SINGAPORE - Ms Ashvini Annathurai left school in the second year leading up to her A-level exams after getting pregnant.
In 2020, when she was 21, she took time out for a year to look after her newborn twin daughters.
She then wrote to her school Millennia Institute (MI) to ask if she could go back and finish her course the next year.
Yes, said MI principal Tan Wan Yu.
On Tuesday (Feb 22), Ms Ashvini, 23, picked up four As and a near-perfect score of 88.75 out of 90 for the A-level exams.
She took biology, chemistry, mathematics and economics as her main subjects, as well as Tamil, project work and General Paper.
Ms Ashvini found out she was pregnant in 2019 when she was about to take her first round of exams at the end of her second year at MI. There was also the morning sickness and other ailments to deal with during the exams.
She said: "I actually missed one of my biology exams because I was so sick I just threw up on the bus to school and had to go home."
At MI, a pre-university institute where most students take an average of seven A-level subjects over three years, the H1-level exams are taken in Year 2, and H2 exams in Year 3. H1 and H2 are different levels of difficulty for the same subject.
Ms Ashvini completed three H1 subjects for the A levels before leaving MI to give birth to the twins.
But she did not want to give up her dream of becoming a doctor, so after her hiatus in 2020, she returned to MI last year to finish her three H2 subjects.
When she returned to school, the community rallied around and embraced her, she said.
She said: "My teachers really took the time to take care of me and two of them, including my form teacher, Ms Jamie Shen, even delivered toys, books and clothes to my house."
She said her teachers pooled money to buy milk powder and diapers for her twins, and her schoolmates helped her take notes and catch up on material she had forgotten owing to her absence from school.
Still, even with the support from her school, her mother and husband, who all live together, Ms Ashvini had to make sure she managed her time carefully.
She and her husband, 25, got married during her year off from school but she declined to go into details about her husband and family members.
The former Crescent Girls’ student first went to Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) to try out the International Baccalaureate programme but felt it was not the right fit for her and moved to MI.
She said: "I would wake up at about 6am and take the twins to nursery, then take the bus to school. I would finish school at about 3pm, and study until about 6pm.
"Then I'd pick my kids up at about 7pm and spend time with them until they go to sleep at about 9pm, then I tried to study a bit more after that."
Ms Ashvini scored four points at the O levels at Crescent Girls' School. She then went to Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) to try out the International Baccalaureate programme.
She found the IB system foreign and decided to change schools. That's how she came to MI in 2018 at the age of 19.
She said: "At first I thought everything at MI would not be that good, but after coming here, I realised I was wrong. It was actually really inclusive and welcoming."
She participated in a variety of activities at MI, including Indian dance, and was the chairman of her class, said her teachers.
Ms Ashvini, who is currently doing an internship at a special education school for children with autism, plans to apply to local universities for a place in their medical course.
When asked about her results and performance in school, she said: "I don't know how I did it, but all the while I told myself I had to do this for my kids."