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Alumni Notes: February 2022
Haosong Zheng ’17, 2022–23 Schwarzman Scholar.

Beijing-Bound

We’re thrilled to share the success of Haosong Zheng ’17, who has been named a 2022–23 Schwarzman Scholar. Haosong is one of only 151 students chosen for this worldwide prestigious program that provides a one-year, fully-funded Master of Global Affairs degree program at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Now in its seventh year, the program offers an immersive experience focused on leadership and cultural understanding. 

Haosong, who is currently working on his master’s degree in business analytics at the University of Rochester, is originally from Beijing and holds a dual undergraduate major in business and data science. He is president of the University of Rochester’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association and has spent his summers working for the Chinese Ministry of Finance, China Galaxy Securities, and the China International Capital Corporation. He told the University of Rochester that the Scholars program will be “a valuable opportunity for me to understand China from new perspectives. Nations can cooperate and leverage their own competencies to help the development of other nations.” 


Products for the Planet

In August 2021, Jenny Albrecht ’13 and her partner Jordan Lewis launched Parapura, a Swiss online concept store specializing in sustainable lifestyle products. In only six months the company has received impressive feedback and coverage, particularly as the Zero Waste movement begins to gather momentum in Switzerland. Currently Parapura stocks popular and best selling products from Switzerland, the EU, and the UK.

Parapura focuses on plastic-free and other alternatives for everything from beauty products to kitchen and homewares, cleaning products, and items for babies and children—and getting little ones used to choosing sustainable products is one of the best ways we can move forward. “Leading by example through lifestyle changes is huge,” Jenny says about getting children involved in being more mindful about shopping choices. She also suggests that we need to talk openly about the environmental challenges our world faces today and educate our children, friends, colleagues, and families. “There’s a wealth of information out there nowadays but few people act on it as they don't perceive it as their problem. I disagree.”

Jenny has a few suggestions on how we can minimize our impact on the world. We can change to a renewable energy provider, plan the weekly shop ahead of time to avoid overbuying and food waste, consume less meat, and avoid fast fashion, to name a few. “And, of course, there’s the area we're tackling—reducing waste by eliminating plastics and replacing single-use items with reusable solutions where we can.”


Winston Posegate ’93

Virtual Peace Corps Service

When Winston Posegate ’93 began his role with the US Peace Corps in Armenia in March 2019, he was looking forward to two years of service. Of course, the pandemic had other plans, and like thousands of other organizations around the world, the Peace Corps pivoted; it created the Virtual Service Pilot, or VSP, and Winston is one of 230 volunteers who have donated their time through virtual engagements with communities around the world. Winston wrote about his experience teaching English virtually for the Peace Corps website and was featured in his local newspaper, the Marinas Variety in Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, where he owns the American English School.


Aurelia Dochnal ’19

A Scholar in Service

Aurelia Dochnal ’19 left TASIS with a number of accolades, including Student Council President, Senior Banquet speaker, and winner of the Excellence in History Award. Alongside double majoring in History and East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale University, Aurelia somehow finds the time to write for Yale News and serve as Editor-in-Chief of China Hands Magazine, an undergraduate publication that highlights Yale-China relations.

Aurelia is also the mastermind behind a tutoring and advising service that aims to assist international students in preparing for college admissions and help with general and subject-specific standardized test prep. When students started asking for help with science and math tutoring, Aurelia branched out and recruited fellow Yalies with STEM expertise to help. A successful decision, as currently Aurelia and her team are working with students from age 13 to 19, most of whom found her through references from other parents and students.

The legacy of the Opsahl Global Service Program made an impact on Aurelia, who served as a leader for the Mongolian Global Service Program for two years. “This experience influenced my prioritizing of service in AureliaPrep,” she says; five percent of all proceeds from her company are donated to the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, a New Haven food assistance program that has been providing help to the community for decades. “As a Yale student and a guest in this city, I think it is crucial to actively show solidarity with people who are unhoused or living in poverty—my neighbors,” she says. “Supporting strong, community-based initiatives is important to me.”

Aurelia, who speaks six languages, is grateful for the familiarity with cultures and languages that she received at TASIS. “My perspective allows me to communicate with lots of international students in their native languages and also helps me to build a strong rapport with my clients. I am grateful to my parents for giving me the opportunity to experience an international way of living at such a young age.”


Clothes Conscious

Sustainable brands at Jolie Kai

Michelle Jaffe ’94 has been involved in sustainability since doing research in public policy during her time as an undergraduate at Emory University and graduate at the University of Hawaii. She also grew up around her Finnish mother’s clothing boutique and understands the importance of quality materials. With these in mind, in 2019 she opened Jolie Kai “to provide a resource where people can find sustainable clothing that’s fashion forward, works for everyday life, and combines the best practices in environmental principles and ethical production,” she says. The brands she stocks have ethical and fair trade principles at their core, extending to using natural materials, regenerative fibers, and eco-friendly production processes, including the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) certification. “I tell people that not only will you look good and feel good in the clothes, but you feel good knowing how they were made. This is essential to my business ethic.”

How can consumers make more educated choices when it comes to fashion? It’s all in the label, Michelle says; we need to look for things like organic or recycled fibers, eco-friendly dyes, and GOTS certification. “There are a lot of smaller brands out there that are really committed to sustainable production,” she says. “It’s important to support them because the principles of environmental and social sustainability are at their core. They have been leading the industry with their best practices.” She also says to look out for “greenwashing” by companies that use the term “sustainability” as a marketing tool without a strong basis to back up their claims.

Readers in the US can shop at Jolie Kai, but what about those of us in the rest of the world? Michelle recommends brands such as Lana Natural Wear, Tranquillo, Alma & Lovis, People Tree, and Living Crafts. For outerwear, Jack Wolfskin and Vaude, and for footwear, Babuuk and Allbirds. “There are many great brands to be found, and they usually have information on their websites regarding their sustainability metrics. The more detailed the information, the more likely they are to be the real deal and not greenwashing.”


Emir Badahir ’10

Experiential Learning

Emir Badahir ’10 is featured on Swiss Learning’s February 8 podcast, where he talks about his time at TASIS and his life since graduation. Emir has wonderful things to say about the “cultural soup” at TASIS that has helped in his life as an entrepreneur, investor, and real estate mogul. “TASIS taught us we should think outside the box,” he says. “This has played a great role in my business life: create, create. With this mindset I went to New York and started a number of businesses.” Emir says that the experiential learning focus of an American education was instrumental: “You experience a language or history. It makes you learn more deeply.” Emir also touches on his time as a 23-year-old on the UK Channel 4 show “Rich Kids of Instagram'' and how his time on the show helped build his profile and, in turn, helped his businesses. He continues to be grateful for his TASIS education, particularly the connections. “It prepares you for life.”


Joe Eagan TE’94

Now That’s Funny!

Joe Eagan TE’94 on being a Canadian comedian in Europe, the best places to do gigs, and how Seinfeld’s life on his eponymous show isn’t the norm:

How different is the life of a stand-up comedian to the life we expect of a stand-up comedian (i.e. what we see on Seinfeld or SNL)?
The life of a full-time comedian is indeed quite different. When performing on stage, sometimes a heckler will try and steal the show, and I’m quite sure the live studio audiences chosen for the SNL or Seinfeld taping are not able to buy drinks that might lead to one of them getting too boisterous, to say the least. Yet sometimes the interactions with audience members can be the highlight of the night, a golden moment of comedy impossible to repeat because it happens in that one unique moment. My favorite example is a Danish audience member who stole the show with a struggling comic who wasn’t getting any laughs at an English-language club show in Copenhagen. As the Danish man was randomly writing on a piece of paper, the comic asked him what he was doing with the paper, and he yelled out in the thickest Danish accent you can imagine: “I’m writing a suicide note because you’re so bad I want to kill myself!” I’ve NEVER seen (and know I’ll never see again) a room change from silence into such uncontrollable laughter in my life. It was magical.

The reality for full-time stand-up comedians is also that a lot more travel is involved. I don’t think any episodes of Seinfeld include him traveling outside of New York to do a show. Most shows for a full-time comedian involve a lot of trains, road trips, and flights. Also, at least 33% of the close friends of full-time comedians are usually other full-time comedians. In Seinfeld, the fact that Kramer, George, or Elaine are not comedians doesn’t reflect reality in my opinion—but I’m just being picky, it’s still an amazing show. :)

Can you talk about the challenges of writing and performing stand-up in English to audiences of mostly non-native speakers? 
I have a cozy and mellow, slow-paced style with a generic Canadian accent that most audiences have no trouble understanding or following. I started out performing in Sweden, where I’ve lived since 2000, so this style naturally developed over time because I wanted Swedes of all ages to be able to follow what I was saying. In general, most stand-up comedians whose native language is English have honed their skills in the country where they’re from. Sometimes when they first start doing shows abroad with audiences who are mostly non-native speakers, they forget to slow down enough and pronounce words more clearly than if they were performing to a pub full of British people, for example. Besides performing, I also book comedians to come and perform at my clubs in Scandinavia, Luxembourg, and Holland, so I always make sure to tell the comics to slow down, and also to make any sayings, expressions, or terms that are too British or too American more understandable.

Tell us about your favorite gigs. 
My favorite show was for around 200 university students in Tartu, Estonia. I was booked as the headliner of the first ever tour that an Australian promoter living there had put together. They absolutely loved every second of what I had to say. Not that I don’t think I did well, but I also think it was because they were so grateful and honored that this form of entertainment was being brought to them. I felt like a rock star, especially in the bar afterwards with people clamoring to get my attention and thank me. It was surreal. I also enjoy performing for Dutch audiences because they are the most challenging. They only laugh if your material is truly good. In retrospect, Holland is the best place to perform if a comedian wants to genuinely know if they are good or not, so the motto is: Estonia to feel like a rock star, Holland to find out if you’re actually good or not.

We'd love to hear some anecdotes of your time as a TASIS Summer Programs counselor. 
I worked during the summers of ’95, ’96, ’97, and ’99 as a sports instructor and counselor under the hugely missed Akbar Khan. The staff gatherings were legendary to say the least: at least once per week, always in the cellar piano room of the De Nobili building where the red wine provided was only drinkable if it was mixed ‘Swiss-style’ with cola. Tom Khan, Akbar’s son, is incredible on the guitar and was usually strumming songs we all enjoyed. Towards the end of the program in 1995, one day I thought we had the afternoon off, and I completely forgot about the group staff picture that was being taken. I met someone during a previous Wednesday shopping trip, a lovely Swiss woman around my age (I was only 19 at the time—a cute summer romance indeed it was). I had gone down to Lugano to spend the afternoon with her. When I came back to the campus, all the other staff members were really annoyed that I missed the photoshoot, except Akbar. He took me aside and said something like, “You were down in Lugano meeting a girl weren’t you?” With my head down, expecting to be fired in the coming second, I fessed up and admittedly said, “Yes”. He patted me on the shoulder, I looked up, he winked at me and said, “All good, no problem, Joe…well done.”

Joe currently lives in Malmö, Sweden. Learn more at joestandup.com and internationalcomedians.com.


Homecoming

Many alumni reading this might fantasize about returning to Lugano one day. Linda Grey Davey ’75 did just that, visiting Lugano in November 2020 as she and her husband Steven explored Europe in their Hymer B544 camping car they named Bijou.

Linda wrote about her trip on her blog, and all our alumni will enjoy seeing her nostalgic photographs of downtown Lugano, campus, and student haunts like Angelo’s store and Augustina’s. “It had been 45 years since I’d been on campus, so of course I was surprised at how much it had grown,” Linda says. “I’ve always loved the campus, and it was easy to see the ‘old’ campus within the newer structures. Lugano has also grown—up the sides of the mountains!” Linda particularly remembers a photo of herself standing beside the link sculpture on Lake Lugano: “When we found it on this visit, a tree had grown up around it!” We hope you enjoy Linda’s reminiscing as much as we do!


A Magical TASIS Summer of Arts & Architecture in Southern France

John Smalley discusses painting with students

Where do former TASIS students and teachers spend their summers? In the gorgeous 18th-century hamlet of Les Tapies, tucked into the lush Ardèche hills in southern France. Former TASIS teacher, Director of Institutional Development, and founder of TASIS Dorado and TASIS Portugal Fernando Gonzalez has spent the last five decades carefully restoring the six stone buildings of Les Tapies into an extraordinary artists’ community with spectacular views of the Rhone Valley and French Alps in the distance.

For 15 years, Fernando and TASIS England Master Teacher John Smalley have brought together high school students and adult artists from around the world to stretch their creativity at the Les Tapies Arts and Architecture Program. Back for summer 2022 after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the program, from July 2–22, offers three major courses: Drawing + Painting, Architecture, and Photography. Elective courses are also on offer, including Drawing + Painting, Photography, Design + Build, and Art History. Alongside their coursework, students will take a number of day excursions to such vibrant regional cities as Avignon, Arles, and Aix-en-Provence, as well as to nearby charming villages, as they walk in the footsteps of artists such as Cezanne and Van Gogh. 

This year, students will also embark on a field study project examining the art, architecture, and archeology of a remote 12th-century Romanesque Cistercian abbey high in the Ardeche mountains. The Program is also adding French, yoga, and French cooking to the activities options. Fernando will be teaching the architecture course while renowned photographer Barry Iverson ’74 will be teaching photography. Lauren Bechelli, who has earned a Masters in Art Education and is a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship since teaching TSP Art in the TASIS Summer Programs, will be working with drawing and painting students. Additional staff will come from TASIS Dorado in Puerto Rico, which is now sponsoring the Program.


Tales from the Red Chair

Regular viewers of The Graham Norton Show will recognize the Red Chair in the photo above…but how many schools can boast that a former faculty member told a story that delighted both Graham Norton and actor James McAvoy? 

Congratulations go to Claire Thomas, who worked at TASIS from 2014–2020 in the Learning Support Center, taught MS Science, and helped run robotics activities. And she truly is “the cleverest audience member we’ve ever had” (so Graham says); she boasts two BSc. Hons., a PGCE, postgrad certificates in Physics, Dyslexia, and Literacy, and a MSc in Child and Adolescent Mental Health. And she could probably add “Graham Norton Let Me Walk” to her CV, too!


A Remarkable Teacher and Friend

We end this edition on a somber note. We lost a TASIS legend, Horst Dürrschmidt, on February 19 after a short stay in a Lugano hospital.

Horst taught photography and art classes at TASIS for 35 years, from 1974 to 2009, and was the major force in developing the Art Department. He organized the first TASIS Spring Arts Festival in 1975 with colleague Fernando Gonzalez and secured a prominent place for the fine arts in the TASIS curriculum, ensuring students gained a lifelong appreciation for creativity and the arts. 

While Horst taught his students techniques and nomenclature, he also taught them to see. “To be an artist is a way of life,” Horst said in a 2012 interview. “Visual awareness is what is important, the art of selective seeing, of expressing yourself. That, in combination with finding what form works with the content, is what sets artists apart.”

Horst inspired generations of students, many of whom went on to careers in photography and design. Our Fine Arts Center, which includes the Dürrschmidt Gallery in Horst’s honor, was donated by Ferit Şahenk ’83, who was greatly influenced by Horst as well as his good friend and colleague Mark Aeschliman.

Despite retiring in 2009, Horst remained a figure on the Collina d’Oro, spending each morning reading the papers at the Caffe Letterario Boccadoro, near the Hermann Hesse house in Montagnola, and returning to TASIS for cultural events and performances. His passion for opera, excellent food and wine, and culture never waned. We could all learn from Horst’s philosophy: “Enjoy the beauty, the amazing things in nature and in human beings, and in whatever is around you.”

His impact on TASIS and our students, alumni, colleagues, and friends will echo for many years to come.

We invite you to read tributes to Horst and share your own memories on this memorial page on the TASIS website.
 

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