With a strong academic legacy at ACG Sunderland, alumnus Aqeel Munif has been one to watch since graduating from the school in 2019.
Known for his academic prowess, skill on the cricket pitch and reputation as an all-around nice guy, Aqeel completed his first year at university with his trademark style and aplomb. Unsurprisingly, despite the challenges of online learning and Covid-19, at the end of 2020, the high-achieving undergrad had earned a place on the Dean's Honours List for the faculty of engineering.
Now 18 months into a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) degree at the University of Auckland, Aqeel is currently specialising in engineering science. This broad discipline encompasses many different scientific principles and associated mathematics that underlie engineering.
And thanks to a more settled year, he can fully embrace his 2021 university experience.
"Compared to 2020, I definitely feel as though this year has better fit my image of what university was going to be like," he explains. "I've been able to meet more people and interact more with my lecturers and tutors on campus."
The 19-year-old enjoys exploring the different aspects of engineering but admits the time management skills he acquired at ACG Sunderland have been crucial to meet the increasing workload.
"Delving deeper into the scope of engineering has been quite exciting, and I'm sure I'll continue to enjoy it. I have always been curious as to what exactly engineering is all about and just how multi-faceted it is.
"However, while I'm getting better at making the required adjustments, the courses tend to be covered in a relatively tight timeframe and pairing that with assignments and tests can occasionally make it easy to lag behind."
Although moving from secondary to tertiary study can be a significant change for many students, Aqeel credits both the Cambridge curriculum and the guidance he received from teachers at ACG Sunderland for helping smooth his transition to university life.
"At university, there is a greater emphasis on keeping up with content at your own discretion and managing this in such a way so that the resources required are available for you to use how you see fit. Yet, I found that this wasn't much of a step up from the independent learning style I had picked up from my later years at ACG Sunderland.
"Additionally, the homework tasks that accompanied the Cambridge curriculum are fairly similar to what is expected in university, which definitely made the transition easier."
With the increased independence university brings, Aqeel is grateful for many of the life lessons he took away from ACG Sunderland. And still rates an observation from Upper College Dean Philip Keen as the most valuable tool he has been given.
"I feel as though Mr Keen's infamous line, "If nothing changes, nothing changes", really came into its own, particularly when the state of education was never 100% certain due to Covid-19. A sense of needing to adapt to changes by inciting change yourself became a necessity, especially in the past year."
So, with his trademark can-do attitude, the proactive teen has adopted a slightly more flexible approach not only to his studies but to life in general – and confirms he has grown as a person because of it.
"I have a growing appreciation for moments where things haven't gone according to plan. They tend to open up opportunities for me to learn more about myself and take corrective action to ensure I'm the one putting myself in a better position for next time."
Pragmatic about the future, Aqeel is keeping his career options open until he has gained more knowledge across various engineering fields. In the meantime, he has set himself some specific goals for the remainder of 2021.
"I want to work towards getting my own voice out there and interacting more with my tutors and lecturers similarly to how I did at school."
Looking back at his own time at ACG Sunderland, the dedicated alumnus has the following advice for current Cambridge A-Level students.
"I would encourage all Senior students to make full use of the resources available. Particularly making good use of the time that teachers offer outside of school hours. Then carry that through to university."