Meet Chien Teng!

Also joining Amanda as a facilitator in the Penang Workshop this 21st June is none other than Chien Teng! We are certainly glad to have her back this year.

Went to LA for Spring Break and it was such an awesome getaway! Not to mention the perfect Cali weather.
Went to LA for Spring Break and it was such an awesome getaway! Not to mention the perfect Cali weather.

Introduce yourself

Hi everyone! My name is Chia Chien Teng and I am a rising sophomore at Brown University. I am a potential double concentrator in Economics and International Relations.

Did you apply elsewhere? Why did you choose the US?

I applied to the UK as well, but chose the US ultimately for the flexibility the system provided as I wasn’t ready to commit entirely to a single field of study. This past year, I managed to gain a very holistic education by taking classes in object-oriented programming, poetry and Korean; it has enriched my experience here so much and I have absolutely no regrets!

Tell us about your transition to college

I am really blessed to have met some really diverse groups of people this past year, all of whom have helped make my transition to college a pleasant and loving one. I never once felt homesick because Brown became my home almost immediately.

Some of my friends and I before we set off for Boston during Fall Weekend - my first trip out of Providence.
Some of my friends and I before we set off for Boston during Fall Weekend – my first trip out of Providence.

Has the US changed you? If yes, how so?

The way I view the world – I am now a lot more passionate about human rights, women rights, sexual liberty and racial equality, things I didn’t care as much for before I went to the US. The youth activists here are really passionate about what they do and that has inspired me to do the same not just in the US but in Malaysia as well.

One of the highlights of my freshman year - teaching a Malay language class. It was an amazing opportunity for me to share both my language and culture with language enthusiasts!
One of the highlights of my freshman year – teaching a Malay language class. It was an amazing opportunity for me to share both my language and culture with language enthusiasts!




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’.

Meet Josephine!


Now that you’ve met May May, it’s time to meet another member from the USAPPS2014 Core Committee,  Josephine Ho. Read on to learn more about her!



Enjoying the fall season
Enjoying the fall season

Hello! I am Josephine and I am a sophomore at Wesleyan University. I have lived in Kuala Lumpur all my life until I came to Wesleyan. I haven’t been to the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak, but I have been to Sabah and have climbed Mount Kinabalu! I enjoy traveling although I can’t say I am an outdoor person. I spent all my breaks in the US thus far and have been really lucky to have friends who love traveling too. Moving to Middletown has made me appreciate the vibrance of a big city. I am so glad that NYC is just two hours away!

What do you do in your free time?

When I am free, I spend time at the dining hall, eating really slowly and catching up with my friends. My college’s dining hall has a great selection of food but there is nothing like home-cooked meals. I love having potlucks because it motivates me to cook good dishes for my friends. I am casual Latin dancer so I take dance classes with a dance instructor who comes to campus each week. I live in the Japanese Hall on campus because I have a keen interest in living and collaborating with people who are equally interested in Japanese culture. I have a keen interest origami, particularly modular origami. There is a beautiful cemetery atop the hill behind my dorm. When it is not too cold, my friends and I would stroll to the hilltop to watch the city nightlights or the sunset.

Having fun at Wesleyan's  SEA cultural night
Having fun at Wesleyan’s SEA cultural night

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

I played the erhu in a Chinese music ensemble during my freshman year. It was my first time playing a musical instrument in many years.

How do you deal with homesickness?

I tend to be homesick when life becomes too comfortable and monotonous. To combat this, I travel during breaks and try out new things. It can be as simple as a new restaurant in town or getting to know a new friend! I have also met a bunch of friends who are really warm and supportive. We celebrate birthdays with potlucks, video games and karaoke– we have a friend who has a gig in karaoke services!

Curing homesickness with some karaoke.

Meet May May!


That’s right, the USAPPS 2014 is back again this summer with an exciting series of workshops coming your way. In the mean time let’s meet, May May, who is overseeing the core committee this year and has been working hard with the core to make this year’s workshops the best yet!


Enjoying the first days of spring 2014 on High Rise Field

Hi! My name is May May and I am currently a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania. I was raised in Kuala Lumpur, but my family is Sarawakian (taking full ownership of the ‘K’ on my IC). In other words, I have extremely high standards when it comes to the freshness of fish, been on speedboats way too many times than I care for, and know what its like to have goats in my backyard. I love the contrast between East and West Malaysia, and I appreciate the fact that I got to experience the dichotomy growing up.

Some other things I like are music, sunshine and Faber-Castell color pencils. I also have this mild obsession with hair bows. During my school days, I spent far too many conscious hours playing computer games (I was one of those kids who replayed RPGs to the point where I would walk away during cut scenes because I knew all the lines).

What do you do in your free time?

Watching the sunrise from the steps leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Watching the sunrise from the steps leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art

I used to find myself strolling to Center City Philadelphia whenever I had free time, back when I had free time. Philadelphia is honestly a great city, and there is way too much to explore, from food to culture to history. Every time I think I’ve seen it all, a friend of mine would post up a photo of a different area in town, or a really cool restaurant that I have not been to, and that is more than enough for me to justify another trip down. I spend a great deal of time drawing and designing. To me, art is a realm of endless possibilities, and it makes me really happy to be able to turn a blank canvas into something meaningful. Back home, I was also the kid who brought brownies and macarons to group projects because I was constantly baking, and over-baking. Who knows, I might whip something up during the workshops!

Disney World over winter with USAPPS veterans!

Why is USAPPS 2014 special to you?

Because I’m on the core! Jokes. Yes, it means a great deal to me because I am personally involved, but I think that USAPPS 2014 is great because the first cohort of students that attended the very first USAPPS workshops will be graduating from university this year. With this, I think that USAPPS has reached a whole new milestone, and seeing how well all of these seniors turned out is a huge source of inspiration for me. It is my hope that they would be able to bring their stories and experiences to the table and inspire the next batch of Malaysian dreamers. USAPPS 2014 will be bringing changes to the table – I look forward to it!

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

Everyone who has known me in the past would laugh out loud at the fact that I am part of a fraternity – a professional business fraternity, at that!

 How do you deal with homesickness?

To be completely honest, I don’t! It’s not to say that I don’t sometimes miss having a bed two times larger than it has to be, my adorable cats, and being able to use completely mangled English and still have people understand what I am saying. Rather, I am just very blessed to be surrounded by very loving people who have become my home away from home. My Bible study group does potlucks all the time so I get loads of home-cooked food, which is great. I am very involved with the Malaysian Student Association on campus, too, and it is a very warm community. We often have joint events with other ASEAN constituent groups (where we basically get together and eat massive amounts – yet often not enough -of Asian food) and it’s been great!

Spring break potluck with my SGP Bible Study



Meet Yoshnee!

With the 2 Day workshop just days away, let’s get to know more about one rising senior who’s part of our team of friendly facis, Yoshnee!

Introduce yourself!

Hello folks, my name is Yoshnee and that is how I usually go by. For some odd reason, most people seem to pronounce my name as “Yaw”-shnee thus compelling me to tell them that it’s actually pronounced “Yo” like “yo-yo wassup”.  Other nicknames of mine include Yosh and Yoshi — yes I used to play Super Mario 64 when I was a kid and I know Yoshi is this green dinosaur character from there.

Born and brought up in KL. I attended SMK Assunta and then TCSH for my A-levels before heading to the US of A. I am currently a rising senior at UCLA. What do I enjoy doing during my free time? Other than the watching a movie, sleeping and surfing the net usuals, I also enjoy sitting down and talking about anything and everything with friends and family over some great food. Two of my favourite topics are politics and celebrities – yes a big contrast indeed! Lastly, you can’t say you know a tad bit about me if you don’t know that I am huge fan of The Vampire Diaries. Just understand that in this case, the synonyms of huge also include crazy, super and obsessed –so yea, you get the picture.

What did you do in high school?

I was a prefect all throughout secondary school, from the end of Form 1 to Form 5, so I was pretty disciplined, strict and autocratic (Yea right? This is probably the biggest joke ever). No, but yea I was also very much into badminton and I used to represent the Selangor State up until I was 17. I spent most of my after school hours attending centralized training, therefore I wasn’t very active with any ECA’s in school. I remember that in the whole month of March 2006, I only went to school for one week because I was away on tournaments most of the time that month.

Why did you choose to apply to the US?

To be honest, my story is quite complicated. To make this brief, lets start with the fact that my father did his Undergrad Degree in the US as well, so he had always been encouraging me to do the same from a very young age. When I was doing my A-levels, I was surrounded by classmates who were gearing up to go to the UK, which influenced me to think that that would be a better option. Despite that, I still kept my options opened and let’s just say that upon the request of my father, I randomly (keyword: randomly) applied to the UC schools. I initially intended to apply to more universities in the US, but with the workload and pressure from doing A-levels, I just didn’t have the time and capacity. Well, I’m here now, so it all worked out for the best – and I’m more than glad it did.

Why did you decide to be a part of USAPPS?

Because I know how it feels like to be clueless, to not know how to go about and to deal with what’s in store for you during the next few months; at the peak of the application process. I wish I knew about USAPPS during the time when I applied. It’s always nice to have someone who has “been there and done that” to guide you and answer your questions. The time has come for me to give back by sharing my journey, thoughts and experiences with all of you folks who aspire to study in the States. Just like Chan Leong wrote in his blog post, the reason is simple, and it’s – you!

Meet Elsheba!

All pumped up and ready for next weekend’s  USAPPS 2 Day workshop? Spend some time to learn more about one of the awesome facis we have helping out this year – Elsheba!

Introduce yourself!

Hey everyone! Elsheba K. Abraham here and I am a rising sophomore currently studying in Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In simpler terms, I’ve basically finished my first (freshman) year in college. I’m back in Malaysia for the wonderful three month summer break that we have before continuing my second year in Hopkins! I am currently considering a double major in Behavioral Biology and Anthropology with a minor in Italian. Yes, if it’s not apparent – I kind of like to study people haha.

What did you do in high school?

Friends at Hopkins Spring Fair

Before I ended up studying in the USA I was just a regular kid studying in SMK (P) Sri Aman in PJ. I was into lots of things in high school: track, tennis and being a prefect took up a large part of my secondary school life.  Outside of school, I developed other interests too – some of which I still keep at till today. I absolutely love dancing (hip-hop especially though I don’t discriminate against other styles) and will find any opportunity to either perform or watch other dance performances. Being the curious traveler that I am, I also make it a point to do as much traveling and exploring as I can – not only in other countries, but in my beloved Klang Valley too. I’m always up for an adventure, and finding hidden food treasures come at the top of my priorities as a traveler.

Why the US?

After studying in Sri Aman, I was given a scholarship by JPA to study in the US. So I was sent to INTEC, Shah Alam to do my ADFP for a year before finally flying over to the States. When I applied for a scholarship to the US, I didn’t even know what field of study I was interested at that time. All I knew was that whatever I studied, I wanted to study in the US. What caused my strong fascination for the US was their unique and wholesome approach to education. I appreciated the fact that students were given enough flexibility to explore their academic options before deciding on their major, and emphasis was placed on knowledge inside as well as outside the classroom. So that’s why it was such a relief to know my dreams were becoming reality when I received my acceptance letter to JHU. Although Hopkins was not my first choice, I’ve come to realize that I was meant to go here and have not looked back since.

What made you join USAPPS?

Sitting at the Hopkins sign

The only reason why I am able to sit here and write to you about my ongoing experience in the US is because I had guidance when I was applying for the US; the people around me helped to ensure I got a spot in the universities of my choice. That is why I am with the USAPPS 2013 team now – I can only hope to give back a little bit of what I got to everyone else thinking of applying to the States. It is a wonderful country with such an amazing range of people, environments and attitudes that you could only dream of. The US is the perfect place for someone to develop both in intellect and as a person in general, and I want to help prepare you for the best four years of your life.

Meet Si Ning!

We just covered Annabelle, a rising freshman at Mount Holyoke College (if you haven’t read it, it’s just over here). Now, let’s meet someone at the other end of the spectrum in terms of experience – a fresh graduate! Introducing…..Si Ning!

Introduce yourself!

Si Ning

Hi! My name’s Si Ning, and I’ve just graduated from Cornell University, that big beautiful university in the middle of nowhere. During my time in Cornell, I double majored in Economics and Government and double minored in Spanish and Southeast Asian Studies. If they had a PE minor, I would have totally gone for that too – one of my happiest achievements in Cornell is having fitted in six semesters of belly dancing, two semesters of swimming and massage each and a semester of rock climbing into my schedule there. Do feel free to discuss with me any and all of these subjects!

What did you do in high school?

I was pretty much the ultimate bookworm during my time in SMK Taman SEA – I still am, in fact, as I voraciously devour any novel which catches my eye. I took part in some Scrabble competitions (though if you were to ask me now, I’ve totally forgotten all those interesting Scrabble tactics and vocab) and was the sub-editor for our school’s editorial board. In short, I like reading, writing, word games and academic stuff. That hasn’t changed much over the years!

Favorite bands/music/books?

On the Cornell Arts Squad – see the clocktower!

Gothic symphonic metal is my one true love. Sometimes random songs from other genres will catch my fancy, but it is bands like Nightwish, Within Temptation and Lacuna Coil which I return to at the end of the day. One of the more enjoyable perks of being in the US was that I got to attend some of their live concerts; one less enjoyable experience was accidentally getting caught in a mosh pit in one such concert. I like not getting squished to a pancake by excited metal fans, thank you very much.

As for books, I can’t really pick a favorite – there’s just so many awesome ones! While I am certainly more partial to sci-fi/fantasy novels (Tolkien, Terry Pratchett and Piers Anthony have contributed quite a lot to my little library at home), I’m happy to lose myself in the occasional Dean Koontz suspense thriller or Georgette Heyer romance novel. Browsing through secondhand bookstores like Pay Less Books was my favorite weekend activity, as I could find so many great books by lesser-known authors that way.

What do you like to do for fun outside of USAPPS?

Learning. I love acquiring new knowledge, just for the sake of knowing more (classes don’t really count – I tend to end up learning for grades there). Currently, I’m taking shameless advantage of the free resources available online and learning German via, coding via, public speaking skills via, etc.

Belly dance class

Meet Annabelle!

With our 2 Day workshop just around the corner, let’s meet some of the awesome facilitators who will be at the workshop ready to answer your questions! To start things off, let’s get to know more about Annabelle:

Introduce yourself!

Volunteering for SPARTFEST

Hello dreamers! I am Annabelle, a rising freshman at Mount Holyoke College. It seems that I have run out of creative introductions so I will just start by listing a few of the many things I love and see if they resonate with your interests : BBC period dramas (namely film adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels), Korean sageuks, sashimi, ice cream, weird conversations. One last random fact : I am really terrified of butterflies.

What did you do in high school?

I was the secretary of the librarian board (geeks unite!). On weekends, I practiced yoga alongside people at least 30 years my senior and traveled to Sentul to volunteer in a weekly reading program for socially-disadvantaged kids. I played the classical guitar ( <3 Andy McKee!). I doodled pointlessly. I wrote extensively on my blog (oh, the good old teen-angsty period.). I also took a gap year after completing A-Levels in TCSJ in June 2012. I spent half of my gap year working in the randomest of places : a printing company where I had to learn to use Adobe Photoshop to design name cards, Kumon (‘nuff said.), an advertising  company where I spent days convincing people to sign up for Unifi in front of a Maybank branch and a real-estate diploma school. As for the remaining months of my gap year, I joined a research internship in the Brain Research Institute of Monash Sunway, learned to cook Asian food at home (while trying to NOT

Interning in the Brain Research Institute of Monash Sunway

burn down my kitchen), volunteered in occasional events like SPARTFEST, etc.

Do you remember much about your college application experience? Tell us a little about it!

The most memorable part of my college applications is probably the (really unexpected) free trips I was bestowed with. One of the liberal arts colleges I applied, Rollins College, shortlisted me as a finalist for its full merit scholarship and flew me all the way to Florida (all expenses paid!) over a weekend in February. Over that weekend, I had the hugest culture shock ever when I noticed how different a class was conducted in the States, in comparison to that of in Malaysia. In stark contrast, every student practically jumped at the opportunity to express their opinions rather than frantically taking down notes. In the same month, I was also shortlisted as one of the final candidates for admission for NYU Abu Dhabi. NYUAD flew me to its Abu Dhabi campus for its Candidate’s Weekend (all expenses paid as well!) and that was when I realized climbing up a sand dune is MUCH harder than it seems.

From the top of a sand dune in Abu Dhabi

In early April, I was admitted to NYU Shanghai and got flown to Shanghai (I guess, at this point, it goes without saying that it is, too, an all-expense-paid trip.) for its admitted students’ weekend. To call these trips life-changing isn’t an exaggeration at all – I was no longer this sheltered kid who has never been anywhere outside the Southeast Asia; I formed life-long friendships with truly exceptional people from Nepal, Hungary and the States; I started doing things outside my comfort zone like talking to random people in the airports and being blunter than usual in my admissions interviews; and the list goes on.

Why did you choose to apply to the US?

Because (a) it’s the only awesome country that has a liberal arts and sciences education system which allows me to major in academically-disparate combinations, like neuroscience and economics, and (b) the generous financial aid policy enables me to study in the States while paying what my parents would have paid had I studied in a private local institution.

Dorm in Rollins College

Why did you decide to be a part of USAPPS?

I learnt about terms like ED and CSS PROFILE when I attended my first USAPPS workshop in TCSJ in 2009 when I was 16 and clueless. I applied to American universities twice in a row (after failing to secure financial aid the first time) and I believe I couldn’t have done it without the support of one of the USAPPS facilitators. USAPPS has played a crucial role in my application(s) to the US and I hope, by volunteering as a facilitator, USAPPS continues to be of help to any prospective Malaysian applicants. Any financial aid applicants who have questions about minimizing your application costs, feel free to talk to me!