Behind Joshua’s successful journey

From Shanghai to graduating the Swiss Gymnasium with the highest Matura score in the Canton of Zug

08 July 2024

We are immensely proud to announce that Joshua, our recent Swiss Gymnasium graduate, achieved an outstanding Matura score of 5.769, the highest in the Canton of Zug!

Joshua's journey is truly exceptional. He started at Institut Montana in 2017 as a boarding student in our elementary school. Arriving as a 12-year-old child with no knowledge of German, he excelled through sheer dedication and hard work, supported by our community, and ultimately completed his Swiss Gymnasium studies with flying colours.

During his time at our school, he contributed as one of our most impactful and motivational Student Ambassadors, joyfully welcoming and sharing his experience with new families. Passionate about AI and programming, Joshua wrote an impressive Maturaarbeit and is now continuing his studies at the prestigious ETH Zürich.

From Shanghai to Switzerland with zero German

“Choosing Institut Montana was a pure coincidence,” he explains. “We initially planned for me to go to the United States for high school, but then stumbled upon a presentation of Swiss boarding schools and instantly fell in love with Montana. The proximity to nature, central location, and the opportunity to learn German were all enticing factors." After visiting our school, Joshua’s family was convinced that Montana could be his home for many years.

Leaving China and his family behind to start studying at Institut Montana was initially daunting for a 12-year-old Joshua. "In the beginning, it was challenging as I felt homesick," he recalls. "Luckily, my newly-made friends consoled me, and my house parents were always there to offer support. I am grateful for the uplifting environment I had at Montana that helped me immensely during my early days."

He also expressed how Montana supported him during his journey, from learning German from scratch to successfully graduating after 6 years in the Swiss Gymnasium. "The immersive learning environment at the school was incredibly helpful for learning German," he notes. "With lessons taught in German, I had daily exposure to the language and was able to learn quite quickly. Montana has always been a safe space where I could make mistakes without fear of ridicule or judgement. This supportive atmosphere allowed me to practice and speak German every day, despite my initial shyness.”

As for English, he considers himself fortunate as his parents foresaw the importance of teaching him English since he was a baby. Thanks to them, he was already a fluent English speaker by the time he arrived at Montana. “However, my good fortune continued during my time at the Swiss Gymnasium, where I had the privilege of being taught English and History by Ms. Verhar. Her lessons were challenging, requiring considerable effort and preparation. My efforts were definitely well rewarded though. With her help, I have been able to improve my English level substantially and have learned to interpret and appreciate English literature. Ms. Verhar has not only taught me subject-specific skills but also shaped my worldviews as a person using literature,” Joshua added.

The life at Institut Montana as a boarding student

Living at Institut Montana felt like a second home for Joshua. He expressed how much the boarding community has truly become his home away from home. He told us how much he felt welcomed, accepted, and supported by the house parents. ”Over the years, we have been able to create profound personal connections that I dearly cherish. With my house parents, Mr. Probst, Mr. Barche, Mr. Heine, and Ms. Hansen, I was able to discuss almost anything—from traveling to politics to school. They were there to cheer me up when I was down and celebrated my achievements." 

He also expressed his gratitude for all the support from Ms. Chang, Head of Boarding, whom he sometimes bumped into when he did his evening walks. Now, as a graduating student who is moving to university, it is very reminiscent of leaving his home in Shanghai to begin his study at Institut Montana.

Besides academics, Joshua is passionate about programming, especially in Python, though lately, he couldn’t spare enough time on it as he had to focus on his Matura exams recently. “I understand that many people might view this as an academic pursuit, but for me, it's a hobby that I deeply enjoy.” Looking back, he encourages others to choose Institut Montana for its community and opportunities. "In a few words: Come to Montana! You will not regret it," he advises prospective students.

Embracing the next exciting chapter at ETH

Looking forward, Joshua admitted how excited he is to study alongside some of the world’s brightest minds at ETH Zürich. "Institut Montana has prepared me in various ways," he reflects. "Mr. Meiler, my middle school teacher and one of my favourite mentors, sparked my interest in the sciences. We still keep in touch and discuss physics and chemistry. "Ms. Verhar’s classes taught me critical thinking and practical skills like note-taking, which enhanced my work ethic. These skills will be crucial for my university studies. Additionally, my personal interest in physics and math led me to extensive self-study, which will also be crucial in my university journey."

When asked about three things he would miss about Montana, Joshua answered enthusiastically. “I will miss the general community, the personal connections among students, as well as between students, teachers, and staff members. The Institut Montana community is truly special and irreplaceable. I will also miss the activities I participated at school such as a ski trip to St. Moritz or a small barbecue with friends. Finally, I will miss our beautiful campus, particularly walking the triangle with friends in the evenings and gazing up at the star-filled sky.”

Well, Joshua, you are always welcome to visit our campus anytime, to say hello or gaze up at the star-filled sky of the Zugerberg.

We thank Joshua for all his dedication and contribution during his time with us. Stay humble, driven, and passionate as you’ve always been.

Can’t get enough of Joshua’s inspiring journey? Read more about his impressive Maturaarbeit that caught media attention.


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