By Azzahra Osman (22S03P), Faith Wan (23S02B) and Venkatesan Ranjana (23A01D)
This year, Raffles Press invited eight Year 7s to share their experiences in JC, whether it be pursuing their interests or persevering through difficulty. We hope that their stories will inspire you and provide a glimpse into the lives of Rafflesians beyond academics.
This is Part 1 of our A-Level 2022 Student Feature.
Aadil B Jamari (21S07A)
For Aadil, enriching his life with several “passion projects” throughout his JC life was a natural progression from secondary school. There, he wove these projects so strongly into his life that it was hard for him to imagine a life without them. In fact, he’s of the opinion that “passion is a bit overrated.”
“Sure, some people have a lot of passion, and that drives them in what they do. But for me, I didn’t really feel that fire burning. What keeps me going is the determination to finish what I’ve started.”
From an outsider’s perspective, a list of all of Aadil’s achievements would look impressive, even overwhelming. Upon receiving the above response, our curiosity was piqued even further. If not passion, what was it that motivated him through all of this?
To start off, we asked him where his strong interest in Malay language and culture came from.
“Like many Singaporeans, I speak mostly English at home, but what fostered my connection with Malay was my mother, because she believes it’s important to be bilingual, especially in contemporary Singapore.”
Due to his mother’s emphasis on the importance of being proficient in two languages, Aadil started to take Malay more seriously in secondary school, which led him to “amazing opportunities.”
He was appointed language ambassador for the Malay Language Appreciation Month, during which he was a docent at the National Museum, where he learned about Malay customs and artefacts. To someone who had always associated his Malay heritage with textbooks and mostly traditional practices, to see a fresh representation of his heritage was not only fascinating, but empowering.
Later on in JC, the constant opportunities he’d received in the Malay Literary & Drama Cultural Society (MLDCS) helped him to continue on this path. His CCA journey has definitely been a memorable one. In 2020 and 2021, the spate of racist incidents locally gained much traction on social media. He saw this as an opportunity to create a space for more constructive discourse on the topic. In the weeks preceding Hari Raya, MLDCS prepared media content educating Rafflesians on the customs of Malays during Ramadan. Through this, they hoped to extend the conversations about race beyond just their immediate MLDCS community to Rafflesians in general.
Beyond encouraging him in staying connected to his roots, Aadil’s mother is clearly an important role model to him. When asked about advice he would give to juniors, he again mentioned a piece of advice she gave him, “My mother always drilled the importance of time management, using the analogy of ‘big rocks and small rocks’.”
Simply put, one should get the big rocks—the biggest priorities, including schoolwork and CCA—out of the way first, and use the remaining time for other less time-pressing commitments. It’s not necessarily about having a regimented time schedule planned out to the minute, but rather about setting goals for the day. This simple philosophy is what kept Aadil motivated and driven to pursue all of his interests and the initiatives he cared about during JC.
One of the most important initiatives he embarked on was what started out as his Project Work (PW) project, and developed into the CE01 initiative, Project Perspective.
With the aid of his PW teammates, Aadil helmed the project which involved the production of two books aimed at educating Singaporean children about the plight of migrant workers in our country. What was initially just an idea derived from their A-Level PW submission was successfully brought to life following the completion of their Oral Presentation.
“Making storybooks was something that allowed us to complement each other’s strengths,” said Aadil.
This is what really drove Aadil to complete the project.
“Passion takes time to develop, it’s not something that grows in an instant. Even then there are people with passions that change over time. I enjoy writing and reading to children, but what really enabled me to complete Project Perspective was the determination to complete what I started, and to touch the life of others and impact children.”
“So, if you’re worried about not feeling passionate about much in JC,” Aadil says, “don’t fear. You don’t really need to, in JC. It’s just about what you want to do, what you’re interested in, and are committed to doing.”
Sruthi Muralikrishna (21S06B)
“Remind yourself that you’re a versatile person. Don’t think that you can only be good at one thing – do more. Be passionate about everything you undertake.”
This was the key lesson that Sruthi had learnt by the end of JC. As someone whose interests resided in two vastly different branches of knowledge, it took lots of trying for her to finally find out which fields she wholeheartedly enjoyed exploring.
Sruthi’s ardour for her mother tongue led to her decision to take Tamil Language and Literature in JC. On top of just studying the subject alone, Sruthi strove to push her own boundaries, such as by participating in the Muthamizh Vizha Tamil Short Story Competition, where she won a prize.
Her love for the language was not established overnight, but rather was something that was built up slowly throughout her secondary school years in RGS. Her secondary school Tamil teacher constantly urged her to be creative by writing short stories and poetry. On top of that, he advised her not to be afraid to be weak at the subject and to be “open to growing.” This slowly strengthened her appreciation for the language and now, she feels that it is an “intrinsic part of [her] that she has grown with.”
While many may perceive the idea of having a strong enthusiasm for both a science and a language subject to be odd, Sruthi’s other passion is equally strong: her love for Chemistry – in her words, it sparks “magic”. As a member of the Alchemy Club, Sruthi had the opportunity to go beyond conducting the usual titration practicals and participate in fascinating experiments such as making suntan cream. It is no surprise that she believes that one can “feel like a detective” when exploring the breadth of the subject.
When asked about her regrets from JC, she smiles ruefully and says she avoids dwelling on them. She shares that her schedule got especially hectic at the start of Year 6, when all her commitments clashed with each other. Along with the Nanyang Research Programme, she had the Raffles Science Symposium, the Singapore Science and Engineering Fair, and her final EcoLit project to prepare for.
The sheer number of things she had to focus on eventually took a toll on her academics and she made the tough decision to drop H3 Chemistry.
Despite regretting never getting to explore H3 Chemistry further, she remains glad that she made that choice. “I was mature enough to ask for advice, and my tutors told me it was okay to let go.” That was one of her largest takeaways from JC, that overcommitting is a real issue faced by many students in an attempt to do more and be more. Her advice?
“If you feel like you’re going to burn out, it’s perfectly alright to let go of a project.”
Doing the things that she was genuinely interested in, rather than forcing herself to be interested in, was what kept her from burning out.
For instance, before she took up the Gavel Club as a CCA, she already thought public speaking was brilliant. “That ability to deliver oneself, confidently, to an audience, is simply wonderful,” she shared. “If you have something you’re burning to share with the world, others will be able to feel it. Leadership will naturally follow as people trust and look towards you.”
When we asked her how she had the courage to pursue all that she did, she responded:
“There were definitely ups and downs in my extracurriculars. I tried to fill up my plate and had to bulldoze through a lot of commitments. Adversity really shaped me in JC—I wouldn’t say it always shapes you, because sometimes it breaks you, instead—but in JC, there’s a feeling of being cocooned. It’s a safe place, so I wasn’t afraid of falling. If not now, then when?”
Sruthi’s genuine reflections and sincere words are thought-provoking, particularly amidst the typical pressure in JC about the need to build up a “shiny portfolio”—one that often comes across as clinical. After all, we should make full use of the little time left for all of us to experience what we truly want within the safety of our school environment.
Sruthi encourages us to think about our interests and passions, not what we think people in our future want us to be interested in and passionate about.