Greetings! My name is Chadwin, and I am an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan (UMich) Ann Arbor, currently majoring in Chemistry.
The most challenging aspect of my transition from high school to university was adapting to the American environment. While in Ann Arbor, I had to get used to long-distance travel since there was no metro system, inefficient and expensive public transportation, and I still didn’t know how to drive yet. It was hard to get used to a new environment and learn about all the available campus buildings. Unlike Sha Tin College, UMich is a public campus open to all its residents, so it was hard to know whether I was still on campus grounds since the buildings looked so similar. It was also very cold. Michigan is located up north, so I had to get used to using Fahrenheit and negative degree weather.
Despite Covid-19, the most incredible experience I had so far in my first year of university studies was the amount of freedom I can enjoy while far away from my parents. Unlike my years in IB, I joined many more clubs and activities than I ever did in 7 years at STC and was able to expand my comfort zone and try things I never thought I would be comfortable with. The most significant society I joined is Alpha Chi Sigma (AXE), a professional chemistry fraternity that strives for the advancement of Chemistry as both a science and a profession. Although I was not used to the social culture and the extroverted people at first, I soon found trust, friendship, and kinship within my new brotherhood. I haven’t regretted my decision ever since my initiation.
The greatest challenge I have had so far was getting used to the American teaching system. For example, American professors used very different names for materials and apparatus used in Chemistry, they taught English and Mathematics very differently from Sha Tin College, and they emphasized a more holistic approach to grades rather than just focusing on what you get on your final exam. Although this gives me more chances to improve my grades, I definitely would not be used to the workload if I didn’t spend two painful years doing IB. The difficulty wasn’t in the content (since I have already learned all of it in Y12 and Y13), but in how they structured the content, the homework, and the exam questions. With remote learning and Covid on the rise, I’m sure you’ve faced many challenges of your own. But ever since I graduated, I was able to enjoy a better life in university thanks to how the IB trained my time management skills, how it taught me to balance between my academics and my free time, and how to cope with stress and academic pressure.
Although many of you probably have no idea what you want to do, others like me have already stubbornly locked in a future academic/career path. My advice? Expect the unexpected, and never limit yourself. Despite how others may pressure you to decide on a career before beginning your IB journey, you should always remain flexible and open to other opportunities if your initial goal doesn’t end well. Most importantly, just try! The choices you make now are not the end, so many opportunities await you in the future even if you end up somewhere undesirable at first (like me).
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, so you might as well give something a try even if you’re unsure about it.