Story/Interview May 5, 2023
From the online classroom to Oxford — catching up with King’s InterHigh alumnus Walid Sabihi
Walid Sabihi completed his A Level studies achieving an impressive 3 A*s in Maths, Further Maths and Physics as well as an A in Chemistry. Having completed a gap year working with Cambridge Consultants, the only way is up for the King’s InterHigh alumnus, who now studies Computer Science at the University of Oxford. Learn how studying online helped him define and achieve his goals.
"I think in the future online learning will become one of the main options for studying."
Oxford University Computer Science student
Why did you first decide to join King’s InterHigh?
I joined King’s InterHigh in 2018 and was there for 2 years for my A Levels.
The most important appeal for me, though, was the opportunities that doing A Levels would afford me. Before I joined King’s InterHigh I was studying in Morocco in a local school that followed the local system. It wasn’t possible to do A Levels there without going to a very expensive private school. Without A Levels, I don’t think I would have been able to achieve the things that I did, like applying to Oxford.
Also at the time, my dad was living in the UK and my mum was in Morocco. I was mostly in Morocco, but sometimes I would travel to the UK. If I had stayed in a physical school, I'd have to be in one place for most of the year, so it freed up some flexibility with where I could be.
Were there any unexpected benefits you found to studying online compared with a physical school?
Yes, definitely. I found that the teachers allocated more time to me, the groups were smaller and it was more focused overall. There was less time wasted during lessons. Another one was definitely just the free time that I got.
Plus, if I'd continued going to school in Morocco, I would have had to study at least 10 subjects. Due to the nature of A Levels, I got to choose just 4 that I was really interested in, which was a massive improvement. For me, this was the biggest benefit.
What key skills did you learn while studying online with King’s InterHigh?
King’s InterHigh felt closer to the way university works than traditional school. You have some contact hours, but most of the time you have your own time to work in which means you have to learn to manage your own time and plan your own studying outside of lessons. When I got to university I found it to be a fairly similar system, so it didn’t feel like a big step up.
Please share any highlights from your time at King’s InterHigh
I enjoyed the science practicals in the Spring term where we got to meet up in person. I got to see and work with lots of people on my course in person and got to meet some of my teachers, too. I also really loved another weekend trip I went on that the school organised - it was a really fun couple of days! I met lots of new people, including those who weren’t on my course. I still have memories from that trip and I actually still keep in touch with friends I made there, so it was a really great experience.
What were your next steps after finishing your A Levels?
After finishing my A Levels, I took a gap year where I went to work at a company called Cambridge Consultants in Cambridge, where I worked as a software engineer. I got to work on so many interesting things and it was a massively helpful experience. When applying to internships, it definitely helps if you have previous experience; I was lucky enough to get an internship at a software company this summer, and I think my gap year helped with that. I think taking a gap year with a clear goal is almost always a net positive.
What are you doing now?
I’m in my second year at Oxford University studying Computer Science.
How did you decide what you wanted to study at university?
I think I'm part of the minority because I knew I wanted to do since I was quite young. I started programming when I was 11 or 12 and I think probably by 14 I knew what I wanted to do at university. Of course, with more life experience your interests develop and sometimes they change, but I think the essence of my plan to go into the field of technology was always there. It’s such a big field, so you have the freedom to try everything and see what sticks.
What do you love most about Computer Science?
The creativity. You have complete freedom to come up with any idea and somehow make it work. Just the idea that you can create a platform that can help people do things, or maybe even come up with some new paradigm, is amazing. I believe most aspects of our lives can be improved with technology, so that’s a big appeal for me.
What are your plans for the future?
I haven’t really thought that far in terms of concrete plans; I’m following opportunities as they come up. I have an upcoming internship, so if that goes well that’s something I can potentially come back to. I also have the opportunity to do research, so if I wanted to stay at university that’s an option I could consider. So, I haven’t really decided yet, but I feel like I have a lot of really good options to choose from.
In your opinion, what part do you think online schools play in the future of education?
It’s definitely something that will grow. I think it’s easier to scale up an online school and I feel like it’s just more convenient overall. In a way, I also think it’s easier to make sure online schools work properly. Even things like bullying in schools; from my experience, at online school it doesn’t really happen, whereas in physical schools it’s almost abnormal to not experience bullying at some point. I’ve also personally seen a growing movement of people homeschooling their children, and I feel that online school is a way to allow them to do this with a reliable source of teaching.
I can’t say as to whether it will replace conventional schooling – it probably won’t – but I think it will become more commonplace. If you’d have told someone 10 years ago that you were having lessons on your laptop it probably wouldn’t have made sense to them. More people are understanding now. I think in the future online learning will become one of the main options for studying.