Shell Scholar recounts journey from SPM to enjoying varsity life in UK


Gordon says studying abroad has not made much of a difference in his daily interactions because everyone has been doing their best in making the most out of varsity life.

KUCHING (June 22): Holders of Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) are encouraged to send in their applications for the ‘2021 Class of Shell Scholars’ programme before the deadline this June 30.

A Shell Scholar recipient, Gordon Yong Wu Shun, said SPM holders whose applications had been rejected before should not feel slighted as there were many pathways to success.

In a recent interview, the 21-year-old Sarawakian shared with The Borneo Post how he managed to obtain the prestigious scholarship and also his hopes and aspirations.

Gordon said the four-stage application process began on the day he received his SPM results.

The first step, as usual, was the online application, followed by an online cognitive assessment, both of which were fairly straightforward, he said.

Having been shortlisted, the youth was then invited to a video interview where he was asked a series of competency-based questions.

The final stage was then an interview session with Shell’s board of trustees.

“Although the questions were largely based on my past academic, community and leadership experiences, I still took the time and effort to get my thoughts organised prior to interview day. Personally, I felt those few days of preparations were important. It allowed me to reflect on my past experiences, in the belief that there was much to learn from my achievements and especially from my many failures.

“As such, I was able to provide more personal, all-rounded and succinct answers to the questions asked, and most importantly, with confidence and genuine sincerity,” he said.

The scholarship marked the start of a new journey for an 18-year-old back Gordon then, as well as his first step away from family, friends, and the familiar environment that he grew up in.

“However, I’m glad that I did not succumb to my fear and anxiety, and I’m proud to say that I have come a long way since,” said this youngest of four children of a businessman and a retired teacher.

Gordon completed his secondary education in St Joseph’s Private School here.

Currently pursuing his Degree in Chemical Engineering, the young man has just completed the first year of his four-year integrated Masters programme at the Imperial College in London, UK.

Yong said his choice of degree derived from his upbringing amidst the nature in Borneo and the degradation of this planet – an issue that’s particularly close to his heart.

“It has spurred my desire to undo some of the damage, and this I hope to achieve by becoming a chemical engineer – chemical engineers have a wide variety of skills and technical knowledge ranging from engineering, chemistry, biochemistry, materials science and information technology.

“I believe this will open up many doorways to different career options, be it as a scientific researcher, a field engineer or even taking on managerial roles in companies of various sectors.”

In this sense, Gordon regarded Imperial College London as one of the world’s leading universities in engineering.

“Prestige aside, the Chemical Engineering Department offers an exceptional educational hands-on experience with its well-equipped facilities, such as the carbon capture pilot plant that allows students to gain insight into the life of a plant operator, as well as other aspects.

“This, in my opinion, facilitates a more all-rounded learning experience to all students.”

The status of a Shell scholar is blessing to his family, according to Gordon.

“It took the financial burden off my parents’ shoulders, as well as it being an opportunity for me to further my education and explore another part of the world.

“Being a scholar is something I take pride in, but also one that teaches me humility because everything starts from something, and in my case, that would be years of hard work.

“Yes, I returned home many times during my college days but now at university, I have yet to return home since coming to the UK in October, but that’s to be expected as I’m just about to complete my first year of the four-year university programme.

“Without a doubt, I miss my friends and family far away. It’s alright though, because technology has made it so easy for me to reach out to them. They are always just one call away.”

Gordon said his first day of university was special because for the first time in his life, he had a virtual orientation.

“Although it was rather disappointing after all the built-up expectation of how exciting ‘Freshers’ Week’ could be before the Covid-19 pandemic, I was still appreciative of the virtual events that allowed us ‘freshers’ to socialise and interact through an online platform as that was, without a doubt, the safest and the most ideal way of conducting a ‘welcoming week’ without jeopardising anyone’s safety.”

Studying abroad made not much of a difference in Gordon’s daily interactions because everyone had been doing their best in making the most out of varsity life.

“There’s no special privilege – every student is being treated the same. You can ask any student at all, and each response would be similar, that is to work hard on weekdays and remember to take time off from work, for example during the weekends, to do something that they enjoy.

“We are all just the same,” he said

When asked on his overall experience studying abroad during the pandemic, Gordon said: “To be honest, the experience is not all that bad. Although I have not had the conventional pre-Covid-19 university experience, remote-learning has been effective to a certain degree.

“For example, lectures are recorded, so students would be able to learn at their own pace.

“Contents and workloads are essentially the same as previous years, except they now require more self-discipline from the students to work hard in order to excel.

“Anyone serious enough about their future would not see remote-learning as ‘too big of an obstacle’. All in all, I enjoyed my first-year university experience. Despite all the lockdowns and restrictions, I was still able to make the most out of the situation.”

On his aspirations, Gordon said he strove to gain relevant experience and expertise in the energy industry as a field engineer, before taking on larger managerial roles in Shell, as well as to play a part in Shell’s transition from an oil and gas company to an energy group by making sure that renewable energy would become a societal norm in light of environmental sustainability.

“I am excited by the prospects of a career in chemical engineering.

“I believe we have an opportunity to take science-based, structured approaches to reverse some of the injurious by-products of our societal progress thus far,” Gordon pointed out.