Anderson Lam's Journey to UC Berkeley from Asia Pacific Smart School
I would like to take this opportunity to share a little about myself and my journey at Asia Pacific Smart School (APSS) that has shaped me into the person I am today. But before I begin, I'd like to share a quote that has been very meaningful to me. Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister during World War II, once said, "Never, never, never give up."
Let me provide some background context. In 2018, I transferred to APSS when I was in Form 4. However, prior to that, I was enrolled in another school, which I won't mention by name. During that time, I found myself in a difficult situation. I fell in with a group of friends who were addicted to video games, and unfortunately, their influence led me down the wrong path. I started skipping school and tuition sessions just to play games like Dota 2, League of Legends, and Wangzhe (for those who are familiar with it). I would often argue and fight with my parents when they tried to limit my access to the internet or take away my phone. Instead of focusing on my studies, I dedicated most of my time to gaming. As a result, I didn't learn much, and to pass my classes, I resorted to cheating during exams with the help of my friends. I would spend my days partying and going to clubs, neglecting my responsibilities as a student. Some of you may recognize the cyber cafe depicted in the image, as it became a place where I would escape to from school in order to play games with my friends.
However, one day, I had a moment of realization. I questioned whether this was the person I wanted to become in the future, someone who neglected their studies and spent every day partying. I was disappointed in myself when I received only 3 A's out of 10 subjects. It was at that point I decided to make a change, and I had the option to transfer to either Sri KDU or APSS. Eventually, I chose APSS.
Initially, I was placed in 4SC3 because I wanted to study computer science and my grades weren't exceptional. It seemed like a logical choice. However, I didn't feel motivated in that environment. I felt a sense of laziness and a lack of drive to work hard. That's when I thought, why not challenge myself and switch to SC1? I decided to study biology, a subject I had no interest in. So, I approached Mrs. Chee, who was the APSS principal at the time. When I told her about my desire to switch from SC3 to SC1, she laughed, thinking I was joking at first. She hesitated to grant my request and expressed her frustration because I should have approached her earlier. Mrs. Chee asked me to get permission from my mother, so I called her. As many of you may know, Asian mothers tend to be cautious and question such decisions. My mother had her doubts as well, but eventually, I assured her that I was determined to make this change. I returned to Mrs. Chee and informed her that my mother approved. To my surprise, she responded by saying, "You better score well, or else I will move you back to SC2 or SC3." I felt a mix of anger and determination. Although Mrs. Chee didn't initially trust me, I knew I had to work extremely hard and never give up to prove myself.
Being in 4SC1 was initially stressful because everyone seemed so intelligent, and they had achieved excellent results in the PT3 examination. I was probably the only one who scored less than 5 A's. However, I am truly grateful for my Homeroom Teacher (HRT), Ms. Lim, who believed in me wholeheartedly. She appointed me as the class monitor to help me connect with my classmates more easily and develop a sense of responsibility. I was fortunate to have classmates who were always willing to lend a helping hand whenever I asked for assistance. They were friendly and supportive, and I cherished their presence.
I didn't want to let them down, and I didn't want my poor grades to reflect negatively on the reputation of SC1. Therefore, as you can see from the image, I dedicated myself to studying. I had never witnessed students coming to school an hour early just to study, or going to the library during lunch breaks instead of eating. I was influenced by their commitment, and although I occasionally indulged in lunch or basketball, I often joined them in the library to study. One positive aspect of 4SC1 was our unity. We always stuck together as a group, never leaving anyone behind, whether it was going to the canteen, the library, or anywhere else.
I tried my best in the first few months, but my results didn't improve significantly. In fact, for the first time in my life, I failed an exam. I failed my Chinese exam, and I felt disappointed in myself. I believed I had worked hard, yet I still received poor grades. However, my classmates never looked down on me. They continued to support and guide me, helping me with subjects I struggled with. I persisted in studying diligently, and eventually, things started to turn around.
During the final exams for Form 4, I achieved straight A's, including Chinese and Additional Mathematics. I was one of only three students at APSS who obtained straight A's in the Form 4 final exams, and I felt an immense sense of pride. In fact, the three of us in the picture were very close friends. We studied and hung out together, forming a diverse group representing Malaysia with Chinese, Malay, and Indian backgrounds. I was truly proud of our collective achievement.
We didn't stop there. I didn't stop there. Throughout our entire Form 5 journey, my classmates in 5SC1 and I continued to strive for excellence in every exam. I'm grateful that I was able to maintain straight A's throughout Form 5, including the Trial SPM examination.
You might be wondering if our dedication to studying meant that we didn't enjoy ourselves. I can confidently say that we had the most fun during those years. We did everything together, like a family. We participated in competitions, hung out, and played games. Those were the best memories of my life. One important lesson I learned during that time was that life is not solely about achievements; it's about the friends you make and the community you build along the way. Enjoy the journey, embrace the process, and strive to improve every single day. Life can be challenging, and if you think SPM is tough, college is even more demanding, and life after college presents its own set of obstacles. To be honest, many teachers disliked our class because we were considered arrogant and rebellious. Mr. Selvam scolded us every week, and Ms. Rathi was disappointed with our results. Nevertheless, we overcame these challenges as a class, supporting each other through the hardships.
Even after graduating in 2019, we continued to meet every year for a dinner gathering. As the class monitor, I was often responsible for organizing these reunions. We have gathered in 2020, 2021, 2022, and this year. It has been four years since we graduated, yet we still make it a point to come together annually. I hope we can continue this tradition in the future.
Fast forward to last year, I was accepted into the top-ranked public university in the world, UC Berkeley, where I am currently studying Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences, a program that ranks among the top three globally. Some of you may be familiar with Ivy League universities, and I was fortunate to receive acceptance from one of them as well. If you had asked me a few years ago whether I believed I would attend Berkeley, I would have thought you were crazy. I never thought I would have the opportunity to study in the US or attend one of the top 100 universities in the world. This achievement seemed unimaginable due to my poor performance during PT3 and my excessive gaming habits.
In conclusion, I would like to share five pieces of advice with all of you. Firstly, remember that nothing is impossible. Dare to pursue your dreams and don't let others' opinions or judgments discourage you. Secondly, embrace failures with an open heart, as they serve as valuable lessons on your journey. Thirdly, believe in yourself and never give up, even when faced with challenges. Fourthly, work hard and work smart because success does not come without effort. Lastly, remember that life is about more than just achievements. It's about the friendships you cultivate and the communities you build along the way. Enjoy the process, be patient, and strive to improve every day. Life may be tough, but the rewards are worth it.