Super achiever Yap Sui Lin, who scored an astounding 16As in the SPM exam, is a go-getter with a heart of pure gold, reports JOANNE LIM
SHE created history on Wednesday by scoring an amazing 16As in the SPM examinations. But she's no bookworm. Multi-talented Yap Sui Lin finds joy in reaching out to the less fortunate in society and in extra-curricular activities.
The all-rounder from SM (P) Kuen Cheng scored 1As in all the subjects she took except for Bahasa Melayu, for which she obtained 2A. Her 15 1As came from English, Chinese, Mathematics, Additional Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Moral Education, History, Art, English Literature, Commerce, Economics, Accounting and English 1119.
''I prayed for the best but was prepared for the worst in order not to be too disappointed,'' says Sui Lin who is used to getting straight As. She had obtained 7As in the UPSR exam and 8As in the PMR exam.
It was in Form Five that the Science student made her decision to take the Arts papers as well for the SPM exam, leaving her with only a year to prepare and excel in the subjects.
“It was not a difficult task as I have very strong interest in all the subjects,” says Sui Lin, who aspires to be a financial engineer. ''It's a profession which demands a combination of knowledge in both science and commerce, which is why I took the Arts subjects as well.”
When the school bell rang at 1.10pm everyday, Sui Lin did not rush home for a nap; neither did she worry about where or how to “kill time”. Instead, she stayed back in school to obtain coaching for the Arts subjects.
''I would do exercises and get my teachers to correct them. Apart from that, I also attended tuition classes,'' she says. “I'm very lucky because all my teachers have shown they are very dedicated, by staying back to teach me and ensuring I understand it all.”
As her school's top student since Form One, Sui Lin had a lot to live up to. “It's normal to be stressed but you need to have control. You need to be mentally prepared for an exam and it should never be last-minute preparation,” says the 17-year-old, who is now doing Senior Middle Three and a part-time Certificate in Information Technology course.
Apart from her studies, Sui Lin has many other interests and pastimes. She loves to write and represented Malaysia in the Kumon Japanese Exchange Programme last year after winning an essay competition. At school, she was the editor of the Bahasa Malaysia and English newsletters. Sui Lin says she believes in being the best student she can be, and yet find time to “live life to the fullest”.
“My only timetable is the normal school hours, tuition classes, and school activities. I don't adopt a rigid schedule, as that would be suffocating. I don't plan things too much; I just do what I want to do,” she adds.
Sui Lin's other activities include being a violinist with the PJ Youth Symphony Orchestra, a member of the Kuen Cheng debate team, vice-president of its Japanese Society and a long-distance runner.
While many students think it “not cool” to go shopping or to the movies with their parents, Sui Lin loves spending time with her mother, Dr Gan Lay Chin.
“We do everything together and she's really great fun. Mom's my best friend!” says Sui Lin who enjoys jogging, swimming and going for concerts with her mother.
Physical activity no doubt plays a part in keeping Sui Lin mentally alert and full of vitality.
“I never skipped my daily 30-minute run at the school field before going for classes. It keeps me healthy and I'm able to concentrate on my studies,” says Sui Lin.
Being an only child has never spelt boredom or loneliness for Sui Lin, as she enjoys the company of friends and relatives. “I'm close to my cousins and I treat my friends like my own siblings,” she says. They, in turn, admire and respect her for her humble and caring ways.
Much loved by her teachers, Sui Lin has been winning the Most Polite Student award since she was in Form Two.
“She's very cheerful and shows respect to all her teachers. She has indeed done everyone proud,” says teacher Wong Tze Ling who has known Sui Lin for six years.
The girl with brains and brawn also has a heart of gold. Sui Lin spends Friday nights at Rumah Hope, an orphanage, to help students in their studies, especially those sitting for the SPM exam.
“I can relate to them a lot as they are from broken homes and single parentage. When I'm with them, I realise I have so many things to be thankful for,” says Sui Lin who lost her father at the age of 10.
Sui Lin attributes her success to her parents and the values they instilled in her from a young age. ''They placed a lot of emphasis on education as it is the best investment for an individual. It is something no one can take away from you,'' she says.
A geologist by profession, Dr Gan has never regretted becoming a fulltime wife and mother. “My husband always wanted someone to be at home and it was either him or me. He believed in the importance of parental care for a child. That's why I'm only a geologist by profession but full-time mother by occupation. I will drop everything and tend to her (Sui Lin's) needs at any given time. It's my duty to bring up Sui Lin as a wholesome person with good moral values by giving her all the love and support she needs.”
Since her husband's passing in 1996, Dr Gan has been living on his pension. (He was a Telekom employee for 21 years.)
She says: “Sui Lin and I might not be able to enjoy the many luxuries of life, but we are grateful for what we have been blessed with. I tell her, 'Mummy loves you but cannot afford to spoil you.' ”
With a flexible daily schedule revolving mainly around Sui Lin, Dr Gan has truly devoted her life to her daughter.
“A mother can only provide for her child for a limited time. Sui Lin has to learn to stand on her own two feet and make sound decisions. Teenagers are exposed to so much negative influences nowadays; they have to learn to differentiate between good and bad,” she says.
Staying positive is her key to successfully raising a child.
Says Dr Gan: “I don't expect results but am more concerned about how much she can handle. Her responsibilities should never be overbearing.
“I make it very clear that I will not interfere with her studies. If she needs help, I will find her a tuition teacher. I don’t check her bags or books to see if she has completed her work.”
Dr Gan says she enjoys having fun with her daughter. A kitchen wall at their home in Kuala Lumpur is where mother and daughter share lots of “fun times”.
“I designated the entire wall for her to paint, scribble, write and paste anything she wants. I enjoy seeing her express her creativity there,” she says. “In many ways, she's my most treasured companion,” she adds.
Sui Lin is a grateful daughter. “It doesn't work if the child doesn't appreciate the parent or the parent doesn't have time. Both parties have to work together and I'm lucky to have her. My mother has sacrificed a lot for me, not only career-wise. There are a lot of other things she can do, like spend her time with friends or go on trips, but no, she'd rather be with me.”
Sui Lin believes her mother's biggest sacrifice was not remarrying. “I respect her for doing that because not many people can do what she did, especially having been widowed at such a young age. My mother's love is truly a gift from God.”
Asked how she manages, Dr Gan replies: “Prayer. At all times, we need to look to the Almighty for support and guidance, for no two ladies can go through this alone, without His help.”
Sui Lin adds: “I hope that my success will inspire single parents and their children to never give up hope. There are many challenges to face but we must be strong and learn to overcome them.
“Life has to go on and, no matter what, you can achieve your dreams if you believe in yourself.”
Nicknamed “Junior” by her father, the late Yap Siew Fatt, Sui Lin always has her mind set on carrying on his legacy and living out his dreams for her.
Yap, a Colombo Plan scholar, had always inspired his daughter to be diligent.
“I will never forget the beautiful times we shared together and how much love he showed me. I will always be proud to be his daughter, his ‘Junior’,” she says.
The strong bond they shared is still evident. Says Sui Lin: “We talk about him as though he's around ? maybe, somewhere out there he can hear us.
“Dad, I hope I have made you proud and fulfilled your wish as your junior. Thank you for emphasising so much on education. I hope your investment will pay off someday.” Indeed, it has.
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