I first entered the International School of Kuala Lumpur as a student in 6th grade (form 2 equivalent). Previously coming from a British School background, the transition was admittedly difficult. At first I had to come to terms with quintessential American terms like “tardy” (which means late, not a contraction of retarded…), “cafeteria” (instead of canteen), and parenthesis (meaning brackets). Little differences in mannerisms let me know that ISKL’s American culture is quite strong, almost think of Mean Girls. The benefits of attending such an institution is the simple fact of internationalism. I marvelled at how a South African girl in my class was not black (excuse my initial lack of awareness and political correctness) and that it seemed like all of the koreans were from South Korea (where were the North Koreans?). ISKL helped me, for the first time, consider these questions. Not only is the school an active supporter of intercultural mingling, but also that mixed groups of friends just naturally form. Growing up, I had friends spanning from Cameroonian, French, Indian, (South) Korean, and Taiwanese, and each of these people helped me understand their own cultural backgrounds. The feeling garnered from ISKL’s middle school program (grades 6-8) is one of friendliness. I got a genuine feeling of happiness and appreciation from each of my teachers—they actually care about you!. While they perhaps weren’t the most harsh in terms of academics (the push for competitive academics to achieve high grades needs to come from within the student or their family), they certainly provided me the opportunity to succeed. In middle school I scored straight A’s while participating in basketball, volleyball, softball, and badminton. Global Issues classes and Model United Nations (MUN) are also offered to Middle Schoolers. Those three years are noted with much happiness.
After completing 8th grade, the introduction to high school was quite hand held. ISKL formulates an encouraging environment where bullying is virtually nonexistent and students thrive within their own interests (be it sports, academics, or intellectual clubs like debate and MUN). Grades 9 and 10 offer some rigorous courses like Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH is one of ISKL’s most challenging classes), AP Calculus BC, AP Computer Science, and AP Statistics. Other classes of potential interest include an accolade of music classes (jazz band, 3 different choirs, piano and guitar), fine arts (technical drawing, ceramics, and visual arts) and drama. A prominent highlight of grade 9, 10, and 11 is the annual Global Action Program (GAP) where students simultaneously travel to corners of Asia from Tibet and Bhutan to Minado and Bali. On these trips, GAP focuses on community service and in 11th grade students complete their Group 4 project (a mandatory requirement for the IBDP).
Currently on my penultimate semester of the IB, I am enjoying the challenges that comes with it. Since starting ISKL, enrolling in the IB was always an assumption. However, it should be noted that only about 60% of upperclassman (grades 11 and 12) are full IBDP candidates. The nature of the IB makes it such that I don’t have enough free time to be bored. For those that enjoy dabbling in a spectrum of courses (where math, english, science, language, social science, the extended essay and of course theory of knowledge are all mandatory classes) it is the right curriculum. As a jack-of-all-trades and the sort of student that finds all subjects interesting, I’m pleased that I can study physics in tandem with literature. The combinations of Higher Level (HL) and Standard Level (SL) courses keeps doors for university open in allowing me to apply to the US and the UK. However, students of ISKL don’t generally apply to any one country a, s my friends have applied to places like Denmark, Holland, India and the usual suspects like Australia, the UK and US. During my application process my counsellor is extremely helpful in regularly notifying me and other students of upcoming deadlines and providing her expertise in crafting the application. However, if for whatever reason, there are ‘creative differences’ between a counselor and the student, there are other faculty who are just as accessible and available to help. If you’re not sure as to where you want to apply, I feel like the counselors are especially good at establishing the right ‘fit’ for you. As for myself, I am more reserved and am very creative. Yet I take my academics very seriously and wish to pursue Political Science. Because of this, my counselor pointed me in the direction of some of the US’s top liberal arts schools like Amherst, UChicago, and NYU. ISKL’s academics are what you make of it, really. The resources and faculty expertise are enough to see through students to Harvard, Oxford, Columbia and UPenn (as we do have recent alumni currently studying there). You just have to seek the challenge and be organized. If anything, the school has exposed me to a nurturing environment where I have to pursue the tough rigour myself. But once there, the knowledge is rewarding. If you’re interested in ISKL but the sticker price is a shocker, ISKL offers 2 full scholarships every year to enrol in the IBDP after sitting SPM.
Sonja Fei English is a rising senior who is enrolled in the IBDP at the International School of Kuala Lumpur . She hopes to study Law in the UK or Political Science in the USA. She is a self-proclaimed Spotify addict and foodie—you will likely find her at a mamak stall over the weekends.