Stories from our international boarding schools

Advice from alumni: Kathleen Valencia Hartono

Kathleen Valencia Hartono, from Indonesia, graduated from EF Academy Oxford in 2013 and is currently studying Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cardiff University. Learn more about our featured alum:

Why did you choose to attend EF Academy?

I always wanted to study abroad as I’m quite an adventurous person and interested in learning new cultures. Initially, I wanted to go to Singapore because it is closer to home but I thought that I would not be able to learn English as well there. I was also thinking of going to Australia or the US but my parents thought that the UK was safer. We didn’t want to make the decision quickly so we looked into going to the UK. We went through my brother’s agent and found EF Academy. We thought that it was better than the other schools because it is more well-known and international.

Looking back, I had a really good experience overall. I got to know people from different parts of the world and I taught people about my own culture and home country.

What university did you go to afterward? What did you study and why?

I am currently studying Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cardiff University. I got AAB on my A-Level exams and I was happy to get into all five of my university choices. At the beginning of the application process, I was confused whether I should choose Southampton or Cardiff as my first choice, but in the end, I choose Cardiff because it seemed like a good fit for me and the weather is not too cold.

I chose to study science because it cannot be learned through experience, whereas social studies like business can be learned through experience. Studying science is also more open to a future career as I can easily move from science to social studies whereas I will not be able to change from social to science studies. I specifically chose to study engineering (Civil and Environmental Engineering) because I like to learn something that is more practical.

What will you do next?

In the long run, I would like to work in my own organization or work for an organization that builds houses for homeless people. It is kind of a family and my goal is to share God’s love toward others by providing basic needs. In the short-term, I will try to get a scholarship to study my Master’s Degree or I will apply for a job.

What tips do you have for current students that want to study what you study?

First, pray hard and work intelligently; you should have hope to drive you forward and at the same time, know what you are doing.

In addition, make sure to find a balance in your life. You can’t have everything at once: study hard, play hard and live healthily. Sometimes you simply have to choose for your future.

Do you keep in touch with your EF Academy classmates?

Yes, I am in touch with quite a few on a bi-weekly basis.

What is your favorite EF Academy memory?

For me, it was definitely the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award competition, which is a national program that our activities coordinators at EF Academy Oxford helped to organize. Basically, we had to participate and set targets in four different categories. For me that was:

  • Physical – Running
  • Art – Creating the yearbook for EF Academy
  • Volunteering – Helping disabled children at KEEN Oxford
  • Expedition – Camping

I completed my four objectives and earned a silver award for it. It was an amazing experience. The most fun part was when I had to camp in really cold weather together with new friends.

What do you miss the most?

The teachers, because they were always so friendly and compared to university, it was so much easier to get to know them.

What is one thing that you learned at EF Academy that you found valuable for university? For work life? For your personal life?

Communication skills – My English communication skills improved so much during Emma’s class. Language is proved to be very useful in engineering because we write a lot of reports and I am the only Indonesian in the Engineering Building.

Being organized – I was a part of a lot of activities at school so I really learned how to organize things. Organizing experiences from living abroad have prepared me to survive in university as I can easily manage my time to study, cook, clean up my room and socialize.

What final tips would you give to current students?

Don’t stress out as you wait for your final results, if you already have done your best, just pray and let God do the rest!

Moreover, before starting your university life; don’t be shocked by how different university and college life is – you just need to adapt. Honestly, for me, the biggest difference I noticed between EF Academy and the university is that EF Academy is much more international.

Who are the most successful alumni that you know of?

My fellow Indonesian friend, Nirmala Wahab – who is studying Mathematics at Durham University, she has been one of the people who has helped me learn Math and cheer me up.

Short questions:

Name: Kathleen Valencia Hartono

Age: 20

Nationality:  Indonesian

How many languages do you speak? Indonesian and English

EF Academy campus: EF Academy Oxford

Graduation year: 2013

Program: A-Level  (chemistry, physics, mathematics, economics)

Residence or host family:  Residence

Favorite subject: Mathematics

Favorite teacher:

  • Grahame Hale – Best Mathematics Teacher
  • Toby Blundell (Physics) – Funny teacher
  • Amy Webber (Physics) and Monica (Chemistry) – most caring

Favorite club/society:  All activities that I joined are wonderful (Duke of Edinburgh, Running, Yearbook, KEEN, and Drama Club). Additionally, I participated more during my A level compared to university. I only become a Student Panel in university.

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