Exciting times for YCIS Shanghai Puxi Year 13 student Sophia, who has received a conditional offer from the University of Oxford to study Law with German Law. Sophia joined YCIS in 2010 and is active in various activities in and out of school, becoming School Co-Captain for the last academic year. We caught up with her to find out more.
You grew up in YCIS, what is the school environment like?
YCIS always presented me with a lot of different opportunities, both within my academic pursuits and in terms of extracurriculars. I have been able to join many different activities and find out what I really like.
Within those activities, I was able to grow and take on leadership positions. For example, with Model United Nations (MUN), I started when I was in Year 8 and have been participating ever since. Now, in Year 13, I have become one of the Co-Captains of the MUN club.
I was always encouraged to get involved in things and take up those positions of responsibility, which I really like.
Co-Captains of the MUN club
MUN training younger students
What abilities did a YCIS education help you develop over the past 11 years?
First of all, because I was involved in various clubs, it meant I needed to learn how to balance many different activities. It taught me to know what my priorities are, which is important when you're juggling the university application process with your regular IB coursework.
It also taught me to take risks; in my extracurricular activities I was pushed to do things that weren’t always in my comfort zone. In the same vein, the Oxford application wasn't exactly in my comfort zone, especially the rigorous interview process.
By being taught to step out of my comfort zone and just go for things – I think that meant I was able to approach the Oxford application process a bit better.
What attracts you to studying law?
I like how it is essentially logic, but with words. I've always really liked reading and literature. At the same time, I also enjoy more mathematical subjects. I felt law was a really good combination of those two sides of me.
I was also attracted to law through participating in model courts. I was in a mock International Criminal Court and a mock International Court of Justice throughout my high school years, and that showed me how interesting law can be both from the perspective of a judge and also from the perspective of a lawyer.
Your language ability is outstanding – how did you cultivate it?
I was very lucky in that I had a very good language environment growing up; I started speaking German, English and Chinese from a young age.
I speak German with my mother at home, English with my father and at school, and we have Chinese lessons at school almost every day.
In that sense, I didn't really have to learn any of the languages from scratch. YCIS has a very good Chinese program, and I was always challenged. When I was younger I was in the native speaker classes, and I was encouraged to do things like emceeing for events in Chinese. That really helped my Chinese language ability.
On a recent Chinese Language class field trip
You are also a Co-Captain of the school – how do you mange to juggle all these different aspects of your life?
I'd be lying if I said I always balance it all perfectly; there are times that I slip up or I might fall a bit behind in a class because I have a lot of things on my plate. In the past few years, I've learned to only get involved in things that I really care about and things that are really valuable to me.
It is also a matter of knowing my strengths, knowing what takes me a lot of time and what doesn't take me a lot of time, and planning my time around that.
What preparation did you do for the Oxford application?
It was an intense process. I had to gather all the activities I had done that were related to law for my personal statement. Luckily, I already had many experiences that I could relate back to law, since it's been an interest I’ve had for quite a while, even if I hadn't thought of pursuing it as my university subject.
Then I had to sit the law national aptitude test, which is the admissions test. I prepared for that with past papers that I found on the internet.
Then, once I found out that I had an interview, YCIS helped me; I had two mock interviews with different teachers to get acquainted with what it's like to be asked like academic questions, and how to respond to them in a better way.
With the basketball team
How did the interview process work?
In a non-COVID year, I would have had to fly over to the UK and do it there, but this year, everything was online. I had two interviews that were specifically for law, and then one German language test interview, as I'm doing the course Law with German Law.
They would send me a case to read through 30 minutes before, and then I discussed that case with the academics conducting the interview.
To be honest, it was quite nerve-racking, especially the first one, because the case that they sent me was very convoluted and difficult to understand. They did that to push me and see how I handled difficult material in a very intense environment.
It was difficult, and though I tried my best, after the interviews I was very doubtful of what was going to happen, because I felt like I struggled and it didn't go as well as I hoped.
I guess it just goes to show that you can’t really judge your own performance; only the interviewers really know how you did.
How did you feel when you learned you had been accepted?
On the day the decisions were set to come out, I was quite nervous. Beforehand, I made peace with myself and promised that no matter what happened, I would still be proud for trying and going through the entire process.
Then, when I got the offer, I was super shocked. I didn't really know how to react at first. When people started congratulating me, that's when it sunk in. The offer also came in during my mock exam period, so I still had to focus on studying for my exams.
In the YCIS School Production Alice in Wonderland
Which college will you be attending and what are you expecting from the City of Dreaming Spires?
I applied to Lady Margaret Hall, but was reallocated before the interview to Corpus Christi. So that's the college I have my offer from: Corpus Christi.
As for what I'm expecting? Well, I've never actually been to Oxford, but I've obviously watched lots of videos and follow Oxford accounts on social media. I'm really looking forward to the beautiful city; the architecture, the greenery, the different colleges. Spending time in a very historical city – that's what I can't wait to experience.
I’ll also hopefully do a year in Germany as part of the course too.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone looking to apply to Oxford?
First of all, don't glorify it to the extent where you think it is your only option. I think if you have the mindset, “I can only go to Oxford; no other university is good enough,” it can be quite harmful – the pressure could make you too nervous and more likely to make mistakes.
It’s better to see it as an opportunity to better yourself through the admissions test and the interview and not to equate your application with your self-worth. Know that what the admissions officers at Oxford see is just a little bit of information about you which doesn’t define you as a person, and some factors in the admissions process are out of your control. If it doesn't go as you hoped, don't take it personally. Just keep on going, and with a positive attitude, you’ll have a great time wherever you go.
A truly impressive feat from an outstanding, well-rounded and down-to-earth student. We join YCIS in wishing Sophia the very best of luck on her Oxford adventure!