Wah Loon has been helping out with behind-the-scenes work in USAPPS. He was a facilitator during the Penang Half-Day Workshop too. He is an interesting person to read about, so get to know him through his interview below!
Tell us about yourself!
Hi! I’m Keng Wah Loon, a rising freshman at Lafayette College intending to major in physics and math. Born in Kedah and, at 12, moved to Penang, I graduated from Chung Ling High School and did my A-Level at Disted. I’m a Liberal-Artsy guy who loves diversity, from sciences, art, the outdoor to folk music. This year(2012), Jung Kian brought me in to USAPPS as a facilitator; I personally attended a USAPPS workshop two years ago.
What do you like to do for fun/outside USAPPS?
I have only one principle for my hobbies: They have to be fun! Physics and math are two cores of my life in which I get to understand Mother Nature, I do art because seeing beauty makes me happy, always, juggle trekking and other adrenaline-driven outdoor adventures excite me and make me feel alive, and lastly, I enjoy reading and learning-it’s probably the trait of a liberal-art-spirit.
What did you do in high school?
Scouting was a huge part of my high school life. It was about survival skills — making fire, tying ropes, cooking — and a lot of outdoor activities — I’ve set foot on every hill and beach in Penang.
At night, I would go to the observatory in Chung Ling for star-gazing under the Astronomy Club; I learn my Astrophysics there!
For physics and math, my buddy and I would research on new topics together out of curiosity, and I think that was a healthy way of learning.
Do you remember much about your college application experience? Tell us a little about it!
Of course! It was a 3-months-long peril, because I didn’t attend the USAPPS workshop the year I applied(2011), and I’d forgotten most of the stuff learned from the 2010 workshop. I had to relearn everything from scratch, and without guidance, it’s really difficult.
Besides, studying for the SAT tests stressed my brain a lot when I took the tests concurrently with my A-level exams. Ouch!
Also, my legs had to suffer to get my documents signed, as I ran from one office to the other repeatedly in Chung Ling, and my school wasn’t small.
How do you think you stand out?
It comes down to matching your profile to the suitable schools. I applied to the Ivy League schools and liberal arts colleges(LAC), and it’s logical to think I had a better edge for the LACs with my diverse profile.
Why did you choose to apply to the US?
I love the diversity, the freedom and intellectual rigorousness in the States. Under a liberal arts system, you are free to combine any subjects you wish to pursue, which is wonderful! Frankly speaking, coming from a humble background, my other deciding-factor is money, and my college(Lafayette) pays for 90% of my total expenses. US colleges are more generous, and many of my self-funded friends are under college financial aid programs, which make the bills substantially more affordable.
Give three areas you feel you’ll be able to give advice on:
1. English. If you are worrying about not being able to master good English, find me. I’ll teach you how. I couldn’t even utter even an English sentence 3 years ago, and today I’m proud of my quasi-American English, despite never setting foot on America. I learned it in less than 2 years.
2. Liberal Arts education! If you have multiple skills in diverse fields and want an advice on liberal arts colleges, I can help.
3. You aren’t rich? Neither am I. There are ways to afford your education without funds from the government/companies. I can tell you more!
Tell us about your favorite application essay:
It was the essay for Lafayette College, titled “Cur Non?”, or “Why Not?” in Latin.
I wrote about smashing stereotypes and stepping out of my comfort zone, when I picked up art as a physics-guy. Seriously? How could a left-brained geek become a right-brained artist? I found inspirations from past and present examples: Plato, Leonardo and a physics-PhD/artist friend of mine. There was nothing bizarre about cross-training your brain, and that was where I learned about liberal arts! I didn’t flip; the artistic part of me sprouted, and I became both — a physics-guy and an artist. And the essay got me into Lafayette College.
Tell us about your least favorite application essay:
I think it was an essay regarding my intellectual pursuits. I naturally wrote about me learning physics on my own accord, bragged about how I cognized Quantum physics and String theory. There was too many clichés, and any great fan of theoretical physics could have written the same essay.
How did you feel when you received your application results?
It was 2a.m. in the morning when I received the email; and I was quite dizzy. I looked for the “Congratulations!” in it, but to no avail. I thought, “Oh Crap!” But wait! Upon reading carefully, I realized it was an acceptance letter! My emotion immediately sky-rocketed from rock-bottom. Lucky me, wasn’t killed by a heart-attack. It was dreamy, and when I woke I checked the email again. That made my day.
Why did you decide to be a part of USAPPS?
I mentioned how I suffered when I applied. Also, I’ve seen many people giving up on their applications to the US because it’s not easy. Thus, I joined USAPPS in hope to see more young Malaysians learning to climb the rope and experiencing the benefits of the US education.