The Where Are They Now blog series looks at the lives of Beijing International School alumni after the last school bell has tolled. 21 year old Michelle Chung is a YCIS alumnus from Malaysia. She attended YCIS Beijing for six years and currently attends Princeton.
Timeline since High School
What have you done since leaving high school? What are you doing now?
Since leaving high school, I’ve been studying at Princeton University. It’s been a lot of fun. As I major in Chemistry, I’ve spent my last two summers working on cancer research, which has been incredibly meaningful. My liberal arts education has also allowed me to take a lot of interesting classes outside of my major, like a Creative Writing class in which I had the opportunity to talk to Jodi Picoult and a Developmental Psychology class where we watched videos of very cute babies. Outside of class, I plan activities, like liquid nitrogen ice cream study breaks with the Chemical Society and host events, like a Chinese New Year Hotpot Celebration, with the Malaysian and Singaporean Association to teach others about our culture.
What do you miss most about high school?
Being part of a small, supportive community. I miss being in all the same classes as my friends and going on our Experiencing China and ACAMIS trips together. I was also very close to my teachers at Yew Chung. At the risk of sounding cliché, they really weren’t just my teachers, but my mentors and my friends, and I still keep in touch with them.
Advice for Students
What insight would you give to students and parents who are researching career paths and university choices?
To not be so dependent on rankings, and think more about the right fit. When I was applying to schools, I remember only relying on the rankings, just because there wasn’t too much else to go off of. But I’ve realized that each school is so unique in its teaching culture, student culture, and living environment. You’re going to spend, arguably, one of the most important three or four-year periods of your life there. On a day-to-day basis, it’s not going to matter if your classes are taught by Nobel Laureates, but if you like sitting in a 400-person lecture room or a 20-person seminar, or if you like being nestled in a peaceful suburban setting or in the middle of a bustling city. I found that the best way to learn about what it is like to go to a college is just to talk to someone who’s enrolled there. With the immense network in our international schools, it is easy to find someone who goes to ‘so-and-so’ university or someone who knows someone that does.
Memories of Beijing
What influence, if any, has your experience as an international student in Beijing had on your choices and experiences?
I love that going to an international school endows you with so much knowledge, albeit random facts about different cultures or how to order food in various languages. It’s that knowledge and general curiosity for other countries that helped me make even more international friends and learn more about different countries. It’s also incredibly nice to have a local friend showing you around when you visit a new country.
What does the future hold for you? Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
I am graduating this year and am in the process of applying for a consulting job. I don’t know about 5 years, but in 2 years, I would love to live in New York City and work at a consulting firm where I am challenged and always learning, and be able to go out and about with my friends after work.
Photos courtesy of Michelle Chung