No, not that delicious salted or smoked piece of processed pork we are so accustomed to seeing in our sandwiches, HAM is my exciting subject combination of higher level History, Art and Mathematics. This particularly appetizing trio of HL subjects is definitely uncommon to say the least, with only 2 students in our level currently taking it. To me however, it makes perfect sense, although it took me a while to realize this.
I started the year in an intense dilemma over whether to apply for the prestigious Humanities Special Program, or choose the equally esteemed IB Visual Arts course. In the end, I chose neither, going with HL History, Economics and Mathematics and SL Chemistry, Chinese B and Literature. As someone who is still uncertain what exactly I want to be ‘when I grow up’, but was interested in things like law or architecture; I believed that this combination would offer me the greatest range of career options in the future. After one term of lessons though, I found myself struggling with my Econs and Math lessons, finding it almost impossible to stay awake. Results wise I was still managing to stay comfortably average for both of these subjects, but with each seemingly endless 1 h 40 minute tutorial, it was becoming increasingly clear how truly wrong my combination was for me. It was during this time that my fingers were suddenly itching to get back to painting and so I appealed for a change in HL Economics to Visual Arts. Since I had made the request so late, it was the school’s policy to only allow me to formally switch after the mid-year Common Tests.
It was a difficult choice to make under those conditions, as I would be putting myself at a definite disadvantage by changing a HL subject so late in the year. Especially as the IB Art course is a 2 year project, this meant precious time lost to work on my pieces. From my days taking O level Art, I knew how time-consuming art would be, remembered how many tears I had shed out of stress over a lack of inspiration, dreaded the sleepless nights spent meticulously finishing a painting. Did I really know what I was getting myself into, again?
After a miraculous 7 in Economics for my Common Tests, many people would have just stuck with my existing combi and toughed it out for another year and a half. When I really thought about my IB experience though, I realised how little time I had left in this amazing school, and how important it was to me that I could enjoy every second of it, with a subject combination that I truly loved. As cheesy-Disney-movie as it sounds, I chose to follow my passion over my head, taking the risk to switch to HL Art, even though it meant giving up one of my best subjects.
Today, I’m the only student in school with this exact HL and SL combination, but I can safely say I made the perfect choice for myself. I get the a balanced schedule of challenging challenging Challenging, (but undoubtedly oddly satisfying) Math, heavy knowledge loading and writing in History, and lovely relaxing although definitely stressful Art lessons at the end of a long day. As for my SLs, Chemistry and Chinese B is the perfect mixture (i.e 20% to 80%) of new information and old knowledge to be fun, and standard level Literature, although another rare subject choice, was made for those of us who love reading and analyzing the written word but would rather not take on the much heavier syllabus of the HL Lit students.
This combination still gives me a wide range of career options ranging from law to business to architecture or accountancy. Most importantly, I actually enjoy my lessons 85% of the time, don’t completely dread studying for them, and honestly feel excited about being taught to master them in the coming year.
These two years of higher level education are meant to be where you find your true interests and passions before we head off into the much more daunting world of Universities and specialized courses. From my experience this year, I learnt the hard way how important it is to have courage to make a risky decision, especially if it all pays off to helping you make the most of the short time you have in ACS(I).
Peck Hsiao Tyng (6.08) is from the graduating batch of 2015.