Homes Away from Home—Places of Significance in EJC and RI

This was written in collaboration with EJC Press as part of Issue 2 of Cross Island Impressions, an inter-JC Press collaboration. You can read Issue 2 here.

By Elizabeth Paulyn Gostelow (21A01B; RI), Ray Lim (21A13A; RI), Jovan Lim (20-U1; EJC), and Leia Ong (20-O5; EJC)

The rustling of pages and the occasional whirring of printers. Perpetual chatter and laughter characteristic of the canteen. Pounding music and enthusiastic voices in rehearsal, heard from a mile away. Gusts of wind whooshing over benches of students hunched over their work. 

Regardless of the school we hail from—Eunoia Junior College (EJC) or Raffles Institution (RI)—certain sights and sounds are not just incredibly distinctive, but are also genuine trademarks of our day-to-day lives as students. 

Have you ever wondered about what campus life is like in EJC and RI? In this article, writers from these adjacent schools rediscover eleven places of significance in our beloved campuses—our homes away from home. Read on to find out what makes these seemingly innocuous places so unique, vibrant, and above all, indispensable to our student lives.

Section I: School Staples 

In this first section, we rediscover two places—the library and the canteen—that are both indispensable locations in our schools, and what they mean to Eunoians and Rafflesians. From the old Buona Vista campus to the glorious new Bishan campus, the EJ segment reveals the changes post-move, while the RI segment will elucidate why and how these two places are both essential staples of the respective junior colleges.

Libraries

What’s one of the most fundamental facilities available to any student? Of course, we’re referring to our schools’ libraries! With resplendent natural light streaming through both libraries’ floor-to-ceiling windows, they have cemented their reputation as places of peace and tranquility in the hearts of Eunoians and Rafflesians alike. Read on to find out more!

For many Eunoians, the architecture of the campus is something that they are most proud of. Students, staff and visitors alike enter the Bishan campus marvelling at the beauty of our duplex library, with its full-length windows boasting a panoramic view of the Bishan Park landscape. 

EJC campus’ library with a splendid view of Bishan Park. Photo credit: EJC Media

Most commonly referred to simply as ‘the library’, RI’s Shaw Foundation Library, or SFL, is most inviting, and undeniably, proves a popular draw for students. However, what is a library without its books—or people—to read them? With countless shelves packed to the gills with books of innumerable genres and languages, the three-storey SFL is the ideal spot to loan literary items.

SFL in all its undeniable, resplendent glory

“SFL is comparable to HML [Hullett Memorial Library, the library at the Year 1–4 side of RI]. I would say that SFL has a better, significantly wider collection of books,” commented Foo Loon Wei (21A13A; RI).

The libraries’ features are, of course, not limited to just dusty tomes. The smorgasbord of features in the EJC library are surely something to be reckoned with—courtesy of EJC’s resident Library Club, whose conscientious upkeep enlivens its otherwise grey and monotone interior. The colourful displays on the giant staircase linking its two storeys together is testament to their hard work.

Monthly-decorated staircase linking the two levels of the library.

Their monthly new decorations of book recommendations pertaining to different school subjects constantly gives the library a refreshed look. As Library Club member Chen Jiulin (20-E1; EJC) puts it, “My favourite feature is probably the activity section at the landing between the two levels of the library, [as it] makes the library feel cosier and brightens it up.”

Activity section at the staircase landing of EJC Library

The SFL, too, provides a cosy reading spot in front of a huge selection of magazines and periodicals, along with seats by the side where students can watch DVDs. Unfortunately, said magazine reading spot and e-viewing facilities in SFL have been blocked from use—a move completely essential, but no doubt regrettable—rendering this area of the library virtually useless. 

Necessary measures, in the time of a global pandemic

The cosy chairs and sofas crossed out with severe-looking tape, which would otherwise be a rather shocking and surprising sight, serve as reminders of the unfortunately on-going pandemic in their stark visual contrast.

In line with digital mediums, the little-known ICT Learning Space—tucked in an alcove under the main staircase—in EJC’s library has a host of IT facilities seeking to improve Eunoians’ digital literacy. 

ICT Learning Space under the staircase

Maintained by the IT Department, this corner features books on technology, neon lights, and even a television monitor tracking your every movement, along with other tech paraphernalia.

Television monitor with various IT concepts on the shelves

Of course, studying is without a doubt the most common activity undertaken at both the EJC and RI school libraries, with the more familiar highlights the various studying corners distributed all about both places, drenched in natural light from the large windows. Lim Yun Fang (20-E5; EJC), also from her school’s Library Club, is particularly fond of this environment. “It creates a very productive atmosphere,” she shared.

Study area on Level 10

The same can easily be said of SFL, where the rows of rectangular tables which stretch further than the eye can see, beautiful in their simplicity and symmetry, are now imposed as tables-for-one. 

The “Quiet Study Areas”, now even more conducive for studying

“Our library is very spacious, the lighting is very conducive, and of course, the librarians are very friendly,” chimed in Loon Wei, not to be outdone.

This sentiment certainly isn’t just shared by current students of both Bishan campuses—even previous EJC batches felt the same way before the move. As 2020 batch EJC alumnus Ernest Tan called to mind his experiences in the former Mount Sinai campus’ library, he felt that while it was largely similar to that of the current campus, it also had “an additional touch of cosiness”, which he greatly enjoyed. 

Panoramic view of the former Mount Sinai campus’ library. Photo credit: EJC Media

Clearly, the campus library is an integral part of our student experiences. Without it, we would never have enjoyed the abundance of facilities that bring us comfort in our second homes. 

Whether it is for endless, undisturbed studying, or just for some peaceful lounging before leaving for the next lesson, it is undeniable that even what seems like the most ordinary of places—the school library—is truly able to bring much-needed ease and repose to any Eunoian or Rafflesian.

Canteens

The canteen—a location of nourishment universally familiar and well-loved by all teachers and students alike. Be it to unwind with a spirited chat after a long day, or to have a quick lunch before rushing up for the next lesson, the canteen is undoubtedly a place of fond memories for all.

The view from the most commonly used entrance of the RI canteen.

The dizzying array of stalls in both canteens provides a wide variety of cuisine choices, with undoubtedly something for everyone, be it Yong Tau Foo or Mixed Rice. Long queues at multiple stalls can often be seen at busier meal times, revealing the true popularity of the canteen food.

The long queue for R5 Noodles and Porridge on 23 February 2021, 11.19 a.m. 

When interviewed, students from both schools found the food selection to be more than satisfactory. “The Malay food is a bit pricey, but the satay chicken and mee rebus are very good,” Shen Zhen Yang (21S06E; RI) opined, in relation to Aminah’s Nasi Padang, one of RI’s Malay food stalls. His sentiment is shared by many peers, which speaks to its uncontested quality.

Mixed rice from Aminah Nasi Padang 

The appreciation is mutual: “I am always very happy to be around such nice students,” Auntie Karen of the EJ Duck Rice stall said pleasantly.

EJ canteen stalls, post-lunch hour

The canteen, good eats aside, is not just a place for meals. With the wondrous view of Bishan Park just beside, EJ’s canteen is also a spot for all to unwind and take a breather, with a plate of tasty chicken rice or refreshing fruit smoothie in hand. “I enjoy eating with my colleagues,” said Mr Kevin Martens Wong, GP teacher, often spotted sitting with fellow GP teachers at the tall teachers’ table. “Being so near to nature is good too, as it reminds us of EJ’s place in the community.” 

EJC Canteen with the scenic view of Bishan Park. Photo credit: EJC Media

“The canteen is a place filled with emotions, mostly carefree ones,” shared Kelvin Jong (20-O5; EJC). “Sometimes you can hear people singing birthday songs, or just outbursts of laughter.” 

These quotes are indeed testaments to the lively atmosphere characteristic of EJC’s canteen; likewise, the spirited energy of the student body is apparent through RI’s occasional canteen performances, including those by Raffles Rock and Raffles Jazz during Homecoming, which kicked off the school year for the Year 6 students. 

“I had a great time performing with my batchmates in the canteen during Homecoming. It was very heartening that many of my friends and classmates were there to support me,” enthused Benjamin Silver Matthew (21A13A; RI), a Jazz member.

Of course, the fond memories that all of us, teachers, and students alike have of the canteen is what makes it so singularly special. Darren Chung (21S06P; RI) remarked: “When at the canteen, my classmates and I can all sit together at one or two tables to eat meals and talk. This is, of course, not possible in the classroom, where our desks are separated in exam arrangement. Though I might prefer the Year 1–4 canteen, where the food is obviously much better, the JC canteen vendors are quite nice, too.” 

“As we can talk freely to friends and even friends of friends, the canteen is a memorable place for friendships to start,” said Kelvin, in a similar vein. 

Recounting a congenial experience he had at the start of the year, he went on, “I once saw a group of J1 students at the benches in front of Auntie Mei Lan’s drinks stall chatting, and surprisingly, I found out that they were all from different OGs (Orientation Groups)!”

Indeed, the canteen is a hub of social activity for the freshly-minted J1s, having spent much of the interim time between Orientation games waiting or even playing water games there. 

“The canteen is a place where OGs or CGs [Civics Groups] can always head to when we’re free after any activity or lesson to really sit down, chill, and have conversations to bond,” noted Jachin Khoo (21-U5; EJC).

The current extraordinary circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have left all of us going about our daily lives with much more caution. The safe-distancing markers spaced out on every Eunoian class’ individual canteen table and endless supply of table disinfectant and paper towels provided, have allowed all of us to become more accustomed to this new norm. 

Similarly, the presence of Safe Distancing Ambassadors in RI’s canteen is a point of note. Although not dressed in bright red like those in shopping malls, these watchful plainclothes monitors from the teaching staff, beyond enforcing a strict one-metre-apart rule, are also reminders of our all-important civic responsibility in keeping the novel coronavirus at bay. But like the clear dividers at every table, they have become, quite simply, facts of life. Loon Wei lamented, “Our batch did not really utilise the canteen because of the pandemic.” But on a hopeful, forward-looking note, he added: “Maybe future batches will.”

Signs of the times

Despite these special measures, necessarily undertaken to keep us safe, the simple pleasure of enjoying a meal with friends remains undiluted. “Even with SMMs in place, all the open space makes the canteen still feel very communal,” said Mr Wong.

“I don’t think the canteen’s essence will change; it has always been a staple of our school,” shared Loon Wei. Indeed, it is almost impossible to imagine school life without somewhere as iconic and as important as the canteen—a place of fond memories for us all.

Section II: Arts and Culture

In this section, we focus on our schools’ distinct locations of arts and culture: physical manifestations of two otherwise intangible, yet vitally important ideas, especially in our current times. We look at EJC’s BSP (Bicultural Studies Programme) and HSP (Humanities Scholarship Programme) room, representative of the culture we study, and its Performing Arts studio, along with RI’s Performing Arts Centre, which speaks for the culture we make. Without further ado, let us uncover the rich histories and vibrant student lifestyles that form the backbone of our schools!

Arts and Culture

No school is complete without its performing arts groups. The heart and soul of any academic institution, it would simply be remiss for any article on special places of significance in school to not mention the pride and joy of its performance CCAs—as such, we now shine the spotlight on EJC’s PA studio and RI’s PAC.

One might feel safe in assuming that the much-discussed Auditorium is the focus of all performing arts culture in EJC. However, they would be only partially correct—the adjacent Performing Arts (PA) Studios are where the true blood, sweat, and tears of many performing arts CCAs are shed. 

EJ Rock Band performing outside the PA Studio. Photo credit: EJC Media (Note: Photo was taken pre-COVID)

Serving as practice rooms for Dance, Choir, Drama, and the Student-Initiated Interest Groups (SIIG) Rock Band and Street Dance, the PA Studios are a hub of artistic culture, and hold a dear place in many Eunoian performers’ hearts.

“The PA studio is a place to work, chill, and bond with your CCA mates,” shared Quek Hui Xin (20-E4; EJC), a member of EJ Dance. “Lots of great and unique memories are made there.” 

She also cited the myriad uses of the PA Studio beyond simply for CCA practice—be it learning college dances with schoolmates, practising for VIA performances, or even learning Muay Thai for Euplay, a college-wide host of sport modules.

EJ Drama’s Open House performance. Photo credit: EJC Media (Note: Photo was taken pre-COVID)

In contrast, RI’s large, 800-seater PAC hosts annual performances and showcases by its performing arts CCAs, usually lively in-person ticketed affairs. Such joyous and wondrous events include the piano and jazz concerts put up by the RI Piano Ensemble and Jazz respectively, Film Society’s yearly short film showcase by its Year 6 batch, and the annual College Showcase of the Raffles Players theatre group, where they dazzle and delight the audience with their double or triple bills.

Brandon Tay (21A13A; RI), a member of the Piano Ensemble, lamented that “the PAC is probably the best place for performances in our school, but I haven’t seen it in a really long time.”

EJ’s PA Studios serve a similar function, by doubling as mini-stages: “Performances can also be held when we open the big glass doors and everyone sits outside to watch,” shared Hui Xin. Of course, this purpose is temporarily suspended for now.

“With the [PA Studio’s] wooden floor, the acoustics of the room are also great!” chorister Lauren Ong (20-U1; EJC) chimed in — a testament to its conduciveness.

Finally, Benjamin, who is also a member of Raffles Jazz, opined, “Our CCA doesn’t use the PAC often but we used it once for Grad Night in November 2020. The venue wasn’t that great—plain and boring—but still decent. I had a good time performing in the PAC, but now it’s under renovation. I’m never going to use it again; our 2021 Jazz annual performance will be livestreamed from the MPH.” The MPH, of course, refers to the Multi Purpose Hall, which might now have to replace the PAC in terms of its main function as a performance venue, at least until the PAC’s renovation work is complete.

Indeed, with their specialised equipment and, as Hui Xin mentioned, the “hard work and dedication [of every performing arts CCA] it represents”, EJC’s PA Studio and RI’s PAC proudly stand as emblems of the rich artistic culture that we as students create. 

EJ: BSP/HSP Rooms

In EJC, there are places dedicated to the study of rich culture. The Bicultural Studies Programme (BSP) and Humanities Scholarship Programme (HSP) rooms hold a special place in the hearts of some. “The HSP room provides a sense of belonging to the school,” Michelle Leong (20-U1; EJC) remarked, as it was her homeroom for most of her academic year. 

The HSP room, bedecked with everything humanities-related, from Historical propaganda to theories of philosophy, is neatly designed to “promote students’ creative and critical thinking,” HSP Head Mr Mahmood Fahmi expressed, “especially in light of the vitality of the Arts in a STEAM education”.

Additionally, the strong emphasis of Chinese culture in the BSP room allows for a conducive environment for students to “fully immerse” themselves and “appreciate the Chinese culture we study even better”, as Teo Zi Ning and Melody Foo of 20-O5 delightfully remarked.

Items emblematic of Chinese culture in the BSP Room

To most, the wonders of the BSP and HSP rooms may not resonate powerfully, but it goes to show how these individual places in the campus may be of great significance to those who will eventually see the beauty of the school in its most charming of places. 

Bringing back fond memories of an enriching immersion trip to China or fortifying one’s love for the humanities are the cornerstones of these students’ experiences, and they demonstrate that the story of every Eunoian is theirs to craft.

Section III: Recreation and Study

The Windy Benches of EJC and RI

A surprising commonality between both schools? The presence of windy study benches!

Many students share memories of these ideal, accessible and highly-frequented places for last-minute homework, watching an overdue Economics lecture, or consulting teachers on academic topics. The benches boast the perk of being an open space without pesky opening and closing time restrictions.

Besides homerooms, a typical Eunoian’s second (or third) home would have to be these wooden benches. Sitting at levels 4, 8 and 12, these iconic, lofty benches represent the similarly high grades students wish to achieve. 

Windy benches at level 4. Photo credit: EJC Media

Rafflesians too enjoy the perks of RI’s windy benches located opposite and next to the bookshop, and conveniently close to the washrooms.

The windy benches near the bookshop.

A place with no air conditioning sounds like a huge no-no for students looking to pass the time, especially in Singapore’s hot weather. But as the name suggests, the surprisingly strong breezes which drift through the benches make them a popular location for students to study with friends and relax. “[It’s] a cute, fun spot to meet people,” Loke Sun Yi (21A01B, RI) commented. “I always see faces I recognise there.”

“[The benches are] Super open and windy!” enthused Loy Kai Xuan (20-U1; EJC), an avid proponent of using the wooden benches for completing CSC essays. “Since it’s [near to] classrooms, it’s a convenient place to complete work with a change of scenery.” 

In the same sentiment, Mathilda Lee (20-I4; EJC), self-professed mugger, elaborated: “The wind is really nice when studying, and we can enjoy the great view too when we take breaks.” 

How, though, do these benches compare to the comfort of home or other places? “The benches aren’t as cold as the library,” Mathilda quipped. “Plus, studying in school is more productive for me, and I can study with friends, which makes me want to do work, too.”

The benches are also surrounded by wonderful sights—be they the beautiful artwork adorning the walls, or the bird’s eye view of the surrounding residential flats and lush greenery, a welcome change from the monotony of printed paper and the blue light of screens. What’s not to like?

Thus, it is certainly not surprising that the windy benches are a place of fond remembrance for teachers and students alike.

“Honestly, this place brings back a lot of memories. From Project Work discussions to just simply laying my head on the table there to get a quick energy nap before lessons, it is a very iconic place in school to me,” shared Jolin (21A13B; RI).

“I like holding consults at the bright and breezy study deck on level 4, a nice contrast to [those at] level 3,” Mr Marc Kenji Lim, EJC Literature teacher, commented. “Moreover, if my consults don’t go as well as I hope, I rest in the knowledge that divine intervention is nearby.”

EJ: Basketball courts

The exultant cries of “Kobe!” The sounds of basketballs thudding against grey concrete, reverberating through the nearby canteen. These are as characteristic of EJ as the colours blue and gold: the sight of students balling enthusiastically at the open-air basketball courts.  

Students and teachers playing a match. Photo credit: EJC Media

There is seldom a day that the court is not used at least once. Free for all to use, the courts are prime places for Eunoians during breaks or after school to unwind from the day’s hectic and draining studies. 

“I go [to the courts] almost every day,” Han Xinchen (20-A6; EJC), a casual player, shared. “I just play for fun, but it’s a good place to de-stress and meet new people to play with.”

Evidently, the courts are for everybody, be they experienced players (or ‘ballers’, as they are affectionately called) or those looking to pick up a new sport or new friends. “It’s a great place for training my plays,” Jace Bong (20-E1; EJC) mentioned, as an avid ‘baller’. “I get to play and practice with my friends anytime!” 

“Some teachers enjoy going down to ball too during breaks,” Ms Karine Teo, EJC PE teacher, mentioned. With the courts beloved by both students and teachers alike, the recreation of basketball looks to be a permanent, unofficial part of EJ culture.

RI: The Wishing Well

View of the Wishing Well from its entrance near the lift.

One would easily be forgiven for their surprise at the name of this location—after all, this is no place for you to toss your coins in hopes of finding true love…

But it is a place for your academic wishes to be fulfilled! Located next to the Level 3 staffroom, the Wishing Well is the most popular place for students and teachers to have consultations for a wide multitude of subjects. “I use it to meet teachers for consultations, but otherwise I don’t really go there often,” Rachel Ho (21A01B; RI) remarked. 

On the other hand, the Wishing Well is also a place for teachers to catch up with ex-students. “When it isn’t in huge demand and ex-students come back (when they were allowed to pre Covid-19), we sometimes sit there and reminisce as they recall earlier days sitting studying there rather than chit-chatting,” shared Mrs Nicola Perry, RI Literature teacher.

In fact, the Wishing Well gets its apt name from the large, circular balcony in the centre of the space, which overlooks the Mezzanine floor below.

The Wishing Well also has a unique feature that not everyone notices at first glance.

The quirky door in the Wishing Well—a real mystery!

“One of my favourite features of the Wishing Well [is] the door which leads to nowhere and everywhere!” commented Mrs Perry. 

“Is this symbolic of the Well helping some students to more deftly unpick the lock of the metaphorical doors that RI allows you access to through education, but, where you actually go to when you cross the threshold is for you to determine? In such a serious institution such a quirky feature just delights me! A moment of frivolity in the expanse of earnest endeavour. So necessary.”

Conclusion

Whether our school colours are blue and gold or green, black, and white, it is simply undeniable that all of us share common experiences as students—be they our striking experiences at some of these iconic places, or the unforgettable memories made therein   which will stick with us for years to come after graduation.

On that note, all four of us hope that we have done justice in documenting these poignant places that are so instrumental in shaping each of our unique, prismatic collegiate stories!

One thought on “Homes Away from Home—Places of Significance in EJC and RI”

  1. Great idea for this article!! Just minor edit… the old campus for both EJC and RI is more affectionately known as the Mt Sinai campus :)

    “From the old Buona Vista campus to the glorious new Bishan campus, the EJ segment reveals the changes post-move, while the RI segment will elucidate why and how these two places are both essential staples of the respective junior colleges.”

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