Cheang Kit Lea is an alumnus and valedictorian from the class of 2014. She joined ACS(I) from SCGS in 2013 and was a student in ACS(I)’s Humanities Scholarship Programme.
During her time at ACS, Kit Lea was vice-president of the 8th Student Council, heading various student-run initiatives such as Project Infinity. She was also an active member in a number of other CCAs which included the Debate Club, the Young Diplomats Society and Cross Country.
In spite of her heavy CCA commitments, Kit Lea consistently excelled in her studies and proved her great academic prowess by scoring 45 points in the 2014 IBDP examinations.
Kit Lea’s outstanding achievements in her academic and co-curricular pursuits did not go unnoticed, and she was awarded the prestigious Seow Poh Leng Medal by the ACS OBA in 2014. Following graduation, she received offers from both Ivy League and Oxbridge universities, and she has since accepted an offer to study Liberal Arts at Yale University in the US.
- Transition to ACS(I): What was the transition like from O-Levels to IB, and from a girls school to ACS(I)?
Kit Lea: O-levels felt more rigid, “mug-a-lot-and-do-a-lot-of-practice-papers”-focussed. The daily grind was intense. IB gives you space to choose subjects you love (I was so happy doing HL humanities) and to explore topics that intrigue you through our EEs and IAs. Undoubtedly, I was much more invigorated and challenged by the IB programme. And hahaha – in essence, the transition just involved getting used to high-pitched squeals being replaced by guttural grunts, an obsession with protein powder, sweaty post-PE testosterone everywhere, and bigger meal servings.
- Exam preparation (tips, rituals): We all know that IB can be a very academically taxing course. Do you have any specific advice with regards to exam preparation?
KL: Start early, plan well, be disciplined about meeting deadlines. Balance is key: sleep early (many people say this but really, commit to doing it. The determination to sleep by midnight incentivises you to be more productive and helps you stay alert the next day), eat well and nourish your body with brain-food, continue interspersing intense study time with doing things you love, keep exercising (it keeps your mind awake and sharp), and when studying, keep electronic devices far away (it may amaze you how much this simple habit can help your focus :))
- Community service experience: What are your views about community service? Outside of school-based service, did you engage in any other forms of community service? What was your community service experience like during IB?
KL: Giving back to the community will do immense good not just for your beneficiary, but also for yourself. My class spent a few months in Year 6 tutoring underprivileged students every weekend with the non-profit organisation Willing Hearts. Committing time outside of school to such endeavours deepens your gratitude and appreciation for what you have, and shapes your character. WOW should just be the beginning to a lifetime of doing good – no matter in what capacity.
- CCA experience: Could you share with us about the experiences you had with your various CCAs?
KL: Student Council taught me that to lead is to learn from those around you and to serve those who have trusted you enough to follow you. Debating was a platform to think critically and holistically about very real issues that present themselves today, and to construct and deliver arguments convincingly. Model United Nations cultivated a burgeoning love for politics and its complexities, an academic interest I plan on pursuing in university. Cross Country reminded me that the human body is capable of so much – and that our main obstacle to progress is our self-perceived limitations.
- Balancing commitments: How were you able to balance all your various commitments and still achieve such excellent results?
KL: By reminding myself that time is so elusive and scarce. When you are acutely aware of how quick time will pass, you treasure every moment and you try not to waste a single second on things that do not do you good. If faced with a pocket of free time, choosing to read an extra jstor article on Hamlet/indulge in a favourite history book/spend time with the family/go for a run/attend an arts event – seems like more meaningful an option that say, letting time wither away as you scroll mindlessly through Facebook or instagram (which is what many of us are inclined to do). When you are clear about how you want to live your life – meaningfully, with fulfilment, with clear goals – it becomes much easier to manage your time, by eliminating the meaningless and instead saturating your days with positive pursuits.
- Class bonding: Some say fostering strong class spirit is an important part of IB life. What is your opinion and experience with regards to class bonding?
KL: Don’t force it; the best friendships occur organically and without contrived planning. Of course, create opportunities to get to know each other better – through movie outings, dinner dates, hangout sessions. Ultimately, be open-minded to the people around you and offer your care, listening ear and attention – the people who are meant to be in your life will come to you, almost effortlessly.
- De-stressing: What are some things you did to keep yourself sane during your stressful IB journey?
KL: Watched a lot of films/tv shows, occasionally went to the art studio to paint, spent many friday nights with my classmates at each others’ houses – revelling in the joy of being young, remembered to have a sense of humour, embraced emotional highs and lows and wrote about them, explored Singapore’s hidden artsy, fun side with my class (timeout.com/singapore has excellent heads-ups on what’s happening each week!), remembered that I was only 17-18 once and that IB was but one aspect of the exciting and exhilarating totality of LIFE!
- Dating in IB: What is your opinion about relationships in IB?
KL: As a romantic idealist at heart, I’m all for exploring the peripheries and venturing into the confusing labyrinth of ‘love’ and romance. At 17-18, we’re going to have crushes, we’re going to be driven crazy by certain people, we’re going to go through bouts of insane emotional turmoil, we’re going to be hurt – that’s quintessential teenagehood and that is part of being young. Ultimately, choosing to be in a relationship is a very personal decision – one that I cannot advise anyone on, and that you have to make by yourself. You could start by asking: Would being with someone make me happier, more enriched, more stable? Can I grow with this person even as life presents us with challenges? Are our fundamental principles and beliefs agreeable, and if not, are we willing to work through our differences with careful compromise? Through personal experience, you learn what you want and what you don’t, and you decide for yourself who you want to choose to love 🙂
- University application process: What advice can you give for ACSians to better prepare themselves for university applications?
KL: Be attentive and receptive to all the opportunities our COG provides you with! The university talks, the workshops on how to write personal statements: all these are incredible reservoirs of information at our fingertips. Be proactive and find out more online or through organisations like the British Council (they also host sessions with Oxbridge alumni). Don’t hesitate to ask for seniors’ contacts and to reach out to find out more. You can also tap on an amazing archive of information set up by AC Year 9s: redbricksandivy.wordpress.com.
- Choosing Universities: What should we take note of when choosing universities to apply to? How did you decide between Oxford and Yale?
KL: Think carefully about: a) If you want a local or overseas education. b) If overseas, do you want the more academics-oriented and traditional UK system, or the more holistic and individual-autonomy-focussed liberal arts US system? (alternatively, other options like Australia, other parts of Europe, etc). c) Start your application preparation early. For UK applications, you will need a coherent and consistent resume of activities, books read, achievements, experiences that prove that you are keenly interested in that academic discipline. (i.e., you need to start young). For US applications, you need to distill and demonstrate how you are a unique, passionate individual, either keenly talented in one area or holistically-capable, and grab the admission officers’ interest in you through a vibrant and authentic application.
I chose Yale over Oxford PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) because the glittering array of opportunities in the Ivy League system to pursue both academic and non-academic interests was too hard to turn down. Also, the possibility of taking classes in everything I am interested in: political science, philosophy, economics, creative writing, english literature, history…. was much too swoon-worthy to ignore.
- Aspirations for the future: What are your aspirations for the future?
KL: To live a full life replete with both individual moments of contentment, satisfaction and fulfilment and endeavours that leave a lasting positive impact at home and in communities beyond. Be it by working with the UN, ASEAN, UNICEF, or by being part of international diplomacy or local politics – I never want to be stuck – and hope to always be driven by a drive to combine my passions and abilities to bridge inequalities, have a hand in policies that propel development, and to ultimately do good for people. The belief that we are here (on this earth) for purposes greater than ourselves is liberating 🙂
- Looking back on your IB journey, are there any special persons you would like to thank?
KL: Definitely the amazing teachers who were guideposts for us as we matured, learned, and figured out the perplexities of growing up. Especially my class’ form teachers – Mr Norman Chua, Mr Aloysius Lim and Mrs Mervyln Goh 🙂 It was an honour to be under your tutelage, and to be the recipients of your nurture, patient care and unconditional love.
- If you could go back to Year 6 and invite anyone (famous people etc.) to IB Prom Night, who would it be?
KL: Serious answer: AC’s founding fathers 🙂 Just so they can see how far we have come and how far we have yet to go. (Bimbo answer: Taylor Swift, just because she would make prom so glamorous and glitzy-fabulous!)
- What are 3 dishes you would bring for a party at a classmate’s house?
KL: Honey chicken wings, avocado-and-cherry-tomato salad, and baileys ice cream with chocolate mousse (drooool)
- What’s your favourite song on a rainy IB day?
KL: Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams or Landslide.
- What’s your most memorable, fun moment from WoW?
KL: Lifting bricks with my class in a long human chain in a school in Wuhan, China (cerebral people trying to be productive doing manual labour; major LOL.) (the other moments are not-so-appropriate for a public school publication, oops ;))
Article by Edward Lee & Lee Tat Wei from the class of 5.17 (2015).
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Kit Lea for taking the time to answer our questions.
This article was first published at http://acsinkdependent.com.
Photo credits: Kit Lea