Receiving a scholarship is about more than money. Tong Yak found access to the most precious resource - extra time for quiet study - has helped him slam-dunk his learning goals.
Tong Yak is an avid basketball fan and gamer, studying a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne. During his first year he’s taking Physics Fundamentals and Principles of Business Law, as well as Biology, Chemistry, Human Sciences and Principles of Finance. Adjusting to the university workload was challenging for Tong.
“The level of work set by Melbourne Uni is much higher than what I dealt with in high school. Some students who were more fortunate than I had already covered most of the concepts in my course subjects (biology and chemistry in particular) in year 12, by undertaking a university level subject. The adjustment to university study and how different it is to high school was the biggest obstacle this whole year.“
Tong found the first semester of uni particularly demanding. He knew that working part-time would have side-lined his study time, making it harder and more frustrating to learn. Earning scholarships through Western Chances and Links Program partner, Dafydd Lewis Trust, kept Tong off the bench and in the game, able to focus on his studies.
Tong received his first Western Chances scholarship in 2015 when he was in Year 11. He was nominated for academic talent having been recognised as the 2015 Dux and elected as school captain. He was awarded funds for text books, a calculator and stationery.Tong was successful in having his scholarship renewed in 2016 and following a year off to work in 2017, he was awarded a renewal scholarship for 2018.
“Western Chances also granted me the opportunity to attend Ormond College as a non-residential student and Ormond has everything I needed. Printing, additional tutorials (which were much better than the university counterparts), food, books, shelter and quiet study areas.”
When the pressure is on to succeed at university, adding a little extra time to the “shot clock” can make all the difference to mastering new concepts in between classes.
“One thing that helped me transition in the first year was knowing I had somewhere to sit down and study. A lot of the lecturers went through concepts really quickly and didn't take extra time to explain misunderstandings. Being able to sit down and go through the lectures again by myself in a quiet, comfortable setting helped with a lot of the anxiety and annoyances I had.”
Additional support from the Dafydd Lewis Scholarship provided Tong with more networking opportunities. He says it also helped remove the financial worries encountered as a student.
“The main thing I wanted to achieve with my first year was to have confidence in my study habits and to adjust to university. The Dafydd Lewis trustees are a valuable resource I've been blessed to know and going forward into my second year, they should see and hear a lot more from me. I think heading into my exams I have achieved that. And my second year will demonstrate that better than my first year did.”
In his down time, Tong loves watching the NBA, discussing upcoming matches, coming up with predictions, and comparing player statistics. He enjoys watching vintage basketball players of the past such as David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Duncan, Shaq, Kobe etc. While not an active player, he’s still able to coach his younger brothers and show them the importance of watching players at the top level. As for gaming, Tong is into Call of Duty, Battlefield, Fortnite and NBA 2k.
“Since starting university and having to adjust, both of these interests have taken major hits. Entering into my second year and feeling more confident with my approach and being more disciplined in a schedule and study techniques which actually worked for me, they should pick back up.”
University is hard work, but taking regular timeout can help Tong find a balance with the intensive study pressure. Looking at how far he’s come from the baseline already, he is squared up and ready to pursue a career in medicine.
“I hope to become a surgeon (neuro or orthopaedic) and make an impact on the South Sudanese in Australia and back home, in a place, I never got to experience. I want to let my mother know that her son accomplished something with his life and didn't squander the opportunities she fought for him to have. There's some other stuff, but I need to achieve this first!”
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