School Advisor Articles

Unveiling the journey of Shreya Pillai: From Garden International School to Imperial College London

Published by SchoolAdvisor | Nov 22, 2023

Shreya Pillai, a student from Garden International School (GIS), embodies the essence of ambition and perseverance. Her journey from GIS to securing admission at Imperial College London in pursuit of a Master of Engineering in Chemical Engineering is a testament to the invaluable experiences and support she received throughout her school years.

"At GIS, there is never a lack of opportunity, and that's what stood out to me most," Shreya expresses when reflecting on her time at the school. 

Shreya’s time at GIS helped her to gain admission into Imperial College London

Studying at Garden International School

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, 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. 

This nurturing learning environment led Shreya to excel academically, securing 4 A*s in Further Mathematics, Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology for her A Levels. She gushed, “This definitely couldn’t have been done without the resourcefulness and dedication of my teachers, and I’m sure my peers would agree. It’s clear that the teachers are passionate about their subjects, which fosters a love for the subject among students. Something I found especially useful was the after-school subject support sessions where we could revise and clear doubts with our teachers.”

GIS also nurtured her interest in Chemical Engineering by providing an environment that inspired curiosity and fostered interdisciplinary learning. “Chemical engineering allows me to integrate my A Level subjects and offers diverse applications,” she elaborates.

In school, Shreya is a model student, receiving several awards. This includes the Student Leadership Strand Award — awarded for outstanding contribution to the GIS Student Leadership programme through her work as Director of the Digital Strand — silver in the 2020 Kangaroo Maths Challenge and Gold in the UKMT Senior Maths Challenge in 2020 and 2022.

Such accolades would not be possible if not for the culture at GIS that emphasises participation and improvement. Shreya shares, “Our teachers always informed us of any external competitions coming up and how to participate, and ensured we had the resources to participate. I believe it’s best to work hard and stay dedicated, which is easiest to do when you enjoy what you’re doing, and you will be rewarded one way or another.”

Beyond academics, active participation in co-curricular activities (CCAs) also played a significant role in shaping Shreya's holistic development. “Participating in CCAs helped me develop transferable skills and allowed me to meet people outside my usual school circle.” 

These experiences helped her cultivate teamwork and leadership skills, which universities highly value.


THRIVE Internship Programme 

As a student at GIS, Shreya benefited from many features that elevated her education. One such example is the THRIVE internship programme. All Year 12 students can participate in a four-week THRIVE internship that aligns with their interests, providing invaluable real-world knowledge and skills while working alongside experienced industry professionals. This internship programme gives students a glimpse into their future paths. 

Shreya greatly benefitted from this programme and learnt more about herself. She shares, “At the time, I was interested in pursuing medicine. I did two internships in the programme — a one-week placement at Newcastle University Malaysia learning about antibiotic resistance and a three-week placement at CVSKL shadowing a cardiologist. These placements were a different kind of eye-opener for me. I reflected on my experience and realised that medicine was not for me.”

Instead of the consultations and operations, Shreya realised she was more interested in the equipment and the laboratories, putting her on a new path that eventually led to chemical engineering — something she’d discovered through THRIVE.

“THRIVE was so important to me because it changed the trajectory of my academic career. I believe it’s a great programme that can serve students tremendously.”

Shreya is excited to start her education journey at Imperial as it was her top choice in the UK.

Pursuing higher education at Imperial College London

Securing a spot at any university abroad is a hassle and challenging. For Shreya, her path to Imperial College London was paved with guidance and support from GIS’s Higher Education (HE) team. 

“The HE team was truly invaluable throughout the admission process. I applied to multiple countries, and they helped me navigate the different application systems and other unique logistics,” Shreya emphasises.

The HE team also offered insightful feedback on essays and personal statements through 1-to-1 sessions and even conducted mock interviews, ensuring students like Shreya were well-prepared for the rigorous admissions process.

Perks of studying in an international school

Studying in an international school like GIS broadened Shreya’s perspective, emphasising the importance of diverse communities. “It challenged me to be a better version of myself in many ways and also introduced me to people I’m sure will be lifelong friends,” she shares. 

Shreya also believes that the exposure to different cultures has enhanced her social awareness, shaping her into a more open-minded individual. “I’m much more in touch with the traditions of various cultures, and I understand the impact of [social] issues.” 

Reflecting on her journey after graduating from GIS, Shreya offered some golden nuggets for students looking to follow in her footsteps. She encourages students to stay true to their interests, embrace what they enjoy, and not fear reevaluating their path. “Have faith in yourself throughout this process and craft applications to the best of your abilities to any schools you like – just shoot your shot”

Shreya is eagerly preparing for her journey at Imperial College London and says, “Imperial was my top choice in the UK, and its chemical engineering department has a high reputation with excellent facilities like the carbon capture plant, which I can’t wait to get involved with.”

Shreya’s journey from GIS to Imperial College London is an inspiration, emphasising the importance of passion, resilience and embracing opportunities. Her story exemplifies the transformative power of education and the supportive environment of GIS, setting the stage for a promising future at one of the world's leading universities.