Former ICS student Omar returns to ICS Secondary to talk about his experiences at the University of Oxford

No nerves here! Omar delivers a coaching session to two of our 2019 Oxford applicants ahead of their entrance exams

No nerves here! Omar delivers a coaching session to two of our 2019 Oxford applicants ahead of their entrance exams

Omar Abdelnasser, a former ICS student originally from Egypt, joined the school in 2012 and attended for four years, graduating from the IB Diploma Programme in 2016. Scoring 44 out of a possible 45 points in the Diploma, Omar achieved a feat managed by less than 1% of students globally. His success lead to him being offered a place at the University of Oxford to study Mathematics. The University of Oxford was declared the world’s top university in 2018 for the third year running, and was awarded the title based on its outstanding quality of research, teaching and innovation.

Today, Omar is back to visit ICS and to catch up with his Diploma mentor, former mathematics teacher and now newly appointed Secondary School Principal, Muz Chohan.

Omar, feeling relaxed and rested following his Summer break from university, is ready for his return to Oxford. Gearing up to head into the third year of his Mathematics degree (he is aiming to do a fourth year also, which will qualify him as having a Masters of Science in Mathematics), he is thriving and relishes the challenge the next year is set to bring.

We had a chat with Omar to find out how university is going, and how his time at ICS has supported his transition to Oxford life.

Omar! It’s fantastic to see you back at ICS, you’re certainly a familiar face to many and we’re delighted to see you! We can’t help but notice how confident you’ve become and we’re incredibly proud to see one of our alumni doing so well. Did your time at ICS prepare you for university?

Yes, absolutely! It’s on a smaller scale, of course, but there are so many similarities between how I studied at ICS working towards my Diploma and what I am experiencing at Oxford.

At ICS, your work is set by your teachers and you learn to motivate yourself and work from your own initiative. You become a self-study expert! It also helped that in ICS, you approach your teachers directly and this helps you become comfortable and confident in interacting with senior staff, something I practice on a daily basis with my tutors and lecturers at university.

You joined the Middle Years Programme at ICS in 2012 and began to foster a love of mathematics within the school – how did ICS support this interest?

My interest started to develop thanks to the teaching of mathematics at ICS, which really began to open my mind and broaden my horizons on the uses and concepts of mathematics. I had incredibly supportive teachers who inspired me by introducing me to the different mathematical disciplines. It was Mr. Muz (ICS Secondary Principal and Omar’s former mathematics teacher) that really got me interested in mathematics beyond simply an IB subject level.

Mr. Muz introduced me to extracurricular mathematics problems and challenges, and it gave me more of an idea of what university mathematics might be like. I also had 1-to-1 tutorials from Mr. Ryan (former ICS teacher) and Mr. Muz which gave me freedom within the curriculum to challenge myself at a higher level and exposed me to mathematics that I had not tried before.

Nurturing your interest and aptitude for mathematics got you thinking about applying for Oxford – did ICS guide you in your application?

Yes, we had career sessions, but once I became set on the idea of mathematics at Oxford, I found the mathematics department became my key support and guidance. My tutors Mr. Ryan and Mr. Muz coached me on entrance exams and my personal statement, as they were the ones who knew my strengths mathematically and how to highlight these as part of my application.

The International Baccalaureate is a programme that’s growing and growing in popularity and reputation in not just the UK, but across the world – do you feel that the subjects you cover within it are good preparation for continued studies of a particular topic at university level? Are there similarities between the mathematics you studied within the IB and the topics you are now studying at Oxford?

For me, the IB was an excellent preparation point, certainly as good as you can possibly have. The understanding and intuition within the IB is second to none and the breadth the subjects cover is fantastic, giving you the opportunity to explore a number of subjects.

You’re halfway through your Mathematics degree – have you started to think about future plans?

At the moment, I haven’t decided if I’ll do a PhD following the degree, but that might change! Mathematics is a subject in which you never stop learning. I have done some financial internships which have been very enlightening. It’s certainly a full-on course, but I am becoming clearer on my preferences mathematically – I love theory and problem solving!

Our final question to Omar was a simple one – “Are you enjoying the overall experience of Oxford?”.

He laughs, then smiles and says “I’ve been focussed on the experience of being at Oxford as a whole, university has certainly been about more than just learning mathematics!”.

With that, Omar is whisked away for a catch up with current Diploma students, all keen to learn from his experience and emulate his success in their own university applications.

We wish Omar all the best on his continued academic journey, and we’re already looking forward to when he next pops into ICS for a cup of tea!

Maria Leonard