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From Malaysia to an Opened-Up World

In Malaysia, Joan Su-May Low and Shen Yoong met in elementary school. They met countryman Lenard Lim when the three went through an eight-hour group interview for the Malaysian UWC scholarship program.

All three won the stipends — to different UWCs. This year they came together again, as first-year students at Middlebury College. And they’re still pushing their lives into new territory: Shen (UWC-USA) hopes to study in Spain and Brazil, Lenard (UWC Costa Rica) in Argentina, Joan (Pearson UWC) in France and China.

“Back home, achievement means getting a good job and earning some money,” Shen observed. “But here, it also means traveling the world.”

“It means learning how to take calculated risks, and accepting the consequences,” Joan added. “It also means our parents learning to let go!”

Lenard, for one, comes from a business-oriented family, but has decided — thanks to the “interesting and inspiring” teachers he’s had since leaving home — that he wants to teach history.

“There’s been a big change in thinking,” he said.

Meanwhile, on the Vermont campus, each brings a perspective that’s been shaped not just by their home culture, but also by their UWC experience.

“In my UWC,” Joan said, “I had contact with people from 100 countries — so not only do I bring my perceptions from Malaysia, but I bring how they all looked at the world. I think that’s the biggest thing I bring here.”