DUBAI // A-Level student Mariah Fresi is excited to start “the next chapter” in her life, but most of all she is relieved that “the nerves are over after a very sleepless night”.
The Dubai British School (DBS) student received two A* and two A grades in her economics, business, sociology and history exams.
The 18-year-old Australian came to Dubai with her family two years ago when she started her studies. She will return to study law at the University of Sydney in February.
“I feel much more cultured having been in Dubai,” she said. “Of course Sydney is multicultural but it’s a totally different experience here to how it would be in the UK or Australia. The things we’re exposed to are so different to home, so it’s been a good experience and good to be somewhere different.”
Vlad Inataev, 18, did better than his predicted grades. He was expecting three A grades but received two As and one A*, in politics, business and media, and will now enter the UK’s university clearing system to apply for a course in business. The DBS student is hoping to get a place at City University or the London School of Economics.
“I always thought the UK or London would be the right destination for me to study, which is why we chose the British education system,” he said.
The teenager set up a strict timetable to make sure he could fit in his studies with his boxing and social time. In the month before the exams he spent 30 hours a week outside school preparing.
“My parents are proud. The hard work paid off,” said Vlad, adding that he was not at all worried by the idea of moving to another country. “I’m not concerned about leaving home. It’s something everyone has to do,” he said.
At DBS, 91 per cent of all students obtained A-B grades, 25 per cent of which were A* or A.
Saad Mahmud, from the Cambridge High School in the capital, achieved four A* grades and one A. The 18-year-old, whose parents are Pakistani and Dutch and have lived in the UAE for four years, said he was well prepared for his A Levels after having studied in Pakistan.
“It was my studies in Pakistan that made me more competitive. Asians are competitive and that’s what made me realise the importance of getting good grades,” he said.
He hopes to become a cardiothoracic surgeon and has been accepted at the University of Birmingham in the UK.
“I’m really excited because it’s one of the best universities in the UK for medicine. The hard work has really paid off,” he said. “I’ve been busy doing interviews and exams for medicine, flying to the UK and Amsterdam for dozens of interviews, so it’s been very hectic.”
He was also head of the school’s environment club, editor of the school newspaper and one of the board members of the Model UN. “You need something else other than studies or you go crazy,” said Saad. “It can’t be all academics. Even for the medical profession it’s working around the clock, so you need to balance things out or you go into overload.”
As well as Birmingham, he was also offered a place at University College London and the University of Edinburgh as well as institutions in the US, so was in the fortunate position of being able to choose where to study.
“I had the dilemma of choosing between the universities,” said Saad, who in the end opted for a five-year course in the UK over eight in the US.
“It feels exciting and depressing at the same time to move away from home. The past year has been so many trips without my family, such as leadership conferences in Turkey and Moscow, plus interviews at universities, so I’m getting used to it now. I think it will fine.
“Maybe the first two months will be hard but you make friends and they become your family.”
Mike Lambert, head of sixth form at Dubai College, said he was “immensely proud of our leavers this year with over 90 per cent of them heading off to their first-choice university”.
“Five of our UK applicants are heading off to Cambridge, four to Imperial College London, three to London School of Economics, two to University College London and one to Durham. Almost 28 per cent of our leavers this year are heading to universities in the USA, Canada and other non-UK destinations.
“Of those heading to the USA, we have students with places at Princeton, Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania and UC Berkeley.”