The chosen one

Benjada Korprasertsri is the only Thai student to receive a fully-paid scholarship to the University of Cambridge this year

Benjada Korprasertsri, right, recipient of Jardine Foundation Scholarship. photo courtesy of Jardine Foundation

'In the future, as Thailand continues to become more developed, we will begin to require more and more high-valued, locally-made products to sustain our economy," began 17-year-old Benjada Korprasertsri.

"We will require scientists and researchers who can create technological or scientific solutions to various problems. If I manage to succeed in my studies, I will gain the knowledge to develop these solutions to help Thailand advance."

Graduating from Bangkok Pattana International School with a 4.00 average GPA, along with a slew of various extra-curricular activities, Benjada was recently accepted to receive a fully-paid scholarship to study Natural Sciences at Magdalene College in Cambridge in the UK. Given by the Jardine Foundation -- an educational trust established by British conglomerate Jardine Matheson, Benjada will be the only Thai student to receive the scholarship this year, among about 30 other students from all over Asia.

"The foundation is established by Jardine Matheson in 1982 to mark the conglomerate's 150th anniversary," said Neil McNamara, the Jardine Foundation's group corporate secretary and director of group corporate affairs.

"Basically, the aim behind the establishment of the Jardine Foundation is to give back to the communities in which the conglomerate does business," which according to McNamara generally includes greater China and most of South-East Asia.

"One way of doing that is to support students who show leadership potential, so they can go to one of the most prestigious universities in the world -- Oxford or Cambridge -- and use that knowledge and experience to develop their own societies."

Only given to students who have already been accepted at Oxford or Cambridge -- already an impressive feat on its own -- the Jardine scholarship receives less than 300 applications a year. Only eight Thai students, including Benjada, have ever received the scholarship.

"On the one hand, I feel very relieved that I received the scholarship, as the tuition and living costs for studying abroad would have been quite taxing on my family, so I was glad that I could help my parents out in this regard," said Benjada.

"On the other hand, sometimes it still surprises me that I was chosen for the scholarship. I'm sure there are other exceptional students out there that are just as -- if not more -- qualified for the scholarship, so there's certainly a bit of pressure that comes with that. Now that I have the scholarship, I do feel more of a drive to do well to not disappoint those who gave me this opportunity."

With an aim of majoring in the sciences, Benjada is a firm believer in the importance of scientific and technological research. While a Thai education could be a great financial relief for her family, Benjada believes that she will ultimately benefit more from an international science curriculum.

"Thailand isn't exactly known for its respect for scientific or academic research. The Thai education system also doesn't really reward curiosity or student initiative and creativity, which are all important for creating change in society. Thai students compete in and win academic competitions all the time, we spend the most hours in the classroom, but we still rank among the lowest compared to other countries' students. Scientific research requires individualism and creativity, and teaching those to our students can help solve a lot of problems."

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