Alvah Lai – University of Hong Kong (Psychology)

Have you been feeling overwhelmed and stressed lately, and asking questions like “what’s my counterclaim to this argument” and “does eating count as activity hours for CAS?” Well if you have answered “yes” to all the above, it means that you’ve reached your final two years as an IB student! But rest assured: all of your tears, coffee, and many many sleepless nights will be all worth it when you go to university.

Planning to major in Psychology in year 2, I’m currently studying at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) as a social sciences student. HKU typically offers a 4-year program to undergraduate students. The first year is usually an “exploratory year” which provides freshmen an opportunity to explore the various  disciplines offered by the faculty that you belong to, and also to do courses that are completely unrelated to your faculty. Once you’ve reached year 2, you will need to declare your major discipline of study and from then onwards your study will become more specialised and focused upon the disciplinary major you’ve chosen.

One thing that I’ve noticed after receiving a semester of higher education is the emphasis on critical thinking: the ability to evaluate and analyse concepts and ideas, judging whether they are valid or not. Sounds familiar? Yes, it is the exact same skill you are using to write your Extended Essays, TOK essays and many other assessment tasks that require you to evaluate and analyse. University tutors and examiners place a huge emphasis on critical thinking, as it shows that not only you’ve understood the material, but you’ve also placed your personal input on it. It is a way for you to show the examiners what you truly feel about an idea or concept discussed in class, and it’s also a way for you to take ownership of the knowledge received.

Other than critical thinking, higher education at HKU also emphasises independent learning. For the courses that I’ve taken, we were instructed to conduct our own investigations and research. Having done the Extended Essay and many IAs, I am already equipped with the research skills vital to finding relevant information and data to support my arguments and hypotheses. Though doing the Extended Essay and IAs were burdensome throughout the 2 year Diploma program, I really have these assignments to thank when it comes to independent learning at HKU.

Never would I’ve ever thought that I would say this during my two years of IB Diploma education, but I am really glad that I’ve done the IB. I wish everyone who’s doing the IB the very best. Remember: it’s all worth it in the end!