Hello Dunmanians

This website was set up to collate the personal sharing of seniors studying in UK and elsewhere who have kindly taken time off their busy schedules to write a few words to encourage you to consider your higher education and scholarship options. Our website is designed to cope with large numbers of articles and its central feature is the “search” function located at the top right of the page, just above the banner. To access any article, do throw in a keyword and perform a search and you should be able to access all the articles, dating all the way back to when the site first started. Enjoy exploring this site and do feel free to post any comments and queries or contact us if you have any suggestions or questions to ask.

Warmest Regards
Chew Tian Wei
Creative Director
Dunman High School Youth Alumni (United Kingdom)

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A Private Word with Dunmanians…

Dear Dunmanians,

This collection of personal sharings from DHS alumni was conceptualized by Chew Tian Wei and DHSYA(UK). Through these articles, we hope to offer personal and genuine perspectives on various issues that matter to current DHS students, from experience on scholarship applications and interviews to our alumni’s experiences in their respective Universities around the world. This can also serve as a platform for the alumni to pass on their knowledge and experiences to our juniors so that they can learn from our mistakes and be encouraged by our alumni’s achievements.

Looking forward, we will continue to grow and develop this collection of sharings into a useful source of information for Dunmanians everywhere. We hope that this collection of sharings will bring Dunmanians together. Through sharing our experiences and learning from each other, we hope to connect current DHS students with the DHS alumni and also bring our alumni together.

To the alumni who have kindly contributed to this collection of sharings, thank you all for your wonderful contributions. It really means a lot to us. And to all our fellow DHS alumni, if you feel that you have something you want to tell your juniors or an important experience you want to share, please feel free to contribute an article by submitting it to dhsyauk@gmail.com. No experience is too trivial to share as long as you feel that it will benefit our juniors and readers. We look forward to receiving your articles and sharing your experiences with fellow Dunmanians!

Lastly, on behalf of the alumni, we hope that you will enjoy reading the articles as much as we have enjoyed sharing them with you.

Sincerely,
Phua Sze Wee
President
Dunman High School Youth Alumni (United Kingdom)

Name: Phua Sze Wee
School: University of Nottingham
Course: Pharmacy (MPharm)

Pursuing an undergraduate degree in Pharmacy at Nottingham (or Notts as we like to call it here) has been nothing short of life-changing. I remember the days when the thought of studying overseas was but a distant dream hidden somewhere in the depths of my thoughts. It was one of those dreams that I really wanted to achieve but reckon I did not have the chance, or the means, to do so. Fortunately, I was given the chance to pursue my interest in Pharmacy here in the United Kingdom (UK) when I was awarded the Ministry of Health, Health Science Scholarship (Overseas) in 2010.

I have always had an interest in healthcare. However, I did not understand much about the intricacies, difficulties and challenges that it encompasses until I read up about the various healthcare professions (especially Pharmacy), went on job shadowing and volunteer stints at the hospitals and asked lots of questions. Before choosing the course that you want to pursue, or even applying for a scholarship, it is always wise to grab any opportunity available to experience the job nature, environment, or just to find out more about the career/scholarship that you are interested in. Always ask questions if you want to know more about a certain profession or career path (learn to ask the right people the right questions). However, always keep in mind that nobody can help you decide your path. They can only give you advice and their opinions. Ultimately, it is up to you to make your own decision and be responsible for your own future. Once you have made your decision, never look back or regret as each path has its own satisfactions and dissatisfactions, ups and downs. But no matter the number of obstacles, know that you will only get stronger and be enriched with every obstacle conquered.

Being a public service scholarship recipient myself, I believe that you should take up the scholarship only if you are absolutely sure that you want to serve the public and that you are able to uphold what the scholarship represents (I am sure the same applies to any other type of scholarships). Obtaining a scholarship is a privilege and not a right. It is more of a duty and responsibility to the public than merely a chance to fund your education. Always remember that as a public service scholar, you must constantly uphold that honour and duty to the public. That duty to the public is not something that lasts only for the period of your bond. Instead, it is something that will accompany you for a long time to come. I remember back in 2008 (when I was still in Year 6), our then Principal, Mr Sng Chern Wei, shared with my batch and I his perspective on being a public service scholar. It went something like this, “If you are a (public service) scholar, never expect more than what you already have as it is a privilege to have been a recipient of a scholarship. Instead, expect to do more to serve and benefit others (the public).” And this invaluable piece of advice has always guided me since.

My time in University of Nottingham has been very rewarding. The Pharmacy course is well structured and challenging. If you are looking for a pharmacy course that stretches your abilities, look no further. The first year of the course brings you into the profession with a focus on the theories and practical applications of physiology, chemistry, microbiology, pharmaceutics and pharmacology etc. At the same time, the course also includes aspects like hospital and community pharmacy placements, inter-professional learning (among other healthcare professionals) and the practical side of pharmacy, like laws and ethics etc. Do expect long hours in school with numerous contact hours over lectures, laboratory classes, workshops and even longer hours back in your room going through lecture materials, preparing for lab classes, doing your own reading up and directed learning. There will be relatively little tutorial sessions with your personal tutor, whose role is mainly to make sure that you are coping well and to address any general questions or feedback about the course. So once again, I cannot stress enough the importance of self-discipline and self-learning. However, it is not as daunting as it sounds, as the course eases you into new, unfamiliar topics at a reasonable pace. Also, you can always email or consult the professors and lecturers if you have any questions or require any assistance with difficult concepts. They will often be more than happy to help you out. As long as you put in consistent effort, you should do reasonably well. Nevertheless, it is a demanding course and requires a lot of effort as it covers a huge breadth of topics and often goes rather deep into important concepts. Do not expect to slack off here and still expect to get good grades as the Pharmacy course in Notts is especially competitive and it requires a lot of self-discipline from the student if he/she wants to excel.

Of course, the university experience is never just about your course and studying from dusk till dawn. As our professors always say, the majority of what is truly priceless and rewarding in your university experience comes from what you do out of class and what you make out of it.

Heeding that advice, I joined the University’s Athletics Club. And I must say, it has been a truly amazing experience. Besides being an ideal way to keep fit, it is also a good way to travel around UK as the club often participates in cross-country races in other counties. One of my most memorable experiences was participating in a cross-country race in Cardiff during a snowy winter afternoon. Besides the freezing temperatures and the snow-blanketed race route, it was snowing quite a bit during the race too! Despite the frozen fingers and toes, it was definitely one of the best races I had. Joining a club or a society can help you relieve stress from school (as it has done for me), improve your social skills and it is also a great way to meet more people. You will learn a great deal from these new people you meet and indeed, these lessons and experiences can never be found in your textbooks or lecture notes.

Travelling within the UK and to other European countries has also been very rewarding and enjoyable. It is extremely convenient to travel around Europe. Do take the opportunity to travel when you are young and “free”. It will probably be the only time in your life when you can go on adventures with your friends without (much) worries. You will definitely gain a lot just by interacting with the locals and fellow travellers. Travelling brings you to places and opens your eyes (and minds) to new things. These are invaluable experiences that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Although I am only in my first year, I feel that an overseas education has benefitted me in immeasurable ways. Having said that, your university education is essentially what you make out of it. I hope that regardless of where you choose to pursue it, you will make full use of your university education. You only live once, so go all out to pursue what you want. For you will never know how far you can go unless you do your best.

Name: Wong Keng Hoe
University: University of Chicago
Course: Economics

Introduction

Keng Hoe graduated from Dunman High in 2008, and is currently studying economics at the University of Chicago under a police scholarship.

Universities to apply to:

1. What universities do I apply to? How many schools should I apply to?

Ans: Do first figure out the type of course you wish to take before applying to a school-online searches will also reveal much about the school culture and contact alumni who are currently attending the school. This should give you a good sense of whether the school will be a good fit for you. Some factors to consider include reputation of faculty, placement of alumni, student satisfaction, diversity of school, etc.  If money is not a concern, apply to as many schools as you wish to. I applied to four schools as I wanted to spend time writing application essays for specific schools.

2. Should I apply to more financial-aid schools?

Ans: One point to note is that ‘need-blind’ schools tend to attract more applicants, and especially for top schools where you’re really looking at an acceptance rate from 5-15%. So if you’re not adamant about attending only one school, then other top tier schools such as Cornell, Berkeley, Michigan, Northwestern, etc. might be options as well. These schools may not necessarily be need blind but all the top schools offer heavy financial aid if you’re accepted. That said, financial aid for international students is usually very limited, as colleges (receiving funding from governments) do have to justify offering aid to international students over locals. Getting into the schools I despite the ‘handicap of applying for financial aid’ might actually be easier than getting into Harvard, so that’s something you might want to consider. Of course, time is short, and if you really only have time for one good application, then take your pick!

SATs:

1.  What is considered a good SAT score? How should I go about preparing for the SATs?

Ans: A good score would be one above 2150, preferably above 2200. The SATs are only one component of your application; the others being your recommendations and transcripts. That said, it is also a component in which you have the most amount of control over, depending on how you study for it. Do purchase a few SAT practise books and run through the practise test in its entirety at least once before the actual exam. There are also 1000 and 3000 word lists that you can run through.

U.S. Recommendation Letters:

1. Typically when do we ask out teachers to help us write recommendation letters/evaluation forms?

Ans: You can start asking your teachers in August/Sept after you get a rough idea of your prelim results, and where you want to head to. At this juncture, do politely inform them that you will need their assistance to write the letters after your A levels in November/ December.

2. What happens if the teacher mails his/her recommendation to the USA University before we mail our application?

Ans: The teacher recommendations are relatively fast to complete after your A levels, but your personal application on the Common-App takes a bit of time. Do not worry though, once you make a common app account and print the evaluation forms from that account (there is a personal registered number on the bottom of your these letters), all is fine. The letters might reach the college later, but they’ll keep it all in a file under your name. They will look through your entire file once all the documents arrive and it is completed. You might also want to submit your personal Common App form online, and indicate that the teacher letters will arrive separately by mail.

3. How do your teachers send their recommendations? Online through the CommonApp? Because are they supposed to keep their comments confidential, or did you manage to see their comments?

Ans: The teachers I asked for recommendations were Mdm Leong Foong Lin, Ms Pauline Ann Tan, Mr Poon Fook Weng, and Mr Siva. I used paper applications, though things might have changed. So I gave them envelopes and printed the documents out for them, and an instruction sheet with deadlines on mailing, etc. I sent them a text when the deadline was approaching. A general guideline is to make the life of your teacher easier, especially since he/she has plenty of homework to grade, plenty of CCAs to manage. Writing recommendations can be a chore, and you want your teacher to focus his/her letter of recommendation on you instead of worrying about stamps, filling in your name etc. So, put the necessary stamps on the envelope for your teacher, write in the address, fill in all the forms for your teacher except the part of the recommendation, and give them blank paper. Your teacher will place the forms into the envelope and mail them once she/he is done. Needless to say, the recommendations are strictly confidential, this is an integrity issue, and you will not see their comments.

Name: Chua Meng Shuen
School: California Institute of Technology
Course: Physics

On October 5th, 2011, Caltech received news that the institution was ranked first in the world, according to Times Higher Education. Over the next few weeks, we received top honors in the categories of Physical Sciences and Engineering & Technology. We were elated, of course, but we soon came to a realization that it does not matter if we’re at the top; we already know that Caltech is an excellent place.

Does it inspire you that Caltech is doing ground-breaking research on artificial photosynthesis? President Obama certainly is, when he specifically mentioned this research at Caltech during the 2011 State of the Union address.

Does it inspire you that Nobel laureate David Baltimore is leading a team that has successfully found a technique to prevent HIV infection in mice and is trying to begin a trial on humans?

Does it inspire you that Caltech is building the Thirty Meter Telescope, the largest in the world when completed, to observe the beginnings of the universe?

I certainly am, and that’s why I am here. My field is in physics, and Caltech has long been associated with excellence in physics. Albert Einstein, Paul Dirac, Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg, Hendrik Lorentz and Niels Bohr used to be visiting professors at Caltech. We had Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-mann on our faculty. John Schwarz, one of the fathers of string theory, and Kip Thorne, the leading gravitation physicist, are part of our current faculty. Oh, by the way, Stephen Hawking spends his summer on campus.

This is not unique to Caltech- I am sure that other top universities around the world boast similar credentials. If opportunities arise, I urge you to consider attending one of these schools.

Oh, what about my time here? Good point. If you think you’re smart, Caltech is a place that forces you to think twice. You wonder why your new friend is not taking freshman math. You ask his close friends if he’s sick. Oh it turns out that he’s taking a graduate level class, and he’s also an IMO gold medalist. You have another classmate who just landed an internship with Google HQ despite being a freshman. Day in and day out, you’re surrounded by peers whom you respect deeply.

Despite being an institute of technology, we have active sports teams and social events, like the annual ski trips at the start of winter. Student involvement in school matters is also relatively high, but perhaps this is due to the size of my school. Opportunities abound for those who seek, and I am confident that you’d be satisfied by what’s available here. Did I say that the school has an honor code that encourages take-home quizzes and exams?

Oh, and contrary to popular belief, there are humanities classes to be taken, and those classes are typically excellent. This is the value of an American education- that you’re exposed to different schools of thought throughout human history. Right now, I am taking a course “Knowledge and Reality”, and it really is difficult to come up with a truly satisfying definition of “knowledge”. Then, when you’re taking Special Relativity, you realize that there’s no absolute truth. I find using scientific arguments in philosophy debates very interesting, and yes, that’s when you know you’re at Caltech. Or maybe you don’t.

 

Name: Yelin Wong
School: University of Glasgow
Course: Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery (BVMS)

I’m a final year student in University of Glasgow studying for a degree in Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery (BVMS). Applications for universities in the UK are typically done in JC2, and for UK universities they use the UCAS system which makes it quite easy for us because you just have to fill in a single application form and write only one personal statement which will be read by all the universities you apply for.

If you are intending to study vet, you can only have a maximum of four choices for your university. There are only 7 universities in the whole of UK offering the veterinary course, so spend some time reading about each of the university, about how the vet school is like, before making your choice. Different universities have different programmes for the five year course; some focusing more on the clinical aspects while others choose to focus on theory for the first 3 years and then do practical for the final 2 years. There may be some proficiency tests you have to take to apply to some of the universities, for example Bristol requires the BMAT (Bio Medical Admissions Test), so make sure you find out about the requirements and apply for the test dates before the deadline, to avoid your application being forfeited.

Glasgow university actually sent 2 staff members down to interview me in December after my A levels, while Edinburgh university had no interview but gave me a conditional offer straight away. The interview with Glasgow vet school was not that bad as they made it rather informal and it turned out to be more of a get-to-know-you session.

There are very few scholarships for vet studies, and one of the more popular ones would be with AVA, which is what I applied for after my A level results were announced. The application process is quite simple and is done online, and if you are short-listed for an interview, they will email you to ask for more documents. The interview panel consists of 5 interviewers, and they ask a whole range of questions including the standard “why do you want to study vet” to “how do you think you can contribute to AVA”. One thing to note is that most of the jobs in AVA are deskbound and so if you want to be a vet that is working in clinics and doing late shifts etc, perhaps consider twice before taking up the scholarship, as you will be bonded for 6 years upon graduation.

For the course itself, Glasgow vet school has 2 years of pre-clinical where you learn the basic anatomy and physiology of animals, as well as biochemistry and animal husbandry. This is followed by 1 year of para-clinical where you start to prepare yourself for the clinical years by learning about pharmacology, parasites, bacteria, viruses and pathology. The 4th and final year of vet school is very much clinical based and you will learn to diagnose the animal and do proper clinical examinations. Final year is almost lecture free and you spend most of your time working in the school’s small animal hospital and rotating in different departments. One thing important to note is that unlike many other courses, you cannot just forget about a particular module once you have completed it, because what you have been taught in first year will come in handy throughout your years in vet school, and so it is very important to have a good foundation right from the start.

Of course, studying overseas alone is an amazing experience. You learn to be really independent and take care of yourself, from cooking your own meals to doing your own laundry and cleaning your own house. And being in UK means that it is very convenient to explore Europe during holidays and get to tour really interesting countries. The scenery in Scotland is just breath-taking, and you just cannot get enough of it. It is also very rich in culture over here and the Scottish people are very proud of who they are and embrace their traditions tightly.

The veterinary course requires you to do quite a substantial number of weeks of attachments during your 5 year course, and this involves working in farms with cows and sheep, seeing how the eggs are being processed in the egg-laying farm etc. Sometimes if you are lucky, you will get to spend easter break helping with the lambing, and that is when you actually get to be up in the hills with all the sheep!

I think vet school is a tough but yet rewarding course for those who are really interested and truly have a passion for it. The school hours are long, with many lectures and practicals in a day, you have to do late night shifts when you are in your final year and sometimes go with only 2 hours of sleep a day. Sadly the dropout rate is quite high, and can be as high as 10% of the class. However, I think diligence and hard work will make up for it, and if you are truly passionate about working with animals then this is a course that will suit you!

 

Name: Geneve Yeo
School: University of Birmingham
Course: Music (BMus)

Coming to the UK to be educated and being away from the comforts I have been used to certainly helped make me more aware of myself and my goals. I wanted to make the time I had overseas to do as much as possible, both academically and away from my studies, hence I chose to actively participate in extra-curricular activities and take up leadership positions in student societies. Choosing to do my music degree overseas has proven to be an enriching time due to the conducive artistic climate here and quality of teaching. In fact, I could sum up everything I enjoy about studying abroad in a word: exposure.

When it comes to choosing a degree programme, it can be quite a dilemma balancing interest, ability, practicality and societal norms, but don’t let uncertainties hold you back. It is common for people not to know for certain what they want to do with their lives even after university, be it at the age of 18! A degree does not cast your future career or life in stone – alternatives and other openings can open up along the way too. To me, university is not solely about gaining head knowledge, but procuring soft skills just before we enter into the working society.

Having the opportunity to study abroad is undoubtedly an experience most people are keen to take on if resources permit. However, it is not all a bed of roses in as many aspects as it is an excellent one; university in general is a leap from being in school. Personally, an occasional reminder of why I set out to do what I did definitely keeps me on my path of an unconventional degree in an unfamiliar land.