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University of Cambridge – a dream come true for aspiring physicist

Stephen Hawking’s book ‘A Brief History of Time’ was a life-changing read for ACG Strathallan alumnus Jeonghyeok Park. Not only did it inspire Park to follow his passion for physics, but it was also the driving force behind his dream to study at one of the world’s most prestigious universities.

Student Jeonghyeok Park

“After reading ‘A Brief History of Time’ I decided I wanted to become a theoretical physics researcher – and then I decided I wanted to learn from Stephen Hawking himself! Because he was a professor at the University of Cambridge at the time, that’s the university I set my sights on,” explains Park.

As an undergraduate entering the hallowed grounds of the Cambridge precincts, it would have been easy to become overwhelmed by the moment. And Park admits that nerves did play a significant role in his first impression of the university.

“I was quite excited but also incredibly nervous to settle in a new environment. But fortunately, the atmosphere of the university was so welcoming and relaxed that it was easy to fit in and get along with everyone.”

Now a year into his natural science degree, the erudite teen is most definitely in his happy place.

“Studying at Cambridge is an astonishing experience. The university offers so much learning, and you meet so many brilliant people with inspiring stories.

“I’ve formed friendships with undergrads from diverse social and academic backgrounds, and I’ve also attended a few activities organised by the Korean Ethnic Society in Cambridge which has helped me adapt to university life.”

One of Park’s biggest first-year highlights was a formal dinner party put on by the university for the students and professors in his degree major.

“I was so anxious and nervous I couldn’t even taste the meal, but then we started talking about the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics for that year, and everyone became so engaged in the discussion. It reminded me that the university is filled with people who share the same interests as me, and it made me even more excited about my studies.”

While Park acknowledges that the workload at Cambridge “gets quite stressful” he says his years spent studying at ACG Strathallan have prepared him well for the challenge.

“I was expecting a large workload, and the university exceeded my expectations, but many of the skills and lessons I had learned at ACG Strathallan helped me to manage it. The teachers at Strathallan always encouraged me to think more deeply about subjects, and that has helped a lot with my critical thinking. They didn’t hesitate to show us how hard work pays off when it comes to reaching our potential.”

The school also taught him about the rewards of pushing himself out of his comfort zone.

“The most important thing I took away from ACG Strathallan was to always give things a shot. In Year 11, I was reluctant to participate in anything, but by Year 13, I was involved in so many different activities. I felt inspired by my peers who enjoyed challenges, and that motivated me to get involved in the school community. I failed at many things, but I always learnt from my experiences, and each one of those experiences helped me become the person I am today.”

About to embark on his second year at the world-renowned university, Park is living the life he has always dreamed of and encourages everyone who is passionate about their future to do the same.

“Some of you might be hesitant in applying to your dream universities – I was hesitant as well. Without the encouragement of my friends and ACG Strathallan teachers, I would never have had the courage to apply. I’m so glad I did!”

The focussed undergrad’s journey to reach his ultimate career goal – becoming a researcher in the field of theoretical physics – is well mapped out and one of the next steps he is planning to take includes studying for his doctorate.

And his advice for those looking to tread in his footsteps and study overseas. “Follow your dreams – it won’t be easy, but it will be unforgettable.”