Mark Leong graduated from ACS (Independent) in 2017, and is the current holder of 2 SEA games gold medals for waterskiing. During his time in ACS, he managed to find time away from interviews about his sunkissed good looks to man the position of House Captain, simultaneously helming roles in both !nk and the Environmental Focus Group.
At the time of writing, he is currently preparing for the Naval Diving Unit by, uh, diving. The cheek of it.
“You think your school work is tough? Wait till you’re in IB.”
That was basically what I had heard in my months prior to starting out in ACS (Independent).
When I was in the midst of the IB Programme, the days felt long and they were tough. However, I did have an outlet. I was fortunate enough to have a great bunch of people, both in school and outside of school, supporting me to be a sportsman and a student concurrently. I do have to admit, the sport demanded much of my time and my energy, two things which – you could ask any IB student – do not exist in large quantities. In exchange, though, I got a recharged spirit, and skiing helped keep me sane despite the workload coming from school.
Sure, the extra commitment that I had did sometimes make me produce school work slower, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too. It was a promise I made before stepping foot into 121 Dover Road: I’ll stick to skiing no matter the size of my workload, and I’ll stick to my studies no matter the importance of an upcoming ski competition. That was a big promise. In my first few months of being an IB student, I thought I had bitten off more that I could chew. Something had to be sacrificed. Thus, I found myself spending less time with friends, sometimes way less than I had fancied. I had to keep reminding myself that this would all pay off in the end. “Just stay focused for these two years, and your goals will be achieved.”
To be more specific, my two goals were to retain my SEA Games title, and to score – at the very least – forty points for my IB exams. I believed my targets were realistic. I had friends ask me why I bothered committing so much time to Water-skiing, when having a full-time job as an athlete in Singapore is not something that is mainstream. Yes, I was committing an abnormally large amount of time to skiing, but how many people can say they’ve graduated with a decent IB score and represented the country in the SEA Games at the same time? I liked this idea. It justified all of my sacrifices and kept me motivated.
Some people asked me how I juggled my two major commitments. These people were mostly students who are about to begin their IB course, and graduates. From my journey, I’ve learnt a thing or two. Firstly, I found it’s always helpful to have a list of both short-term and long-term goals. For me, my short-term goals were things like worksheet submissions, House Captain duties etc., while my long-term goals were things like my EE, IA’s and ski competitions. The list helped to make sure I had enough time for each of them. Secondly, with two major commitments, it was crucial to not jumble them up. What I mean is that I wouldn’t worry about my studies while I was away competing, and neither would I let myself think about how to carve around buoys while I was staying up, slogging over my Physics IA. This was so that neither of my two priorities were compromised by each other.
I can say now that I am deeply grateful for my two years as an IB student. If anyone is reading this and is considering doing something similar, I would definitely encourage you to go ahead with it. Set yourself apart from your peers. But don’t expect to always be present at Wah Chee lunches with friends after school.