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News > Alumni Spotlight > Building Bridges: The Impact of SJI International on My Life

Building Bridges: The Impact of SJI International on My Life

Priscilla Layarda '17 shares her transformative experience at SJI International in this heartfelt article, which ultimately led to multiple full-ride scholarship offers from universities worldwide.
Priscilla Layarda '17
Priscilla Layarda '17

When I was just fourteen years old, I embarked on an incredible adventure, leaving behind my neighbourhood school in Jakarta and venturing into the vibrant city-state of Singapore. SJI International, one of the best schools in town, became my new home. Recently, I had the chance to revisit the school after four years, during a transit in Singapore. I was amazed by the changes, with new buildings, courses, and fresh faces. However, amidst the excitement, I also felt a wave of nostalgia, reminiscing about my own memories at SJI International. Inspired by this experience, I felt compelled to share my reflections with you.

Years after graduating from SJI International, I've come to recognise a pivotal moment that altered the course of my life. It was the day I bid farewell to my parents at Changi Airport, as they headed back to Jakarta. Little did I know that this marked the beginning of my SJI International chapter—a chapter that would reshape my life in unimaginable ways.

The education I received at SJI International played a crucial role in shaping my professional journey. The IB Diploma program not only taught me the "whats" of education but also the "hows" and "whys." It equipped me with the skills to learn, think critically, and express myself effectively. Thanks to this comprehensive education, I secured multiple full-ride scholarship offers from top universities worldwide. Ultimately, I chose the University of Toronto, where I discovered my passion for economics, a subject that now shapes my worldview. Understanding economic concepts has empowered me to delve into data and literature, enabling me to form detailed opinions on current events. Ultimately, it gave me the toolkit to excel academically, graduating with a 3.97 GPA! Alongside academic achievements, I enjoyed a vibrant university experience, engaging in research studies, competitions (including presenting monetary policy recommendations to the Governor of the Bank of Canada!), consulting projects, and socializing with friends. Best of all, I was able to spend time with my sister to rediscover our sisterhood after living apart for many years. These experiences allowed me to create cherished memories and grow holistically.

My university journey further prepared me for a career in consulting. By exploring economics through classes, research projects, competitions, and teaching opportunities, I honed both my quantitative analytical methods and qualitative communication skills. I delved into statistical analyses, machine learning techniques, and various programming languages, including the ever-reliable R. I learned how to synthesize my findings into reports tailored for different audiences, both academic and general. My internship at a global economic consultancy during my junior year confirmed that the skills I developed were truly applicable in the real world.

More fundamentally, the SJI International community made all the difference in my personal growth. I met amazing peers who were as dedicated to serving others and making a difference in their communities as they were to excel in their academic and extracurricular pursuits. I was surrounded by teachers and staff members who went above and beyond to support students – from spending the extra time to make sure I understand a particular concept to cheering me on as I tried new things, sometimes successfully and other times failing miserably. This community gave the opportunity and the support the fourteen-year-old me needed to navigate living alone in a foreign country, with towering linguistic barriers and a clouding sense of self-doubt, and grow into someone eager to make a difference in her community – someone confident enough to lead a student club, champion fundraising efforts, give a TEDx talk and perform as part of a flute quartet without the booming sounds of the tuba to hide behind. By the time I graduated in 2017, I was a stronger, more confident version of myself, who was not only ready to receive but also keen to serve. This community was a second family for me, miles away from home. It gave me a safe space to grow to know myself better, to be better, and to dare to reach for the stars.

I would like to share a few pieces of advice that I would love to have shared with my SJI International self over four years ago. The first is to stay focused on learning how to learn and to keep persevering. The hard work that you are putting in right now will prepare you well to tackle the challenge that university presents. The second is to take full advantage of the resources and support at SJI International. Let yourself experiment with new things – join a new club, organise an event, get to know a new person, and ask questions! Experimenting does not feel easy (and I suspect never will), but know that SJI International is a safe space for you to try. So, aim high and give it a go! Beyond SJI International, when you find yourself in unfamiliar surroundings, which may or may not be a university, have confidence in the fact that you know how to learn, how to persevere, and how to follow your heart!

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the teachers, staff members, parents, friends, and partners with whom I shared my three years at SJI International. Thank you for inspiring me with your passion and your kindness, for cheering me on through my ups and downs, and for supporting me in discovering a path for myself in the world. Thank you to everyone who has made the SJI International scholarship possible.


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