Meet Kai Syuen!

Well, what can we say about Kai Syuen except that she’s been such an AWESOME facilitator! She is a rising sophomore at UPenn. If you like what you’ve read in this interview, be sure to come to our Two-Day workshop THIS WEEKEND to meet her! :)

Here we go… Let’s meet Kai Syuen!

This is Kai Syuen!

Introduce Yourself!
I’m Kai Syuen and I’m from Kuala Lumpur, born and bred. I’m definitely a KL-ite through and through- I think it’s a beautiful city, litter on the roads and all (gives it character!). I’m a rising sophomore from the University of Pennsylvania and am planning to major in Philosophy Politics and Economics (mostly because I can’t decide which of the three I like best!). I did A-Levels at Methodist College Kuala Lumpur (in Brickfields- best Indian food in KL!), and went to Wesley Methodist School.

I love gaining new experiences, which is why I love travelling and learning new things about life and the world (I’m ALWAYS up for trivia). This means I have phases in my hobbies, whether in filmmaking, geeking out over video-games, or a two-month-long ping-pong craze. However, one constant in my life is definitely my love for writing; also, I enjoy philosophizing and deep thinking while dishwashing.

I first attended USApps in 2008 as an ignorant Form 4-er. While I wanted to be a facilitator last year, timing wasn’t right, so this year is my first year facilitating. It’s been great and the best part about it hands down is meeting all the US-bound Malaysians- we all have a tinge of (good) crazy so it is always fun to hang out!

What did you do in high school?
Even though being a prefect is the benchmark of the Malaysian over-achiever, I never became one because I couldn’t make sense of my school rules enough to uphold them (you’ll understand if you go to my school). So I focused on developing valuable experiences, and developing my interests and passions. One thing I did was not limit myself to just participating in activities within the school, with all its teenage petty politics on gaining positions in clubs/societies. Instead, I went volunteering for NGOs in Malaysia. I also developed my writing and joined writing competitions. One major experience was finding a cause I was passionate for, after ‘shopping around’ a little- the environment. I spent a few years volunteering for environmental NGOs and did some environmental awareness advocacy work.

One thing I learnt in high school was not to just follow the ‘conventional’ path to success in high school (a string of Presidencies, prefectship, etc.), but to follow my personal interests and cultivate my passions.

Do you remember much about your college application experience? Tell us a little about it!
I remember rushing my college applications because I had NEVER thought of going to the US- I was in love the UK the whole way. I only started doing SATs very very near before the deadline, with no time to retake it. So I actually took a day off during a holiday in London to do my SAT subject tests in an international school outside London- time was that short! I only started my essays 2 weeks before the deadline- that’s because unfortunately, I am the kind of writer who can only write when the feeling hits me (because of my diva-esque inspiration), so I rushed my essays.

DON’T DO WHAT I DID. It will only cause you the worst 2 months of your life.

All said, my personal experience has led me to believe that the US college application experience is as life-changing as meditating on the meaning of life in a Himalayan mountain. It really causes you to re-evaluate your self, and your place in the world, and your hopes, dreams and plans for the future. It’s a truly valuable experience that really develops you as a person, particularly during your time as an insecure teenager.

Of course, even though you feel you’ve figured yourself out after the experience (like I did), going to university after that messes you up again, for the exciting journey of figuring yourself out again.

UPenn in Spring

Why did you choose to apply to the US?
Like I mentioned earlier, I had never thought of going to the US- I was in love with London and the UK and didn’t even conceive of going to the US. However, as a Form 4-er attending the USApps workshop, I could tell that even if I DIDN’T end up going to the US in the end, the applications process is a great learning experience and a growth opportunity. So don’t look at the tons of forms/essays as a chore- it’s an adventure!

I applied to both UK and US universities. In the end, what made me go to the US was the applications process itself. US universities administer such a tedious process because they actually care about you as a person and how you would fit into their community. They don’t just care about your academic knowledge, but whether you can grow and develop as a person in the 4 years you spend at their institution. With the liberal arts curriculum, US education is really for broadening your perspective, giving you an education for life instead of just the tools to do well in your career.

In the end, I chose the US because it wanted to feed my soul, in all its intellectual and creative yearnings, instead of just honing my mind.

Give three areas you feel you’ll be able to give advice on:
Essays, getting the most out of US education, and Malaysian Scholarships applications for overseas study

Tell us about your favourite college class?
I’ve only had one year of classes so far, but I’ve found every one interesting in its own way, and life changing in their own small ways. They all added something to my perspective towards life. However, my favourite class so far is definitely an English seminar on fantasy novels (at Penn, seminars are particularly small classes of less than 20 students, and more discussion heavy than just conventional lectures by professors). The class analysed books like George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones, Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, and Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, as well as fantasy films like Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. It allowed me to indulge in my inner fantasy geek, discussing the books and understanding them in a totally different level. It may be difficult to believe, but some things I learnt about fantasy in the class are definitely transferable to real life!

Favorite country? Favorite Malaysian food? Favorite bands/music/books?
Malaysia- we may have our faults, but when I’m here, even walking on the (sometimes littered) streets of KL, or riding on the ever-late LRTs, it feels like home.

Choosing my favourite Malaysian food really causes super rambang mata! But my favourites are definitely Cantonese boiled soup (any type!) and our tropical fruits (durian, mangosteen, rambutan, everything).
I gravitate towards indie singer-songwriter music, from home-grown Zee Avi and Najwa, to Kina Grannis and Imaginary Friend. I tend to like songs rather than artistes or bands, so most of my favourites consist of specific songs rather than favourite bands. However, I appreciate any good melody, so I can appreciate Eminem and Flo Rida, as long as an excellent melody and meaningful lyrics can be found.

My favourite books are anything that adds to life’s meaning, and has emotional resonance. Like my interests, my taste in books is highly according to phase- I had a phase on Indian authors, and now I’m having a Haruki Murakami phase. I have a constant fascination for fantasy novels (of the Philip Pullman and George RR Martin variety). I’ve never had a romance novel phase, though (except for a Cecilia Ahern chick lit phase). Two of my (constant) favourite novels are To Kill A Mockingbird and The Curious Incident of the Dog at Nightime.

“… I realized the beauty of this education isn’t the wide variety of classes. But, it was the ability to learn how to learn.”

Yugen recently completed his freshman year at Oxford College at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He intends to major in Business Administration (Finance) and Sociology. Yugen is a Resident Assistant (RA) of his dorm at Emory (It is very common for on-campus housings to have Resident Assistants). This basically means that he is the Big Papa of the dorm. As a RA, Yugen is the go-to-person if any of his dorm-mates have any academic, personal or roommate issues.

Fun Facts about Yugen: He LOVES nasi lemak. He is learning how to ride a bicycle (haha!) and desperately wants more Malaysians to come to Emory! He is also starting to develop a romantic relationship with Fried Chicken only because he goes to a school located in the South.

Check out Yugen’s liberal arts education experience at Emory.


How has the liberal arts education changed your approach to learning? 

You know something is wrong if all you have to do to get an A is memorize your textbook.

My high school learning experience was no different than an average Malaysian student. Only that, I never really understood why I had to learn some subjects in school. To me, learning should start from passion, not compulsion.

The liberal arts education in America was my own “refreshment”. Instead of taking prescribed classes, I had the freedom to dictate the classes I wanted (or at least fits my schedule). I found myself taking random classes ranging from Yoga to Art History. Instead of deciding how to “get-through” a class, I learned how to pick classes. More importantly, I learned to how to decide on things that matters to me the most.

The further I experienced this education; I realized the beauty of this education isn’t the wide variety of classes. But, it was the ability to learn how to learn. Taking random classes challenged the traditional “study hard and memorize” formula. In fact, you are forced to unlearn and relearn different skills.

Now, I no longer memorize facts. I question them.

Oxford College at Emory (Courtesy:


“…my favorite aspect of liberal arts – the emphasis on learning through doing instead of just knowing!”

Amelia in Croatia

Amelia Lee is a rising senior at a liberal arts college – Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania. She is pursuing a major in Geology and a minor in Environmental Studies. This summer, Amelia is conducting an off-campus research on hydrogeochemistry in the University of Arizona. Previously in the Spring semester, she studied abroad in Krakow, Poland. One of Amelia’s passion is phot0graphy. She used to dabble in Bug(Entomological) photography and she submitted a bug photography portfolio as her Arts Supplement. She also does some pretty interesting things in college such as working as a bouncer and as a food photographer! She shamelessly uses her Asian skills to be a food photographer at Bryn Mawr.

Fun Facts about Amelia: She can ONLY do multiplications in chinese (HAHA!) She loves reading, eating, watching sunsets and long walks by the beach (Guys: Hint Hint). Amelia would also like to see the aurora borealis one day!

Bryn Mawr is a liberal arts colleges and is part of the 7 Sisters alongside with Mount Holyoke College, Wellesley College, Smith College, Barnard College, Radcliffe College (now merged with Harvard College) and Vassar College (now coeducational).

Here’s Amelia’s opinion on the liberal arts =)

What do the “liberal arts” mean to you personally?

Parent-friendly answer: “Liberal arts”, to me, meant that I was given the opportunity to immerse myself in a curriculum that draws form a wide range of disciplines and was able to freely explore my interests without compromising on the quality of my education.

Real answer: C’mon guys, anyone can wax lyrical about intellectual discussions, small class sizes and amazing academics, but few mention my favorite aspect of liberal arts – the emphasis on learning through doing instead of just knowing!

Wyndham Alumnae House @ Bryn Mawr College

My liberal arts education afforded me opportunities do things I would have never dreamed of. I interned in a theatre company, a home furnishing company, a state run sewage treatment plant, and an oncology center for pets. I learnt Judo, mentored underprivileged teenagers, and worked as a food photographer. I did summer research projects in the boondocks of Wyoming and the oil fields of Louisiana. I also studied abroad in Poland and backpacked solo in Central Europe. All these experiences made possible by a liberal arts education’s commitment to facilitate growth through hands-on exploration helped me – as clichéd as it sounds –to grow as a person. I learnt to adapt and to be versatile, I learnt to listen and respond, I learnt to behold beauty differently. As I graduate (if all goes well, knock on wood!), I am convinced that the experiences I had through my liberal arts education will equip me with an enriched and disciplined mind that will help me wherever I am in life.

A critical piece of advice you would offer a student looking to further his/her studies abroad…

You are the author of your own college experience, make every moment count!

Also, a rice cooker can cook more than just rice. Get to know it really well.

Amelia in a fire retardant suit while sampling oil fields in Louisiana

“US is an excellent path for the student who values breadth over depth…and eventually wants depth but prefers to delay or supplement it with variety”

Su Ann Lim is a recent graduate from Columbia University with majors in Economics and Political Science. Her favorite parts of college were sledding down the icy steps of Columbia on a dining hall tray in the middle of a snowy night, and spending all-nighters in Butler Library with her closest friends, studying but not really studying. She blogs at

Why should students choose to study in the US, especially when alternatives may cost less, take less time, and offer more familiar styles of education?

Studying in the US is an excellent path for the student who values breadth over depth in his or her education, and it is excellent for the student that eventually wants depth but prefers to delay or supplement it with variety. Ultimately, studying in the US is about choosing how to become a well-rounded individual in the way that you like best, and the liberal arts system is generous with its options to choose from.

The US is for you if you are uncertain about what you want to do but also want an education in various other things (music, literature, statistics, physics, philosophy!) even as you commit to one major field. Each semester/quarter in your first and second years is like a new shot at discovering yourself and what you want to study — be it what everyone else is studying, what your parents want you to study, what you’re good at, or what you love.

As for lovers of depth, fear not! US colleges do champion breadth in education but they also preserve depth. Your third and fourth years at college are when you concentrate on your major field(s), conduct research or write a thesis — basically focus, focus, focus. But of course, still with the option of taking a fun class here and there on the side =)

What kind of fun classes? Crazy and exciting classes that are incredibly educational about the world that we all inhabit, such as: French Pornography (Stanford), The Economics of Sin (Middlebury College), The Science of Superheroes (UC Irvine) and Cultural History of Japanese Monsters (Columbia, my alma mater!).

Courtesy of Su Ann

A critical piece of advice you would offer a student looking to further his/her studies abroad…

People often say that college in the US hones critical thinking and forming/articulating opinions better than college anywhere else. I think that might be a little unfair to universities in the UK, Australia or anywhere else, because students from these places are also trained hard to think critically and form sturdy opinions. While there are schools in the US — particularly the liberal arts colleges — that are fully committed to the Socratic method, small seminar settings and communication between students and professors/mentors, these things are not exclusive to US colleges.

Wherever you choose to go to school, be it in the US or not, seek out these things and immerse yourself as much as you can in them. Even where there is no liberal arts system, there will be classes that are taught by professors who value the Socratic method, mentorship, and taking time to nurture the bright and the curious. There will also be great student groups that bring together eager people with common goals for action, and difficult classes that will push your boundaries and require you to constantly form and defend your opinions. Find them and learn as much as you possibly can from everything! Know your limits, but don’t be afraid.

As for candidates who are certain they want to go to the US and nowhere else, my suggestion would be to embrace the liberal arts system, but be careful not to be overwhelmed by it. With all the choice and freedom available to you, it’s easy to go wild taking too many introductory classes, or spend way too much time flip-flopping on a major, or spread yourself too thin. Keeping your mind open is a good thing, but at major steps of the way you should be grounded by what your goals are. Always ask yourself if you are getting what you want out of an education wherever you chose to be.


Su Ann during graduation

Meet Wah Loon!

Wah Loon has been helping out with behind-the-scenes work in USAPPS. He was a facilitator during the Penang Half-Day Workshop too. He is an interesting person to read about, so get to know him through his interview below!

Wah Loon with his "lil bro bear bear" at Armenian Street, Penang

Tell us about yourself!
Hi! I’m Keng Wah Loon, a rising freshman at Lafayette College intending to major in physics and math. Born in Kedah and, at 12, moved to Penang, I graduated from Chung Ling High School and did my A-Level at Disted. I’m a Liberal-Artsy guy who loves diversity, from sciences, art, the outdoor to folk music. This year(2012), Jung Kian brought me in to USAPPS as a facilitator; I personally attended a USAPPS workshop two years ago.

What do you like to do for fun/outside USAPPS?
I have only one principle for my hobbies: They have to be fun! Physics and math are two cores of my life in which I get to understand Mother Nature, I do art because seeing beauty makes me happy, always, juggle trekking and other adrenaline-driven outdoor adventures excite me and make me feel alive, and lastly, I enjoy reading and learning-it’s probably the trait of a liberal-art-spirit.

What did you do in high school?
Scouting was a huge part of my high school life. It was about survival skills — making fire, tying ropes, cooking — and a lot of outdoor activities — I’ve set foot on every hill and beach in Penang.

At night, I would go to the observatory in Chung Ling for star-gazing under the Astronomy Club; I learn my Astrophysics there!
For physics and math, my buddy and I would research on new topics together out of curiosity, and I think that was a healthy way of learning.

Do you remember much about your college application experience? Tell us a little about it!
Of course! It was a 3-months-long peril, because I didn’t attend the USAPPS workshop the year I applied(2011), and I’d forgotten most of the stuff learned from the 2010 workshop. I had to relearn everything from scratch, and without guidance, it’s really difficult.

Besides, studying for the SAT tests stressed my brain a lot when I took the tests concurrently with my A-level exams. Ouch!
Also, my legs had to suffer to get my documents signed, as I ran from one office to the other repeatedly in Chung Ling, and my school wasn’t small.

How do you think you stand out?
It comes down to matching your profile to the suitable schools. I applied to the Ivy League schools and liberal arts colleges(LAC), and it’s logical to think I had a better edge for the LACs with my diverse profile.

Why did you choose to apply to the US?
I love the diversity, the freedom and intellectual rigorousness in the States. Under a liberal arts system, you are free to combine any subjects you wish to pursue, which is wonderful! Frankly speaking, coming from a humble background, my other deciding-factor is money, and my college(Lafayette) pays for 90% of my total expenses. US colleges are more generous, and many of my self-funded friends are under college financial aid programs, which make the bills substantially more affordable.

Give three areas you feel you’ll be able to give advice on:
1. English. If you are worrying about not being able to master good English, find me. I’ll teach you how. I couldn’t even utter even an English sentence 3 years ago, and today I’m proud of my quasi-American English, despite never setting foot on America. I learned it in less than 2 years.
2. Liberal Arts education! If you have multiple skills in diverse fields and want an advice on liberal arts colleges, I can help.
3. You aren’t rich? Neither am I. There are ways to afford your education without funds from the government/companies. I can tell you more!

Wah Loon with his friends in Peng Hwa, after some scouts activity.

Tell us about your favorite application essay:
It was the essay for Lafayette College, titled “Cur Non?”, or “Why Not?” in Latin.

I wrote about smashing stereotypes and stepping out of my comfort zone, when I picked up art as a physics-guy. Seriously? How could a left-brained geek become a right-brained artist? I found inspirations from past and present examples: Plato, Leonardo and a physics-PhD/artist friend of mine. There was nothing bizarre about cross-training your brain, and that was where I learned about liberal arts! I didn’t flip; the artistic part of me sprouted, and I became both — a physics-guy and an artist. And the essay got me into Lafayette College.

Tell us about your least favorite application essay:
I think it was an essay regarding my intellectual pursuits. I naturally wrote about me learning physics on my own accord, bragged about how I cognized Quantum physics and String theory. There was too many clichés, and any great fan of theoretical physics could have written the same essay.

How did you feel when you received your application results?
It was 2a.m. in the morning when I received the email; and I was quite dizzy. I looked for the “Congratulations!” in it, but to no avail. I thought, “Oh Crap!” But wait! Upon reading carefully, I realized it was an acceptance letter! My emotion immediately sky-rocketed from rock-bottom. Lucky me, wasn’t killed by a heart-attack. It was dreamy, and when I woke I checked the email again. That made my day.

Why did you decide to be a part of USAPPS?
I mentioned how I suffered when I applied. Also, I’ve seen many people giving up on their applications to the US because it’s not easy. Thus, I joined USAPPS in hope to see more young Malaysians learning to climb the rope and experiencing the benefits of the US education.

“… American education causes a graduate to think about learning in more than one way, and ultimately realize that all fields of study are related.”

Jamie graduated from a prestigious US university a few years ago. Check out Jamie’s American education experience at the alma mater!

As a graduate, how has your US education benefited you in your post-graduate endeavors?

As a graduate of an American college, I have realized two major benefits that may not have been available to me in other education systems. The first is an ability to make connections between two different fields of study, or what my alma mater might call “interdisciplinary understanding”. By pushing a graduate to study other fields besides his or her degree, American education causes a graduate to think about learning in more than one way, and ultimately realize that all fields of study are related. Because of this skill, I am able to quickly make connections between problems, and see the larger picture while others may be struggling with understanding the details.

The second major benefit, which may not apply to all US colleges, is that I learnt character and leadership. I think this is a point that is not brought up enough. Many other education systems teach someone to be a good professional, with all the skills necessary to succeed in the marketplace. Instead, most American colleges pride themselves on a certain culture, either of leadership or individuality or persistence. The underlying idea is that all graduates of College X will hold to a certain set of ideals or values upon graduation. This is something I have found to be very helpful in my work, and also something that is rather rare in most other education systems.

“Study Abroad…That’s a fantastic opportunity that is nowhere as widely available in most universities around the world — except for the US.”

John Lee graduated from Dartmouth College in 2011. He read Economics at Dartmouth and is currently working as a Business Analyst at Capital One in Washington D.C. In his junior year, he spent his Fall semester studying abroad in University College of London (UCL). John was a facilitator of USAPPS in 2009 and 2010. If you would really like to meet and talk to him (provided he is back in Malaysia), ask him out for mamak and buy him a teh tarik!

Here’s John’s 2 cents on liberal arts education and choosing the US for tertiary education.

Why should Malaysians choose the US for their tertiary education?                                     Something which a lot of Malaysians (myself as a freshman included) don’t think about is study-abroad opportunities. It seems a bit silly, studying in an overseas university and then doing a foreign study programme on top of that. But it’s a fantastic opportunity to travel somewhere new and study in a different academic environment. I and a lot of people I know personally experienced both UK and US university education because my university (Dartmouth) offers undergraduate foreign study options in top UK universities. 1 out of every 2 Dartmouth students spends at least one academic term studying abroad. That’s a fantastic opportunity that is nowhere as widely available in most universities around the world — except for the US. Don’t just think about the academic options your target universities offer — also think about their additional academic programmes at other institutions.

Dartmouth College during graduation

As a graduate, how has liberal arts education benefited you?                 Liberal arts education, even in US research universities, strongly stresses writing and presentation skills. This isn’t just about knowing how to string coherent sentences together or being able to stand up and present a PowerPoint deck without stammering, although those are important too; to communicate well you need to organise your thoughts well, in a way that makes sense not just to you but to your audience, and can convince them of what you’re saying. This has benefited me tremendously, both personally and professionally.                                   It’s not easy to communicate well, but US education places an emphasis on this that dwarfs anything I’ve seen elsewhere.

“Liberal arts mean…learning a wide variety of subjects and issues to become well-versed in preparation for any future career.”

Dinesh is currently a rising junior at a liberal arts college – Macalester College, Minnesota. He is pursuing a major in Biology, a minor in Political Science, and a concentration in Community and Global Health. Prior to this, he attended HELP University College for A levels. Dinesh received two fellowships with funding from Macalester for this summer – 1. He is setting up a Speakers Bureau at Planned Parenthood, a sexual and reproductive health center. The Speakers Bureau will be made up of trained volunteers that will be able to go out to schools to carry out comprehensive sex education. 2. He shadows health professionals in emergency medicine, pediatrics, infectious diseases and more.

Check out why Dinesh chose to study in the US =)

Why should students choose to study in the US, especially when alternatives may cost less, take less time, and offer more familiar styles of education?

In my opinion, the American system of education emphasizes different things than the more familiar styles of education we have experience with. In the US, you learn from your peers as you discuss issues in the cafeteria, from the student organizations you join and from the classes you take. I believe you will be able to do all these things in other countries or Malaysia, but it’s easier in the US simply because many universities here emphasize different forms of learning outside the classroom. American education has changed me tremendously as a person. Part of that is going to college and gaining independence, and part of it is learning to learn in completely different ways than I am used to.

What do the “liberal arts” mean to you personally?

Liberal arts to me mean that I am a Biology major, a political science minor and have a concentration in public health. Liberal arts mean that I have many friends in my major, but just as many if not more in other majors. Liberal arts mean that I took Organic Chemistry, Cell Biology, Medical Anthropology and Political Sociology in one semester and loved it. Liberal arts mean the difference between specializing at such a young age and learning a wide variety of subjects and issues to become well-versed in preparation for any future career.

A critical piece of advice you would offer a student looking to further his/her studies abroad…

Say hello to everyone during the first few weeks of school. You’ll make friends you never thought you would.

If there was one thing you could do over in the past 2 years, what would it be, and why?

I would have gotten snow boots earlier- Minnesota winters are brutal.

Macalester College

Meet Jing Min!

We’ve all met Sin Seanne, Adelyn and Jung Kian from the core committee. Now it’s time to meet the facilitators that run the show! First up we have Jing Min who is a rising senior at Sarah Lawrence.

Jing Min!

Introduction: Hey all, I’m Jing Min, a true-bred Penang-nite! I currently attend Sarah Lawrence College, studying Economics and International Relations and graduating in May 2013 (eeps!). For Pre-U, I did the International Baccalaureate Diploma program at Uplands International School in Penang. Before that, it was Penang Chinese Girls High School for me! I’m in my third year with USAPPS and it’s been fabulous.

What do you like to do for fun/outside USAPPS?
I love everything about food and reading. Wandering about cities and towns on your own is also fun. I also love having great and epic conversations with people. And talking about (U.S.) education. Come talk to me!

What did you do in high school?
Sports (Badminton, Track and Football), debate and Board of Prefects. And watched a LOT of TV. =)

Do you remember much about your college application experience? Tell us a little about it!
It was quite ridiculous. I don’t think I knew much about the U.S. system initially and was definitely stuck on my applications essays. I was never (and still not) very good at selling my personality on paper, so that was tough. There was a lot of confused moments, especially since I had terrible SPM scores and had to find ways to prove that those scores did not define me. But ultimately it was really fun, because some of the essay questions were just fun! Word of advice: Always do your research. And don’t over-do your college admissions process.

How do you think you stand out?
I’m the kid that sits in the corner quietly but once I get talking I can’t really stop. So I suppose its the shock factor. But I also really enjoy talking to different people, and building bridges across different fields and minds. I also have a very unpredictable iPod songlist.

Why did you choose to apply to the US?
The intellectual versatility was a big draw. I wanted an education where grades was not the central focus. My high school experience pretty much proved that I was not suited to grade-intensive systems. I also wanted an education system where I could bring in different subjects and disciplines without being boxed into one field or the other. I wanted to be able to learn everything and do everything! So I guess I’ll sleep when I die.

What colleges did you apply to?
Smith, Bates, American University, Hofstra, Cornell, Sarah Lawrence College.

Give three areas you feel you’ll be able to give advice on:
Liberal Arts College, Undergraduate Research, IB. And how to survive bad high school (SPM) grades.

Jing Min with her brother, Jing Yong - another facilitator.

Tell us about your favourite application essay:
One of the LACs I was accepted to wanted an essay on an ethical dilemma. My essay was rather depressing as I wrote about watching someone die. It was neither a personal event nor a particularly melancholic one. Instead, the essay made me think about why people around me reacted the way they did, and how it affected their (in)actions. Somewhere in all that impersonality I managed to tie in my experience of being a high school prefect, which was extremely personal to me at that time. I suppose it was the old-new, personal-impersonal contrast that drew me to the essay.

Best thing about your college?
The professors and classes. If the professors think you’re ready/you request, they will give you really advance material and are more than happy to help you work through it. I’ve never been pushed so hard academically and professionally in my short life.

Did you take the SAT or ACT?
SAT. And I only achieved slightly above average. So an average SAT score is not the end of the world.

Why did you decide to be a part of USAPPS?
I have the great privilege of having a great education, why shouldn’t I share it? With a few workshops a year and motley crew of Malaysian students, USAPPS continuously inspired and pushed students to achieve their greatest potential (and more). Being part of USAPPS gives me comfort that I’m doing my small part in building Malaysia. Plus, everyone here is awesome!

Tell us about your favourite college class?
So many to choose from! In my second year, I took a class on International Development and Human Geography. It was meant to be an intermediate – advance class and the professor tried his very best to scare everyone away. At first we all thought he was insane, but when I was faced with graduate level material and work, I finally understood why he did that. That class has made me a better researcher, student, listener and person, I think. The professor was so enthusiastic, he could capture our attention for over 4 hours. One of the best things I took away from the class (and utilise on a daily basis) was the ability to read landscapes and situations. Now, when I see a building or a city, I don’t see just a city, but a whole network of people, things, materials, histories, cultures, laws etc. My research for the class wasn’t the best I’ve done, but it never ceases to blow my mind how much I learnt from that class. The professor was Dr. Joshua Muldavin.

Favorite country? Favorite Malaysian food? Favorite bands/music/books?
Favourite country would be a tie between England and Iceland. Both countries are so full of contradictions and quirks. I have to be true to my Penang roots – Char Koay Teow! I’m a big fan of A Fine Frenzy, but will listen to everything from classical instrumentals to dub-step. Favourite book has got to be Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”.

Jing Min with friends during Thanksgiving.

“Flexible curriculum…allows you ample opportunities to explore different fields, and not be stuck in something you don’t enjoy doing!”

An MIT Experience: Coyin is a rising junior at MIT and is pursuing Biological Engineering. This summer, she is doing an internship at the Center of Cellular and Molecular Platforms in Bangalore, India. In MIT, Coyin is most likely to be found in a basement lab playing with fly larvae to get them to digest organic waste matter. This fly larvae project ‘Esperanza en Vuelo’ which means ‘Hope in Flight” is an organic waste management project based in Nicaragua. Both her internship and project are fully funded by MIT.  Apart from geeking out in the basement lab, Coyin also plays the keyboard in a Hip Hop/R&B band.                                                                                                           Here’s why Coyin chose to study in the US! =)

Why should students choose to study in the US, especially when alternatives may cost less, take less time, and offer more familiar styles of education?

I don’t have a “why-should” answer, but below are some reasons for my choice:
– Flexible curriculum: Since most US schools only require you to declare a major at the end of your first or second year, this allows you ample opportunities to explore different fields, and not be stuck in something you don’t enjoy doing!
– MIT (and many US schools) offer a tremendous number of opportunities in undergraduate research, and research was something I wanted to try when I was applying to colleges.
– Many people say the US system is not in-depth enough for the fields of sciences/engineering. While this may be a disadvantage twenty years ago, the world is changing so fast now that whatever technical knowledge you learn in college may not help you at all in your workplace! The way of thinking and learning new things that best suits you is probably the most valuable skill you will ever get out of a college education.

A critical piece of advice you would offer a student looking to further his/her studies abroad…
Instead of waiting for things to happen to you, make things happen!


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