Thirteen students at Varee International School graduate today. They are among the relatively few high school graduates across the world this year fortunate enough to have the privilege of dressing up and hopefully beaming and mingling amidst their friends, teachers and families as they celebrate not just the achievement of a rigorous, thorough and fulfilling education, but the prospects of a shiny future. And from the great number of offers from colleges and universities from around the world received by this group of graduates, the future is shiny indeed.
The last few years of any high school experience is when students begin to focus on finding out who they are, what they want to be and how they are going to get there. It is a tough road to navigate at the best of times, but add a global pandemic to the mix and it is almost incomprehensible to imagine the challenges this time must serve up.
“I have been to eight schools in multiple countries over my entire school education,” said Veronica Mora, 18, who is half Thai and half British but spent many years in the US. “My six years at Varee has shown me that Varee has the best teachers compared to all of the other schools I went to.”
“Our decisions and what we want are really important to the school and the teachers here,” agreed Belgian-Thai Demi Upasuk, 19, who has successfully done an about-turn from her previous plan to study in the United States to being recently accepted to study population health and medical sciences at Wales’s Swansea University.
Demi explained how the lockdowns increased her focus, “the pandemic really helped me to be good at organising myself and my time as it was a big learning curve to study online. Facing the future also made me focus more on my studies and the last year has seen my grades improve a lot. The school has continuously provided us with people who knew a lot about university applications and that has been very valuable. It was through these conversations with various experts that I realised that because of the amount of extra-curricular activities I have been participating in through the school, especially sports, Swansea would be the best fit for me as they are very focused on sports and I am in the rugby team here.”
“I was determined to go to California,” laughed Veronica Mora, 18, a Thai American student who has now been conditionally accepted, along with a 12,000 pound scholarship, into the University of East Anglia, UK, to study psychology. Dr. Joanne Robinson came to give a talk about British universities and after one PowerPoint presentation I had decided to go to the UK. It was the little things, but to me they were very important. I didn’t want to have a roommate, which is important to me, and I also found out that I didn’t like the liberal arts system, preferring to focus solely on psychology, which I have known since my GCSEs that that was my field of interest. One moment I was about to fill in application forms for US colleges, the next day I decided to go to England and all the teachers immediately jumped on board in support and helped me.”
Tristan Poh from Singapore, 17, who has just bagged himself a 72,000 US dollar scholarship to Williams College, a prestigious liberal arts college in Massachusetts to study politics and economics, attributes much of his and his peers’ successful applications to the school’s plethora of extra-curricular activities and personalised interest of the teachers and administration. Considering the college had an application spike of 50% this year, reducing the acceptance rates from 12% to 8%, Tristan’s three AS level A’s and 1550 score on his SAT, saw him cruise into the college of his choice.
“I feel very comfortable with the teachers here and I know that they are dedicated in helping us to achieve our best futures. Teachers are as accessible outside the classrooms as in. The school regularly invites guests and experts in a variety of fields for us to meet such as Mike Hock from ACE, who really helped me with the application process. Even if we don’t want to go to this university or that country, it all provides us with the opportunity to make an informed decision on what we want.”
“Thailand has a lot of inequalities,” explained Theerisara ‘Tam’ Silaphatkul, 17, who is heading to London School of Economics should she get three A’s in her A-levels, which she appears to be very confident she will. “It is something I have always been very passionate about and a very focused and unique subject. Varee helped me to narrow my focus to LSE, where I learned they had their own inequality institution with some remarkable guest lecturers I can’t wait to meet.”
Ladfah ‘Wansil’ Gantiya, 17, who is also Thai and soon heading to the acclaimed King Mongkot’s University of Technology to study bio-engineering agreed. “Because the medical industry has been booming this year, it has been the most competitive in history. While engineering had long been an interest of mine, the pandemic helped me to focus on the biomedical side. The school really helped push me to do better, but it was the other activities the school offered that gave me the edge.”
Wansil, along with Demi, were head boys and girls this year, allowing them the opportunity to take on vast roles and responsibilities. Wansil also took on the task of putting together the 200 page year book, taking 90% of the photographs himself, which will be given out to all students today.
Tristan also attributes the success of his and his fellow students to the sheer amount of extra-curricular activities the school provides, from Model UN to charity drives, offering them what he calls a holistic and well-rounded education, which is attractive to universities. He cites the school’s cutting edge technology and world-class facilities – from the drama room, to the private senior student lounge – as essential to the students’ growth and learning, as well as the small class sizes which are discussion-led and interactive, allowing for a much more accessible relationship with teachers.
“The class size allows us to be a strong community and to support one another, which was very important this year especially,” added Demi.
All five students gathered for this pre-graduation chat with Citylife today praised the opportunities the school has provided them over the years, while talking excitedly about their prospects and futures.
“Thirteen students,” smiled school councilor Michelle Ring, while beaming with pride. “Considering everything that has happened in the past year and a half, they have managed to get amazing grades, amazing offers from universities across the world with some amazing scholarships as well. This is a hell of an achievement after months of online learning.”
As the students dispersed, chattering excitedly about the upcoming graduation, we bumped into Dr. Joanne Robinson offering council to a year 12 student contemplating her own application to university next year. They were discussing Oxford. It was Tristan’s younger sister.
We wish the thirteen graduates of Varee International School the most wonderful and brightest of futures and look forward to hearing about the aspirations and dreams of Tristan’s sister and her classmates next year.