School Advisor Articles

Emily Poh's Journey: Unveiling the Transformative Power of International Education

Published by SchoolAdvisor | Sep 19, 2023

Attending a prestigious international school is a privilege, but Emily Poh took it a step further by studying in not one, but two such institutions — Garden International School and Charterhouse

International schools are renowned for their diverse and globally-focused curriculum, which often includes multiple languages, cultural experiences and a wide range of extracurricular activities. These institutions provide an excellent environment for fostering international mindsets, encouraging students to think critically and preparing them for a future in our increasingly interconnected world.

So, if you’re thinking of sending your children to an international school, you’d want to read this article as Emily shares her honest views on what she experienced during her schooling.

Garden International School

Starting early at Garden International School (GIS)

Emily began her academic voyage at GIS when she was three years old, enrolling in the Early Years Centre (EYC)

GIS is known for providing a nurturing environment for its students to flourish in a rich learning culture. From its Early Years Learning Through Play Programme to its Sixth Form GIS Electives Programme, GIS students are inspired to become lifelong learners with inquiring minds and a thirst for knowledge. Step into any classroom and you’ll get a first-hand glimpse into the rapport between classmates and listen to how students and teachers talk about their learning and progress. 

“I had a relatively good experience at GIS, academically, socially and in terms of extracurriculars,” Emily says. “There was a vast choice of  co-curricular activities (CCA) to choose from, but I was preoccupied after school with my commitment to the sports teams.”

When it comes to learning, students like Emily benefit from personalised programme thanks to the small cohort of students in each class. While she recognised the quality of teachers could vary, she appreciated the diversity of extracurricular offerings. The competitive academic environment at GIS, largely dominated by Asian students, shaped Emily's sense of independence and self-assurance.

“The environment was highly competitive amongst my peers, although I was always very comfortable with my own academic ability and never felt the need to push. I know many of my friends’ experiences were that of constant pressure to be better.”

Transitioning to Charterhouse for A Levels

After her IGCSEs, Emily embarked on a new chapter at Charterhouse in the UK for her A Levels. This transition brought about a change in demographic and educational style that she had to grow used to. Charterhouse, a school with a larger Caucasian student population, presented initial challenges for Emily as an Asian student. However, she quickly adapted and became more socially engaged, although she acknowledged that this shift did impact her initial academic performance to some extent.

She elaborates, “My academic performance was not excelling as it did at GIS, as I was more socially engaged at Charterhouse. The teachers in Charterhouse were far more experienced and professional. The pastoral and tradition were very strict, for example, where they had rules such as tucking shirts in, wearing a blazer etc.” 

Nevertheless, the school's strong pastoral support and structured syllabus played a significant role in helping Emily navigate the university application process successfully. Regular meetings, practice tests and guidance from housemasters aided in securing her admission to the Manchester School of Architecture (MSA).

Charterhouse in Surrey, England

“Charterhouse had many workshops, weekly tutorials and housemasters to keep track of my application to multiple universities,” Emily explains. “We had meetings to discuss what was feasible given the subjects I was taking (maths, physics, and economics). There were also constant practice tests in subjects to gauge and keep track of my academic progress to fulfil university offers. The pastoral support and structure of the syllabus helped me gain admission.”

That’s not all. Emily's involvement in sports also had a positive impact on her university application. “I believe participating in sports helped with my university application as it showed my ability to commit, hard work, dedication to practice and a sense of competitiveness, which I believe a lot of tough universities are looking for in candidates.” 

Upon embarking on tertiary education, Emily decided to pursue architecture, a field that combined her creative and quantitative skills and aligned with her academic background. She credits both Charterhouse and GIS in helping her to develop her interest. 

She shares, “Charterhouse was very helpful in assisting me with building a portfolio and exploring the schools that were well known for architecture, and allowing and arranging for me to travel to and from open days and interviews. GIS was also very cooperative and helpful in terms of putting me in touch with the art department that I did IGCSE art with. My teacher, Mr Padgett, had offered me insight into my senior’s work and portfolios, one who had also gone on to successfully be admitted to architecture school.”

Benefits of studying in an international school

Upon graduating, Emily worked as a creative designer at NEC Corporation, where her day-to-day tasks involved a wide range of responsibilities, from video editing and 3D design to marketing and presentations. Her journey from GIS and Charterhouse to her current role at IRIS Corporation Berhad showcases the importance of communication skills, critical thinking and a global perspective fostered by international education.

Looking back, Emily believes studying in an international school helped her gain exceptional skills in English, communication and sports. Thanks to the facilities in GIS and Charterhouse, she was able to experience things at school that many others could not. For example, swimming and lifesaving lessons were things she learnt that are not common in local schools. 

She also learned to communicate better and perceive things in a different light. “I’m able to rationalise my thoughts and communicate them efficiently, thereby limiting conflict by justifying my reasoning should there be a need or desire for a different way of doing things. The ability to analyse and break tasks down step by step also helps to be more efficient and avoid missing out details when completing large and daunting projects.”

Emily Poh's journey from GIS to Charterhouse and her successful career at NEC Corporation underscores the value of international education in preparing students for a world of opportunities and challenges. Her story serves as an inspiration to young individuals seeking to carve their paths in a rapidly evolving global landscape.