Life@International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) – International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP)

ISKL Ampang

Image Source

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

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.

Advertisements

Life@Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar – A-level

KTJ Front

Image Source

 Naturally boarding school may sound like an unnerving idea to many. Vague notions of having to live away from home for the very first time and to become independent in such a short span of time certainly sound daunting. The reality of things at Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar (KTJ) is far different.

Let’s look at some of the general aspects of KTJ as a school before focusing in on the aspects that would interest you as an A-Level Student. This article won’t focus much on the facilities and specifications of the school as you can glean all this information from the school’s website. What I will attempt to do is to provide you an insight from my point of view as a student in KTJ’s Sixth Form.

Students are assigned a boarding house, which is where they will stay for the entire duration of their course. There are 4 boys boarding houses and 3 girls boarding houses, along with one junior (Form 1-3) boarding house. Students in the Lower Sixth will often share a room with another person while most Upper Sixth students will get a single room. Most students love their boarding house and build strong bonds with others within the houses. It will also represent the sports house that you compete in throughout your time at KTJ.

Classes at KTJ start between 0800-0830 depending on the day and consist of eight 40 minute lessons. Students in the Sixth Form will have a number of periods depending on their subject choices as well as the intake that they join. Students in the January intake generally will have less free periods as the teaching has to be more compact due to the shorter duration of the course.

Meals are served in the dining hall daily. There is breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner. Both Asian and Western cuisines are served during the 3 main meals and a vegetarian option is always available. There is a daily panini station with alternating fillings such as chicken and lamb. On most days there will be a noodle station serving local favourites as well as a grill on alternate days. Sunday is an exception where brunch and dinner are served. A typical brunch will comprise of things like pasta, roti canai, salmon steak, lamb, croissants and many other options. If you still find yourself hungry, there is a ‘Tuck Shop’ open at night during social hour (2045-2115) where you will be able to purchase additional food. All the boarding houses also have a limited pantry where you will be able to make simple things like instant noodles and soups.

The following paragraphs will mainly be relevant towards students who will be in the Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth forms while they are undertaking their A-Level course.

  1. The Academic Life

A focus on academics forms an integral part of the KTJ Sixth Form Experience. A combination of CIE A-Levels and EDEXCEL A-Levels are available at KTJ. Students will typically take between 3-4 AS Levels with some choosing to continue on with only 3 subjects for the A2 Level Examinations and others sitting for all 4. A broad combination of subjects is available for example; Mathematics, Further Mathematics, History, English Literature, Economics, Chemistry, Physics, Art, Music, Biology and Geography. The subjects are generally organised into ‘blocks’ giving students the ability to have numerous diverse combinations. If you’d like to know more about the combinations I’d recommend you visit the following link: http://www.ktj.edu.my/userfiles/ktj/Sixth%20Form%20Subject%20Choices.pdf The teachers are extremely dedicated at KTJ and go the extra mile in ensuring that students are able to excel in their chosen subject combinations. There is a dedicated Sixth Form computer room with printing facilities that oftentimes comes in handy when one is revising. The CIE Examinations are offered in both the Summer and Winter sessions whereas the EDEXCEL ones are only offered in Summer. During the weekdays and on Sundays there are two ‘prep’ sessions which you are supposed to use to study productively. These are extremely beneficial as they get you into the habit of not leaving everything to the last minute and ensuring that you do something productive daily. I have found that they greatly relieve the stress that is felt as the examinations approach as you have done most of the necessary revision weeks in advance. Science practicals are usually held weekly in preparations for the practical component of the Science A-Level examinations. There are dedicated laboratories for each subject that are fully equipped.

  1. The Social Life

The social life at KTJ is an interesting one mainly due to it being a boarding school. You are able to get to know your friends much better here since you spend the whole day with them hence forming the very tight-knit community. The vast number of clubs, sports and societies allow you to meet many people with similar interests and build lasting friendships. Sixth Form Students are allowed day outings over the weekend and will have to return to school before a stipulated time. It’s undoubtedly different from other schools as you won’t have the freedom to leave school whenever you wish but this has never been an issue for me. You will always find something to do as a result of all the activities that are planned, something that I will elaborate further in the next few posts. It really helps you in preparing for your future at a university as you learn to interact with people of all ages in the boarding houses and throughout the day. An induction program is also organised for all students entering the sixth form to introduce them to the school and introduce them to their course-mates.

  1. Extra-Curricular Activities

The opportunities to involve yourself in ECAs is immense at KTJ. From wall-climbing to public speaking and debating to golf, KTJ has it all! There are numerous clubs and sports that meet up daily during the fixed ECA slots from 3.50-4.50pm and 5.00pm – 6.00pm. It’s a great opportunity to pick up new skills or even take your skills to the next level. There are numerous fields that facilitate hockey, football, rugby and basketball. There are even opportunities for students to start their own clubs should if an activity they are passionate about is unavailable at KTJ, recent examples being volleyball and an Anime club. It’s definitely indispensable in achieving a holistic education. There are frequent inter-house competitions not only in the usual sporting events but the Arts as well. ‘House Singing’ and ‘House Drama’ are events that many students look forward to. If you’d like to know more, just visit KTJ’s YouTube page! Some of the main sporting events include the Cross-Country Run, Swimming Gala, Athletics events, Interhouse Rugby, Football and Hockey. There’s a never ending list of available opportunities to pursue at KTJ and if you do indeed come here, make sure you take full advantage of all the opportunities at KTJ. There are also excellent leadership opportunities in KTJ, be it the Sixth Form Committee, Prefects’ Board, Student Council, or the BOD of the societies and clubs. All of these roles will be very beneficial to you as an individual in honing the skills that you are required to equip yourself with in life. My personal favourite societies are the KTJ Debate Union (also the current CollegeLAH Director’s favourite) and Forensics Society!

  1. University Application Support

I can’t comment on the application support that students experience while applying to the US, Canada and Australia as I haven’t undergone the process myself. Focusing on the UK applications, KTJ has a dedicated Sixth Form Team that will assist and advise you throughout your time in the Sixth Form. Representatives from universities such as the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and University College London (UCL) have visited KTJ over the last year to provide information to prospective students. It’s a unique opportunity for you to be able to communicate with the universities that you are looking forward to applying to as it gives you the option to resolve all the doubts and questions that you have. There is a great level of support in helping you get to university not only from your teachers but your seniors as well. They have undergone the applications process and are in a great position to be able to advise you not only on university choices, but also with wider reading for your subject choice. There is often practice for university admissions tests such as the UKCAT and LNAT Examinations. Guidance is also provided to individuals who are required to submit additional forms as part of their university application. Besides that, mock interviews are organised for students who have been invited to an interview, usually for Oxbridge. Starting this year, the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is being offered for those taking their A-Levels.

KTJ is not like a school to me, it’s way more than that. It’s like a home away from home. The best way for you to gauge a school would be to come for a tour and see it first hand! I do hope that you consider applying to KTJ for your A-Levels and that you will enjoy it like I do. There will be an Open Day coming up on the 27th of February 2016 for those of you who’d like to see more of the school. Check out the KTJ Facebook Page for more details; https://www.facebook.com/kolejtuankujaafar/


Imran Debating

Imran Mateo joined the Sixth Form in KTJ in 2014. He hopes to pursue a degree in Law in the United Kingdom. You are most likely to find him at a Debate Competition.

Life@MCKL – A-level

MCKL

Image Source

Methodist College Kuala Lumpur. I’d never even heard of it until my next door neighbour attended college there in 2012-13 while I was in the last two years of my secondary school. Looking back, I have no idea why I so confidently decided to do my A-Level at MCKL. The minute I heard about the college and talked to my neighbour about it ONE TIME, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to go there, which is really strange, seeing as there were so many places in Penang to do my A-Levels (YAS, Penang lang here!). It’s not as if I fell in love with it or anything mystical and fanciful like that. There was just a sort of resolution in mind. “Yep, MCKL, I’m going there.” Though I suppose if I was forced to come up with reasons as to why I was so sold on the idea, I’d say the scholarships and Christian environment were what appealed to me most.

So there I was, completing an application online to a college I’d never set foot in. This very helpful chap from the Admissions and Counselling Department helped me through the process, as we emailed back and forth.

One really coolbeans fact about MCKL is that they offer loads of scholarships. I was applying for the 100% tuition fee scholarship which required I get 8As for my SPM*. The best part was, I could secure the scholarship using my forecast results, and later, even if my actual results were poorer than my forecast, I wouldn’t lose the scholarship. Another great thing about MCKL scholarships is that the CGPA for maintaining the scholarships isn’t too insanely high. For the 100%, I was required to maintain a CGPA of 3.2. And finally, the scholarships are not limited to a select few! Almost everyone in MCKL comes in with a scholarship of some form. As long as you apply early enough, and you have the required results, MCKL gladly provides you with a scholarship!

When the time came to go to this mysterious MCKL, I felt very homesick during the first weekend. It was before my college orientation, and I was all alone in KL. My housemates hadn’t yet moved in and I knew no one in MCKL (my neighbour had just graduated from AUSMAT the semester before). But after that one weekend, college started, and it was a whirlwind of meeting new people, joining too many clubs, absorbing all these new subjects (I took Math, English Literature, Psychology and Law),  taking part in community projects and basically having a crazy, good time!

Generally, MCKL is known by outsiders as the goody-two-shoes college for nerds. We clearly resent that and yet there is a grain of truth in that caricature. As a college founded on Christian values, MCKL does regulate rules a bit more strictly than most colleges. There is a dress code that we must adhere to, but frankly I think all of us love the upside of how we don’t feel pressured to dress up to go to college. It’s not unusual to see people in sweatpants, baggy t-shirts and messy buns. This might not be for everyone, but for me, an 18 year old girl who had no idea how to put on a dot of makeup, this suited me perfectly!

Extracurricular-wise, MCKL has a pretty wide range of clubs and activities. In my first semester, I very wisely (ha ha) joined the Music Club, Debate Club, Model United Nations Club, Latin Dance Society, Pre-U Society and the Christian Fellowship (CF). Along with that, I had to complete a Service Learning project, in which my group chose to raise awareness about modern day slavery. (Through this project, I gained the friends that would stick with me throughout the one and a half years of A-Levels. There’s really something about understanding the human struggle that made us stick together!) In my second and third semester, I cut down on my activities and chose to focus on serving in the CF, where there were tons of opportunities to get involved. In MCKL, most students go through the same process of being spread very thin in the first semester, and then focusing on one or two clubs in their remaining semesters. In my opinion, it’s quite logical, as then you’ll know, having had a try, what you really want to invest your time in.

Another extracurricular activity that really impacted me was the running of the Orientation Camps! Every student has to attend a camp in their first semester and this is the time where students really get to know their classmates and also people from other programmes. As campers, obviously the camp was thoroughly enjoyable and memorable. However, the great thing about the running of these camps is that they didn’t stop at the end of our Orientation Camp (OC). We got the chance to apply to become facilitators in the OC for the next intake. With that came the responsibility of planning the entire camp with 11 other students. After being a facilitator at camp, learning so many fundamental things, I became a historian during the next cycle of camps, eager to learn more. The student services staff of MCKL gave their best during those camps to make sure that we didn’t leave without learning something, but ultimately, whether we learnt or not was up to us. Even after I’d graduated, I returned to OC as the lead coordinator, to try and impart some of what I’d learnt to a new batch of facilitators, but at the same time, I myself learnt how to allow them to make their own mistakes. These OCs played a large part in what I took back from my time in college . (This can be seen by how long the paragraph is when I meant to only write two sentences about it! Hehe)

With all the fun and challenges of everything else, my studies also must be spoken of! I had the blessing of having a number of dedicated lecturers, both young and old. I cannot speak for the entire academic programme, ‘cos I really think it depends on your lecturer as well as the amount of work you put in, but I can say that the academic side of things was never a cause of real concern for me. This doesn’t mean I got straight As all the time-far from it-but I never had a real worry about it. We had monthly tests for every subject, so that kept us from falling behind. And we also had very challenging trial papers which drove us to glue ourselves to our books and past year papers during the time leading up to the actual exams.

One thing I was amazed by at MCKL was the willingness of the lecturers to go out of their way to help students. It is perfectly normal to walk around MCKL and see lecturers helping students in their free time, going through the curriculum, running extra classes, and sometimes just buying them an ice cream or a drink to catch up with them and make sure they’re coping okay. Their humble service was an encouragement to me, personally, as it was at MCKL that I decided to pursue English and Education so I could help as they did.  Also, the university placement staff were very effective at helping us students get our act together and apply for university. Without their constant pushing and encouraging, I doubt so many MCKL graduates would have ended up at all the top universities that they have.

One final thing I must share was what it was like living in the college-provided accommodation with the other students from outstation. I was blessed with great housemates and roommates (I had a total of 22 housemates over the span of my 1.5+ years there. This is an unusually high number!) who taught me a lot about living together and bearing with one another’s good times and bad habits! There were obviously squabbles and fights along the way, and way too much crying in bathrooms together (maybe not so much for teenage boys lah!), but I’d say we all grew stronger because of it. There was also the amazing feeling of being a part of a larger community of accommodation students , taken care of by our amazing wardens, who  looked out for our physical and also emotional needs. If you’re afraid of leaving home, don’t be. Some things will never be fully appreciated until you leave (*cough* Char Kuey Teow *cough*).

From start to finish, my time at MCKL was incredibly fun and meaningful. I made many friends, in both fellow students and staff. I learnt so many new things and I’m still trying to improve myself daily from what I’ve learnt. By God’s grace, I also managed to get A-Level results that enabled me to receive an unconditional offer from the university of my choice. Clearly, I cannot guarantee that you will love MCKL as much as I sincerely do. The idea of this kind of college might not appeal to you in the least, and that’s fine! But if you’re interested in a not-so-huge college, where you can learn both inside and outside of the classroom, supported by a truckload of people, consider MCKL. There’s hardly a better feeling than belonging to the small community, where you might not know everybody, yet

you immediately grin at that ‘stranger’ wearing the MCKL shirt, and you feel like you’re coming home every time the train pulls into KL Sentral and even after you leave, these three simple words can still put a nostalgic smile on your face,

Veritas Vincit Omnia

Truth Conquers All

*The requirements change rather regularly, so do check the website for the latest info!


Cat Bakewell

Catherine Bakewell is a 19 year old, half-English, half-Peranakan, ‘hybrid’. She is enjoying her gap year, teaching English and gaining extreme patience from waitressing! She did her A-level in Methodist College Kuala Lumpur and loved it so much that she stayed on for 3 months to intern in their Marketing Department. Promoting MCKL proved to unite both her love for MCKL and her gift of the gab 😛