SOTY 21/22: Winner of Best Improvement award overcame challenges of online learning, health issues amid Covid-19

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  • Areeba Afrah struggled with online classes in Bangladesh due to Covid travel restrictions, and battled lung infection soon after getting back to Hong Kong
  • The teen believes making improvements is a core in her life and that ‘everyone has a room for improvement on a daily basis’
Angel Woo |
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Areeba Afrah won the Student of the Year award for Best Improvement. Photo: Handout

Areeba Afrah was sitting alone in her room to have Zoom class, and all of a sudden her laptop blacked out. She had been cut off in the middle of the class again, since the electricity supply was inconsistent in her country Bangladesh.

She entered the Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong in September last year for the International Baccalaureate diploma programme, but Areeba could not fly to the city due to the stringent Covid policies.

While all of her classmates were having classes on campus, she was the only one to get stuck at home. “In Zoom, you really cannot do much. It was quite hard to catch up sometimes,” said Areeba, 18, who is the winner in the Best Improvement Category of the Student of the Year (SOTY) Awards.

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The teachers would check on her constantly to see if she could follow the class, but not being able to interact with her classmates remained a big obstacle to her.

“It would be much different to see how others were doing it as you could also learn from others’ mistakes in classes, which I really could not do online,” she said.

Online learning was not the only problem, she had to study two brand new subjects – Economics and Global Politics.

Since she joined Model United Nations in ninth grade, Global Politics was fairly easy to her as she came across different world issues, but for economics, she got zero knowledge of it. “I did not even know which thing to begin with,” she said.

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Luckily, her teacher tailored the classes in a way that would be manageable for beginners like her. Areeba also paid a lot of effort as she watched plenty of YouTube videos about economics concepts after lessons.

Areeba finally made her way to Hong Kong this January, when she was ready to embrace her on-campus school life, the next hurdle came.

After arriving in the city for three months, she got a bacterial infection on her lungs and was hospitalised for two weeks. “I would say it was more challenging than having zoom classes, because I was here but I was not able to do anything,” she said.

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It was a moment that made her taste adulthood as she needed to learn how to take good care of herself, even when her family was not staying by her side. With all these challenges, Areeba still sailed through her exams as her term assessment grades in both first and second term were 41 out of 42.

She described this school term as a year of improvement. “In the first term, I was learning to adjust to new education … the second term was more on personal growth,” she said.

Making improvements is a core in her life and she believed everyone has a room for improvement on a daily basis.

“Whatever is given to you, you make the best out of it. To make the best out of it, you need to improve yourself. That is my goal,” she said.

The SOTY awards is organised by the South China Morning Post and sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club.

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