Meet Amanda!

With the Penang Workshop only 3 weeks away, it’s time to meet our first featured facilitator, Amanda Ng. Lookout for her in Uplands!

Discovering Narnia in Penang
Discovering Narnia in Penang

Introduce yourself

Heya, I’m Amanda Ng Yann Chwen, a pre-frosh from Tufts University! I was born and bred in Penang, but spent a couple of years pursuing the Singapore A-Levels in Lion City as an ASEAN scholar. I love diving into new experiences and meeting different people, but am clueless about directions and terrible with names. I also use too many words (as this blog post attests). At Tufts, I hope to pursue Peace and Justice Studies, International Literary and Visual Studies and/or Education … Aiya, in other words, I’m happily undecided, and cannot wait to explore, discover and celebrate the world we live in! Eventually, I hope to return to our tanah air to help to make things a little bit better. I want to work together with fellow Malaysians to make sure that every kid in the country has access to the opportunities and excellent education they deserve – one small step at a time.

What do you do in your free time?

I read, write, watch CNN and terrible TV, try to help people and do random things. I’ve been on a gap year of sorts (eight months lah) since I left Singapore in December. So far, I’ve worked at a clothing store, waitressed at a bed and breakfast, interned at an arts festival, learned how to drive, taken dance classes, reached out to Iban kids in a jungle school, and been spending lots of time at home with family and catching up on sleep … Currently, I’m also a happy minion with Teach for Malaysia, helping the Fellows based in Penang with their initiatives outside the classroom.


Enjoying the slower pace of her gap year back home in Penang, being a tourist sometimes.
Enjoying the slower pace of her gap year back home in Penang, being a tourist sometimes.

What do you like about your college?

“Tufts oozes curiosity and enthusiasm like a rainbow-puking unicorn.” (And I got to write that in my essay.) A Tufts education is about celebrating knowledge, and then using what you’ve learned to make the world a better place, in your own way. I love that it’s a great school, but more importantly, it is unpretentious, and the people are really, really nice! The Tufts community is quirky, down-to-earth, warm, incredibly supportive, unafraid of challenging conventions and at the end of the day, kind. Every email I sent to current students was replied to in full, with a sense of openness and eagerness to help. My admissions officer knew me months before I applied, was more than happy to answer my questions, and still keeps in touch post-admission. With an adorable mascot (Jumbo the elephant!), courses like “The Politics of Pokemon” and the most diverse community of nice people I’ve ever met, what’s not to love?

How did the USAPPS help in your application process?

The Klang Valley two-day workshop I attended was awesome, in clarifying my doubts. Because of the workshop’s length, the speakers are able to address the various aspects of US apps in detail, instead of just skimming through everything. And as participants, we had plenty of chances to ask questions.

More importantly, I think becoming part of the USAPPS community was monumental, in providing the psychological/emotional support I needed to get through applications. To feel like you’re not alone in doing this, knowing that there are so many people you can reach out to if you need help. (Yay for the Facebook group.) The facilitators were amazing, always so eager to help. We kept in touch long after the workshop ended, and they would always be happy to answer the questions I bombarded them with. (Thank you Dylan, Amelia, SinSeanne, Sharon, Philip, Elaine and everyone else!)

USAPPS 2013 throwback, Sharon gets a free post-workshop massage!
USAPPS 2013 throwback, Sharon gets a free post-workshop massage!

Why is USAPPS 2014 special to you?

I remember this moment at the end of the workshop last year – Chen Chow had led all of us through this raise-your-hand, shout-your-dream-school, BELIEVE-in-yourself, you-can-do-it kinda emotional, motivational session. And standing among the participants, I looked at the facilitators all huddled together onstage, and told myself … I want to be on that other side of things next year. Lo and behold, I will indeed get to be on that other side as a facilitator, and thankful to write “Amanda, Tufts ‘18” on my sticker. USAPPS has helped me so much, so contributing a little time and energy, to hopefully help more young Malaysians achieve their dreams, is the least I could do!

Meet Bee Chern Wei!

We’re wrapping up with the last member from the USAPPS Core Committee 2014. This bubbly and fun guy has an infectious laugh which you might be mistaken for a mad scientist.

Chern Wei during Cornell's 2014 Grad Ball at the Museum of the Earth
Chern Wei during Cornell’s 2014 Grad Ball at the Museum of the Earth

Whaddup all! My name is Chern Wei, and I am a rising junior at Cornell majoring in Biological Sciences, with intended minors in Biomedical Engineering and Creative Writing. I am an aspiring scientist interested in physiology, developmental biology and infectious diseases (I’m a big fan of House MD). My dream? To run my own lab, and be the first Malaysian to ever win a Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine. In my free time, I slug around Facebook (the way you probably do too) but I also do poetry and prose composition for fun. I’m also a Penangite, and yes, I was born and raised with Char Koay Teow and Assam Laksa all my life.


What are you involved in your college that you never saw yourself doing?

I have no qualms about the answer to this: AIESEC Cornell! Quick intro: AIESEC is a student run organization (the largest one in the world, in fact) which facilitates cultural exchange. And how do we do that? Through internships! We send people from US (Cornell students for the Cornell chapter) to various countries (Brazil, China, Hungary, you name it!) and also bring people into the US for the same reasons. What have I gained from this? An amazing network and an incredibly diverse group of people who I now have the opportunity to work with, and learn from. If you had asked me a couple of years ago, I’d never thought I’d get involved in the process of sending someone to Milan for an internship.

Chilling out in the Sun with some AIESEC buddies
Chilling out in the Sun with some AIESEC buddies

What is your favorite class?

I took a writing-oriented history class during my freshman year called Witchcraft in the Early Modern Atlantic World (it’s an actual class!). What do we do? We read and write about actual 17thcentury court documents of witch trials from Germany and Salem (most of them were sentenced to hanging, unfortunately). We attempted to justify the relationship between witchcraft and political oppressions in Inca, Peru, and Kongo. We even speculated (and debated) on the existence of witches by scrutinizing various texts by religious figures on identifying witches and witchcraft symbolism. I could go on and on and on, but really, if you talk to me about witches and rituals, boy, are you in for a treat!

What do you like about your college?

Gosh, here are so many things I love about Cornell. The professors are amazing; I mean, they’re all really established in their fields and so freaking passionate about what they do, it’s contagious. Many of them are also really down to Earth, and truly care for their students. My Comparative Physiology professor takes time on Tuesdays to have dinner with us, to chat about Biology or simply random stuff! And my Organic Chemistry professor sings opera from time to time in class. We also have really good food and they are everywhere (no kidding, we have ten ‘buffet-styled’ dining halls, and over twenty cafes on campus). Not to mention, Cornell is located on top of a hill, graced by gorges and waterfalls. How much more can you ask for?


Kesha’s concert at Cornell, September 2013
Kesha’s concert at Cornell, September 2013

It may have been a while back but how did your application process go?

It was definitely no ride in the park, but it was also an incredibly rewarding experience. I think what made my application process so memorable was the essays, which were in itself, an amazing journey of self-discovery. I remember countless nights where I slept past 4 in the morning, not because I was stressed. But because I was so engrossed in writing, and I had these clouds of inspirations floating around me; I did not want them to go away! My Common App personal statement was finalized during the wee hours of the morning, two days before they were due. Oh, that satisfaction. Looking back, I really miss those late nights with my Iced Milo, and Lays chips. And occasionally my Curry Maggi Noodles.

Why is USAPPS2014 special to you?

Because I’m home for it! And because it’s another year to give back! When I was a participant, I was blessed and fortunate to have had so much support from other facilitators. Many who knew what advice to give when I needed some. Many who encouraged me, and told me to belief in myself when it came colleges applications. Now, I find it my own obligation to do the same. To give others the incredible opportunity that I was given. And to be able to help others achieve their dreams of studying in the States.


Meet Amelia Yeoh!

You’ve not met them all! With May May and Josephine form UPenn and Wesleyan University respectively, lets get to know Amelia who is studying in a liberal arts college.


Hello! I’m Amelia Yeoh, a rising sophomore at Smith College who plans to major in neuroscience. Born and raised in Penang, I’ve also spent quite some time in Kuala Lumpur; partly because my family has temporarily moved there and that I interned at the Brain Research Institute Monash Sunway (BRIMS) before coming to Smith. However, I’m a Penangite at heart and hokkien mee, to me, would always be yellow noodles in a spicy prawn broth. Yes, I am a foodie.

What was your pathway to the US?

After Form 5, I remember making a difficult decision. I turned down the JPA scholarship to study medicine and instead, pursued STPM at Saint Xavier’s Institution Penang. At 17 years old, the idea of becoming a doctor did not match my enthusiasm for Biology. At the same time, I knew my parents could not pay for a medical degree should I decide to study medicine in the future. Knowing there were not many scholarships available for a medical degree made this choice a hard one. Ultimately, I decided I should pursue something I was sure of. So I did STPM with the intention of applying to the US. Those additional two years made me realize I had other interests and the liberal arts was a good way to cultivate them. And now, here I am.

Tell us something about your application process.

I wouldn’t have gone to Smith if I didn’t know you could actually appeal for financial aid. I mean, it’s quite bizarre if you think about it. Where else could you possibly do so? It was the resources from the USAPPS and the advice from the faci’s that I believe made my financial aid appeal a success.

What do you do in your free time?

If I’m not in class, you’d find me on the water, in a boat. I wanted to row for Smith but my coach decided I’d make a better coxswain. (person in charge of steering the boat, but really there’s a lot more to it!) Yeah, somehow I ended up doing a lot of outdoor activities like skiing, kayaking, hiking and biking. Perhaps once I get out of New England, I will try surfing! But the most fun thing I’ve done in college so far was curating an art exhibition.  I submitted my name for a curatorial program and by random chance, got selected! So I designed my own posters and labels for my show and had access to 1600 drawings, 5700 photographs and more than 8000 prints stored in the Smith Art Museum. The day could not get any better when I received a congratulatory message form the wife of the photographer whose photo I featured.

Amelia with her fellow coxswain buddies at Lake Lanier in Georgia, before attempting the ‘coxswain row’.