More and more parents are sending their children off to study in different countries - perhaps some of your friends are now overseas studying at a boarding school. It may seem daunting, but there are definite advantages to studying abroad. And who knows? Maybe it could be the best option for you. Angelina Lim reports on her experience studying in Perth, Australia.
Balanced academic life = more opportunities
I look at my maths homework on my disorganised desk, wondering how Year 10 maths could be so simple. Compared to the ambiguous, complicated tests I had to tackle back home, this is a piece of cake.
A year ago, back in Hong Kong, my stress levels were at an all-time high, I would cry for days because I'd studied so hard for tests, but didn't get the results I wanted. At home, I had practically no social life: my parents and teachers always expected the best from me, and the education system was competitive to the point where only one out of 10 students could get into a local university. That turbulent year wasn't an easy ride for me.
I vividly recall how traumatic it was to choose my subjects. There were very few choices, and I wasn't interested in any of the nine elective subjects on offer.
All my schoolmates chose physics, chemistry and biology, because it would help them get into professional careers. So when I chose visual art, biology and geography, it made me a total outcast. The memory of choosing subjects itself brings shivers down my spine. And the following year was miserable. I had to force myself to go to classes that I didn't enjoy, and study for at least five hours every night.
Secondary students in Hong Kong often find choosing subjects tough. If this applies to you, it is definitely worth considering studying abroad, as there can be so many more opportunities in schools in other countries. Right now, I can choose to study photography, food science, textiles, languages, and even dance!
Someone once said to me: "Boarding is like a never-ending sleepover. You'll have plenty of opportunities and you'll leave school as a completely different person."
My cousin, Jennifer, also had a wonderful experience studying abroad. She went to one of the top boarding schools in the world - Branksome Hall in Toronto, Canada.
"I loved boarding school! It was an eye-opening experience for me," she says. "Those few years were the most awesome and meaningful years. It came and went so quickly. I guess time truly flies when you're having fun with your room mates."
After studying at the prestigious high school for two years, she graduated with flying colors and got into a Canadian university to major in business. Jennifer now works as an accountant for a respected company in Hong Kong.
A recent survey from The Association of Boarding Schools found that more than 78 per cent of boarding students said that boarding helped them prepare for university life, compared to 36 per cent of private day school students and 23 per cent of government school students.
In another study led by Brad Papworth, of the Australian Boarding Schools Association, and Andrew Martin and Paul Ginns, from the University of Sydney, boarding students were found to have significantly better social and problem-solving skills, and to be more independent compared to day students. Additionally, boarders' relationships with their parents were found to be stronger than day students.
For me, the last few months have been a blur. However, as hectic and demanding as it has been, I've enjoyed every single minute.
It's funny that despite hating them during the 15 years before I left for Perth, I miss the 100-storey skyscrapers and crowded roads in Hong Kong the most. But nothing can compare to the massive parks and stunning beaches in Perth - they're just incredible.
Even though I've only been a boarder for about five months, I feel like I've transformed into a completely different person. I've learned a lot about Australia and its culture, but most importantly, I've become a more mature and self-disciplined person.
I no longer have a helper to rely on to do my laundry, make my bed every day after I go to school, or tidy my room. I had to learn to do all the chores myself when I realised nobody was going to do them for me anymore.
Even my mum told me that I had grown up and become more independent, which is what she always wanted. And of course, I have already formed many strong friendships that I know will last beyond school and for the rest of my life.
At the end of the day, studying abroad may not be for everyone, but it can offer a bright future for those that are determined. It's worth a try, and you're likely to have a wonderful time wherever you choose to go.