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Advice from alumni: Phoebe Chang

Advice from alumni: Phoebe Chang

Phoebe Chang from Taiwan graduated with an IB Diploma from EF Academy Torbay in 2015. She went on to study at Arizona State University, where she is currently pursuing a Psychology degree with a Business minor while completing certificates in International Business and Marketing.

How did you hear about EF Academy and why did you choose to attend?

I really wanted to go abroad for my high school studies because I didn’t like the Taiwanese high school system. We needed to do a lot of different subjects and ace everything, which I found to be very tiring and stressful.  Thus, I started researching high schools abroad myself since I figured that if my parents didn’t find anything for me I would just have to find it myself. One day, I saw the ad about EF Academy on the back of a magazine in Taiwan. Apparently, EF Academy offered a merit-based scholarship for the IB program in Torbay. I followed the instructions and completed a portfolio and in the end, I managed to get the scholarship. Since the scholarship was only for Torbay, I decided to go there despite the fact that I actually really wanted to go to the U.S. In the end, I am very happy that I went to Torbay because I had such a good time there and I got to experience the UK which I enjoyed a lot.

When looking back, I can say that it was busy, fun, and crazy time. My group of friends was very close because we lived in a small town. For example, our friend Peyman, who lives in Pennsylvania, comes by once in a while; Aeris, who is in Brooklyn, comes for Thanksgiving every year; and another friend, Oline, came all the way from Norway to visit us. I love this part of the experience because no matter where we go, we have friends. IB was hard but I was probably more relaxed about it than most since I got into my first-choice university – Arizona State University – before the exams and in the U.S. the acceptances are unconditional. Lastly, our life at EF Academy in Torbay was sometimes dramatic and adventurous. For example, I went to Norway for two weeks with Sara, William and Oline. Another time, my friend Valentina asked me one day if I wanted to go home with her to Italy for a long weekend. I said why not and off we went – of course it was awesome with great food. I really want to go back to Europe someday.

What do you like about Arizona State University and how did you choose Psychology as your major?

I am currently studying at Arizona State University, which is a good public school with less tuition  than private institutions. It is a big school; we have over 11,000 incoming freshmen just this year. Since there isn’t much else in the city of Arizona except for desert, it is a real student city. Sometimes, I do miss Taipei a lot though.

I chose Psychology as my major because I liked it a lot when I first started study the subject during my IB course in Torbay. I was considering becoming a psychiatrist and going to medical school but I felt that it would be too depressing for me. Moreover, psychology is a flexible major because you essentially learn about people’s brain. As my minor, I am doing business. In addition, I am doing certificates in International Business and Marketing. Since I am planning to graduate in three years instead of the usual four, I am quite busy now but I enjoy it.

You are very busy – do you have time for anything else?

I am also working four jobs to pay my way through school. Since I am here on an international student visa, I was supposed to only have an on-campus job. So I started off as a customer service specialist assistant but I recently got promoted as the lead which means that I am leading the student worker team now. I also work for StudySoup, which is a platform on which I sell my course notes. I’ve been a Regional Lead since last December, so I host webinars to coach people on how to become an Elite Notetaker. This semester, I took on another position as the Marketing Operations Manager, which means that I manage about 30 different schools that generate leads for the company. Lastly, I also work as a teaching assistant. My mum is a workaholic, I like working too, so I guess I got some of those genes.

What tips do you have for applying to U.S. universities from the UK?

– Set realistic goals: A lot of schools in the U.S. are very hard to get in to and insanely expensive. Of course, you should aim high, but do have a couple of back-up options that are more realistic.

– Start early: Make sure to take the SATs early otherwise you will miss a lot of good schools. Also, start looking at schools already in your first year of the IB or A-Level program so you can start applying as soon as you can during your second year.

– Learn about the city the university is in: Go to the actual city before you apply or accept an offer so you know how your life will look like. You are not only going to study there, you will have to live there for at least a few years of your life.

What is your dream for the future?

I would like to get into a business graduate school in New Zealand or Switzerland. After graduate school, I want to move around a little bit more and travel through work. I would love to be able to afford a nice flat in London and New York. It’s an expensive dream, I know. To be honest, in the end, I probably want to go back to the UK eventually. But who knows? Change is good!

Do you keep in touch with your EF Academy classmates?

Yes of course! I even live with one!

What is your favorite memory from EF Academy?
Prom night was nice, but our Thorpe Park trip was epic. A group of friends and I organized our own trip to Thorpe Park spontaneously. We found eight people the night before and it was so much fun during that day.

What do you miss the most?

I definitely miss the free time. Right now I am super busy; the only things that I do are work, sleep and eat. Pedram got us into cooking though. So that’s some fun that we get to have while we are free. But back in Torbay, I felt that we could just hang out with our friends and go to places – it was so carefree! Also, I loved going to Nando’s with friends! Maybe it was because we had to take the train to Exeter to get there, but for us it was really special. We went to Chicago just recently and we found Nando’s. We ended up eating there three times during that week because it reminded us of our time in England.

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

Going to EF Academy in Torbay was my first time that I was way from my parents. This meant that I had be responsible for myself, everything from managing money on my own to washing my own dishes at all times. If I didn’t have that experience, I think life at university would probably be harder for me. During my time there, I also learned the importance of trying new things. I know that people say that people on the West Coast of the U.S. are open-minded but I don’t feel that and I think people don’t take as many risks. In an international environment, we are used to constantly learning things from different people and cultures. Every day there was something new and different. This ability to take risks and travel is something that I learned at EF Academy.

What final tips would you give to current students?

– Don’t stress out too much and have a lot of fun. College will be harder, so take the time to have fun.

– Make a lot of friends. It is nice to make friends from all over the world and it is important because they will be with you going forward.

Final thoughts?

Calling all friends: come to Arizona and visit me! I miss you!  

Short questions:

Name: Phoebe Chang

Age: 19

Nationality: Taiwanese

How many languages do you speak? English, Chinese, Taiwanese

EF Academy campus: EF Academy Torbay

Graduation years: 2015

Program: IB (English Language literature, Spanish ab inito, Psychology, Biology, Environmental science, Standard Math)

Residence or host family: Residence and host family (My second host family was the nicest ever!! I miss their hamsters and the puppy too.)

Favorite subject: Psychology and language literature because the teacher in language literature was probably the best English teacher I’ve ever had.

Favorite teacher: Liz Clarke, my language literature teacher. We still email and talk even though she’s too busy to reply sometimes.

Favorite club / society: I was the most involved in reviving the Impact Magazine. Adrian Wisaksana and I were there from day one and we changed the face and structure of the entire magazine. I loved the process of building it up and then seeing the result. We could be super busy but we would always get an issue out. It was a lot of fun and we still talk with the Impact Magazine team in Torbay.

Shouts outs to:

Kelly Hall – Lifesaver (for Raquel and I) who cares so much about her students!!

Kevin / Bruce / Craig – Our kind and generous kitchen staff

Dave and Clau   – House parents at Allerdale / our Torquay parents