Why The US? – Rachel Leong (University of Pennsylvania ’20)

USAPPS is back and so is our series of insights, musings, and stories from our super excited team of facilitators! What other better way to kick it off with a blog post from none other than our very own core committee member?

Meet Rachel, a current freshman at University of Pennsylvania who is pursuing a major in Actuarial Science and possibly, Finance. Here, she shares -with just the right amount of cantor- why she chose to study in the States and why you should, too!


Why the US?

Not that many people are familiar with my story, so here it is: My whole life, I wanted to study in the U.K. After receiving my SPM results, I toured A-Level colleges in Malaysia and started going through the syllabi (yes, I’m a nerd). It was my lifelong dream to study in England, and I was so close to making it a reality. However, my glee was short-lived because my scholarship provider decided to send me to the U.S. instead.

At that point, I was devastated. Why would I want to study in the U.S.?

After a few weeks of being bummed, I started conducting research about college life in America. I told myself that I would make the most out of the experience. Now, after almost 2 semesters at the University of Pennsylvania, I can confidently say that being sent to the U.S. was a blessing in disguise, and here is why.

1. I can take whatever classes I want to take, and graduate whenever I can

Imagine taking a class on Jay Z and Kanye West or a class that analyzes the Hunger Games. Well, in America, you can!

The flexibility of the education system here is one of the main reasons most students choose to pursue their degrees in the U.S. Here, we aren’t constrained by the major that we declare in our first year, unlike in the U.K. For instance, I’m enrolled in a lot of language classes even though I am a business major. One of my friends is in a Sitar class, and another is in a Yoga class (all for credit!). There is really no limit to what you can do in college classes here.

As for graduating, the recommended period one studies here is 4 years, but depending on when you complete the required number of credits, you can graduate earlier (or later). I know quite a few people who are graduating after 3 years, and some who are graduating after 5 years.

2. The grading system keeps me on my toes

I am someone who loves to study at the last minute. Back in secondary school, I would only open my Sejarah textbook the night before the exam and try to remember as much as I could. Here, with constant quizzes and assignments, I don’t have to cram right before the final exams because I would have studied consistently throughout the semester.


3. The holistic experience

The U.S. system emphasizes holism, so extra-curricular activities are as important as classes. There are out-of-class activities in the U.K. and Australia, too, but there is more emphasis on them here – just look at the university applications, which consider each applicant holistically. There is something for everyone here, whether you want to pitch stocks or want to advocate for LGBTQ rights.

Last semester, I took a class, Management 100 which provided me with so much hands-on experience. In this course, Freshmen are randomly assigned into groups of 10, and have to work with a non-profit organization in Philadelphia to take on a project. My team organized a week-long art show. Some of my friends had to provide management consultation to their clients, while some taught elementary school students.

4. Greek Life (WOHOO!)

Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, it’s not uncommon to see groups of college students walking to the different frat houses on campus. I personally do not enjoy frat parties that much, but I have attended a few just for the experience. They’re fun, especially if you go with a bunch of friends.

Before I came to the U.S., I told myself that I would never be involved in a fraternity or sorority, but guess who’s in a business fraternity now? Me. Professional fraternities aren’t technically considered “greek life” but that’s as ratchet as I’m ever going to be.

All-in-all, being here has been amazing so far, and I’m looking forward to the next few years. Let’s see if I come back with an ang-moh boyfriend.