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On her way to Hungary – Sophia Bebelman’s journey to top 4 in NZ


Whether it’s the science experiments Sophia Bebelman’s mum had her and her sisters doing before they had even started school, or the homework completed during long car rides home, there are many things that have shaped Sophia’s story. For the Year 13 student, being named in the top 24 for Biology in the country is only just scratching the surface. The prospective medical student will be travelling to Hungary in July with 3 other students selected to represent New Zealand at the International Biology Olympiad.

Her academic feats speak for themself. And Sophia definitely let’s her actions do the talking. She’s a quiet achiever, with a polite and warm nature who is always going about things in the best possible way. Her journey to being selected in the top 4 in New Zealand has been one of great dedication and countless exams and assignments. Her summer holidays over the past couple of years have been spent studying for upcoming training camps and level 1 university experience. From which she has experienced fieldwork and being in the science lab. Some of the fascinating things she’s done include setting up a microscope slide, dissecting a shrimp and determining what makes a capsicum red or green.

Sophia also takes all three sciences which are Biology, Chemistry and Physics along with Statistics and Classics. She says that her love for science is what drives her. And you sometimes wonder how someone, as young as she is, can be so disciplined. She not only tackles the hectic life of school but also has a job, plays the flute for the festival orchestra and chamber group, and swims at the Manurewa swimming club. All while still finding the time to unwind by reading or baking.

What may be a surprise to many is that she is never one to stay up late studying, in fact she’s in bed by 9pm or even earlier to make sure she is revitalized for the next day. Instead she uses every spare minute of her day to finish school work. With early mornings, Homeroom, interval, lunch times, and car rides included. Her success though hasn’t come without perseverance and trust in the process. Something we can all relate to is, as a kid, Sophia never liked doing homework. And it wasn’t until moving into Year 10 where Sophia did NCEA Level 1 Mathematics, that she says she really began to get stuck into studying.

She is currently weighing up her options and is considering either attending Auckland or Otago University next year. She is also enthusiastically awaiting seeing Hungary for the first time and is excited to be able to explore, use the labs and equipment and interact with the other competitors. Her advice for staying the course and for striving for academic excellence is to “get off your phone to start with…(and) if you can’t focus on what your studying then you’re probably not studying the right thing.”

Sophia spoke about the invaluable support she gains from those around her saying: “My biggest supporter would be my mum (who) has a PhD in Chemistry…(she) has encouraged me to do well in science and extend myself. Mr Williamson and Dr Laux have also been very supportive as well as my friends and extended family.”

At the beginning of the school week, Deputy Head Boy – David Patlong challenged Sancta Maria College students to be brave and bold in their pursuits and “cross the rubicon” like Julius Caesar. Sophia Bebelman has put this into action through having high expectations of herself, consistency and the strength to never stop working even if it’s supposed to be the weekend. And this only inspires us to keep on striving and cross our own rubicon. We look forward to seeing what Sophia will accomplish in Hungary and in her future endeavours.

Shontelle Matano