Oliver Gao '21

School & Program
Johns Hopkins University, International Relations

Meadowridge Student Since
Grade 8

Born in
Rochester, 
New York, USA

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I enjoy playing the piano, but these past few years I’ve also enjoyed hanging out with friends, playing video games and watching movies. I like historical fiction or non-fiction, but my favourite movie is probably Interstellar. Aside from that, I also volunteer with Social Diversity for Children (SDC for short) which is an organization that empowers children with disabilities through the arts. I discovered SDC by accident when I was scrolling through Instagram, but applied straightaway when I found the page. We do a lot, like host fundraisers and a big annual gala. This year, we headed down to different beaches in Vancouver to sell ice cream and raise money and awareness. Another cause important to me is the Social Justice Club here at the school. It only got started last year, but we’ve worked on some amazing stuff. It started off as just a discussion with Ms. Tao but it soon became a club. I think that’s something that only happens with a culture like Meadowridge’s. You’re so encouraged to discuss things, be open-minded and have different opinions.

How did you first find yourself at Meadowridge?

My family used to live in California, near where my dad taught at Stanford, but when he decided to start his own business, we had a choice to live wherever we wanted. We decided to move back to Canada. We looked at other private schools in the area, but Meadowridge stood out as the most unique. We loved the campus and the fact that it offered the IB Programme. But honestly, my first visit here I remember thinking this is straight-up wilderness. It wasn’t until we pulled up to the school and saw the campus that I saw how big and established the school was. I still remember the tour and the ambassadors who showed us around. I remember how polite they were and even elegant. You could tell they cared and weren’t just half-heartedly answering our questions.

Tell us about your year ahead.

I’m headed to Baltimore, Maryland where I’ll be studying International Relations at Johns Hopkins University. My eventual goal is to study law, and I love history, so I liked that the campus was close to Washington, DC – about an hour or so away. I will be living in the dorms on campus, and I plan to join the Model UN Club.

Our school encourages us to “live well, with others and for others” and that’s a great culture to be in.

What was it about International Relations?

Growing up, I’ve experienced many cultures for myself. My family is Chinese, and I’ve lived in both the United States and Canada. It was interesting for me to see how all these different cultures blended together. That has been a defining part of my life growing up. My interest in history also helped, an interest I developed through Model UN. It was there that I saw how intricate the cultures and values and relationships between countries can be and how they affect so much. That’s what you get if you study international relations. You get to study values. I’d like to eventually work in governmental law or international diplomatic law.

My love for History also motivated my decision, a love that grew at Meadowridge. Not just during my Diploma Programme (DP) History classes, but also during my Individuals and Societies classes in the Middle Years Programme (MYP). I still remember our civic mirror simulation. As I mentioned, Model UN was also a big motivation for me. I actually didn’t even know anything about it when I first joined Meadowridge, but my friend told me it was a club we should join because it was the type of club you should join… so, we did. I still remember being impressed by one of the Grade 10 students and wanting to be as articulate as he was. It sounds cliché, but it became my goal to be like him. Anyways, that’s how it got started. After that I took part in lots of conferences and even hosted my own in Grade 11. Because of the pandemic, it ended up being a virtual conference but we still welcomed delegates from 11 different countries. It was surreal but so satisfying in the end.

What are you most looking forward to in the year ahead?

Adjusting to university life, but I don’t know what that really means quite yet. I’m ready to adapt to a new environment, where everywhere you look there are new faces. My mom and I watched every single room tour on the Johns Hopkins website, so I know I really want to find a suite, which is private but still shared. There are also lots of clubs on campus that I’m excited to learn more about and join. The campus is also in a really unique spot with lots of cultures, so I’m excited to check out some of the local cinemas.

In the meantime, I’m trying to prepare myself for a bit of independence. It’s a bit of a process. I’m learning to cook, so right now I’m making lots of scrambled eggs, omelets, fried eggs, instant noodles and hot dogs. Try dicing up some tomatoes and putting them on your hot dogs. It does work!

What will you miss most as you move onto the next chapter?

I’ll miss my friends and teachers. I think it’s rare to get such a close community. We know each other, and we’re all really close. I’ll miss going to History class with Ms. Higginson and all our class’s inside jokes. I’ll also miss the school itself. Since I started here, the school has expanded quite a bit. Seeing that growth has been one of the most exciting things for me. I’ll miss the North Forest, which is so unique, and Ms. Jacus’ counselling office. Her office has been where I’ve spent lots of time these past two years. She was so helpful, and always had time to chat. Even with 20 students to look after, she still remembers exactly what you’re doing in the moment in terms of school and university.

Sometimes during class, you have to walk to the printer or something, and it’s in those moments where the hallways are kind of empty that you really appreciate and see the school. I mean, they say when you spend enough time somewhere it starts showing up in your dreams. That’s true for me about Meadowridge… there was a zombie dream once. I’ll miss the school a lot.

Any parting words of wisdom?

Let’s see… well, the academics are really challenging at Meadowridge, but once you go through it it’s the best feeling ever. So even when you’re “in it” try to still enjoy it. It can seem impossible when you’re stressed about a test or an exam, but you’ll end up cherishing that stress because it is a part of your experience. My grad class never expected the pandemic, so we didn’t know lots of our experiences would end up being our last ones at school. So start early. Don’t take things for granted. Our school encourages us to “live well, with others and for others” and that’s a great culture to be in. You won’t realize how important it is until you’re outside of Meadowridge.

Congratulations to our 2021 Graduates

The Class of 2021 is graduating from one of the most rigorous academic programs in the world, and they become graduates during one of the most challenging times. Throughout the past year, and throughout their journey with us at Meadowridge, they have exhibited grace, courage, intelligence, and kindness.

They are all going on to prestigious schools nationally and internationally, to join rigorous programs in a variety of disciplines, and, most importantly, to make a positive impact in our world. We are proud of what they have achieved, and despite knowing change is the only certainty, we are confident that these young people are prepared to not only meet the future, but also to create it.

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