More than a 16-hour time difference: From China to Redwood

Matthew Marotto

Cautiously ascending Mount Tamalpais on his mountain bike, senior Maxwell Dubow navigates the steepening incline, avoiding loose rocks as he nears closer to the summit. Amidst the brisk air of the coastal mountaintop, Dubow enjoys the familiar spectacle of viewing Marin from an alternate perspective. Looking to attend an American college, Dubow, along with his family, moved to Marin during the summer of 2020 to acclimate to the United States after living in Hong Kong, China for 13 years. Dubow was eager to enter Redwood as a junior, however, COVID-19 complicated his transfer.

Celebrating with friends in Hong Kong, Dubow (center in light clothes) enjoys a final outing before departing for Marin. (Photo courtesy of Maxwell Dubow)

“I was excited to come to [Redwood, but] seeing random heads on [Zoom] was my entire perception of Redwood, and it’s easy to be invisible [in that setting which made] it harder [to enter],” Dubow said.

Dubow was not alone in coming to terms with the new schooling environment. Jonathan Hirsch, Dubow’s Psychology and Street Law teacher, described the social challenges of virtual learning.

“It was hard for students to connect with other students,” Hirsch said. “In a classroom, you can do it passively—it happens organically. Whereas over Zoom, you had to try on any given day to connect with people.”

In order to supplement his transition to Marin and the Redwood community, Dubow turned to in-person activities, participating on the mountain bike team.

“[Virtual learning] encouraged me to find [ways to be involved] in the community,” Dubow said. “That’s how I ended up joining the mountain bike team. It was something where I could be more connected with people [while] in-person.”

Rounding a corner, Dubow races in the spring of 2021. (Photo courtesy of Maxwell Dubow)

Through mountain biking, Dubow befriended Theo Northrop, a co-enrolled senior at Redwood and Tamiscal as part of the Pathways Internship Program.

“I met [Dubow] on one of the opening mountain bike team rides [of 2020], and we became friends through that. [The team] offered [Dubow] a bridge to getting to know people at Redwood … because [everyone] was isolated except for the social interaction of the team,” Northrop stated.

On the mountain bike team, Dubow quickly ascended through the ranks to the most select level, where he now races varsity while excelling in academics.

“[Max reached the best] group in the first two to three months [of being on the team],” Northrop said. “He’s one of the fastest people on the team [and] he’s taken all sorts of AP [classes]. He balances everything, [while being] incredibly kind, patient, and understanding.”

Hirsch also commended Dubow’s academic strengths, having taught him this school year as well as his first semester at Redwood in the fall of 2020.

“[Dubow] brought with him a set of work habits that transcended time and space, so he was able to stay focused and get things done and learn effectively, regardless of the situation,” Hirsch said.

Dubow’s work ethic enabled him to not only manage the difficulties of virtual learning but in-person school, too, which has posed a greater challenge to him.

“I’ve found [in-person learning] to be harder [than being virtual],” Dubow said. “I interact with classmates which is nice, [but there is] more work, and I have less time [with extracurriculars and longer school hours]. Everything feels much more stressful.”

Breaking away from chasing riders, Dubow competes in a mountain bike race where he placed second. (Photo courtesy of Maxwell Dubow)

In 2020, when entering Redwood and cognizant of the challenges ahead, Dubow considered his junior and senior years to be an intermediary phase between then and college.

“When I came here with the mentality that I was leaving in two years, [it] hindered my ability to establish myself. [With that said,] I will definitely think of [my time here] fondly. The people I’ve met, I’ll be friends with for a while,” stated Dubow.

The journey of adapting to Redwood’s virtual, and then in-person learning, all while having relocated from Hong Kong, has been no small feat for Dubow, but one Hirsch is proud of.

“Redwood can be a hard place to transfer into,” Hirsch said. “People are kind of tunnel-visioned. We have this culture here: you do your thing [and] I’m going to do mine. Unless you make the effort first, people won’t reach out. [Dubow is] genuine. He’s authentic and people trust, appreciate, and respect that.”

As Dubow’s final semester at Redwood commences, he is looking to the future, but also reflecting on the past two years.

“I don’t feel like I’m fully part of this place yet, and I have the rest of the year to make myself at home,” Dubow said. “[I’ve learned] to branch out because people aren’t going to find you, and the [importance of focusing] on the present, on establishing your place here [and] now, rather than rushing.”