Students Get Real! with Shuang Shuang Li

Get Real Shuang Shuang
The seventh installment of the series took place virtually with Shuang Shuang Li, who shared her experience studying the IB to living as a psychology student at the University of British Columbia.

When a Senior is heading off to university, a few to-do lists are on the horizon, involving preparations for the last few months at school and, more dauntingly, what comes after it. Sure, the world wide web presents many probable answers, but do they truly get what it’s like?

This is where ISKL’s Get Real! series comes into play. Get Real! is where our High School students can explore university options with their predecessors, the ISKL Alumni. The seventh installment of the series took place virtually, with ISKL lifer and Class of 2021 alumni Shuang Shuang Li, who shared her experiences – from the advantages of taking the IB in preparation for a university to general tips on living in Vancouver as a psychology undergraduate at the University of British Columbia.

The Advantages of taking the IB in preparation for University

Shuang Shuang shared her thoughts on the most crucial advantages of taking the IB and first talked about how it helped to manage her time better and break down extensive assignments into smaller parts. “When you work on your Internal Assessments and your Extended Essays, you learn how to break them down; for example, it’s best to work on your introduction today and your results tomorrow. Things like that make a big assignment seem less stressful,” says Shuang Shuang.

Another advantage Shuang Shuang mentioned is that students can transfer credits from courses learned in IB to university. “I could transfer eight science credits into university, so I didn’t have to take extra science courses. If you get good grades for the IB, you can technically skip the first year and have less workload than someone who didn’t,” she says.

She also talked about how vital citations and academic integrity are, saying, ‘It would help if you understood plagiarism and learned how to format your citations properly. Professors don’t teach you these kinds of things, and they expect you to know it or research citations in your free time. Ask your mentors or librarian if you have questions about citations because they are people you’re familiar with. It can sometimes be intimidating to ask a professor questions in front of a class of 200 people.”

Living in Vancouver, Canada

Shuang Shuang remarked about how beautiful the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus is and how it happens to be ranked the prettiest campus in Canada. When talking about living in Vancouver, Shuang Shuang mentions that after living in Malaysia for 12 years, she feels she isn’t particularly built for the cold weather. “Compared to Calgary or other parts of Canada, Vancouver has relatively good weather. We usually have nice weather, but there’s a period in October when it rains almost every day. This year winter came early, and it snowed yesterday – so there are about five centimeters of snow outside right now!” she adds.

Transitioning to life as a University Student

“There’s a lot of fun stuff you get to experience, especially if you’re not under your parent’s supervision anymore, which means a lot more freedom and independence,” shares Shuang Shuang. She discusses how there’s more opportunity to explore the surroundings, but this can act as a double-edged sword as some students get kicked out of university for not keeping up with their assignments. “Some students might feel safe as they had good grades before and choose to party during the weekends. However, unlike high school, professors won’t track you down and ask where your assignment is. They will mark you zero if you don’t hand your work in – there’s no negotiation and they’ll just cut off 10% of your final grade. It’s always imperative to keep up with your work in university.”

Shuang Shuang also remarks on the importance of managing finances and everyday chores such as cooking, laundry, and running errands. “At home, your parents are doing all this stuff for you, and your responsibility every day as a high schooler is basically to get good grades. But as a university student, you realize how much time is needed to complete these chores. I often debated whether I should write my essay first or if I should go grocery shopping because there’s no more food in the house!”

Opportunities for Part-Time Work while Studying

Shuang Shuang shared that many local students in Canada move out of their parent’s house at 18 and live independently. “They have to pay their rent, bills, groceries, and take on jobs as servers, tutors, retail workers, lab assistants, or teaching assistants,” says Shuang Shuang. “Their primary purpose for doing this is to survive, but for international students, it’s considered more of an experience that you can write on your resume once you graduate.”

She added that in her first year, she tutored English vocabulary to kids, thanks to a recommendation from a friend. “I also started my own nail business and am very proud of it as it was a spontaneous idea and the most independent thing I’ve ever achieved,” says Shuang Shuang. By doing this, she feels that she’s learned a lot about communication, organization, relationships, and technical skills, adding, “I’m not telling you that you must start a business, but it is something to consider. Other people I know have also started businesses, such as making goods, handicrafts, knitting goods so they can be more financially independent.”

Dealing with Homesickness

A current ISKL student asked how Shuang Shuang coped with the transition and if she experienced homesickness. Shuang Shuang replied saying, “homesickness – you can’t avoid it. You come to a new country by yourself, and you’re away from family, away from everyone. You need to take this time to become more independent and grow as a person.” Although missing her parents and teachers considerably, she realizes that they are her comfort zone, and stepping out of that was somewhat tricky but essential. “You get used to it after the first couple of months, the part where you will struggle the most. However, you’ll meet new people and make friends. You can always call your parents and visit them during Christmas and summer break. I dealt with homesickness well because I could always call my parents,” advises Shuang Shuang.

​​One tip she shares to cope with homesickness is for students to make their new home feel like a home. “Decorate your home and keep pictures of people you miss on a wall in your room. I have many pictures with friends, my badminton group, etc.” She also advises constantly staying in touch with people “Whether it’s by text message or calling your parents frequently – this is the best way to cope with homesickness.”

Are you interested to learn more? We invite you to watch the full video where Shuang Shuang gave more insights on university life in Vancouver, in Canada! Want to become a mentor? Let us know at [email protected].

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