “learning,” as it has come to mean in oursociety, has been synonymous with “school”: a mandatory, formal and structured system put in place to educate the next generation. The problem with this 1:1 correspondence between learning and school is that it fails to recognize that school often is not conducive to learning and that sometimes the best learning occurs outside of the classroom.
In the context of my gap/bridge year, it’s been difficult for me to internalize this idea for myself, despite the fact that I was exposed to “alternate paths to success” and the idea wasn’t difficult to grasp intellectually. Fears pop up in my head comparing me to my friends, who are leaving for college, to learn and to grow and to lead, while I would be creating a “gap” in my life.
就我的gap year计划而言,尽管我早就知道成功的路径不止一条(这一概念并不难于理解,)我还是很难内化gap year的想法并与之和平相处。同侪压力有时让我感到恐惧:我的朋友们会进入大学,学习、成长、并成为领袖,而我似乎正在主动选择给生命创造一个缺口
For the first eight-ish years of my public school journey, school was incredibly fun. I haven’t been able to process or reflect on this until recently, but I remember the day my first-grade teacher, Ms. Bruno, asked the class to split our mini whiteboards into halves of the same shape and equal area. We each squeaked our markers and drew a line either horizontally or vertically across the center of our little rectangles. As we wiped our rags to erase, she asked us to split it into quarters, to which were sponded by drawing pluses and X’s. Then eighths. And then Ms. Bruno asked us to do thirds, and we were all stumped.
(事实上,)我在公立学校的前八年过得非常愉快。尽管直到最近我才有机会去反思我的这段经历,我始终记得一年级时的一堂课。老师Ms. Bruno让我们把自己的小白板分成形状大小相同的两半,我们每个人都兴奋地掏出马克笔,通过小小矩形的中心画出了或横向或纵向的线条。我们把笔迹擦掉后,老师又让我们把小白板分成四块,我们也很快的解决了问题:我们经过白板中心画出“+”号或者一个“X”。八等分也不是什么难事。突然,Ms. Bruno让我们把白板三等分,我们一时被难倒了。
My classmates and I drew lines from the center of the board, almost peace-symbol-looking, spread out at 120-degree angles. One student I peeked at who was frustrated at the rectangular shape of the board had actually drawn a circle on it and split that circle into three slices. After much agony, something finally clicked and I had a breakthrough. I realized that, unlike the other examples, the solution wasn’t to have equal sectors radiating out from a center but to draw two parallel lines on the board. I was mind blown. With two proud squeak noises, I had completed the challenge, and slowly, the whole class had figured it out, too.
It was moments like these that drove me to push myself. Moments that made me itch in curiosity. Moments that provided me with the exhilarating thrill of figuring something out that was so new and unfamiliar and challenging, yet so rewarding. I loved being able to connect what I had so ingeniously figured out to the next concepts we learned. And since I had figured it out myself rather than things just being told to me, I felt like I was playing an active role in my education and was able to understand the concepts better because I understood why. I was encouraged to ask questions, to find creative solutions and to collaborate with my peers.

As I approached the high school years, things began to change. At some point, I had stopped deriving formulas and started to memorize them blindly just to regurgitate them. I didn’t understand how they connected, how they fit into a bigger picture. I had lost the meaning in homework — it was often frustrating and felt like a waste of time. Suddenly, school became a race for the best grades, the best scores. It became unsafe to take risks, to be creative, and to make mistakes. It became seemingly impossible to fail and come out of the other side okay.
The purpose of grades is to incentivize students to dowell in school and to measure their progress, whether that means for themselves or for parents or for college apps. But sometimes the best learning happens between or beyond the metrics, and doing well in school didn’t always mean learning. It meant quickly cramming and just as quickly un-cramming, filling in the blanks and writing to fulfill the bullets on the rubric rather than to simply write well.
Through the value placed on grades over learning itself, I had lost my intrinsic motivation to succeed and was faced with the decision to compromise my values for the larger system at play. In fact, multiple teachers in my high school career have told me that what I needed wasn’t to get good at the subject matter. It was to get good at playing the game – at “doing school.”
How do you expect me to think deeply when I’ve been continuously wading in this shallow scenario? How do you expect me to think outside of the box when my classrooms my whole life have been boxes?
In the classroom, nothing real is at stake. Your dignity, reputation or friendships are never really on the line — only your grade is. So important skills like grit and empathy are turned into impersonal, robotic factors if they are even considered at all. In the classroom, decisions are made for you without ever needing critical thinking, and there are right and wrong answers, with no gray areas.
Over the past week, I’ve connected with others who will be embarking on similar journeys, and I’ve realized that though I may come from a high school with a reputation for being especially competitive and stressful, my experience with the education system is nowhere near unique. It’s echoed in the stories of students from different backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses, throughout the nation and even the world. We’ve all been stuckrunning on the treadmill of a toxic system, a broken system. And through our gap years, we are getting off.
在过去的一周里,我与一些将与我走向相似征途的人建立了联系。通过交流我意识到,尽管我所在的高中以竞争激烈和充满压力而闻名,我在教育体系中的经历却实在十分普遍。我在这些来自全国各地甚至世界各地、具有不同背景和社会经济条件的学生的故事中找到了我自己故事的影子。这是个支离破碎的有毒的教育系统。这个系统中的我们像在跑步机上跑步,永不停歇,却又从未前进半分。而gap year会是我真正踏下这台跑步机的时候。
I need to rekindle that love of learning that I’ve always had, feel the same sparks of curiosity that I felt in first grade. And I’m not ashamed that I have to take a year “off” to do that. I need some time to cleanse myself, to take life slowly and to be carefree. I want to learn according to my own needs, not for my goals to be dictated by an educational institution. To me, it’s actually a year on.
For the next year, the world is my classroom. It has so much to teach and to offer. I can’t wait to immerse myself in a new language and culture, build connections with those around me, be vulnerable and open to new experiences, understand global issues from a different perspective, learn how to be grittier, more compassionate, become a better leader and discover the complexities of the gray areas in life.

I hope my experiences will make an indelible impression on me. I’ll emerge refreshed, with that childhood curiosity in a mature adult mind. I’m excited to go back to college afterward with the lessons I’ll learn this year in mind, keeping me grounded and motivated, and informing the work I do, giving me a sense of purpose.
So here I am, sitting in the middle of John F. Kennedy International Airport waiting for my flight to Dakar to board, trying to hear my own voice amidst the beeping of carts, the news on the TV, the PA system, others’ phone calls and the wails of babies. The brew of emotions I’m feeling is indescribable. I think I’m scared, excited, overwhelmed and in denial all at the same time. But I remind myself that it’s for the better.
There’s a story I was told when I was younger. A war general and his troops had crossed a river to reach enemy territory. After everyone got off the ships, he burned them. There was no turning back. There was no retreat. They were all in.
I used to think this was incredibly stupid of him to do. He had removed his backup plan, his safety net. But it turns out doing that meant he didn’t need it. Knowing that retreat wasn’t an option, they were motivated to fight harder, to win. Burning the ships drove them forward.
Soon, I’ll be scanning my boarding pass to board the plane, and when the wheels leave the ground, I’ll be burning the ships behind me. I’m taking a huge leap of faith, but I know I can’t live in two places at once. I want to be all in, to immerse myself fully and be present. Retreating would be the wrong choice. Because using the world as a tool to learn is magical.

Shannon Yang, 2017
高中时期,Shannon显示出语言、写作和数学的天赋。她的西班牙语和数学均跳了一级。西班牙语在十一年级已完成了两门AP,曾获西班牙语全国考试金牌,全校拼字比赛(SpellingBee)3名,目前掌握英文、西班牙文、中文、法文和西非沃尔夫(Wolof)5种语言,略通德语。写作和新闻方面多次获奖,包括国际青少年新闻(International Youth Journalism)写作奖一等奖1 项、荣誉奖5项,艺术及写作竞赛Scholastic Art & Writing Awards的全美银牌和西部赛区2金、2银、2荣誉奖,新闻教育协会社论类全国银奖、网络新闻北加州金奖等。她还是校报多年的记者,并在全国和地方报纸杂志发表文章。Shannon在数学竞赛上也表现突出,自八年级以来连续五次打入全美数学邀请赛AIME(每年全美约5000人入围),连续四年获邀参加在MIT的女子数学大奖赛MPfG(美加最佳女子250人有资格)

高中毕业后,Shannon利用间隔年(gap year)去西非塞内加尔的一个小镇高中用法语教英语,还辅导了一家614岁的课后班,同时在那里创办了英语学习电台并扩展了相关网站并在离开时完成了所有章程,使之可以以公司形式永续化经营。该项目的三人团队获得T-Mobile主办的三十名全美最佳Changemaker Challenge (改变及挑战)奖,并获该公司高管的特别培训和董事长接见。结束非洲项目后的暑假又赴明尼苏达州语言村做中文教师。

还是硅谷地区创业大赛的积极参加者,获得过团体第一(Code Day)和第二(Startup weekend))的好成绩