What Comes After November: Part 2

Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Noh Sangeun (23S06Q)

The post-As period isn’t always about exploring dozens of interests or gallivanting around the world. For half of the people reading this article, trenches and military uniforms will be an inevitable part of the near future. Others might choose to focus their efforts on fewer areas. In this part of the series, I curated stories from seniors who undertook National Service (NS) or delved into specific fields.

Japan and Journalling

Rayner Chew (22A01B) is currently a finance clerk at Selarang Camp, a military base near Upper Changi. Before recruitment for NS in January, he focused on spending time with friends and family, going on a 10-day trip to Japan with his mother and brother.

Rayner’s Basic Military Training phase — a rite of passage for initiation into NS — was spent with his batchmates from junior college. “I was surrounded by Rafflesians and it was comforting to see familiar faces,” he said. 

Kin Feng, featured later in this article, was in his section, on the bunk beside his. During the unit phase afterwards, Rayner had the opportunity to meet people of more diverse backgrounds, which enabled him to “learn about people and [be less judgemental]”.

More generally, Rayner has appreciated the chance to “get new perspectives”. “During A-levels, your goals are fixed,” he said. “After A-levels, you’re put in a position where you’re forced to make goals for yourself. You’re free to decide what you want to do.”

That is an intimate insight into Rayner’s future-oriented way of thinking. Planning is a “daily process” for Rayner, who has been keeping a daily journal with entries dating back to July 2021. “I like to plan life whenever I’m in a quiet cafe or after a busy week when I’m feeling unsatisfied,” he said.

Rayner’s daily journals

His personal goal before starting university is to start his own business, which has been a dream of his. He wants to do “something that is beneficial to society”, and plans to take on internships in established companies to learn more about the business model.

Additionally, inspired by NS friends who “went solo travelling to Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries”, Rayner is thinking about visiting France for a month or backpacking through Europe. Having taken French in secondary school, he “[looks] forward to immersing [himself] in that culture”.

He recalled that losing his grandfather right after the release of his A-level results made him reflect on the “futility” of academic achievements. Regardless, he remains enthusiastic about his future involvement in business, finance, and asset management, which are industries that have captured his attention for some time.

Cardio and Communication

Wong Kin Feng (22S03L) is training at the Officer Cadet School (OCS) to be a commissioned officer for the Singapore Armed Forces. Prior to NS, he spent December “picking up whatever he neglected”, including his hobby of photography and quality time with his friends and family. He also reflected that this stretch of free time allowed him to read up on university courses.

This period taught him to cherish the time spent with his loved ones. “It’s very easy to while away the ‘free time’ that we have fought so hard to have after A-levels, but try to choose what you want to do to make it as meaningful as possible,” Kin Feng said.

To prepare for the physical demands of NS, he engaged in routine exercises like “running and cardio”. That paid off, especially during his time at OCS, where training was “more intense than it was at BMT”. At OCS, he said, “there is a lot more freedom accorded to us in terms of how we want to run the day and schedule conducts”, and “a lot more self-studying [on weapons and military strategy] involved”.

Kin Feng at the Officer Cadet School.

Kin Feng also spoke of the diversity of people he had met in NS. “Moving from school to NS, the composition of people changed, with a greater variety of people from different educational backgrounds, ages, and even leadership styles,” he said. For him, that has presented constant opportunities for personal learning and growth.

“I have seen people that are unselfish and generous in rendering help, and those that inspire others in the darkest of times. I have also seen leaders that remain calm and steadfast even in times of danger. These people all possess different traits that I have much to learn from.”

Wong Kin Feng

Importantly, Kin Feng believes that the skills he has picked up from his experience in NS — “communicating with others, learning to talk to people from different backgrounds, to bring them together and lead them” — will be transferable to his future pursuits in university and the working world.

Stockholm and Space

Sun Xiaoqing (22S06D) attended the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar (SIYSS) in December before returning to Raffles Girls’ School to coach the Singapore Youth Physicists’ Tournament (SYPT) team. She also helped out at Cogitare, her CCA from secondary school days. Afterwards, she interned at ALIENA, a Singapore-based space tech company.

While Xiaoqing’s experience centred around her love of physics, it still gave her a chance to meet diverse groups of people. At SIYSS, where she was the only participant from Singapore, she met more than 20 fellow students from 16 countries. “I met cool people from different countries and education paths, who were each very unique and different. It’s very cool to have this community of people who are as passionate [about science] as you,” she said.

Xiaoqing at SIYSS

Xiaoqing enjoyed helping her juniors prepare for SYPT, especially since she had been in want of more “guidance and support” as a participant herself. While helping out at Cogitare’s CCA trials, she also met “a lot of tiny cute kids who were really enthusiastic”, which cheered her up “as a jaded post-As senior”. In general, she found it meaningful to return to Cogitare, which she said was a crucial part of her development as a “person interested in science”.

Because ALIENA is a “pretty small start-up”, Xiaoqing said, “everyone knows each other quite well”. There she was able to interact with many workers and interns, especially those closer to her age. Older workers offered her “some interesting life advice”.

As someone who plans to pursue physics, Xiaoqing’s main goal was to explore various areas as an “unskilled intern” before university. “You can try out stuff you won’t have time for in university, and there are not as many people competing [for the internship],” she said.

Wrapping Up

This part of the series concludes five very different stories about the post-As life; more likely than not, you’ve probably resonated with at least one of these stories. If you find yourself overwhelmed with ideas, look out for the third and final part of the series, which will discuss how to plan your time and a conclusive summation of the five interviewees’ reflections on the A-levels.

480630cookie-checkWhat Comes After November: Part 2


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