School Advisor Articles

From Quiet Observer to Confident Leader: How Jaymie Liew Thrived in an International School Environment

Published by SchoolAdvisor | Jun 28, 2024

It’s no secret that when you shift from a public school to an international school, there’s a period of adjustment. The curriculum, teaching methods and even the social dynamics can be different. However, with the right support, this transition can be enriching and open doors to new academic and personal experiences.

That’s exactly what Jaymie Liew experienced when she transitioned from a public school to HELP International School (HIS). “I was studying in a Chinese government school from Year 1 to Year 5 before my parents made the decision to transfer me to HIS in 2016, as they admired HIS’ equal prioritisation of both academics and extracurricular activities.”

Studying at HELP International School

For Jaymie, the shift from teacher-centred lectures to collaborative learning — where all students were encouraged to actively participate in group work and class discussions at HIS — proved challenging. “I initially struggled with this new practice since the lessons in the  public school were simply listening to and writing down notes from our teachers in pin-drop silence.”

However, with the support of her teachers and peers, she gradually embraced this new approach, discovering the value of teamwork and critical thinking.

Beyond academics, HIS’s commitment to inclusivity through cultural diversity was truly enriching. A vivid memory for Jaymie is a Spanish lesson in Year 8, where they explored the vibrant Mexican celebration of Dia De Los Muertos. This collaborative project, where the class built an altar together using recycled materials, not only deepened their understanding of this beautiful tradition but also fostered a strong sense of community within the class.

HIS school motto, ‘Life in All Its Fullness,’ embodies a vision of empowering students to enjoy a rich school experience and prepares them with leadership skills for significant adult lives.

This spirit of inclusivity extended to students with special needs such as autism, bipolar disorder, ADHD and more. “My cousin, who had been diagnosed with mild autism at a young age, had no choice but to move overseas due to the lack of accessibility to education that suited his needs. This initially led me to believe that those diagnosed with mental disorders might have a lower chance of thriving in society.”

However, after stepping into HIS, she realised how much effort the school put into creating a safe and supportive learning environment for all. From dedicated teachers who meticulously tailored lessons to individual needs to the ever-present counselling team, the school provided a comprehensive support system. This commitment not only empowered students with special needs but also cultivated a culture of empathy and understanding within the entire student body.

Jaymie’s IGCSE Journey at HIS

Jaymie’s experience at HIS during her IGCSE years was demanding but rewarding. She tackled a rigorous curriculum of nine subjects, including the compulsory English Language, Literature, Bahasa Melayu, Extended Mathematics and Coordinated Science. Additionally, she thrived in her chosen electives: Mandarin, Music, Business Studies and Global Perspectives.

The transition from lower secondary to IGCSE proved challenging, particularly for science and maths subjects. Jaymie, with a natural inclination towards arts and humanities, initially struggled. Mock exams reflected this difficulty, with a disappointing performance in science.

However, HIS’s learning environment proved to be supportive. Teachers like Mr. Musa went beyond academics, offering emotional support. During a homeroom session dedicated to past papers, Mr Musa noticed a subtle change in Jaymie's demeanour. He initiated a conversation, providing support without demanding details. This small gesture, a testament to the attentiveness of HIS’s faculty, resonated with Jaymie. It served as a reminder that she wasn’t alone, and it reignited her motivation.

Motivated by Mr. Musa’s encouragement and her friends and family’s support, Jaymie persevered. The result? A stellar performance — 2A*s and 7As in her final IGCSE exams.

Jaymie was eager to join the HIS Chinese Orchestra to learn a new instrument alongside the piano and deepen her connection to her culture.

Exploring Passions and Developing Leadership Skills

Jaymie’s academic journey at HIS was complemented by a vibrant extracurricular life.  She actively participated in various Co-Curricular Activities (CCAs), from debate and arts and crafts to music and board games.

“One of the most significant CCAs that I had joined would be the HIS Chinese Orchestra, an orchestra founded by my Mandarin teacher, Mr. Lee, that allowed students to explore and embrace Chinese culture through music.”

As someone with a musical background, Jaymie was naturally drawn to music clubs. However, the Chinese Orchestra offered the unique opportunity to learn a new instrument, the Zhong Ruan (中阮), a string instrument similar to the bass, while deepening her connection to her heritage.

Within a year, she was playing confidently and was entrusted with the leadership position of String Instruments. This was Jaymie’s first foray into leadership, and though initially hesitant, she embraced the role. “The joy I felt from helping my peers gain the confidence to perform was extremely self-fulfilling, thus being the driving force that pushed me into taking up more leadership positions.”

Jaymie was awarded the Jeffrey Cheah Entrance Scholarship and Sunway College Special Scholarship 2022 to pursue her A Levels at Sunway College in 2022.

Sunway College: Stepping Out of Comfort Zone

Having flourished at HIS, Jaymie faced a tough decision — continue her A-Levels in her familiar environment or venture out for new experiences. Ultimately, her desire for growth propelled her to Sunway College, a place renowned for its excellent academic environment and supportive lecturers.

At Sunway, Jaymie embraced her passion for the Humanities, opting for a combination of Literature in English, Psychology, and Mathematics for her A-Levels.  The transition from IGCSE to A-Levels proved significant. The workload intensified, and the shift from spoon-feeding to a more independent learning style demanded adjustment.  Initially, Jaymie struggled to keep pace, experiencing setbacks during her first semester.

However, since Sunway’s supportive environment mirrored that of HIS, Jaymie persevered, gradually adapting to the college’s demands. Her grades steadily improved, culminating in a strong performance during her AS exams.

The Future: Education and Beyond

Jaymie’s experience at HIS instilled in her a deep appreciation for inclusivity.  The school's commitment to acceptance and building a supportive environment for all students resonated deeply with her. Witnessing firsthand the positive impact of these practices solidified her desire to dedicate her future career to education and psychology.

“I have applied to various universities under the prestigious Group of 8 Australia, such as the University of Melbourne and Monash University, and have received offers from both. I will be pursuing my education in Australia in February 2025.”

After graduating from Sunway College in June 2024, Jaymie plans to pursue her tertiary education in Australia next year.

To further enrich her understanding of the educational field before delving into university life, Jaymie is actively seeking internship opportunities.  At the same time, she plans to continue her impactful work as Deputy Director of Outreach for Tutors In Action Malaysia.

Jaymie’s experience at HIS is a compelling example of how an international school environment can nurture personal growth and academic success. Her journey from a quiet observer to a confident leader shows how a school that values diversity, teamwork and taking risks can truly transform its students.