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Advice from alumni: Anthony Wijaya

Advice from alumni: Anthony Wijaya

Anthony Wijaya is a medical student at Cardiff University – ranked 3rd in the UK for medicine in 2016. In his spare time he tutors A-Level students, works as a graphic designer for a medical journal, plays basketball and is a committee member of the “Surgeon Society.” For tips on how to find an internship and succeed at EF Academy, check out his Q&A:


Full name: Anthony Wijaya

Age: 19

Home country: Indonesia

Languages: English and Bahasa Indonesia

EF Academy campus: Torbay

Program: A-Level

Grad year: 2015

Favorite clubs: Basketball, Student Council and Salsa

Favorite subjects: For me it was always a tie between Biology and Chemistry because my teachers for both were great. Chemistry, however, isn’t just memorizing facts but also applying what you know, which I think is more challenging.

University: Studying Medicine at Cardiff University


How did you decide that EF Academy Torbay was the right school for you?

When I was in high school in Indonesia, I started to look at different options for a career in Medicine. I attended several conferences and I found that everywhere else, the UK, the USA and Australia, all have their own pathways into Medicine. I find that it is difficult for Indonesians to get accepted into Medicine in a different country because we have a different curriculum in high school.

I found out about EF Academy at an education conference. I looked at the programs that they offered and I found out that after one year it would be appropriate for me to apply as I had just started Year 10 in Indonesia. I was happy about that and we thought it would be a good opportunity to pursue. Later, I found out that EF Academy offered the Founder’s Scholarship aimed at ambitious, well-rounded students with exceptional academic achievements and English proficiency, to study A-Level in the UK. I decided that if I could get the scholarship, I could go and do A-Levels there. I went through the process, wrote an essay and had an interview: I was very grateful that I was offered the scholarship to continue in Torbay. Although, initially, I was thinking of attending EF Academy Oxford, because it’s in an academic city, I was a little too young for that! After talking to some A-Level students at Torbay, I felt that it was an attractive area with the seafront and plenty of areas to relax in – and it was much quieter than London. I had some friends who had done A-Levels in Oxford, and I realized that Torbay was the right choice for me because it was quiet and I could maintain my focus there really well. At the same time there are different activities around Torbay in which to participate, because it’s in the picturesque southwest of England and for example, you can go to Dartmoor to hike. After I had arrived and started the courses I was certain that I made the right choice!

What is your favorite memory from EF Academy?

There are so many, it’s difficult to pick one! I think my first good memory was from 2013 after Induction Week. We had a party to meet all of the students and teachers. It was on a ferry that went from Torquay to Brixham and we got to know each other and danced and enjoyed ourselves after what had been a long week with lots of tests and trying different classes.

Another good memory is of the Student Council meetings.  I was fortunate enough to be Head Boy of EF Academy Torbay when I was there and led the monthly meeting where we sat with the prefects and tutor group representatives, talking about the different things that could be improved at the school. I really enjoyed that because I had my first experience of leadership at Torbay. Before I came to the UK, I was a fairly introverted person but after getting to Torbay I began to make new friends. Some teachers suggested I apply for the Head Student election and that was when I found that I had a flair for speaking for others and I could show that I cared about all the activities that were happening. Having students from so many different nationalities and talking about how to improve a school (wonderfully situated on top of a cliff!) was really enjoyable.

And graduation was also really memorable. We took lots of pictures and I had the privilege to give speeches to the lower school and my graduating class of 2015. I will never forget all the different balls when everyone dressed up and we took pictures together. It was so fancy and classy!

What is Head Boy?

You represent the school whenever there are external guests that come, for example when we had visitors from the Torbay Council or parents. The Head Boy greets important people and has monthly meetings with the teachers and head teachers in which he gives them feedback on, for instance, what the rest of the school would like improved. I enjoyed being a bridge between the students and the staff. Another part of the role is representing the students. During the election, I remember we had different people running for positions and we had different speeches and posters.  The school was looking for people who embodied the essential EF Academy values – punctuality, doing well in academic activities, balancing schoolwork and after-school activities and taking time to listen to peers’ suggestions and concerns. This bridge between students, teachers and staff is important so that no matter what happens in any activity, the students can talk to the prefects and Head Boy who will then talk to the school administrators.

Why did you want to study medicine?

When I came to the UK, I knew I wanted to go into medicine but I didn’t have the reasons completely worked out. But by the end of the first year, they expect you to have your reasons formulated so you can add them to your personal statement. Over time, I would say that I realized that medicine is a combination of really informative science and social skills. Although I’m not a particularly science-focused person, I like the human interaction in medicine. I can see that as I go through the medical course itself that it’s a very competitive field but I feel I have the talent for it.

From when I did my science classes and A-Levels, I knew that I have the talent to become a good doctor and I would like to improve that talent (and any other talents which I’ve been given from God) to help other people. Not just help, but also share what I know and do what I can do for society, for the greater good. When I was in high school, I was good at social sciences and I thought about studying Law or Computer Science at university, but in the end I found that Medicine covers all of these topics: it involves science, problem-solving, communication and technical skills – all things I enjoyed in my different subjects.

Medicine itself is a very vast branch of science and there are so many possibilities to specialize, At the moment, I feel drawn to cardiothoracic surgery. Since starting university, I’ve become involved in tutoring A-Level students and first-year students. I’ve realized that I enjoy teaching so a career in clinical or academic medicine might be another option.

Did you do any internships that have benefitted your studies or your career plan?

My first internship was in Torquay – Shirley, one of the volunteer organizers, managed to help me get a six-month internship at a hospice for critically ill patients. I volunteered to go there for six months and ended up visiting once or twice a month. I brought the patients tea and coffee and shadowed one of the doctors when they examined their patients. At university, I’ve encountered other patients with dementia or mental health problems. In the future, we will need to find ways to help this older generation. Now, in Europe mostly, we’re shifting our attention towards the elderly generation and it’s important for youngsters not to forget them. My shadowing experience at Rowcroft Hospice in Torquay gave me an empathetic experience and just by bringing them beverages or maybe helping them into the garden, gave me a sense of caring and it helped me realize that medicine was the right choice for me.

I also had a week shadowing a doctor at a general practitioner surgery in London. I spent a week there and followed him and the other doctors around. I got to see what a daily life of a GP is like – it’s a fast-paced job! My biology teacher, Wendy Daniels, helped me with this opportunity, her brother being the doctor I shadowed.

Medicine is a competitive field, but it’s a worthwhile job and as I develop further at university, I am beginning to notice that the professions of GPs, physicians and surgeons all offer different opportunities and benefits. My shadowing experience in London gave me insight into how hard medicine can be but it also reinforced by decision to go into it.

How did you find these internships?

I showed initiative about doing these internships. In our tutor groups at EF Academy Torbay, we had to introduce ourselves at the beginning and say something about what we’re studying and what we hope to do in the future. I made it clear to the teachers that I wanted to do Medicine and they told me it was competitive and that if I really wanted to go through with it I would need to get myself into different experiences. I was the one who said to them that I wanted to do it and asked if they could help me. I was very fortunate that at the right time, Wendy offered me the chance to shadow her brother over the summer and Shirley was keen on helping students volunteer so she was looking for students who are able to communicate well and who wanted to volunteer at the hospice.

What is your favorite part about university?

I had always been interested in attending a traditional medical school such as Oxford and Cambridge. But when I got into Cardiff, which has a very modern, integrated course, I changed my mind. Normally, medical students would study science in years one and two. But at Cardiff, we use case-based and practical learning, which means that students in their first year already have opportunities for patient interaction. The thing I enjoy is the clinical exposure, where we had hospital placements and spoke with real patients, performed examinations and practiced clinical skills, such as drawing blood and basic life support. Not only that, we did a full body dissection on a cadaver right from the first week of the course during our first year. In the second year, we go to a nearby hospital and we practice clinical skills in the morning and in the afternoon, we meet with patients where we introduce ourselves and perform these examination ourselves under some supervision. As someone who is quite practical, I really enjoy learning by doing. At the end of the day, you get feedback from the doctors on your clinical skills. I find it really enjoyable learning this way as opposed to learning hard-science for two years and only then meeting patients in the clinical years.

In addition to that is the case-based learning in Cardiff. For example, we have just had a case on lower back pain. We dedicated a two-week block in which we were given a scenario and had to study every single factor that play an impact on the scenario, to finally come to a diagnosis. As we went along, we had time to research the information on our own and there were specific lectures where we are given “the science” that will guide us so we had a scientific base for our judgments. I like the balance of the courses at university right now.

What activities, clubs, societies or jobs are you involved in?  

Last year, I started working as an A-Level tutor.  Last year I was looking for a job, and university-type jobs at the post office or at restaurants were everywhere. I tried some of them but they were all quite far from where I lived. So I tried tutoring since I still had all the knowledge in my head and it would be an opportunity to help other people. To be a tutor, you need to be able to explain things well ­– simplifying complicated stuff into really basic principles – and understand what you’re talking about. We were taught so well at EF Academy and had to review things over and over again: the course material from those days was really ingrained on my brain!

I’m also part of the Healthcare Basketball team. The actual Cardiff basketball team practice every now and then in the main building of the campus, but we medical students have our own basketball team and we are based in the University Hospital of Wales.

At the end of last year, we also formed a musical group where we sang and played musical instruments to patients and their families in the University Hospital of Wales and in the Children’s Hospital. It is basically doing something that we enjoy while making other people feel better and cheering them up with our presence.

This year, I’m also involved in some graphic design, which I enjoyed during high school. I work on a newly published medical journal (called The Student Doctor – www.sdj.org.uk) where medical students and doctors can publish the results of their research. We created this new journal:  a publication of Cardiff University Press led by Cardiff medical students. I am one of the design editors and do things like typesetting, checking alignment and designing the cover. That is something I got involved in this year.

I’m also involved in the Surgery Society as a committee member (Website and Public Relations Lead). We get in touch with surgeons working at the hospital and organize sessions for medical students. The surgeons show us how to do suturing or endoscopies – it’s great support for us and we can borrow the equipment and practice on models of human bodies.

Another thing I did last year was to volunteer at a nearby Catholic church – on most Saturday mornings during the winter we prepared breakfast and cleaned the bedding of the homeless who spent the night in the church hall. Currently, I am an altar server at my local church. I’ve been serving at church since I was at EF Academy Torbay and I’m actually still in touch with some of the people I met at the church in Torquay.

What advice do you have for current EF Academy students?

> Use your time wisely: I bet so many other alumni have said that but it’s so important! We all have only 24 hours, and whatever you choose to do with them it is up to you. We are all very lucky to have attended or currently attend EF Academy, we had all the facilities and teachers we needed, we lived with a lovely host family or in the residence. There are activities and all the support you need. All of the doors are open and it’s up to you to choose what you want to do. The one who will lead you to success is yourself. You’re the one who will say I want to do this today and not tomorrow.

> Make sure you have something or someone you can depend on. For me, it’s my religion, my family and my close friends. Don’t take on everything on your own. Whenever you have problems or when something is difficult, don’t beat yourself up. When I used to go to my church in Torquay, I had such a strong support from people who ended up becoming my good friends. Having a strong support system will definitely help solve many problems. My host family (Toni and Simon) was another example – I still visit them sometimes and get in touch on the Facebook because they were very friendly and we broke the barrier between host and guest, reaching the point where we felt like a family.

> Make friends – At the beginning, it’s easy to doubt your command of English and to think that people won’t like you. The key is to be yourself and try it out. Sometimes opportunities only come once!

What is the accomplishment you are proudest of?

Getting into medical school the first time around. I see so many people who really wanted to do medicine but who weren’t fortunate enough to get it on the first attempt. I was very lucky that I got into Cardiff (ranked 3rd in the UK in 2016) as I didn’t expect to get into medical school. My journey here was very tough and long. Normally, students would need to get straight As, but after A-Level Year 1 I only had one A and three B’s. Everybody suggested I try something different but my teachers didn’t give up on me and they thought I could push my score up. I have to admit that initially I had received rejections from all the medical schools. I had an interview with Cardiff and they said they couldn’t offer me a place and they put me on the waiting list saying that if I could meet the grades I could get in.

I’m proud that I didn’t give up even when I saw all my friends getting their offers to their dream universities. At that particular moment, I didn’t have any offers except from Leicester, and they said that although I couldn’t be accepted to the medicine course, I could choose any other path at the university. While I was waiting to hear from Cardiff, I canceled my offer from Leicester. Eventually, I got the grades I needed (even higher than expected!) and I had an offer from Cardiff.