School Advisor Articles

Leannie Liew’s Journey at Cempaka International School: Pushing Boundaries and Discovering Potential

Published by SchoolAdvisor | Apr 15, 2024

Leannie Liew Zhi Yan spent seven formative years at Cempaka International School, first at Cempaka International Ladies College and later at the Damansara Campus — where she completed both her IGCSEs and A-Levels.

“Whenever I describe my experience at Cempaka International School, I would always say it was ‘the biggest turning point’ in my life.”

She believes the school has shaped her remarkably — something she hadn’t realised when she was young. Now, looking back,  Leannie credits Cempaka with fostering a ‘nothing is impossible’ mindset that continues to propel her forward.

A Nurturing Learning Environment

Cempaka’s learning environment played a pivotal role in Leannie’s development. The school provided a comfortable, technology-integrated space that encouraged exploration and challenged students to think critically. Stepping beyond academics, the school actively promoted participation in creative pursuits like sports and performing arts, fostering a well-developed ‘think outside the box’ approach.

At the heart of this environment were Cempaka’s dedicated teachers. Leannie describes them as “the most giving and supporting individuals,” readily available to answer questions and provide guidance throughout her IGCSEs and A-Levels. This supportive atmosphere fostered a safe space for exploration, allowing Leannie to ask questions and learn from mistakes, reinforcing the school’s ‘nothing is impossible’ mindset.

The result? Leannie is now independent and works hard for her dreams that seem unattainable, and that was the most useful skill she picked up from her learning years at Cempaka. “Sometimes, as kids, we do not fully realise how powerful this soft skill is, but it really gets you far in life. When the foundation of your academic pursuits teaches you ‘nothing is impossible’, the boundaries are endless, and nothing can truly block you.”

Holistic Development Through Co-curricular Activities

Leannie's time at Cempaka wasn’t limited to academics. She actively participated in co-curricular activities, and the school’s ‘why not?’ attitude encouraged her to explore new interests.

For instance, before coming to Cempaka, Leannie had a strong foundation in piano.  The school’s encouraging environment further pushed her to explore new horizons, leading her to pick up violin and gamelan, as well as discovering her hidden talent in dance. This active participation not only honed her musical and artistic abilities but also provided her with invaluable performance and choreography experience — opportunities she doubted she would have found elsewhere.

Thanks to her years at Cempaka, Leannie has developed skills that have helped her to be independent and work hard for her goals.

Leannie’s leadership qualities also blossomed at Cempaka. Elected co-captain of her sports house, Seladang, she led a team despite initial inexperience. The challenges she faced during her tenure proved a crucial learning curve, equipping her with valuable skills for future leadership roles in university projects and her part-time job.

“During my final semester at university, I completed an internship while juggling my part-time job and full-time studies. The semester was tiring, but every day my head was filled with questions like ‘Why not get good grades’, ‘Why not do well for my internship?’ and ‘Why not continue working part-time to gain experience?’. The tenacity, I believe, was cultivated during my time at Cempaka.”

Excelling in A-Levels at Cempaka

Leannie excelled in her A-Levels, achieving straight As in Biology, Chemistry, Economics and Mathematics. However, she attributes this success largely to the exceptional teaching support she received. The A-level curriculum posed a significant challenge compared to IGCSEs and Leannie relied heavily on her dedicated teachers and comprehensive study materials

One such teacher was Ms. Meei Lin, the head of A-Levels and Chemistry teacher, who pushed Leannie and her classmates to excel.

“She always stressed the importance of doing past-year papers (PYP), starting as early as our first few months in our first year of A-levels by preparing quizzes containing PYP questions. Whenever we scored less than our ideal marks, Ms Meei Lin and the teachers would always encourage us to keep moving forward with continuous practising, always behind our backs to support and push us to higher heights.”

When it came to tertiary education, Cempaka’s Higher Education (HE) team, especially the head of A-Levels, Ms Meei Lin, played a crucial role in Leannie’s successful university application to Monash University Malaysia. The team ensured the students started early and were involved in the process all the way.

“From providing us with guidance in selecting our majors in university to sourcing help from third parties to ensure we were provided with all the information necessary for admission into our desired schools, the team had rendered us a smooth application journey to university.”

For Leannie, Cempaka has been inarguably the biggest turning point of her life.

A Journey of Unexpected Passions

While Leannie initially leaned towards BioChemistry, her time at Cempaka led her down a different path. She discovered a love for Business and Economics during her second year of A-Levels, which led her to pursue a Bachelor of Business and Commerce at Monash University, majoring in Business Analytics and International Business Management.

This shift stemmed from her passion for Mathematics and Economics, subjects nurtured by the school’s engaging teaching methods. She enjoyed solving challenging math problems, which made her curious about how solutions were found. For Economics, she initially found it challenging, but later, by asking questions, it became an area she explored with the help of her teachers and peers.

A Seamless Transition to University Life

Cempaka’s rigorous academic environment prepared Leannie well for university life. The independent learning style at university, where students are responsible for seeking clarification, mirrored the approach instilled at Cempaka during her A-Levels.

“During my time at university, I could cope relatively fast with my studies, and I knew to always ask questions by attending consultations.”

Leannie readily adapted, drawing upon the study habits she built at Cempaka to excel in her university studies.

Advice for Parents Considering International Schools

For parents considering international schools for their children, Leannie emphasises the opportunity for global exposure.

“International schools are good options for those wanting their children to explore beyond national grounds. Based on my observations being in an international school, these schools give you a lot of exposure to international matters, such as the command of language, teaching materials and course structure that matches well with universities abroad.”

However, she suggests choosing a school that aligns with their child’s interests, as different schools cultivate different student profiles.


Leannie believes international schools give students a lot of exposure to international matters, including the command of the language and course structure that matches well with universities abroad.

A Lasting Impact: Cempaka’s Legacy

Cempaka undeniably shaped Leannie into the confident and ambitious individual she is today. The school equipped her with valuable hard and soft skills she applies daily in her workforce.

“Today, I am working at a bank in Melbourne, which is something I could not have envisioned when I was younger. Hence, I believe nothing is impossible, just as my alma mater, Cempaka, once and continues to say.”