RI Boarding, Uncovered

By Clara Chai (22A01D)

If your idea of boarding comes from books like ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘Malory Towers’, you probably have a somewhat inaccurate picture of what boarding school is like in real life. 

Take RI Boarding (RIB). To many of us, the building is a mysterious extension of the school compound. With the exception of some students from RI Secondary who spent a term in boarding, most students haven’t stepped foot into the premises, much less understood what life’s like in that giant building. A quick google of RIB reveals only tiny glimpses of boarding life, which only serves to pique further interest.

To satiate your curiosity, Raffles Press has taken a dive into exploring the details of hostel life, interviewing some current boarders to find out what life really is like inside. In this article, we’ll be exploring 11 things you might not have known about RIB.

#1: Boarders have to learn to share and co-exist with others.

Boarders share everything from their bedroom to their dining area. Living in close quarters with others helps them learn to be patient and tolerate other people’s habits and behaviours. As Terence Tan (22A01D), a boarder since 2019, put it, “It sometimes feels as if I’m being “watched” around the clock wherever I go.” They are given space to themselves in the study room, where individual cubicles keep their work from prying eyes. 

#2: The hostel has a wide range of recreational spaces and facilities.

The hostel has a wide variety of leisure facilities available for boarders to use, ranging from a games room to a common pantry. Pre-Covid, the Albert Hong Hall and basketball courts were also available for use. Each level also has a shared refrigerator to store snacks or the occasional birthday cake, but there’s a chance of food being mysteriously stolen. Cooking their own meals is allowed, but the onus of cleaning up falls on the boarders themselves. 

#3: The bedrooms aren’t just one-size-fits-all.

There are two sizes of rooms available in the hostel, with one being more spacious than the other. In the girls’ block, the rooms are mostly shared between three people while in the boys’ block, the rooms are shared between two people. Boarders are randomly assigned their rooms, so the amount of elbow room they get really depends on their luck.

Room and toilet checks are conducted every Monday to ensure a good standard of hygiene is maintained. However, as with any other residence, lizards and cockroaches do pop by to visit every so often. When that happens, the more courageous boarders take up arms while others take to their heels.

#4: The hostel caters free laundry services to the boarders.

Vendors provide laundry services on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at no additional cost. If boarders happen to miss those days, the utility room is well-equipped with a washing machine and dryer ($1 per spin)  and an iron for them to do their laundry themselves.

#5: The community is very tight-knit.

2019 Chinese New Year celebrations organised by the RIBCC (taken from RIB Facebook).

Most of the boarders are acquainted with each other one way or another, and the community can bond over events that the Raffles Institution Boarding Community Council (RIBCC) organise. However, due to Covid, large scale social gatherings have now been shifted online. These days, recorded performances, Houseparty games, and Kahoots are held virtually in their own rooms. Bonding over shared food delivery and hanging out in each other’s rooms also helps them to form closer relationships with each other. Eshvinjeet Kaur (22A01D), one of the boarders interviewed, bonds with her friends by going out for meals with them. Moreover, regardless of senior-junior status, most boarders pool money to buy each other birthday gifts and celebrate together. 

#6: The dining hall serves a wide variety of food options.

The hostel ensures that boarders are served well-balanced meals twice a day on school days. Muslim and vegetarian meal options are also provided. For those who want to expand their choices, ordering takeout is allowed on weekdays after school hours or during the holidays.

#7: There are rules to keep to.

Boarders are given a 50 page handbook of infographics and rules when they first enter RIB. Some of the basic rules include: they aren’t allowed to visit the opposite gender’s block, and they have to be back in the hostel by 10pm unless they apply for a special excuse. Visitors are also not allowed beyond the lobby. For the Y1-Y3s, prep time is compulsory from Sunday to Thursday. 

#8: Mental health is well taken care of.

Boarders not only have their friends and family as pillars of support – they also have support from the RIBCC as well. Their Boarding Mentors (BMs) and Resident Assistants (tutors) arrange activities and are open to having heart-to-heart talks with the boarders. Counsellors from the Raffles Guidance Centre (RGC) also live in the hostel and provide an alternative listening ear. During pre-Covid roll calls and when exam season is around the corner, the BMs check in often with the boarders and encourage them to seek help if needed. Posters regarding mental health are also put up in the lifts.

#9: There’s no fixed sleep schedule that boarders need to follow.

Contrary to popular belief, while boarders have a curfew, they don’t actually have a lights-out. However, their Wi-Fi has a time limit. For those who believe that sleep is for the weak, hanging out with their friends is a good way to pass the twilight hours. On weekdays, however, their close proximity to school does allow them to get a considerably larger amount of sleep as compared to their peers who live further away.

#10: Non-RI students live in RI Boarding too.

Students from schools such as Eunoia Junior College, Anderson Secondary School and Catholic High School also stay in boarding. Some tutors who study at NUS, NTU and SMU also stay in RIB.

#11: Homesickness is common.

Homesickness is an aspect of boarding that is widely accepted as a norm. Boarders do miss home, and for some others, living apart from their families for extended periods of time has led to feelings of alienation or even rifts between them and their relatives. Moreover, due to the outbreak of Covid-19, many boarders haven’t returned to their home country in a long time. However, being surrounded by their friends and keeping in contact with their parents via video-call helps to ease homesickness.

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