The thrill of receiving a Cambridge Outstanding Learner Award for Top in the World in IGCSE History is still sinking in for ACG Parnell College student Gabby Styris.
After a challenging year of extended lockdowns and restrictions, achieving such an outstanding result was a huge feat, and Gabby and her parents couldn’t be more excited.
“I was honestly in complete shock when I was told – it felt so unreal,” says the Year 12 student, who was a part of the team of aspiring historians that won the ASAC 2021 Junior Varsity History Bowl Winter League.
“Last year was such a hard year, so I feel really proud to have come out of it with an award like this. It’s actually been game-changing for me because it has validated that all my hard work throughout 2021 did pay off. So that’s been really special.”
Gabby’s “hard work” was multi-faceted. She stayed on top of her workload by writing notes as they went over the content in class, studied hard for every test and exam throughout the year to cement her learning, and – most importantly - ensured she had a healthy work-life balance.
“Keeping a good work-life balance really helped me out in 2021. Taking breaks as I needed and spending time with friends and family, even while in lockdown, kept me grounded enough to sit my exams.”
Utilising past papers was another winning tactic.
“Cambridge has a seemingly endless supply of past questions and mark schemes that I recommend using as a reference when going into mocks and final exams. It’s super easy to forget what you’ve done before, though, so I found it incredibly useful to keep a record of the past papers I’d already worked on.”
Gabby’s love of history (equalled only by her love of Spanish and English literature) stems from the fact that although the subject is rooted in the past, it provides a deeper understanding of today’s world.
“History is super valuable and under-rated. My favourite part is analysing the political climate at different points in time and trying to understand how these different beliefs have developed over the years and shaped the modern-day,” explains Gabby.
This depth of learning is a key attribute of the Cambridge curriculum – a curriculum for which the dedicated and accomplished teen says she has “a lot of respect”.
“My favourite aspect of Cambridge is being able to contribute my own perspective and thoughts to whatever I’m writing – and the writing skills I’ve gained will serve me for many years to come. That’s something I’m extremely grateful for.”
But ACG Parnell College has provided Gabby with much more than just academic success. Now in her sixth year at the school, she says the amazing student community has always been a highlight.
“It’s super easy to meet new people, which keeps the school feeling connected. Everyone here is very down-to-earth, and most of them have their own passions and hobbies that they’re committed to pursuing in the future. It can be really motivating and inspirational to have such hardworking friends and classmates.
“I also love the range of extracurricular activities and our endless list of clubs. I can’t wait to immerse myself in lots of them this year, especially the activities that help out middle schoolers and make school feel less overwhelming for them. This year I’m determined to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone by signing up for new tasks and leading events, and I also hope to keep prioritising my hobbies, including focusing on trying to write creatively, read and exercise more regularly.”
And looking beyond 2022, Gabby has a lot of exciting plans for the future.
“My current loose plan is to study international relations at university with the ultimate dream of working as a diplomat or for the United Nations. I think that would be the perfect way to combine my three favourite subjects.”