Use It or Lose It: Railey Stern Yen Uses Fulbright to Reconnect with Taiwan

A May 2023 graduate of the double degree program, Stern Yen will apply his experiences in teaching and working with youth.

May 25, 2023

Amanda Nagy

Railey Stern Yen.
Railey Stern Yen will teach English in Taiwan.
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones '97

Railey Stern Yen looks forward to reuniting with family and reconnecting with the education system in Taiwan as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) next fall.

A double-degree student with majors in economics and jazz performance and a minor in statistical modeling, Stern Yen applied for the Fulbright ETA because it aligns with his goal of working with children as a clinical psychologist, both as a practitioner and researcher. Ten years ago, a great aunt was instrumental in bringing Stern Yen to Taiwan to visit and attend school, and the experience left a positive, lasting impression. 

“I think living abroad is one of the best ways to develop as a person and expand your perspective, especially when using a different language,” says Stern Yen, who is from Oakland, California. “I am on the ‘lose it’ side of ‘use it or lose it’ with Mandarin, so being surrounded by other Mandarin speakers will help me learn to adapt and grow. I also feel like I am dealing with the same ‘lose it’ feeling with Taiwanese and Chinese culture. I am trying to regain some intuitive cultural understanding that I once had as a kid. It’s poetic to return to somewhere you once were, this time with something to give instead of just receiving from others.”

This spring, Stern Yen learned the basic theories and application of teaching language in Oberlin’s new Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages course. He also has experience with one-on-one tutoring for math and music. Through Oberlin’s Junior Practicum, he worked as a teaching assistant for OhioGuidestone, a behavioral health agency, where the therapists and social workers informed his interest in working with young people.

Professor Gary Bartz and Railey Stern Yen.
Professor of Jazz Saxophone Gary Bartz, left, chats with Railey Stern Yen.

“The existence of an established Double Degree Program helped me grow a lot from the help of teachers and mentors with very different knowledge bases, all while (mostly) retaining my sanity,” he says, noting the bonds he made with faculty mentors in jazz, economics, and psychology. He worked closely with his advisor, Assistant Professor of Economics Paul Brehm, and he was a research assistant for psychology faculty members Clint Merck and Kailey Lawson.

“In the jazz department, I’ve had mentors who are also life coaches—particularly Gary Bartz—but many others too. They helped me learn about growth and discipline in a way that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else.”

Outside of the classroom, Stern Yen performed in the Oberlin Jazz Ensemble, as well as a student-created Afro jazz ensemble and swing band. 

Stern Yen looks forward to immersing himself in the culture of Taiwan, including the music scene and night markets. “I want to explore as much of the country as I can, from malls in cities to vast rural areas, and just be a sponge. It doesn’t hurt that the food is delicious, including the school lunch.”

His Fulbright begins the first of August 2023 and lasts 11 months. Following the Fulbright year, Stern Yen intends to apply for clinical psychology PhD programs, with a focus on working with children and adolescents. He also plans to find ways to continue his musical journey.

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