International Student Alumni Remembering BAC

PHOTO: Nien-Zu (second from left) revisited BAC in May after many years, reuniting with his 1996 Year 11 form teacher Karen Steele (left). He is pictured here with his fiancé and Secondary deputy principal Mr Dever.

Nien-Zu BIO

My full name is Nieh-Tsu Chang. I used the English name Andy back when I was a student at BAC, but I'm not using it anymore. I now like people calling me “Nien-Zu”.

I was at BAC in 1995 and 1996 for Years 10 and 11. I didn’t get the chance to make it to Year 12 (I missed the PROM!) because I went back to Taiwan at the end of 1996.

I was only 16 years old back then, and I turn into 40 this November! 

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO SINCE THEN?

One of the main reasons I couldn’t stay in Australia for Year 12 was because of my family’s financial situation. My parents tried very hard to provide, but things don’t always go as people plan. 

Which was a good thing for me, I think. 

I was away for almost three years, and when I got back to Taiwan I found a job working as an assistant for morning news at a television company, earning my own living. 

I redid high school from Grade 10 in night school so that I could work during the day and completed my high school education to get the qualification for university.

I learned to play guitar and joined a band during my second year back in Taipei. I wrote songs and performed, also singing backing vocals. 

Luckily I got into the Taipei National University of the Arts, Theatre Department, which is the best theatrical school in Taiwan. Lucky me.

Funny thing is, I didn't have any theatrical background! Before I entered the Theatre School, the only play I ever performed was ‘Lord of Flies’ in an English class presentation we did at BAC. But I gained so much fun in that exercise, that it gave me the confidence to try the art school and opened me up to a strange but fulfilled and fun life journey, which is pretty different from any other Asian kids.

In the theatre department, I encountered American Tap Dancing and then I became a poor artist… In other words, a professional Tap dancer. I travelled to different places learning the art form and have performed and taught to earn my living ever since. The farthest place my art has taken me is the Symphony Theatre on Broadway, New York, and 23 days performance at Avignon Art Festival, in Provence, France.

I started tap dancing in 2002 and still do.

In 2014, I discovered a new art form: Improvisational Theatre. I fell in love with it, dug into it, went to Canada to follow a great master of improv. When I got back to Taiwan, I started my own Improv group and we are going to do a show this summer.

I even wrote a book about the art of Improvisation.

I met my first love at BAC, but sadly she didn’t feel the same about me. However, we are still friends to this day! I married my college sweetheart, and we were together for six years. She married again and her second child was born this year. I am very very happy for her.

I have had six very serious relationships in my life and my failing dates during my youth motivated me to dig into the field and try to master it. In the process I accidentally became a ‘love coach’, much like Will Smith’s movie ‘Hitch’! I help people see their strengths and weaknesses, and show them how to attract people into their life.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE MEMORIES OF BAC? 

1. I always loved touch football. Barefoot, running in the grass is pure joy! I really really loved that — an experience you can only find on that piece of green green grass in the BAC valley. Only in Australia! 

2. I am not a Christian, so I found Chapel hard but I always remember a beautiful song they sang and can still remember some of the lyrics:

Jesus, Love of my soul
Jesus, I will never let you go
………….
…………. (Never knew what they were singing...) I love you, I need you
………
My saviour, My closest friend
…………………  the very end ....(that’s all I can remember)

Whenever I heard this song, I’d sing along with everyone and, even for an outsider such as myself, it was really healing.  

[Editor’s note: We were able to find Nien-Zu the lyrics for Hillsong's Jesus, Lover of My Soul]

3. I remember one time during class when we saw a koala on a tree outside the windows, sleeping. With the whole class watching, the koala fell to the ground and we all watched it climb back up two minutes later.  

4. Funny thing is when you ask me the favourite moment in BAC, the first thing that jumps into my mind is the librarian. I don’t even know why. I remember her face and smile.

5. I liked Graphics, maths and PE (notice that none of them require English skills?). I love drawing perspective and answering maths questions. I loved badminton and remember when when everybody got into the school bus and headed to the Olympic training centre. I played badminton with my best friend Luke against the teacher’s team.

5. One last thing: as an oversea non-English speaking kid and getting bad grades in school, confidence isn’t an easy task. There’s one thing I remember the most that built up my confidence. 

It was an around-school 5km marathon [cross country] and everybody was told they had to run. 

Come on, we are Asians! We don’t want to run, especially under the sun!
 
I was always very bad at sport, ever since I was a kid. Too tall and too skinny, it was very hard to keep my balance. Every time I tried to run fast I fell, and was very slow.  

But my friends and I still had to run so we came to an agreement that we’d stay together so we can go through the whole thing and chat with each other.

Running marathon and chatting at the same time? Yes, we were THAT silly! We even thought it might be fun!

Soon, all my Asian friends felt too tired and quit running. But not me! I started to get a feel for running. So I picked up my step and speed, passing one person after another, keeping on going. With rhythmic pace and breath, I made to the end of the race and was the first Asian kid to complete the race and fifth out of all the boys! 

It give me confidence in myself  that I could push myself and fit into my surroundings, and be with the people around me. It helped me be mature and powerful, face challenges and know that I am the owner of my life, and I can deal with the world.

When I look back, my BAC days were such innocent days. All the things we worried about were really not a big deal. We were still not aware of what the real world is like. It’s innocent and naive, but cute and precious. I’m glad I had those times. 

I still run now because I know that, even although I am not a fast runner  and the body that God had given me isn’t designed for speed  it IS designed for long-lasting power and will.

PHOTO: Nien-Zu with his Year 11 class in 1996.