A Level 2020 Student Features: Let Our Hearts Be Stirring

By Gabrielle Ng (20A01E), Valerie Tan (20A01E), Max Chwa (21A01B), and Faith Wei (21S03C)

This year, Raffles Press invited four Year 7s who have invested their time and energy into their respective sports, instruments and other pursuits to share about their JC experience, and any advice they may have for juniors. Read on to learn more about the holistic side to these Rafflesians, and what they get up to when they’re not busy studying!

This is Part 1 of our A Level 2020 Student Feature.

Marsha Shahrin

While most of her peers prefer to spend their time indoors, Marsha has always had a second home among the waves.

Marsha was a member of the national sailing team from Primary 5 to Year  2 before she transitioned to windsurfing in late 2015. Since then, she has gone on to represent Singapore in multiple international competitions, including the Techno 293 World Championships in Italy and the third Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.

“My favourite part about doing competitive sports and representing the country is the opportunity to travel around the world,” she says. “I enjoy being in other countries / states that one wouldn’t even think of planning a holiday to like Helsinki, Bodrum, Hungary, and Buenos Aires […] Observing the culture and the way of life in a different country is very interesting and I feel very fortunate to be able to do so.”

However, the life of an outstanding athlete isn’t always smooth-sailing. When she’s overseas, Marsha constantly feels the need to do her country proud, whether by excelling in sporting events or ensuring that she behaves with the proper decorum.

“As a representative of something, be it school or a country, there will always be a sense of fear, anxiety and self-doubt,” she confides. “For example, going to the Youth Olympic Games in 2018 and doing press and interviews for various media outlets made me feel very pressured and anxious, because it made me feel that I had to give it my best, or else I am letting the country down.”

Her struggles weren’t just limited to those she faced in international competitions: back in Singapore, Marsha spent most of her first year and part of her second year in RJC training and competing while balancing her academics at the same time. 

Her secret? Time management. 

“Like anything in life, the more you practise it, the easier that thing gets,” Marsha shares. “It also helps that I lower my expectations and set realistic goals for both sports and school because having too high standards often puts people in a state of stress which ultimately would affect how well we perform at the end of the day.”

As a result of her training sessions and competitions, Marsha often misses out on opportunities to spend time in RI with her friends and classmates. “I probably didn’t experience much of RI as most people, which is a shame because most of my friends really had a blast.” And yet, that doesn’t mean that she didn’t enjoy herself as well. Marsha cites her class as being one of the best parts of RI: “Everyone in my class is truly unique and our differing personalities makes it so easy to fit in and just be yourself. My class is also super hardworking so it really pushes me to keep doing my best.”

Even though she had to sacrifice some time in school, Marsha still doesn’t regret the path she’s chosen. “I never really regret making myself busy with all the balancing I have to do because it feels far more rewarding being able to achieve something.” 

To this day, she still recalls winning her first international event at the Bodrum International Optimist Regatta 2013 with pride. “I finished 1st in the Girl’s category and I remember taking home so many trophies for that event. I think winning, under the Singapore flag, is most rewarding because you see all your hard work translate into something tangible and it allows you to see that every bad thing about being a national athlete will never outweigh the great things about it.”

When asked what advice she has for juniors who are also national athletes, Marsha encourages them to remain hopeful:

“I know how hard it is for one to not give up on something that isn’t working out. I have more lows than highs in my sporting career and I can’t lie and say that I[‘ve] never thought of giving up. When something isn’t going right today, you have to pick yourself up and learn from the mistakes you made […] because from failure, there are thousands of things we can learn and we can use those things to constantly improve ourselves.”

Marsha plans to continue her windsurfing journey in the future, aiming to qualify for the Asian Games in 2022. She would like to thank her teachers, particularly her CTs Ms Angela Mi and Mr Michael Seah, for always looking out for her class. She would also like to thank her class for their kindness, and the aunties and uncles in the canteen for making great food.

Sudarshan Thirumalai

Meet Sudarshan Thirumalai: the student delegate with a heart of gold. 

Inspired by the unique rigour and protocol of his very first Model United Nations (MUN) conference attended in secondary school, Sudarshan Thirumalai did not hesitate to join the Raffles History and Strategic Affairs Society (HSTA) upon entering RI. 

Hereafter began his fruitful journey of both participating in and organising annual MUN conferences. Not a single meeting left him empty handed—from managing conflicting viewpoints to humbly taking failure in his stride, the takeaways he gleaned from MUNs were numerous and priceless.

On top of his MUN pursuits, Sudarshan was a devoted volunteer for and eventually spearheaded the community project Empowering Generation Z (EGZ), a tuition programme for primary school children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Besides mere tutoring, Sudarshan shared that a key mission of the programme is for tutors to “strive to connect emotionally with their tutees”, forming genuine friendships with them. It was precisely this poignant bond that led him to join the forefront of the project. 

“Although I wasn’t too keen on being in the organising committee at first, I had grown attached to my tutees and felt that I could be able to greatly contribute to the project to improve their experience and help them more than I already was,” he explained.

Under his steadfast leadership, EGZ took a leap of faith to begin enlisting the help of students from other schools. The move was met with significant success, quickly achieving a larger volunteer network and a smaller tutor-to-child ratio. 

Yet, no journey comes without trials and tribulations. 

“There was a shortage of tutees in some centres and we were having difficulties in promoting the project,” Sudarshan recalled, admitting that “it was easy to lose motivation”.

Sudarshan’s personal life certainly took a toll from juggling both schoolwork and extracurriculars. Acknowledging that it is “always difficult” to balance the two, he shared that he had to “sacrifice a lot of [his] hobbies to remain on track for my studies, my CCA and to plan sessions for EGZ”.  Often, his hefty workload did not even allow him the time to watch Youtube, the most ubiquitous leisure activity many teens would not dare to imagine missing out on.

Fortunately, Sudarshan’s troubles were not ones that he grappled with alone, but rather ones that his teachers and friends played a big part in ameliorating. The faithful receptiveness of his teachers towards academic queries and mutual support his study groups with friends provided were crucial pillars of support that Sudarshan humbly credits for his present achievements. 

Regardless of the many challenges faced along the way, Sudarshan gleaned invaluable lessons from his experiences.  He shared that hard work and unwavering perseverance in tutoring occasionally unwilling students were crucial in his line of volunteer work. Eventually leading to one of his most inexplicably warm moments when the students expressed they would miss him once he left, these universal values are surely etched in stone for Sudarshan. 

With an evidently genuine heart for the community and ardent passion for service, Sudarshan’s dedication to giving back extends beyond his experiences thus far. When asked his aspirations for the future, he shared: “I hope [to] select a university course that I enjoy and find meaningful ways to give back to society. Moreover, I want to be involved and committed in any community that I am a part of as JC moulded me to be.”

His advice for juniors? “Make the most of your time in JC,” he encourages. “You wouldn’t want to graduate wondering about what could have been, so you should seize the opportunities that come your way.”

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