From Setback to Triumph: Deborah Qu, YCIS Beijing Valedictorian

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In June, at Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS Beijing) all thoughts are turning towards graduation and beyond. So it’s only fitting that we profile our valedictorian and previous student blog contributor Deborah Qu. Deborah sat down with us to discuss her incredible achievement, her time at our school and share a bit of sound advice for young scholars.

1. Please introduce yourself.
My name is Deborah Qu, and I’m from California, but I moved to Beijing with my family five years ago. I joined YCIS Beijing three years ago, as a Year 11 student.

2. How does it feel to be YCIS Beijing’s 2019 Valedictorian?
It feels strange but good. I mean, I was apprehensive at first, as it seemed that many of my peers were worthy too. I just feel like we all really grew over the last two years and stretched ourselves, but in the end, I’m just really, really happy to have achieved this honour.


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3. Were you surprised you were able to finish top of your class given your late entry to the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) programme?
Yes. When I started at YCIS Beijing, I was a year behind in the IGCSE programme, as my previous school didn’t offer it. Early on, I often got discouraged by the workload. So it was tough for me. I had to work super hard to catch up, so I was impressed with my grades, and I’m really proud of my improvements and all I’ve learned. Hard work and perseverance are top of that list. The good grades were a bonus, but the life lessons and knowledge gained were my real reward.

4. Where are you planning to attend university next year?
I am going to the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and plan to study Psychology. It definitely was one of my top school picks because I liked the programs they offered, and it was close to where I grew up.


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5. Any plans for this summer?
I will be attending a summer program at UC Berkeley, so it’s going to be a short summer. I intend to try to spend as much time as possible with my family and friends until then, and I’m hoping to learn how to drive before I leave for school too.

6. Looking back, how would you describe your time at YCIS Beijing, and what made it special?
Wow, that’s tough. Well, I believe YCIS Beijing really brought me out of my shell. YCIS was really special for me because it felt like my second home, where I laughed and joked around with friends and learned how to be a more assertive individual. I was also able to try out activities like kickboxing, soccer, Roots and Shoots—things I had not done before— and discover new likes. School was definitely very stressful at times, but I am grateful for the lessons I learned along the way.


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7. Could you share a few of your best memories at YCIS Beijing?
That’s difficult, but our ‘30 Hour Famine’ for World Vision and ‘Laughter and Latte – A Night of Two One-Act Plays’ charity fundraising event were really interesting experiences. For the ‘30 Hour Famine,’ we invited a spokesperson in from World Vision to talk about the great work they do while a group of us fasted for 30 hours! It was a big reminder for me to not take my blessings for granted.

‘Laughter and Latte’ was a drama performance where we showcased our talents, with the proceeds going to the Help A Child Smile Charity (HACS). The most memorable aspect was learning my lines and watching the skits come together while goofing off with friends. My role in the play was to recall the ridiculous, made-up memories my character had during school, where I repeated the catch-phrase “YCIS, where memories last a lifetime.” I find it rather fitting now that the play itself has become one of the many memories I look back on with a smile.


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8. What are you going to miss most about YCIS Beijing?
My friends and teachers. I’ve been through so much with my classmates, highs and lows. Our teachers, they’ve invested so much in us, and I really appreciate their efforts. Also the campus, I’ve had such great experiences here, it’s full of memories.

9. What are you most looking forward to for next year?
Freedom. This is such a critical point in my life, I just find taking the next step an exciting (and enticing) adventure.

10. Any advice for next year’s scholars and aspiring valedictorians?
Do your best, but know your limits. Focus on the journey rather than the result. Instead of thinking, "I wanna be valedictorian, so that’s what I’m working for," think of what you really want to put yourself through. Also, I learned the most from my mistakes and self-perceived setbacks, so embrace those.

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