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Advice from alumni: PoKai Peng

PoKai Peng, originally from Taiwan, graduated from EF Academy Torbay in 2016. He started with the IGCSE in Grade 10 and successfully completed the accelerated program before moving on to the IB Diploma program. Today, he studies Mathematics with Business Management at the University of Birmingham and in his free time he still enjoys playing Ultimate Frisbee – a sport he picked up in high school. Read on to learn more about PoKai and his greatest accomplishment:


Full name: PoKai Peng

Age: 18

Home country: Taiwan

Languages: Mandarin, Taiwanese, English

EF Academy campus: Torbay

Program: IGCSE Accelerated and IB

Grad year: 2016

Favorite clubs: Frisbee Club

Favorite subject: Math

University: Studying Mathematics with Business Management at the University of Birmingham


What did you enjoy about living in the residence and with a host family?

I lived with a host family at the beginning and then changed to residence and lived there for two years. Then I moved back in with a host family for my final year so I could concentrate on my studies.

In the residence, I liked living with people from all around the world. When I started with IGCSE, I didn’t know many people initially but in the residence I found that my roommates were really friendly and we did a lot of activities together and the food was great. We spent time together on the weekends and I liked this sort of social bonding between us. We went out for lunch and dinner and sometimes we would stay in and hang out.

After living in the residence for two years, I wanted to concentrate on my studies. So, I asked some of my friends to live with me and the four of us lived with a host family. My host family was strict but I felt like the bonds between me and my friends became stronger. It’s always worth living with the people who have same interests as you do.  In my case, I lived in a room with a talented mate that played the guitar really well and we jammed quite a lot with each other at weekends to relieve the stress from school.

Tell me about IGCSE accelerated…

I still remember the first day of IGCSE accelerated – I cried. It wasn’t what I had imagined, it was harder than I had imagined, but as I got to know the course more it just went by pretty easily. I had nothing to worry about, to be honest. I feel that it prepared me for the IB program: first, my English-speaking abilities greatly increased, and second, I got to know the British culture and how the education system works there. When I started the IB program, the experience was handy. The IGCSE is normally a two-year course and it was concentrated to one year for the accelerated program for Grade 10. Sometimes, I felt that the course went by almost too quickly, but it was still manageable. I attended a lot of revision lessons before the exams when I was feeling nervous and I got quite good grades.

What was your favorite part and least favorite part of the IB program?

I feel that after two years of IB, it really prepared me for university. From the first day of my university life, and even now, I felt that it wasn’t too tough because the workload I had during the first year of IB is more than what I have now. The most enjoyable bits of the program were the fields trips to Dartmoor and London. The final year of IB was the greatest year that I had in my three-year period at EF Academy. To be honest, it just went so quickly and smoothly and I can’t really think of any significantly tough moments I had at that time.  I feel that proper time management was one of the factors that eased my stress and, of course, strong volition on successfully meeting every deadline could be really helpful.  I still remember there was one time that I worked from 8 in the evening till 4 in the morning to meet a deadline for Environmental Systems & Societies internal essay set by my teacher.  I always told myself, “Sometimes you just have to nail one specific job by all means in order to make your life a lot more simple.”

What was Frisbee Club like?

In Ultimate Frisbee we had a team, not just a club, and we went to a lot of tournaments arranged by Callum Shipley, our teacher and team leader. We honed our skills and we were a pretty solid team last year. We even went to the national tournament – we performed well and we ended up getting 22nd. We normally trained twice a week on Thursdays and Saturdays and if we needed to we would also train on Sundays.

How did you choose your current university and your program?

I’ve always had a strong passion for math and I think that explains why I wanted to study it at university. I chose business management because that’s what my parents expected and so I decided to combine them. I applied to Warwick, Leicester, LSE, Exeter and Birmingham. I set my firm choice as Warwick and insurance as Birmingham and I was determined to move to West Midland, instead of Exeter which is in the southwest.

What is your favorite part about university?

The clubs and societies! I joined windsurfing club and skydiving – there’s quite a variety of clubs that I joined, but they are more toward extreme sports because I like to challenge myself. Every club is a society and not only do the clubs have societies, but the courses are also societies – we have around 250 societies in Birmingham.

Describe a regular day…

In the morning, I attend lectures – I have 3 hours of lectures a day and after that I will meet with my clubs. After that I come home, make my own dinner and do my work. I do what I need to do for my classes and right now I’m doing a lot of extracurricular studying. Sometimes I will meet with my society or my hallmates, who are mostly British, and we’ll go out together.

What is the accomplishment you are proudest of?

That would be deciding to come to the UK to study. Only when I came here could I see the world and compared to Taiwan I actually prefer getting an education here. I’m not saying that the education in Taiwan is poor, they have great quality as well, but the way they educate and cultivate the students here is completely different. I like the way that in the UK they tend to let you think independently and present your own opinions.

How did you make the decision to study abroad?

It took me one second. One day, my dad asked to talk to me and he told me that he wanted to send me abroad to study after I graduated from my junior high school and I said, “Alright, let’s go.” I didn’t hesitate at all; it was a quick decision. I once traveled in the UK for a month, that was with a group of teenagers about the same age as me and a tour guide and already at that time I thought it would be good if I could actually live there.

What is your dream for your future?

I want to have a job here and open my own company in the UK, but on the other hand my family wants me to go back to Taiwan and inherit my dad’s business. So, I’m still thinking about it but to be honest I would like to stay in the UK. I’ve set myself a target for getting a job at the end of the month. My future business would be a consulting group and we will use mathematics to solve the problems in the business world.

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