Dear Past Self – Yan Jie (Case Western Reserve ’18)

Yan Jie (Case Western Reserve University ’18) looks back on the twists and turns in his unique journey to where he is now, finding that things weren’t really so bad after all.



Dear former self,

A month after SPM ended, you enrolled in the Cambridge A-Levels program at Taylor’s College Subang Jaya. Life was great for three months until the release of SPM results. It was really disappointing because you were that close to obtaining the bursary award from the MOE. You tried for other scholarships, stayed positive and crossed your fingers. Some companies rejected you in the process, but you were lucky to secure an offer from Petronas. However, the line “Country of study: USA” on the offer letter kept you thinking for quite some time. To accept or not to accept, that was the challenge.

You had ongoing talks with your parents as you busily weighed the pros and cons of the offer. Truth be told, something deep in your heart was cringing at the thought of accepting the offer, for you were convinced that it was possible to apply for UK scholarships after the completion of your A-Levels. The verdict was decided in three days: Uncle Sam beckoned. It was surely one of the hardest decisions in your brief existence of 18 years, as there were so many factors to consider besides the scholarship itself. You told yourself that it would be a game changer. You had little, possibly zero, insight on what the future had in store for you.

Petronas then sent you to INTEC Education College for the American Degree Foundation Program (ADFP) prior to attending university. From this point onwards, you will garner a decent idea of how the American education system operates – assignments, papers, presentations, quizzes and tests. While you may be busy coping with the weekly assignments, you will have to prepare for admission exams and initiate the college application processes. The personal statements will leave you pondering about life, how you arrived at that stage in life and, ultimately, your future. “Show, don’t just tell,” will become one of the phrases that constantly ring inside your mind while you craft and edit your essays. You will be extremely grateful for all the kind souls and lovely individuals who will proofread your essays and provide constructive feedbacks. Without them, your admission essays would have been a total wreck.

Moving forward, the unique experiences in the USA will broaden your horizons and toughen your character. Talk about walking in the frigid weather of -40 degrees Celsius in spite of frostbite warnings, cheering with the Cavalier’s home crowd during NBA games at the Q, carrying Nerf guns around campus during Humans versus Zombies week and spending your Thanksgiving with your American buddy plus family. You will learn to appreciate how the vibrant campus and the unique college ecosystem weaves fascinating memories into your rigorous and demanding academic schedule. College will be so much more than just papers, research and exams. You will grit and grind, but still enjoy every single moment of it. Definitely.

Looking back upon the journey that I have taken to arrive at where I currently stand today, I’m sure the pathway that you have now chosen will be a pleasant trip, albeit one laden with surprises. The American education system has heightened my consciousness regarding the importance of holistic personal development and continuous team efforts to achieve success – I’m sure the American education will enrich your character too. Try to follow where your heart leads (if possible) because at the end of the day everything is still about you and your goals. Learn to love life, and life will love you too.

Yours truly,

Yan Jie