08 December, 2022

Outstanding DAIS Graduates: Meet Mark Ma

Mark Ma Graduation

Mark Ma, DAIS Class of 2020

Mark studied at Dalian American International School for four years, since his Grade 9. He says he has learned many very profound lessons at DAIS. One worth telling is that Mark was able to explore his life and encountered obstacles without the overprotection from the school and his parents, and that is how DAIS prepared him to go to college.

First, Mark used to study in a Chinese public school. Even though he admits many teachers helped him a lot throughout his academic success, they taught him few real-life lessons. Mark thinks that the public school system led him to study only for the grade. However, he was good at it. His 7th Grade final exam score ranked top 85th among around 700 Grade 7 students in the best middle school in Dandong, his home city.

Mark Ma working

Meanwhile, Mark remembers he was never the “good” student that teachers liked. The faculty wanted the students to follow the rules and just study. What Mark did instead was that he constantly challenged his teachers.

"I remember once very clearly that my class teacher wanted us to write down what we like to do when we grow up as motivation. My best friend wrote he wants to be a cook. The teacher criticized that being a cook is not a good decent job. I defended my best friend’s dream job but got punished and stood for one entire class. Later I knew she just wanted us to find a study-related job so we could all be motivated to study. However, I knew this system was not for me with this one thing and many other similar things. I would not want to only go for a high score, even though it is important because I believe that it is not the target that draws the arrow, but the arrow shoots for a target. Instead of fixing it to one preset target, the arrow should be able to fly to where it wants. I wanted to be able to explore and pursue what I am passionate about and to be the virtuous person that I desire," says Mark.

Fortunately, Mark's parents supported him (even when he challenged the public school system.) Therefore, he was able to study at DAIS and met the helpful school faculty members and inspiring mentors who helped him build a healthy value. Teachers and the school system were supportive, gave students enough freedom, and did not overprotect them. Mark emphasized that DAIS would not over-intervene in his exploration process and would help him through the difficulty.

Looking for His Path

At the beginning, Mark could not make his own right decision and find his self-identity.

"It was hard to manage. In ninth grade, I was distracted by many things I never knew about, such as clothes, cars, or technologies. As I got used to the freshness and the excitement of new things, this freedom was becoming confusing and fearful since I had owned it too long to desire it. I questioned myself a lot, especially about who I wanted to be. However, the answer was difficult to get," recalls Mark.

He was seeking for things that could make him feel there is a purpose, such as popularity and entertainment. However, deep inside, Mark knew that this was not what he wanted to use his time for. This is how he decided to work for inside value.

Fortunately, he got help from DAIS faculty members. They supported him in every aspect so that Mark have the resources to explore and the opportunities to do so. His special acknowledgment goes to Mr. Eladio Rivera, Ms. Lisa Liang, Ms. Tiffany Wei, Ms. Audrey Wang, Mr. James Huang, and all residential coordinators.


Initially, Mark self-learned musical guitar theory in school because he thought of being a musician. Later, he decided he wanted to be in biochemistry. But after figuring it out, he did not want to pursue this path. Mark studied hard to be prepared for the upcoming road (he got a DAIS merit scholarship for his academic achievements twice). Outside the school, Mark taught students Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and won a gold medal in the 2018 Dalian China Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu White Belt Championship Open. Together with his friends, they formed a band and performed music on the school stage. Mark also was elected as the student body government secretary and a chair member of the residential student representative council. Later in the 12th Grade, he organized the first TEDx event in our school.

After all these efforts, Mark realized that he could make decisions on his own and that he was the one who was responsible for his own life. "If I worked hard, I would be a little “luckier.” Meanwhile, this freedom comes with consequences. If I choose to be lazy, I will suffer the consequences. All in all, I learned I am the owner of my life," says Mark.

After gaining control over life, he slowly untangled the earlier question. He realized that he likes the feeling of exploration and the satisfaction from his hard work. As a result, in Grade 12, Mark decided to study business.

Higher Education

To challenge himself, Mark double majored in Accounting and Finance in college. He chose a small teaching university, St. Edward’s University, where he is the only Chinese student, among UW Seattle, Penn State University, UT Austin, and the University of Pittsburg. He aims to speak English more and to make friends with Americans. Fortunately, the English language our students learn from DAIS is applicable enough that they can communicate with American easily. Many people comment that Mark's English is fantastic, including his American Government, Intro to Business finance, and Financial Accounting professors. Mark think that is because his high school teachers were Americans. It became natural for him to speak English to the teachers.

In addition, his English has significantly improved in university; he got A- and A in Writing and Rhetoric (Compensation) I and II, and he was the one (being a Chinese native!) who earned the highest score in the American Government class. His Writing and Rhetoric II teacher said that she would like to write him a recommendation letter whenever he wants. Mark also got to know many American people, including school faculty members, and classmates. His new friends are from around the world: he has a close study mate from the Ivory Coast and two of his best friends are from Tennessee, US and from Spain.

Mark with friends

Besides, Mark is the Treasurer of their school accounting club. Meanwhile, he studies hard. He got all six A's last semester and three A's for all summer classes. He says that the study habits he learned from DAIS also helped him with how to use his free time to study independently. Mark is self-studying for his Financial Risk and Manager part 1 test (FRM part 1) and Certified Financial Analyst level 1 test (CFA level 1). In the fall of 2022, he passed one small certification: Capital Market and Securities Analyst. By the end of 2023, he is confident that he will be able to pass Certified Public Accountant (CPA) as well.

Congratulations, Mark, and good luck!