This Personal Statement got Lim Sheau Yun into History courses in University of Cambridge, University of St Andrews, University College London and London School of Economics.
As a third-generation Chinese immigrant currently living in Malaysia, studying modern Chinese history at HL was gripping, and at times, even horrifying. My grandfather had always kept mum about his flight from China; I had the vague idea that his siblings in the mainland had been scarred by political circumstance, but I knew better than to ask. My study into Chinese history eventually took upon a larger dimension and became an intimate journey into my personal heritage. I also traced the impact of Confucian values on modern Chinese history: comparing the legacy of Confucianism in modern mainland Chinese and Chinese Diaspora in Malaysia, I found myself questioning the roots of my own upbringing. I read tales of female emancipation by the Red Guards, yet I heard firsthand scar literature from my grandaunt, leading me to doubt the efficacy of Maoʼs gender equality policies: could it really have erased centuries of patriarchy? There was also an interesting irony in studying Chinese history from a Western perspective. My command of Chinese allowed me to examine some Chinese sources, including articles, speeches and posters. The extent of loss in translation amazed me: rousing slogans and puns often lose their dimension, becoming bland and hyperbolic.
Digesting dense texts, condensing often superfluous evidence into a broken series of significant details, then threading these subtleties into a coherent and sound argument, the historical method represents a fundamentally creative challenge. It is only through abandoning Reductionist thought and resisting simplicity that one will know History. As such, fully grasping individual events is impossible without accounting for the dynamism that represents a culture, a society or an era. History tells the collective tale of us: the ability to record, to analyse and to synthesise a narrative is a hallmark of humankind. The beauty of history lies in the triviality of truth; perspective, with its human prejudice and limitations, is supreme. Perhaps there is an inherent paradox in using reliable evidence to chase an unreliable truth, but I believe that it is these truths that speak volumes about human nature and its desire to place ourselves within the context of the world.
Beyond the classroom, I have participated in 7 Model United Nations conferences as both head chair and delegate. History is the foundation of complex international relations of member nations, and this not only helped me understand the blocs that dictate alliances during debate, but also helped me persuade others to overcome these preconceived ideas to come to a common consensus. Furthermore, I am serving as the Secretary-General and founder of Penang MUN, the first MUN conference outside the capital city in Malaysia. The conferenceʼs ideology is entrenched in spreading awareness of world history and the international system to those who do not have the opportunities to pursue their interests.
Moreover, I enjoy continually challenging the horizons of my knowledge, and I had the honour of being named the top student for History, Biology, English and Mandarin in my school last year. I also partake in fulfilling and testing extracurricular activities such as founding the “Do Something Society”, aimed at spreading the spirit of charity to my school community. This humbling experience is evidence of the power of collaboration; it was only through examining other approaches to involve the student body that our efforts were successful. My tenures as prefect and student council president also honed my ability to apply theory to practice. My leadership positions led to the school awarding the Governorʼs Cup for Service to the School to me in both 2012 and 2013.
The cumulation of these experiences have shaped the open minded perspective I have today, encouraging me to continually broaden the frontiers of lifeʼs colourful experiences.
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