It's daunting to think that after junior college, one would only have, on average, five more years before they are thrust into the workforce and have to deal with the pressure of making ends meet. It's therefore crucial that one is aware of the need for preparation beyond JC during their time in studying there. In this week of our blog series Deep Dive into JC, we welcome Alessandra Teo, an alumnus of Dunman High School to share what she did in JC to build a good foundation for her future.
Getting to know Alessandra Teo
What do you do in your free time?
Being a fairly sporty person, I like to play basketball, go for a run or swim. I also love watching Chinese drama. Other than that, I have recently looked at LinkedIn as a source to figure out the different career paths through connecting and speaking with people who are in the roles which I would like to find out more about.
Who is your best friend and why?
I am the most comfortable around my sister, we often tell each other our secrets and comfort each other when we are sad. Even though we are quite different as a person, we inject fresh perspective into each other's lives while helping each other become a better person.
What is your go-to fast food order?
It's fairly simple: I usually get the standard McChicken à la carte!
How was the food in Dunman High?
I liked the Korean and Japanese stalls, they were pretty good.
Alessandra's experience in DHS
How was your experience in JC?
For me it was a challenging time academically. As I made the transition from junior high (JH) to senior high (SH), I noticed a difference in how much time I was spending preparing for examinations. Alongside the facts that I was part of two CCAs, in the midst of preparing for university application, I found myself spending less time with my family. I really appreciate the homely culture in Dunman. Looking back, witnessing how people around me grew from JH to SH, from opening up to more opportunities to stepping up to take on leadership responsibility, was also lovely.
What CCA did you join in JC?
I was in the International strategic affairs council (ISAC) where we were involved in a lot of debates and Model United Nations (MUN). I joined the CCA and loved it for its people, like minded individuals who love to engage in meaningful conversations, which I found to be very heartwarming. I was also in Basketball, which I wanted to try out since I had already played netball before. It may seem like a simple change as the two sports do share some similarities. However, I found them to be quite different. This made me more perseverance in the gruelling trainings and I learnt to be a better team player.
What did you do specifically in ISAC and what did you learn?
I participated in many Model United Nation (MUN) conferences over the years. In the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), I argued on the different approaches taken toward plastic waste by China and Western developed economies, which exemplified a question where both economic and political awareness is key to analysing a topic. Through the different topics and councils like the G20 and the US Senate, I gained a better appreciation of procedural politics, where countries use the frameworks of institutions to block or weaken their competitors. These experiences with economic diplomacy and power plays had enriched my communication skills and furthered my understanding of the different forms of diplomacy. As I learnt to think more critically and convey the nuances of various issues more eloquently through my position paper about the issues, subsequently I was fortunate to clinch the Best Position Paper award at the Sustainable Development Youth Convention 2018 and the Best Position Paper once more in the Advanced Category in 2019 under Prepmun.
We had also participated in The Australia-ASEAN Youth Forum 2019 held at Sydney Opera House on 20th November 2019. As part of the Dunman High School Team, I acted as the country experts to exchange ideas with delegates from Australia and other ASEAN Member States via video conferencing. The forum focused on the topic of digital connectivity in the region, and served as a platform for participants to share myriad strategies for regional collaboration.
Outside of school hours, was there any volunteer programs that you were part of?
I was part of a two-week Value In Action (VIA) program in December 2019, in which our team went to a school in Thailand. We put in many weeks of preparation and since this was a student-led project where the students involved needed to plan and execute 100% of the project, we were very excited when landed in Thailand. Our primary task there was to teach the kids, who were around the age of 4 - 13, English language. However, as we arrived and spoke to the teachers at the school, we quickly realised that all of the content we prepared was not going to be suitable for the kids. Panic set in among the team, and we had to mobilise our collective effort to adapt and improvise the plan day by day. During the weekends, we had the chance to visit the BMW factory and rubber plantations and paint murals of parts of the walls in the school. Our accommodation was the school itself and some of the teachers lived there too! We put up a memorable performance during the farewell ceremony.
Besides the sheer amount of stress involved in improvising and adapting two weeks worth of content, what were some other challenges you faced?
Alongside a few others, I was teaching the smaller kids there. It was difficult in engaging them so we had to sing a lot of songs. The language barriers certainly didn't help, but we were fortunate that some of the teachers there could act as our translators.
Awesome experience! Now let's talk Academics, what was your subject combination and why?
I took the standard BCME combination of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Economics. I chose this as generally my strength is in science and not so much in humanity subjects. More specifically, I took Biology as I thought maybe I might want to become a doctor in the future. In retrospect, I believe Physics would have been the better choice, particularly when I had equal foundation in either one from junior high level.
What makes you think now that choosing something other than Biology at that time would have been more beneficial?
It is the sheer proportion of time in which I spent studying for Biology relatively to the other subjects. Granted a lot of this could have been very different had Covid 19 not happened and zapped away much of my productivity level. There were also something about the sets of Biology notes given in our tutorials that were not the best in allowing me to translate the knowledge into answers for test questions. Eventually, I had to turn to external tutors to give me a fresh perspectives and I'm glad it turned out fine in the end.
What kind of profile of students would thrive in your school's environment?
Dunman High appreciates people who are genuine, responsible and accountable. It's good to be proactive and make sure you are able to manage your commitment before you take on more.
What would you have done differently?
One important thing would be to speak to seniors and get a better understanding and expectation of your journey ahead. I would also have joined the community service club to participate in more volunteering activities on a regular basis.
Lastly, what's your one advice to juniors looking to make the step up in Junior College?
It's about being aware that a lot of the decisions made here would have crucial impact to your future. This includes but not limited to your university applications and career. What the universities in US look for in their prospective undergraduate candidates are different to what their UK counterparts look for. Be conscious of your decisions in junior college and start exploring your next step as soon as possible.