Panthers of ISKL #76 – Matilde A.

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Published: Thursday, 9 September, 2021

– The Intellectual

This week, we met up with alumni student Matilde A. (’21), nominated by her former Spanish teacher, MS/HS faculty Ana Gayoso. Originally from Coimbra, Portugal, Matilde grew up between her hometown and the UK before moving to Malaysia and joining ISKL in the 11th Grade.

Matilde just graduated in May this year with an International Baccalaureate (IB) Bilingual Diploma, having completed her IB Spanish A: Language and Literature Standard Level (SL). 

Although Spanish is not Matilde’s mother tongue, she still achieved an outstanding high score of 7 in her Spanish IB!

During her time at ISKL, Matilde has been part of Varsity Soccer, a coach at Elementary School (ES) Saturday Soccer, an executive member of the Malaysian Karen Organisation (MKO) club, and Rehabilitation for Elephants (RARE) club. Matilde also plays both the piano and the clarinet, performing the former at the ‘Move for Unity Festival,’ which raised funds to provide meals and shelter to refugee children at Ideas Academy in Malaysia during the lockdown.

Here is her story.


“ISKL was the first international school I attended and has been a very different experience from my previous schools. The school places a great emphasis on the importance of extracurriculars, whether academic or sports, which are crucial to every student’s personal development. Being surrounded by a multitude of cultures and experiences also helped me to become a more global-minded person and to be open to trying new things in general.”

‘From day one, I was greeted with a wave of genuine support from my teachers and those I now call my friends. The clubs’ fair and sports tryouts in the first few days encouraged me to try new extracurricular activities and made it easy to get involved in the ISKL community.

Taking the International Baccalaureate Bilingual Diploma

‘Joining right at the start of the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) made the academic transition smoother since most of the content was new for other students. I’ll admit that I felt a little overwhelmed with the size of the school at first, especially when visiting before the start of the school year. However, this stopped being a problem after I met people in my classes and noted the clear signage on every floor!

‘As someone who took the IB Bilingual diploma, I highly encourage those who are considering taking it to go for it! The most significant advantage is that since the two IB courses will have essentially the same curriculum, excluding the literature works studied, you can take the strategies that you learn in one of your language and literature classes to apply them to the other. This means that you’ll have double the resources to approach complex texts, which will make it easier to figure out what works best for you. In my case, I took a language and literature class in Spanish: a language that isn’t my native tongue or a language of instruction in my previous schools. My native language is Portuguese, which did help a lot, but so did surrounding myself with music, series, and films in Spanish without English subtitles! If you’re not a native speaker, try to practice with your friends as much as possible, and don’t be afraid to clarify the meaning of certain words and phrases with your teacher during class.

ISKL memories

‘I feel that ISKL does a great job of taking care of students’ needs. Teachers are always keen to give extra help and guidance and make themselves available so that students can easily reach out. ISKL was also the first school that I attended where all students were assigned a counselor. It makes a big difference to have a member of staff to go to for any help, especially with brand new responsibilities such as navigating IB courses and applying to university. Many thanks to my previous HS Counselor, Erin Nicolls, for her guidance!

‘There’s also a wide range of extracurriculars to choose from, allowing a break from academics to focus on something productive that incorporates one’s interests. The extracurricular schedule is very effective. For example, I was able to run an English-learning session for the MKO children with our club members and still have a little while after it finished to get ready for soccer practice. This is great for students who have multiple interests and don’t want to choose between them. The school also has excellent facilities, lots of different areas to play sports in and the science labs are well-equipped. For example, students conducting a physics Internal Assessment (IA) involving light and lasers were able to complete their experiments in a dark room to ensure minimal interference from outside light sources on their results.

‘It’s difficult to choose which was my most memorable moment at ISKL, but I think that if I had to pick a single one, it would be my Global Action Program (GAP) trip to the Philippines in Grade 11. This trip allowed us to build relationships with the communities we visited and within our group. Between mixing cement and plastering walls to build a health clinic for the local school, the harder we worked – the more enjoyable it became. Our whole team was working together for a common goal which made everything easier. I will also cherish the moments from International Fest, participating in football games and simply laughing with my friends at the deck as we wait for the classes to start.

POISKL Matilde A.

Life after ISKL

‘I received the Rensselaer Medal in my Junior year at ISKL, which gave me a scholarship opportunity of $30,000 per year to study at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). Since this university specializes in the science and technology fields, I could pick any major within those subjects to explore. The scholarship was a great opportunity, and although I won’t be studying at RPI, it certainly helped make my decision to go to the United States.

‘At the moment, I am preparing to begin studying astrophysics at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in September. I’m very excited to delve deeper into this area of physics in a formal academic setting, beyond reading scientific journals and listening to podcasts from the comfort of my room. I’m incredibly excited to be studying at UCLA since, in the past few years, Andrea M. Ghez has taught an introductory astrophysics class to undergraduates. In 2020, Ghez was the fourth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics, thanks to her contributions to discovering a supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way. I am fascinated with her work and enthusiasm, and thus, potentially having the opportunity to have her as a professor is terrific!

‘I am not sure yet what career I want to pursue after my degree, but I am planning to remain in academia for a while to earn a master’s degree and a Ph.D. Last summer, I enrolled in a Qiskit Quantum Computing Summer School offered by IBM Quantum. This course introduced quantum physics and its practical applications in other scientific fields such as computer science and quantum chemistry. I enjoyed this course, and so as of now; I am leaning towards quantum applications in astrophysics. Still, I am keeping an open mind to new opportunities and interests that I have yet to discover. In university, I will be exposed to many more exciting areas of physics, and I will have an opportunity to expand my horizons to decide which field I would like to specialize in as a postgraduate student.

‘Since it hasn’t been very long since school ended, I have stayed in contact with friends despite now being in different corners of the world. What keeps us connected is our shared time and experiences at ISKL and the fact that we are all in a similar situation as we approach university. Right now, we’re all going through the same excitements and worries. Being able to speak to each other helps to find some sense of security in the yet unknown.”

What does “Be All You Are” mean to you?

“To me, ‘Be All You Are’ means being the best possible version of yourself and seizing the opportunities that you are given that are in line with your values and interests. It means to thrive in your environment and to always strive towards your goals.”

Do you know a student, faculty, staff, or alumni with a story to tell? Nominate them to be featured in our Panthers of ISKL stories by sending in your submissions here. To find out more inspiring stories of our students, read about Amelie T., the deep thinker or Ren I., the outstanding linguist!