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A winning speech at the Outstanding Cambridge Learner Awards in China

Cambridge Learners  East Asia  

Tang Shiyun, a student at Shenzhen College of International Education in China was one of the students that won the Outstanding Cambridge Learner Awards. In her acceptance speech, the star student tells us the journey has not always been smooth, but she persevered and calls on fellow students to do the same.

‘Dear teachers, honorable guests, and fellow students:

Greetings! It is an enormous honour for me to stand here, sharing my journey of academic endeavours. I am one of the receivers of the Outstanding Cambridge Learners Awards.

Many of us sitting here have already gone through the application season and know where we are heading to in the coming years, and many of us are still standing at the portal of the tense application season. We also have different stories, majors, and future plans. But there are some experiences we may have shared in common. There are many moments when we think we have finally landed on the shore: be it an internal final exam, the international exam, or the application. We may have thought that “after this, everything will go smoothly.” But that’s not true. There are always more things to do after one is done. The toil will never end. So, before we fall into that trap, we might realise that sacrificing ourselves for a single goal is not the only way the journey will unfold.

In my own journey, there were many ups and downs that did not point to my goal. I was not always an outstanding student. I showed no potential to achieve the Top in China in Cambridge International AS Level Literature in English.

I kept receiving Bs throughout G-level English courses. And there were many experiences, family, friends, physical or mental health, identity, and so on, that fell on me like heavy stones. But I later learned that it was exactly those unrelated experiences that built towards my academic achievement. From those experiences, I understood Stephen Spender’s line “You must live through the time when everything hurts.” I learned the value of my pursuit.  

So how has the journey been? The first step should be estimating ourselves and our goals objectively. Top grades do not conclude who we are, but they are necessary for our dream schools.  The most important things must be done with unshakable firmness. Although having those solid grades in our hands increases our stakes, they do not guarantee our chances to be accepted. So “hope for the best, and expect the worst.”

The application season is indeed a process when we get 90% back only if we have invested 200%. And there are so many uncertainties that will make us doubt ourselves. During the exam preparations and application season, from time to time I realised, that there were so many people more competitive than me. There were many people who could do the same and even better. So I asked myself repeatedly: who am I, what can I do, and where shall I be. And through these processes, I learned I cannot represent anyone, and no one can represent me. The collective pronoun ‘we’ is for us to measure our abilities, and how we can cooperate and create as explorers of different realms, but not for us to diminish ourselves into dusts of self-doubts. 

So be honest, be yourself. Beyond the application, you are always a person. A person applying for an undergraduate degree, not a future undergraduate waiting to become a person after that. Life is a continuous flow of past, present, and the future, coexisting in multiple dimensions rather than a linear route divided by key stages. Rather than waiting for those moments when we are ‘landed,’ why not admit we are always sailing on the way? Beyond the result, experiences and efforts also make up our lives, and nobody can take them away. Beyond the application there is always a wider world to which we belong: how are we going to contribute to our college campus and the society after being accepted? What have we already done to prove our ability to contribute? That long-term cause should also be kept in mind.

Finally, I need to sincerely thank my school and all the support our teachers have provided during our time at Shenzhen College of International Education (SCIE). Every year, there are thousands of students in China taking Cambridge International examinations and applying to top universities worldwide; there are so many outstanding students. As an SCIE student, I appreciate that I have had wider choices of Cambridge International subjects, more convenience in exam registration, and more in-depth guidance throughout the application. And those have laid the foundation of my academic pursuit.

Thank you, all the friends, for inspiring one another, thank you for all your hard work, perseverance, and passion that have brought you here. Cheers to the glittering deeds you have earned, and be prepared to venture out into wider territories of knowledge and humanity.

Thank you.’

Congratulations to Tang Shiyun and all the Oustanding Cambridge Learner Award winners across the world!

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