This week we met up with Class of 2020 graduates, Yeongseo Lim and Tanmay Gupta, who both achieved outstanding results for the IBDP (International Baccalaureate Diploma Program) this year. Yeongseo achieved a perfect score of 45 points, whereas Valedictorian Tanmay scored a fantastic 45 points.
Both students will be attending university in the United States, with Yeongseo attending Johns Hopkins University and Tanmay attending the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Here they share their experiences and memories of being a student at ISKL and how it felt to take the IB during a global pandemic.
Here are their stories.
“My advice for students who are taking the IB is not to give up! The IB puts students through a stressful and challenging time, especially during the second year, when all the major assignments (such as IAs, EE, CAS reflections, TOK essays) collide with the college application timeline. However, you will learn so much at the end of your IB journey, and it truly is a worthwhile process.
‘I highly recommend that students continuously communicate with their teachers because teachers know the IB better than anybody else. They are there to help students, and there is so much to learn just by discussing any topics of their choice with them. The passion, enthusiasm, and persistence of my teachers inspired me and motivated me to push through my IB journey.
‘I would also advise everyone to give their best effort every single time. They should not think that they can slip on their Internal Assessment (IA) because they can make up on their exams. They must stay focused during the second semester, even though they may have started hearing back from universities. IB is a long marathon, so persist until the end!
‘There indeed were many worries on how we will get prepared for IB due to COVID-19. For most of my IB courses, we were at the review stage and right after our mock exams, we found out that the May IB exam was canceled. Still, we continued our classes online, with teachers posting their lesson plans in an organized document.
‘One of the new features of studying during continuous learning was the ‘office hours’ where I could join video calls during the designated time to ask my teachers questions. What I loved the most about studying then was that all teachers took a creative spin to keep us students motivated.
‘We explored literature and poetry in my HL English A Language and Literature class and studied the virology of COVID-19 in my HL Biology class. Despite the exams being canceled, my teachers continued to make IB learning relevant to us. As Mrs. Lisa Jensen-Hengstler, my HS English Teacher once told us in class, “you can only excel in IB if you go beyond the course and continuously engage with the real world.
‘I am genuinely interested in research. With the help of Mr. Sim Huang, the HS IB Biology Teacher, I was lucky enough to get an internship over the summer at the University of Malaya Proteomics lab.
‘I aided Dr. Jaime Jacqueline Jayapalan, the Senior Lecturer at the Department of Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine at the University of Malaya, in her research by preparing HRP-conjugated CGB lectin.
‘I also designed the poster: “Can Keratin Signatures of the Human Hair Shaft Be Potentially Used to Distinguish Gender and Ethnicity,” which won Best Poster Award at the 27th Federation of Asian and Oceanian Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Conference.
‘Besides doing the IB, I was also involved in the following activities during my time at ISKL such as:
President of the Monday Refugee Tutoring, teaching Science and English
Conducted research and advocacy on the UN Chin Refugee Crisis.
Orchestra Council President, where we organized Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra trips, instrument exchange, Strings Cup, and made program booklets for concerts.
Concertmaster for both the school’s orchestra and the musical ‘Beauty and the Beast’s pit orchestra.
Co-founded ISKL’s Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (IPYO) along with classmates Clarissa Sofian and Sera Maryam Ahmad Fuad, and raised around RM3,000 to donate to El Sistema, an NGO that provides youths with high-quality instruments.
A member of music ensemble Tri-M, performing in various hospitals and school events and assisting in the Elementary Strings after school club.
A member of Varsity Soccer, Basketball, Badminton, and participated in IASAS for all my varsity sports, music, and film.
Participated in the EduChange competition, the submission of a labeled microscopic image won $200 two years in a row that I used for my community service project. The microscopic images are now used in the integrated Science program in the curriculum.
‘Since graduating from ISKL, I have entered the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, where I made a three-minute video explaining the cause and impact of COVID-19 and potential solutions. I hope to win this competition because one of the awards is a $100,000 Breakthrough Science lab. Not only will ISKL students benefit from this, but refugees who come to ISKL for weekly lessons will also benefit from this opportunity.
‘I am interested in medicine, helping others and healthcare policies, and this work is in line with what I wish to study, as I am planning to do a double major in Cellular/Molecular Biology and Public Health.
‘No matter where I end up in the future after ISKL, I want to make contributions in medicine and make healthcare more accessible.”
‘There are so many beautiful memories I have here at this school, and I cannot choose one. And believe it or not, I will actually miss my two years doing the IB programme!
‘Most unforgettably was my overseas soccer tournament in Phuket. I will also miss waking up at 5:00 am to go to morning practice, going to IASAS, doing the cheer in a circle, playing in the orchestra, and pranking my friends!
‘Above all, I will miss the people – the teachers, friends, coaches, counselors, and club advisors who made my time at ISKL enjoyable.”
What does ‘Be All You Are’ mean to you?
“To me, it means continually seeking opportunities and always listening to your heart to follow your passion. The result may not always be satisfactory, but I would learn equally as much or even more from the process. Families, friends, teachers, advisors, counselors, and coaches are all catalysts for allowing me to achieve my full potential, and I would not be the person I am today without them!”
“Studying during the COVID-19 pandemic required a little extra motivation to keep me away from the bed. Though there was less pressure as exams were canceled, the work did not stop. However, our teachers and counselors were very supportive right to the end. Graduation was particularly sweet, and we certainly felt the love from ISKL.
‘If there’s one thing I learned during the IB, it’s how to be organized. I successfully stuck to using a planner back in Grade 11, and it helped me deal with the onslaught of work that IB threw at us. The IB also forced me to ask every question I had, and I’m glad I did as it helped me better understand concepts.
‘The hardest part of the IB is dealing with the sheer amount of things you have to go along with your other activities, sleep, and social life. My advice to students taking the IB is to find a way to be organized and stick to it. Try a few different things and then use the one that works best for you.
‘Also, your teachers are your best resource. Make sure to ask them questions and go to them for help. If you take the initiative, you’ll find that things will be a lot easier. Even though it feels like every test is life-changing, don’t forget to enjoy your time with your friends.
‘This fall, I plan to attend the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) to study Astrophysics, and I’m excited to dive into Space and explore how our universe works.
‘I’ve been stargazing with my telescope and saw Jupiter’s four largest moons for the first time. The comet NEOWISE will be visible here soon, and I’m excited to look at that. I have worked with a local educational NGO called the Society for Promotion of Science & Technology in India (SPSTI) to share my experience of the last event held in Singapore last year. In other words, I’ve already started digging into Space and sticking glow-in-the-dark stars up in my room!
‘After studying Astrophysics, I’d like to work in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL NASA). My dream is to work on Space missions like Curiosity and Cassini. I want to bring together the scientific needs of a mission and the engineering possibilities.
‘All the collaborative skills I’ve picked up through group projects, debate, and theatre will help me, and I can’t wait to meet new people. After that, I’d like to research Cosmology related to dark matter and black holes. There are a lot of possibilities out there, and I’m so excited!
‘I’ve enjoyed dabbling in a variety of activities, and luckily, I’ve been able to explore them all at ISKL – only time has constrained me. My longest-running activity here was as a Peer Helper, which I have done since the 6th grade.
‘I love getting to meet new people and making friends while helping them get to know ISKL as well as I do. Peer Helpers was an important club for me as I genuinely believe that it harnesses how caring our community is, and I’m glad I was there to help improve it.
‘Another way I got to meet new people was through service in the club Science4Kids. Working with refugee children to teach them Science, was genuinely inspiring as their curiosity and excitement always brought a smile.
‘I also love acting and theatre is my creative outlet. From “The Love Project” in Grade 8 to Duet Acting in SEA forensics and International Schools Theatre Association (ISTA) festivals to “Metamorphoses” in Grade 11, acting frees me from the school’s routine.
‘It lets me be spontaneous and helps to build me a second family with the cast, even when I’m freezing in a frigid pool for the scene! As for music, I was able to take Band as a class and remember playing a ‘Moana’ medley at a pediatric ward with the music ensemble Tri-M.
‘I’ve also enjoyed public speaking in MUN and Debate, and am proud of every team I’ve been in. This year was an excellent finish to that journey with a gold and bronze medal, and I’m glad we’re leaving ISKL with a mark.
‘I’ll miss how intimate ISKL is. ISKL is a cozy community, and everyone cares about each other. I loved getting to know every person and talking to them, mainly because of the great diversity.
‘All of us at ISKL cover almost every experience you can think of, so going to a university that is over twice the size but with a smaller international community will be quite an adjustment. I’m sure I’ll be homesick for ISKL!”
‘I have been in ISKL my whole life, starting first when I came to Malaysia in 2008 and joined ISKL in 1st grade. As a lifer, I’ve seen ISKL grow and I have grown with it. I’m originally from India, but I’ve moved around a fair bit before coming to Malaysia.
‘A few months after I was born, I moved to Jakarta, then Gabon, then Mexico, then back to India, before coming to Malaysia – so I got to experience being a third culture kid!
‘I can’t possibly choose one favorite memory in my 12 years here, but my favorite moments were when we were all together – whether it was the MS parties, Bollywood iFest dance, Colorfest, drama productions, IASAS, GAP, Prom, or Spring Fest. They all gave me a feeling of wonder, pride, and “wow, we’re all in this together.”
‘Some of my best memories come from little moments with friends and interacting with others. I will fondly remember laughing together on the deck or cheering on a tug-of-war or holding a plank for Spirit Week. There are many memories from ISKL that have made me who I am today, and I’ll take them with me wherever I go.”
What does ‘Be All You Are’ mean to you?
“To me, it means discovering yourself and trying everything! I found out who I am through years of trying different things, be it new activities, making more friends, and many other little things. If there’s no good reason not to do something, then go for it. Don’t limit yourself because of things that might happen but explore and make things happen. You will ‘Be All You Are’ as you learn who you are, and now is the best time to do that, so you can say, “yeah, I’m glad I have tried all that!”