Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A brief History of me

Malacca, the Historical City of Malaysia, the place where I was born, brought up, and became who I am.

My father was the first born of my grandparents and in my turn, I am my father’s first born son. This undoubtedly guaranteed me tons of love from my doting grandparents. That was why Grandpa and Grandma allowed me to watch cartoons for whole afternoons. They were English cartoons, mind you. Thus, I mastered my English together with my Chinese languages by means of the only media appealing to little children: cartoons.

Ever since I was promoted from Grade Three to Grade Five in my primary school for passing a national examination that tested students on their IQ’s, mathematics and language skills, I was considered outstanding. For a few times in my academic career, I obtained the first position in my class. This was the case until I finally entered into the top Form 3 (8th grade) class of the best boy school in Malacca, St. Francis Institution. There I found my challenge; a group of 51 bright students of which at least ten had always beaten me academically.

Of course I had developed a passion for reading by then. Reading had brought me from classics to Sherlock, from Asimov to sci-fi. So it is not too surprising that I read Buddhism books on my own. Beginning from the quest to find the meaning of life, I discovered my ultimate goal in life: to become a monk. Unfortunately, I had fallen into delusion and depression (as the result of lack of guidance) and had to choose between monkhood or to study for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (Malaysian Certificate of Education) at the end of Form 5 (Grade 10).

It was one important decision in my life. Finally, heeding the advice of my family, friends and cousins, I chose to continue my studies. At that time, having to confine my cravings and deal with my depression, I was surprised to know that I had scored straight A’s along with 20 other friends, breaking the school’s record.

After SPM, I wanted to challenge myself with the hardest things in life. I reasoned that if I can do the hardest things on earth, I could face any simpler challenges in life. Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (Malaysian Higher School Certificate), the most difficult national examination in Malaysia, is taken only in Upper 6th form (12th grade). Normally, people do not like the idea of going to grade 12. However, the things that cause most people to shrink from naturally motivated the inquisitive me to take up. Without further ado, I entered Malacca High School, the second oldest school in Malaysia, to study my Pre-University course. Additionally, I took a very tough subject, Further Mathematics; in 2006 there were only about 100 people taking it nationwide.

Many people asked me the reason why I took this extra difficult subject. My reply was that it functions partly to challenge myself; partly for the sake of physics. Yes, I had ventured into non-friction physics in particular. Books like “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking and “The Elegant Universe” by Brian Greene had me hooked on to physics. So I read up on the concepts of quantum mechanics, relativity, string theory and even the history of the development of physics.

In December 2006, I went to the national training camp for the International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO). Naturally, after knowing that there was such an academic Olympiad, I aspired to go to the Physics one. We managed to go to the second camp.

After five days of learning university level first year physics syllabus, we had a test. As it turned out, I made it to the third physics camp along with 14 others from the whole country! The irony of this was that the second IChO camp clashes with the third IPhO camp. Again, I had to choose. That was an easy choice, however. I totally went for physics. My choice was paid off, as I was selected among the top five participants to represent my country in the 38th International Physics Olympiad in Iran.

This trip made me all the more determined to be a physicist. And now I realized that I had long left depression’s shadow. I am going to the stars. Being able to represent the country makes me confident that I am qualified to go to the top Universities in the world. This is the driving force that drove me on to apply for admission into the USA Universities to fulfill my dreams of becoming a physicist, then later in life… a monk.

1 comment:

hwei said...

Hey, Xin Zhao! This is Tse Hwei! Nice blog~ plus... you took STPM just to challenge yourself? =.= so all of us who struggle like mad in the exam are like.... ________ (fill in the blanks)