Curiosity, independent thinking and the ability to embrace adversity – these are the skills Shania Kannasen acquired during her time at the British International School of Kuala Lumpur (BSKL) that helped her succeed when she moved to France despite no prior knowledge of the French language.
Studying at BSKL
Shania's journey at BSKL began in the fall semester of 2016, when she made a courageous decision to leave her home in Ipoh at the age of 16. She was seeking a more academically-challenging environment than her previous experience with virtual homeschooling. “I gathered that it was time to put myself out there with kids my age and ditch the online concept. I chose BSKL because I wanted a healthy competitive environment that would push me outside my comfort zone,” Shania says.
Located in a leafy suburb in Petaling Jaya, BSKL places students at the heart of everything it does. The school is also part of the Nord Anglia Education (NAE) family, the world’s leading premium schools organisation with 80+ international schools located in 30+ countries around the world. Because of this, students achieve outstanding academic results and sporting success, gain artistic recognition and obtain places at the world’s top universities thanks to a learning structure tailored to their strengths, passions and goals.
During her initial visit to BSKL, Shania had the opportunity to sit in for real-time classes, and she was in awe of what she witnessed. She shares, “The classes were engaging, interesting and creative. The teachers had put considerable effort into ensuring that each student was learning instead of simply ‘getting’ an education and going through the motions. There was also a recognition for quality work, which made me want to strive for nothing short of excellence.”
A significant social event that Shania enjoyed at BSKL was the Christmas market.
After joining, Shania experienced that holistic environment and support first-hand. One memorable encounter was with her history teacher, Ms Karina Bual. Shania initially struggled with historical essays because she was unfamiliar with the complex arguments conceptualising the World Wars. However, with Ms Bual's guidance and persistence, Shania not only improved but also received an award for her efforts. This experience laid the foundation for Shania's future success in academic writing.
Shania's time at BSKL had a profound impact on her academic journey. The school's commitment to nurturing intellectual growth helped her gain admission to Sciences Po, a prestigious institution in Paris, France.
“Despite my brief time at BSKL, the school significantly improved my critical thinking skills. For instance, Math was my weakest subject; however, I was pushed to attend an intermediate class. My teacher believed I needed a little nudge in the right direction and thought I could do much better. So she put me in a difficult class to accelerate my maths level. I took Statistics and Economics courses in college and made it through at a tough institution. That was the definitive moment I had approached learning in a whole different manner,” Shania shares.
She also admits that her most challenging class to date had been drama. “The teacher had been demanding, setting high standards for us. I remember memorising my lines for a play, and I had to practise every day for four months straight with my partner to reach the level required of me. That turning point made me grow artistically and led me to continue taking dramatic arts classes today and develop a taste for the dramatic arts.
Shania is pursuing Politics and Government programme at SciencesPo.
Pursuing Politics and Government at Sciences Po
Shania chose to pursue her bachelor's degree in Politics and Government at Sciences Po because it is a rigorous and internationally-recognised French institution known as a grande ècole. Her decision was also driven by the institution's renowned reputation and the prospect of learning from a rich history of world leaders. The best part? She was awarded the Emile Boutmy scholarship – named after the founder of Sciences Po – that is given to the best international students outside the EU.
The interesting thing is Shania only discovered the university at the last minute.
“Sciences Po is a dream university, but I only learned about it one week before the application deadline! I was fortunate to find the university but had to fight against time applying for it. Thankfully, it worked out in the end,” she says.
The Transformational Power of an international education
Studying at an international school broadened Shania's horizons. Interacting with students from diverse cultures and backgrounds fostered a curiosity about the world that continues to shape her perspective. “I always look at things from various perspectives outside of my own, and it has helped me evolve as a person and strive to also serve the community around me better,” Shania says.
Shania encourages aspiring students to stay open, put in maximum effort, and, most importantly, trust themselves.
It is also at BSKL that Shania learned to manage her stress and develop time management skills.
“Due to the pressure of making sure I had always done my homework on time and turned in assignments on the due date, I developed a habit that continued until college. I also learned that stress is a component that is part of the human experience, and I managed to use it to serve me rather than deplete my energy,” Shania explains.
Reflecting on her journey, Shania offers valuable advice to students who aim to follow in her footsteps. She emphasises the importance of staying open, maintaining a positive attitude towards setbacks and being persistent in the face of challenges.
“There is never going to be a ‘perfect’ time. You will not always be at your best, you will never always be prepared to deal with the hardships that life throws at you and you cannot control life’s circumstances. The only thing you can do is your best and trust yourself.”