School Advisor Articles

From Public School to International Success: Andrea Chew’s Transformative Journey at The Alice Smith School

Published by SchoolAdvisor | Sep 15, 2023

“I’m incredibly grateful for my experience at Alice Smith,” Andrea Chew said as she reminisced on her time in school.

Transitioning from a public school to an international school can be a challenging endeavour, one filled with cultural adjustments, academic demands, and personal growth. For Andrea, it was a journey that led to transformation and new opportunities. “I’ve forged wonderful friendships, my thinking has been reshaped by the educators, I’ve had the chance to delve into various exposures and experiences, and it has paved the way for many opportunities in my life afterwards.”

The journey to The Alice Smith School (also known as KLASS) began with a life-altering phone call received just before her SPM Biology exam in December. “It was right at the end of SPM when I found out that I’ve received a full scholarship to KLASS,” Andrea said.

Andrea obtained a scholarship to pursue her studies at The Alice Smith School

With A-Level classes already in progress since September, Andrea faced a rapid transition, relocating from a small town to the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur within a mere two weeks. Despite this chaotic shift, she didn't face it alone. “My fellow scholars, Leh Theng and Giap were fast in making decisions for this transition together. We decided to live together in an apartment near the school,” Andrea said.

With two stunning campuses, Primary and Secondary, providing world-class facilities and an abundance of green, open spaces, The Alice Smith School was the first British international school in Malaysia and the only ‘not for profit’ British international school in Kuala Lumpur.

Here, students are at the heart of everything the school does and they are assured of a quality education. Alice Smith utilises a teaching model based on the British National Curriculum to ensure its learners receive an internationally recognised education that will prepare them for any aspiration. Every class requires active participation, challenging students to speak up, ask questions and actively engage in discussion. In short, the culture at KLASS was much more open and demanding – something Andrea can attest to. 

“It was already part of my DNA to do this but the difference here was that I was surrounded by international students who were much better, smarter and faster than I am. It was really intimidating to be a scholar in an unknown environment,” she said.

However, Andrea was not alone in her journey. The teachers proved to be exceptional and understanding as she navigated this transformative phase. They regularly checked in on her, offered encouragement, and unbeknownst to her at the time, challenged her deeply ingrained limiting beliefs. Under their guidance, Andrea was able to adjust her mindset and understand what it meant to be a small fish in a big pond.

“The teachers and pastoral care had one main goal - prepare us to get into great universities,” Andrea said. “It opened up the way I thought about many things — from independence, ambition and the power of a strong attitude for higher learning.” 

Andrea built many valuable skills during her time at The Alice Smith School

The friends she has made here were integral in keeping her involved and accepted in a foreign environment. She spent a lot of her free time creating and performing music with Zoe, keeping awake to study and have good food with Leh Theng and Giap, and other friends whom she vicariously learned from.

Challenges were not in short supply for her. Being behind everyone else in her subjects was a hurdle, particularly in Economics, where she eventually had to drop out. The decision, supported by her teachers, allowed her to focus on her other subjects (Psychology, Sociology, and English Literature) and maintain her academic progress — she scored straight A’s.

“I accepted this scholarship primarily because it enabled me to study Psychology, which I couldn't have done in a private university if I wasn't a scholar. Even with my excellent SPM results, I couldn't have pursued Psychology in a public university. So when I came to KLASS, Psychology and Sociology were my first pick.”

The foundation laid during Andrea's time at The Alice Smith School played a pivotal role in her tertiary education and career journey. Critical thinking skills acquired through compulsory subjects challenged her perspectives and proved invaluable in her Psychology studies. Humility, another quality developed during her international school experience, allowed Andrea to connect with diverse individuals and see challenges as opportunities for solutions. This skill set greatly contributed to her success as an entrepreneur.

After completing her A-Levels, Andrea pursued Psychology at HELP University, where her scholarship from Alice Smith gave her an edge in her tertiary education scholarship application. More importantly, she believes she was able to adapt seamlessly to higher education thanks to her time at The Alice Smith School.

“At HELP University, the culture was somewhat similar and having had that experience and habit of speaking up, sharing knowledge and challenging others made me stand out among my peers,” she said. 

Today, Andrea is a co-founder of several organisations and she credits her international school experience as part of her entrepreneurial journey. The ability to communicate effectively with people from different backgrounds, challenge others and remain humble has been instrumental in her ventures.

She shared, “I've turned my passion projects into multiple businesses that blend my creative expression with solving problems faced by end users. Whether it's jewellery or other products, I continuously enhance and innovate their functionality, aesthetics, and user experience. In entrepreneurship, the commitment to ongoing improvement and smarter problem-solving, regardless of scale, is essential.”

Today, Andrea leads a team of extraordinary changemakers through her role as a co-founder of MAD For Good.

Her experience at KLASS also plays a crucial role in her work with MAD For Good — a social enterprise-in-the-making that connects resources for impact stakeholders to drive deep exponential impact through tech and community building. 

The grooming and training she received are the ideal foundations she needed to begin overcoming any obstacle. More importantly, Andrea understands that she can make a difference in people's lives by putting them first and approaching every moment with a sense of purpose. It's something Roger Schultz — then Head of KLASS — hoped she never stopped doing. 

Reflecting on her journey, Andrea offers some advice for parents whose children are transitioning from public school to an international school:

  1. Allow them to grow into their own people: Avoid trying to influence every decision they make. Instead, ask questions to help them think for themselves and take responsibility for their choices.

  1. Build strong relationships with other parents and teachers: The school community can provide insights into your child's experiences and help you navigate the challenges of the transition.

  1. Dream bigger for your children: Encourage them to explore new opportunities and share your support for their dreams rather than imposing your own expectations on them.

If you'd like to learn more about Andrea’s journey or connect with her, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn. She is open to coaching, mentoring and connecting with the next generation of leaders.