Oxbridge next for Asean scholars

Hopeful talents: (From left) Lim and Ng on their way to pursuing biomedical sciences and linguistics, respectively.

BEING accepted into prestigious universities like Oxford and Cambridge, collectively known as Oxbridge, in the United Kingdom is a dream for many students.

As competition is stiff, these students often count on their stellar academic and extracurricular achievements to pave the way for them.

Wit and quick thinking also play a role in making an impression, according to Amelia Jade Lim and Esther Ng Yu Xuan, both 20, who recently earned a spot to pursue their undergraduate studies at Oxford and Cambridge, respectively.

Prior to this, they pursued their A-Levels in Singapore – Lim at St. Andrew’s Junior College (SAJC) and Ng at Nanyang Junior College – under the Asean scholarship, which they received in 2022.

“I made my interviewers laugh,” Lim told StarEdu.

Recalling her Oxford admissions interview, the Kuala Lumpur-born lass, who is a former participant of The Star’s BRATs Young Journalist Programme, said answering creatively was her X factor.

“During my interview and in my personal statement, I utilised many new concepts I learnt from a five-month molecular biology course at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). I found a way to make my answers memorable,” she shared.

Ng, who hails from Petaling Jaya, Selangor, considers her passion and “teachability” as factors that made her a strong candidate, aside from demonstrating good academic ability and character reflected in recommendation letters.

“I believe Cambridge isn’t looking for the smartest student on the block, but rather someone who can deal with data and information, think critically and problem-solve on the spot,” said the offer-holder of the YH2 Capital Scholarship, which will cover her tuition fees at Cambridge.

With their studies commencing in October, the duo eagerly anticipate what will be in store for them.

Lim, who is set to pursue biomedical sciences, expressed gratitude for being able to put her interest to good use.

Oxford University, she said, captivated her with its unique tutorial system, where a few students are assigned to a tutor to have discussions with them.

“I really like this system because you have an avenue to express your ideas and also a means of identifying any areas to improve on. On top of that, the tutors at Oxford are experts in their field. Getting to have a discussion with them is a huge honour, and genuinely very exciting,” she said.

Ng, who is an avid linguistics learner, also cited the supervision system at Cambridge as one of the key attractive features for her.

“Students get to engage academically with professionals in the field directly in small group settings. This sounded like the perfect academic setting for me,” she said, adding that the university’s linguistic course offerings, including language processing and computational linguistics, cater to her interest.

In choosing a tertiary course, Ng, who self-studied linguistics and philosophy, admitted to questioning whether she should study degrees in fields such as economics, computer science and law that would lead to high-paying jobs.

“One of the main challenges I faced was staying true to my aspirations.

“I pursued unconventional academic interests outside of school and also engaged extensively in non-governmental organisation work rather than the clubs and societies at school. My achievements in NGO work were often not recognised by school authorities,” she said.

Her tenacity and passion shone through her activities, which she believes played a part in gaining the approval of Cambridge admissions officers.

Among her achievements includes actively working with Malaysian Youth Diplomacy, which is an NGO movement promoting youth-led diplomacy and literacy in foreign policy and sustainable development goals.

Like Ng, Lim gives back to society by co-founding a dementia awareness group, Project Forget-Me-Not, which won an SGD$20,000 (RM69,741) grant from the National Youth Council Singapore to help effect a dementia-inclusive Singapore.

Lim encouraged students who aspire to apply to Oxbridge to “keep showing up for yourself”.

“The university admissions process is a long one. No matter how tough the tide, be consistent, keep giving your 100%,” she said.

Ng advised students to look inward and understand why they want to study at Oxbridge.

“Focus on understanding your motivations in your chosen field of study and try to gain as much experience as possible.

“As long as you can stay dedicated to your interests and maintain acceptable results during high school, you’ll find yourself ready to share the work you’ve done with confidence when it is time to apply,” she said.

Li Zhen, 20, a student in Selangor, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. For updates on the BRATs programme, go to facebook.com/niebrats.

With the theme of the article in mind, carry out the following English language activities.

1 What is your dream university? How similar or different is your choice compared to your friends’?

2 What field of study would you like to pursue at the tertiary level? What factors do you think are important when choosing a tertiary course? Discuss with your friends.

The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) programme promotes the use of English language in primary and secondary schools nationwide. For Star-NiE enquiries, email starnie@thestar.com.my.

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BRATs , Star-NiE , Oxbridge , Asean scholars


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