The moment of Glory: Congratulations to Nikol Chen, UCL Graduate!

The Moment of Glory: Congratulations to Nikol with the First Class Degree in Human Sciences from UCL

Dear Haileybury Almaty,

‘Overwhelming’ is the one word I would use to describe my three years at University College London. I distinctly recall the feeling of slight dizziness after I left particularly enlightening lectures, as if my head was going to explode from all the information I learnt in the past hour. There was the feeling of awe I experienced while getting lost between the bookshelves in the library – a quest to find one particular text would turn into pure indulgence in infinite knowledge surrounding and beckoning me. Inevitably, there was also the maddening frustration caused by not ‘getting’ something, which would soon be taken over by perfect satisfaction when everything fell into place in the mind.

Without a doubt I attribute my growth and development during university to the Haileybury Habits that were instilled in me during my school years. It took active resilience to overcome the profound feeling of low self-esteem and insecurity which I experienced after realising that I am no longer at the top of my class, and that I will have to work twice as hard to stay on the same level as the brilliant minds around me. Nevertheless, being resilient helped me get up every time I fell or stumbled - it allowed me to overcome the inexhaustible difficulties that seemed to be waiting everywhere I went. Precisely this resilience enabled me to complete my degree with First Class Honours, obtain a valuable internship at the BBC in my first year, hone various creative and analytical skills, and accumulate useful work experience to secure a job at charity that I am due to start soon.

For me, resilience goes hand in hand with courage . Indeed, it takes immense courage to keep working on something you are not good at from the beginning, or explore subjects you never encountered before - which was the case in my degree due to its interdisciplinary nature. I began to venture into the fascinating fields of anthropology and philosophy, which I initially found to be completely impervious. Only by being courageous and determined I managed to access and excel in those subjects. Not to mention that they turned out to be my favourites! What a colossal pleasure it is to go back to a topic that you initially found to be entirely perplexing, only to find that through courage and effort you managed to transform it into something obvious.

Naturally, inquisitiveness is an essential component of the university journey. Only by asking questions you can forge your path to knowledge, and trust me when I say that it takes courage to ask questions. I discovered the unfathomable extent of knowledge at university, but it goes beyond that –beyond academics. The three habits I already mentioned can easily be used to describe my life outside the library. Courage enabled me to try new hobbies, such as hosting my own radio show and designing magazines, and resilience allowed me to persist despite the mistakes I made. Being inquisitive not only provided access to new academic subjects, but also made me constantly search for new leadership and career opportunities, meet new people, and discover the world around me in its entirety.

Inevitably, the desire to try everything called for rigorous organisation skills. I aimed to stay on top of everything at once - performing well in my academics, investing sufficient time and effort into my hobbies, spending time with my friends, and working a part-time job. It seemed impossible at first but soon I realised that the organisation and time-management skills I was taught at school helped me immensely and allowed me to juggle all the aforementioned elements of my life. Moreover, being resourceful proved to be a vital habit – I was forced to constantly find ways to optimise my time. To be honest, I simply could not afford to dwell on my difficulties. When you are trying to manage everything at once, being resourceful is a priceless advantage.

Last but not least, the habit of being reflective is one which underlines all the others and reinforces them as well. Now that I have graduated with a First Class degree in Human Sciences from UCL, I am able to reflect clearly more than ever not only on the three recent years I spent at university, but also how my time at Haileybury Almaty has prepared me to succeed and thrive. Ongoing reflection during my time at university enabled me to assess my strengths and weaknesses, analyse my interests, and pursue self-improvement. Now it is crystal clear to me that in those three years I have transformed completely as an individual, reconsidered many of my views, and most importantly: I enjoyed myself. It was not the joy of finding everything to be easy, or partying with my friends, but the overwhelming joy of overcoming difficulties, widening my horizons, challenging myself, and still coming out on top.

To be perfectly honest - I struggled. I struggled constantly and profoundly. Nevertheless, one of the major lessons I learnt in the past three years is to be grateful for my struggle and to embrace it. To struggle is to progress, and at the end of hardship there is triumph. I am sincerely and entirely grateful to Haileybury Almaty for allowing me to struggle at one of the top institutions in the world. “Thank you” would be an understatement — the opportunities that the School offered me, and the knowledge I received during my time there have forever influenced me as a person and I look forward to reinvesting in the School, its students, and its missions.

Warm regards,

Nikol Chen

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