Former CHIJ student from Taiwan shares how she coped with O-levels

Former CHIJ Secondary student Tseng Yun Ching, who moved from Taiwan in 2013, with her English teacher Ms Magdelen Low. She scored a B3 in English for her O-levels.

Moving from a foreign country that speaks a different language can be a daunting challenge.

This is what former CHIJ Secondary student Tseng Yun Ching had to deal with when she moved from Taiwan to Singapore in 2013.

On top of that, Tseng had the added responsibilty of looking after her two younger brothers, now 10 and 14-years-old, while her parents were overseas for work.

Despite all these challenges, she had an aggregate score of 8 points for her O-level examinations, including a B3 for English.

Her other results were A1s for Elementary and Additional Mathematics, and Chinese which she took during Secondary 3; A2s for Higher Chinese, Pure Chemistry and Physics; and a B3 for Humanities.

Although she learned English in Taiwan, Tseng said that she found it difficult to adjust to a school environment where most students speak English instead of Mandarin.

She shared that she “stuttered when I first spoke English here” and “sometimes I can’t really understand what the teacher is saying during class.”

On how she overcame these challenges, Tseng credits her classmates for always taking time to “talk to me and make me more fluent, they would also lend me their notes and explain to me things I don’t understand.”

Tseng’s classmates also introduced her to Vocabulary Builder, an online app that provides pronunciations for words, definitions, and examples of sentences for every word.

Her English teacher, Ms Magdelen Low, would also advise her on how she could improve on her essays.

At home, Tseng said that being the oldest, she was often required to look after her younger brothers when her parents were away.

“Whenever my parents are away, my youngest brother would sometimes cry at night so I need to try and comfort him. And honestly, I’m not very good at being comforting,” said Tseng, flashing a grin.

However, Tseng shared that her brothers would avoid troubling her while she was studying at home, knowing that it was her O-level year.

Besides taking time to study and look after her siblings, Tseng, who represented her school in squash in Sec 2 and 3, was also involved in a Values-in-Action project.

The initiative, organised by her school, would see a group of students visit a home for the elderly two to three times a year.

As project leader, Tseng was tasked with coming up with a programme for the elderly as well as managing a budget for the visit.

When asked about her plans after O-levels, Tseng shared that she applied to Anderson Junior College as her first choice because it was the nearest to her home.

As to what advice she would offer to other foreign students going through similar situations. “It will be a very new environment to most of the international students but you just have to really work hard, and start from the basics, until you reach your goal,” said Tseng.

By Jared Ng
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