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Inspirational Boarder with Aspirational Dreams

Published Friday 7th of May 2021 01:25:49 PM

A scholarship to Yale University, one of America’s most prestigious and highly-selective institutions, will unlock untold opportunities for a Brentwood School boarding student with high aspirations for both himself and his war-torn country.

Bosnian Din-Ammar Tolj, an HMC Scholar studying the International Baccalaureate at Brentwood, will start a fully-funded, four-year means-tested scholarship to the Connecticut-based private research university in August.

Din, who will major in Physics and Philosophy, had to undertake an exhaustive application process involving a personal statement, a Zoom interview with an alumnus, and a set of personalised essays - the most difficult part of the application: “You have to pour your heart into them and present your entire personality on 2 A4 sheets of paper,” he explained.

Din’s offer of a coveted fully-funded scholarship is even more remarkable considering Yale’s acceptance rate for Autumn 2021 dropped to 4.6% after the university received its largest-ever pool of applicants.

Multi-lingual Din, who speaks Bosnian, English and German, joined Brentwood School in September 2019 on an HMC Sixth Form scholarship programme and is studying Maths, Physics, English and Philosophy (at Higher Level) and German Language and a self-study course on Bosnian Literature at Standard Level. He plans to enrol in French lessons once he starts at Yale.

The HMC Scholarship gives students from Central and Eastern Europe the opportunity to study for two years in a British school. The programme aims to foster bonds of understanding and friendship between young people across Europe and to give young people from the former communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe an enriching and rewarding experience in some of the best schools in the world. Successful students are able to develop their English skills, to make new friends from different cultures, and to experience and appreciate the culture and traditions of the UK.

Nineteen-year-old Din, who joined Brentwood from Sarajevo High School, has certainly made the most of this life-changing opportunity and few can doubt he will achieve his dreams; whether it be the life of a physicist or the world of diplomacy.

“I always wanted to be a physicist, to do something research related and to discover something new, or something maybe groundbreaking. I was very, very aspirational. As I grew older, and as I took some Philosophy lessons, I realised I also really want to change the image of my country as well.

“Not in the sense of putting it on the map, but inspiring people especially in a country recovering from the effects of war. To contribute to revamping that image into something that’s filled with more hope and aspiration in general and that’s why I thought maybe something political might be of interest to me as well; maybe being an ambassador perhaps. In a way now I am split between those two paths. I am not sure whether to commit to my original dream of doing something research-based or something more diplomatic.”

Din hadn’t studied Philosophy prior to joining Brentwood School but he immediately fell in love with the subject. “It was a subject I knew I would like because I always like Physics, I always like Maths but I also like questioning; How do these ideas come about? Why does this behave like that? Thankfully my Philosophy teachers are absolutely amazing and they are one of the reasons I love Philosophy so much. The teachers present the IB content in a unique way.

“Maths and Physics are my favourite subjects; the idea of discovery, or discovering something new, of having fun with it, of exploring on your own and not being limited by the way the book tells you to do things, always finding new methods and going online; finding new ways to approach examples, new ways to solve problems. That layer that exists just above the classroom is for me really interesting.”

Din has thoroughly enjoyed his ‘absolutely phenomenal’ experience at Brentwood School. “It has given me an opportunity which I wouldn’t have had otherwise.” And, in his typical exuberant fashion, Din has ensured that he seized every opportunity given to him - despite the Coronavirus pandemic.

From discovering a new-found love of Fencing, to helping with Old Brentwood events, from voluntary service to the literature club and reciting poems during a German evening, Din has made sure to get involved in a plethora of fun and new co-curricular activities and extra-curricular group projects.

Headmaster Michael Bond said: “Din has embraced all the opportunities Brentwood School has to offer and embodies the School’s values and our vision which enables our students to become the very best version of themselves. We are proud to have played a part in his journey and look forward to seeing what the future holds for him.”

During the last national lockdown, Din returned to Bosnia, and despite the one-hour time difference, he still managed to complete a full timetable of lessons thanks to the School’s much-acclaimed remote learning programme. “Remote learning wasn’t a problem to me since here in the School they did it really well. Everything was timetabled and people were trying to act like it was normal school lessons as much as possible. We had proper timetables and proper lessons and I got to spend a bit more time with my family.”

He has also relished the boarding experience with friends becoming a family he can rely on. “There are people here from all over the world and we support each other and are proud of that.

“A lot of people here have not met anyone from Bosnia and Herzegovina; not many people from Bosnia live in the UK and a lot of people haven't heard about the country. It has relatively recently become independent by splitting from Yugoslavia not too long ago. I want to represent this country in the best way I can. I want to fight against any prejudice that might exist against the country and the idea that it's a small place which no-one knows about. Well that doesn’t matter, you can achieve great things even if you are from a small place which people don’t know about. One of my goals is to say: ‘this is Bosnia and it might be small but look at me I’m out here doing things that are big.’”

And ‘being out there doing things’ he certainly is. The Yale scholarship will ensure Din fulfils an ambition to explore the United States, better understand its cultures and values, take in the sights and sounds of New York and to ‘see everything.’

Four years at Yale University will then be followed by a Master’s degree but in what, and where, Din has yet to decide. One thing, however, is for certain…...the world is his oyster!
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