A top student from Auckland's Pinehurst College says embracing time in lockdown helped her get into her "dream medical course" at one of the world's most elite universities.
Pinehurst College principal Kieran Verryt says Linda Tang, 18, has become the school's first graduate to be accepted to attend the School of Clinical Medicine at the University of Cambridge.
Linda, who moved to New Zealand from Jiangsu China when she was 2 years old, said it has always been her dream to become a doctor - and was "stunned" when she received the email offering her the place to study medicine at Cambridge.
"I just couldn't believe it, and when I told my parents I was accepted, my mum didn't believe it either. This is one of the world's best medical schools," she said.
The offer is a six-year course leading to the award of the Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery.
"Everyone knows how special Cambridge Medicine is, and when I was waiting for admission I stayed up late with my friends as the offer emails came through. One of my friends got rejected, and just moments later I got my good news."
Like many, Linda entered 2020 with excitement and plans to study hard in her final year at college - but then the lockdown struck.
"It felt weird at first realising that I couldn't go to school, and my daily routine became a blur," she said.
However, Linda started to embrace life at home and picked up baking as a new hobby - and credited the extra time she had in lockdown as key to her success.
Linda said she enjoys problem-solving, and baking helps her think.
"Having the extra hour or so of not having to travel to and from school meant I had more time to do my studies," she said.
"I baked quite a bit during lockdown and I was surprised that it helped clear my mind and helped me focus on what's important and thinking about solutions to problems."
She said listening in class at school and keeping notes from teachers had given her a good foundation, and lockdown gave her time to go through them in detail.
Tang said she was thinking of being a specialist in surgery or paediatrics, but is still exploring her options.
Verryt said the Pinehurst community are very proud of what Linda has achieved.
"She illustrates to all of our community that with hard work and a positive balance you can achieve amazing things and compete with the best," Verryt said.
"Linda is a model example of the student that our school aims to produce. She is well rounded and was our deputy head girl in 2020, after fulfilling a range of mentoring and leadership roles throughout her five-year high school journey."
Verryt said although Linda was the first to be accepted to the Cambridge School of Medicine, she was not its first to go into Cambridge and each year about 15 per cent of students go on to international universities.
Verryt said Linda was supported extensively by the school in her quest to gain entrance at Cambridge, including help from its careers counsellors and mock interviews with the executive principal, himself a Cambridge graduate.
She also enlisted help from educational consultants Crimson Education to prepare for the entry tests.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the rigorous Cambridge interviews last year took place online instead of in person in the UK last year.
But she said it would be a "dream come true" if borders could reopen come October 1 - when her course starts - and she can head to Cambridge for her studies.