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By Md Khairillah (16A01B), Ian Cheng (16S03M), Huang Jia Wen (16S06G), Kristal Ng (16S07C), Christine Saw (15A01A), Joyce Er (15A01A), Michelle Zhu (15A01B), Wilson Chan (15A01C), Valerie Chee (15S07B)
Photos by Nicholas Chang (16S03K), Crystal Wee (15S03O)
Let it never be said that all Rafflesians know how to do is study. Following the release of the A Level results last Monday, Raffles Press got the chance to speak to high achievers, each accomplished in their own right, from the batch of 2014. Besides excelling in their academics and demonstrating grit and dedication, these individuals also demonstrated passion in various other endeavours, be they athletic, artistic or altruistic, and displayed exemplary holistic development.
The Community Leaders
Abdul Rahim Asyraf B Abdul R
An Interactor with a burning passion to serve the community, Abdul Rahim Asyraf B Abdul R (14S03H) spent much time volunteering at various organizations in his JC days. He took on a leadership role in his CCA as a Service I/C for the Eagles Programme, working hand in hand with SINDA to mentor and tutor primary 5 pupils from low-income families. Aside from his wish to give back to the community that he had benefited from in his younger days, Asyraf’s desire to “help the children realise their potential” was his main motivation and he felt that the experience had given him a valuable opportunity to “interact with children from underprivileged backgrounds”. In addition to taking on the Eagles project, Asyraf also went on a Service Learning trip in July 2013 to Cambodia and regards the experience as one of the most memorable experiences he had had in Interact.
Feeling pressured by the competitive environment in RI is almost ineluctable, and Asyraf is no stranger to this. During his second year in JC, there were times when Asyraf felt overwhelmed, and he even recalls having a break down 2 weeks before the exam. However, with determination and the support of the people around him, Asyraf managed to change his outlook, taking the stress as “positive peer pressure” and finding comfort in the fact that “[he knew he] did [his] best”. He cited the support and advice that his civics tutor, Mdm Lee Shu Jia, gave to him as a great source of strength. “I really treasure her”, he added fondly.
Coming out of the battle with A levels stronger than before, some valuable tips Ayraf would like to share with the juniors is to “sleep early” and to always remember that there is more to life than purely academics. “Just being book smart, I don’t think you can go very far in life.”
Levinson Tan Yu Fan
Levinson (14S06C) is an exemplar when it comes to showing that JC life need not be all about the academics – an EXCO member of the Community Advocates (CA), Levinson started his own CIP project named Dare to Dream, a 6 month project where he worked with his friends to provide help for the physically disabled. Beyond that, Levinson has participated in many different service initiatives as an avid member of CA- from renovating a one room flat to holding a workshop in RI and RGS about global and local poverty.
When queried about what he would say to his juniors regarding JC life, Levinson remarks that the most important thing is to ‘just put your heart into’ what you’re doing. ‘Everyone will find their own balance… and only when you’re going through crisis do you realise how to prioritise.’ True to his word, Levinson had to balance between his studies, (especially PW he notes), his service work and most notably his attempt to get a flying license. Levinson eventually managed to acquire a flying license, after a lot of hard work and the realisation that ‘the more you’re pushed to your limits, the more ways you’ll find out to manage.’
Wee Jing Long
On top of being in RECAS and Raffles Reflects, Jing Long (14S07C) was a dedicated Interacter, volunteering regularly at Sunlove Home and Chen Su Lan Methodist Home, while giving tuition at Mendaki. He also co-founded the RI (Y5-6) chapter of Habitat for Humanity, a service learning group dedicated to cleaning the homes of financially disadvantaged people.
Surprisingly, he had little involvement in volunteering prior to Interact. Looking back on his service learning journey, Jing Long told us, “We started out big but realised that things in life have to start small, and three years later it’s grown into this thing that is still around. With volunteering you realise the journey is very difficult and you can only make small differences – but those small differences count, so just do something. Don’t stagnate, don’t go into stasis, and just keep exploring. I didn’t accomplish every one of my goals, but I think that’s life. RI is a magical place. You’ve got a lot of batchmates and so when you can find people who share your interests, that coming together is magical.”
An aspiring anthropology student, Jing Long is planning to study at a liberal arts university, and currently works with Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2). When asked if he had any advice for this year’s A-Level candidates, he simply quipped, “Start making decisions for yourself.”
For Kenneth Chow (14S06I), robotics has been his foremost priority. His journey has been a decorated one, from representing SIngapore internationally at the tender age of 12, to placing team second at the World Robocup in Y3 without guidance, to winning the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation Awards (SITF) with an original robotics development kit that allows children to teach themselves robotics up to a high level of competence. During his time in RI, he was also chairperson of Club Automatica and participated in the INVENT programme.
His achievements came at a price. It was customary for him to go without sleep three days consecutively and miss up to a week of lessons prior to competitions, and he participated in up to six competitions yearly, with each competition requiring 3-4 months of preparation, leaving him with very little time for anything else. The commitment was only logical for him: “Any kind of endeavour that you put yourself in and perform at a high level will take up a lot of your time.” He has no qualms about his heavy involvement in robotics. “It’s developed me into a much better thinker, and I’m able to solve problems critically instead of relying on fixed methods or model answers. The difference between robotics and whatever you’re doing in school is that there is no fixed solution and no boundaries. It’s not about chasing the correct solution, but rather about chasing the beautiful solution.”
Kenneth received a provisional scholarship from DSTA and foresees himself working with VSO. Since graduating, he has also founded the Centre of Robotic Excellence (CoRE), a start-up dedicated to researching and developing educational kits and offering coaching sessions. Asked for A-Level preparation tips, he said, “Just take it easy! I mean, at the end of the day what does your grade quantify and show about you as a person? If you want to be successful in life in general, you should push yourself beyond the scope of what school pushes you to do. You have to do something special.”
Many will remember Ernest Chin (14S06H) as the cheerful Orientation IC for Kaleidos 2014, but few know that, besides serving as secretary of the Student Council’s CCA Department, he studied the unconventional subject H2 Art, even offering it at H3 level, and intends to be an architect. After not offering O Level art and sorely regretting his decision, he took a leap of faith and struggled to catch up with those with more practice than he had.
Taking such a niche subject was a risk, but it also posed several lesser-known benefits. “An art degree makes you stand out. Anyway, when you take economics, odds are you don’t even know if you’ll like it. Economics is a safe choice, but taking art shows that you’re sure of where you’re going.”
Like everyone else, Ernest faced the problem of burnout in the leadup to his A-Levels, especially after his H2 Art coursework submission in September, but was galvanised into working harder after a disappointing set of Prelim grades. He expressed his gratitude to “everyone! It’s not a one man journey.” For all that his journey was tough, Ernest advised the current J2 batch, “Focus on studying but don’t leave out all the leisure stuff because life will become very meaningless. During J2 I think it’s the people who keep you going, but you won’t realise it because you’re so caught up in the heat of studying and stress of expectations. If you don’t give up what’s important to you during the A Level period, you’ll thank your past self. The road to A’s is bound to be tiring. But as long as you put in your best, you shouldn’t have any regrets.”
Daphne Theresa Chia
Famous for being part of the first rhythmic gymnastics team to represent Singapore at the Commonwealth Games just last year, Daphne Chia (14S03P) is a study in time management and a woman of many passions. Besides her gymnastics training, which took up four to five hours of her time six days a week, she also volunteered at an old folks’ activity centre twice a week after training, competed with the RI (Year 5-6) Cross Country team, offered H3 Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and miraculously found time to “plan welfare activities and organise birthday celebrations” as class representative.
Daphne made the difficult tradeoff between work and leisure by setting clear goals. “I sacrificed my sleep and social life, sure, but I knew what I wanted. For example making it to the Commonwealth games was something I was working for since I was very young. It was the endpoint that drove me to work hard and keep focused during the process.” Having juggled training and school for the majority of her academic life, A-Levels was almost a relief for her, as she had a full two to three months that she could devote solely to studying. “I’d recommend going to the school library, everyone’s studying there so there’s a lot of pressure!” she told us, laughing.
At the same time, Daphne advised the current batch of Y6s to “enjoy JC life, be thankful for the opportunities you’ve been given, study hard for A’s, and above all try not to screw up your sleep cycle.” Daphne received a conditional offer to study medicine at Cambridge, and will be retiring from gymnastics as there are no competition opportunities there. As with all other things, Daphne regards this new phase of her life as a welcome challenge. “It’s going to be a different environment with new friends, and I won’t be living with my parents. It scares me but in a good way.”
Maverick Lim Yong Chen
An avid sportsman, Maverick (14S03G) has been playing rugby since Secondary 1- having also made it to the national team in JC. About his rugby experience, which involved overseas trips to Taiwan and Malaysia, Maverick happily notes that ‘any experience with [his] team is a memorable one’, especially because it teaches him as a captain ‘how to organise everyone together for a common goal’. Being asked about whether he would continue to pursue rugby post-JC, Maverick states that he ‘can’t give rugby up’ because he ‘doesn’t like giving up things halfway’. But rather than a commitment, Maverick offers this perspective that rugby is instead a past time for him to enjoy and bond with his friends.
Having to balance sports and studies is often a very hard thing, as with any clash of commitments, but Maverick notes that this balance can be achieved with good time management and recognising the need for sacrifice. Having training sessions up to 5 times a week during rugby season, Maverick often had to sacrifice sleep time and opportunities to out with his friends in favour of studying and catching up with the syllabus. Maverick has this to offer to juniors with many commitments however- ‘treasure your friends. A Levels can make you sad and depressed, but your friends will inject happiness in your life.’
Grace Tan Su-En and Gayle Tan Su-Hui
Twins Grace Tan Su-En and Gayle Tan Su-Hui never expected to be in the same class (14S03H). Both competitive swimmers, this meant that they were together almost all of the time: at home, at the pool and now even in class. However, neither have ever felt bothered by this in any way. “Its just normal to be around each other, we’ve never known it any other way.” In fact, this made it more convenient for them because of their matching schedules.
The pool was a familiar sight to them since Primary 1, but it was not until an intra-school competition in Raffles Girls’ Primary School (RGPS) that pushed them to swim competitively from Primary 4. After securing the top two positions, both Grace and Gayle made it to the school team and have been swimming for their schools ever since. Despite cutting down on swimming in JC, they both admitted that time was still tight and spent “most of [their] time on studying and swimming”. In the second half of the year when commitments gradually died down, they still made an effort to keep exercising. “It actually energizes you and takes your mind off studies for a while,” Grace remarked.
Interestingly enough, the twins are part of the minority who survived JC without any tuition. Grace believes that tuition is not necessary for everyone, and “you should only take up tuition if you’re weaker in the subject and not coping well.” Instead, they kept to a routined study schedule leading up to the A levels. When asked about their pillars of support during this trying period, Gayle commented, “I think encouragement from friends really make a difference, I mean studying is tiring. And I think our Faith also helped us cope with the stress.”
The resounding message they have for those taking their A levels this year is very much in tangent with their active lifestyle: “Keep yourself physically healthy, eat healthy, sleep more, keep yourself fit.”
Kimberly Lim Min
Being a world-class national sailor, Kimberly Lim Min (14S06F) is no stranger to challenges. Yet, A-levels was no match to any other competition, Asian Games, Sea Games or otherwise. “I would say that A-levels much harder. Since the Asian games was just before, coming back from sailing and fun, the drastic change was really overwhelming because you really had to hunker down. Going to sea is so much freedom. But when you’re studying, you really have to sit down [and], its very confining.”
But in spite of missing lessons due to hectic training schedules and overseas competitions, she still revised and practised on her own by finding time to study at night in the hotel and on flights, maximizing every learning opportunity. How did she do it? She had a goal in mind – the 2016 Olympics. “One key reason not to defer A levels this year is because this year is crucial to transfer to a new boat and campaign for Olympics. It would be too late if I did A levels this year.”
Having started when she was 10 years old, sailing has literally taken half her life, and will continue to do so. When asked about her future plans, Kimberly remarked that she hopes to compete in the 2020 Olympics if all goes well. She also plans to take accountancy and study at a local University. “Since I would be travelling overseas to sail, it would be nice to have a base to come home to.”
Tiara Valencia Saikin
For Tiara (14A01D), singing has been the backbone of her JC life. Having been awarded “The Best Performance of the Night” for her performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City, her talent in singing is undoubted. Her own impressive achievements aside, Tiara is also a committed section leader in Raffles Chorale.
During her time in Raffles Chorale, Tiara would often have individual rehearsals after school with her section mates and got to know them “personally through music”. Praising her section mates as being “very musically inclined, achievement – oriented perfectionists”, she feels her section mates have changed her to be more driven.
With her heavy commitment to the CCA, Tiara learnt to manage by making the most out of limited free time and gradually cutting away at procrastination. To her, this consistent work made the preparation process for A Levels “smooth sailing” after a while. When asked for tips to cope with the A Levels, she advised students to refrain from comparing with others and instead “always have confidence in yourself and believe in the power of the mind”.
Kim Byung Heon Edward
Aside from being your Student’s Council President, Edward Kim (14A01C) also spent his time modelling for Raffles Runway and playing basketball. Juggling his many responsibilities was not easy, but Edward believes that it is “always about prioritizing”. On whether he ever felt overwhelmed by the vast array of commitments he took on, Edward admits that at times it was challenging. “Physically you are very tired, and mentally you feel overworked sometimes. But I’ve never felt regret, I’ve also never felt like giving up at any point of time.”
A student in the Humanities Programme, Edward feels that what “changed [him] the most” was his teachers who were “always involved in [the student’s] lives beyond academics”. “Talking to them about their own personal lives, listening to their words of advice and encouragement… I think that was the most memorable thing for me in HP.”
Looking forward, Edward plans to study Political Science, possibly with a second major in East Asian studies in the US. As for how he is spending his free time now, Edward has been learning “a lot of cooking from [his] Mom” (which he claims he is not ready to demonstrate for anyone yet!), picking up some Chinese again and is also going to take up some drumming!
Goh Zuo Min
Many of you may know and utilise NotesAcademy, an online platform for students to share their learning resources with one another, but perhaps you may not know its founder, Goh Zuo Min (14S06B). Having experienced a highly competitive environment in RI, Zuo Min hoped that in setting up Notes Academy, the ability to “[share] with more people [would] make it more sustainable, uploading notes [would] make you part of something much bigger”.
Perhaps more recognisable as Vice President of the 33rd Student Council, he also shared his experience working with the other council heads – Edward and Kimberly: “They each provided very different perspective and brought different experiences to the table. But we made significant efforts to try and understand each other… and learned to tap on each other’s strengths.”
If Sharil’s (14S05B) JC journey could be summarised in one word, it would be hectic. Besides being a band member, Sharil was a student councillor and a member of the Business Leaders Programme (BLP). From these numerous commitments, Sharil has amassed memorable experiences working in the communications department of the Student’s Council, where he learnt more about interpersonal interaction and found out more about people in general.
With so many obligations and responsibilities, Sharil knew his JC life “was going to be tough”. Recounting his Prelim period as a “very stressful period of JC life”, Sharil recounted having to go to schools for his economics exams and then run to the art room to continue with his A Level art coursework until 6pm, before returning home to study for 2 hours. Luckily, he had his friends and family as pillars of support.
Reflecting on his A Level journey, Sharil feels he could have been more consistent in his work, saying that “consistency comes in different ways. It comes from listening in class, regularly clarifying doubts”. From this whole process, he feels he has learnt how to value his priorities and be more resilient, traits that would surely serve him well in the road ahead as he embarks on becoming an architect. For Sharil, who took PCMA in JC, this feels like a perfect career as it blends both his love for physics and art into an occupation. As he puts it, “my subject combination bodes well for architecture”.
The All Rounders
I Vivek Kai Wen
The chairperson of Raffles Voices in Year 1-4 and subsequently taking the helm yet again in Year 5-6 as the chairperson of Raffles Chorale, I Vivek Kai Wen (14S05A) is an all-rounded individual who strives to do his best in everything that he takes on. On top of tremendous commitment to his CCA, Vivek also takes H3 Mathematics.
Choir has always had a special place in his heart and in his 6 years of singing with the CCA, Vivek claims that the “most meaningful and memorable times” for him were after trips or key competitions and concerts. “You look back through the journey and see how far you’ve pushed yourself, how far you’ve come from there and how far you’ve exceeded what you thought you could’ve done.”
Describing himself as one who is “self-motivated”, discipline and consistency were some things that Vivek took very seriously. “It has come a long way for me,” he adds. Leading up to the A levels, he fondly recounts the times that he spent studying in the canteen some afternoons and evenings with his friends, namely his CCA batchmates from Chorale and classmates whom he cited as massive sources of support.
Vivek has currently been offered the Public Service Commission (PSC) Scholarship and plans to study History, Political Science, Economics, or possibly even a double degree in two of the aforementioned areas. If all goes as planned, he will be headed off to the US by August this year. “Right now that seems to be the most meaningful path for me.”
Muhammad Sofian B Mohamed T
A member of both the RI Frisbee team and the Malay Literary Drama Cultural Society (MLDCS), Muhammad Sofian B Mohamed T’s (14S03H) average day was definitely much busier than that of a normal JC student. However, he was able to juggle his commitments well. Besides taking on H3 Chemistry, he also made time to participate in school events such as Dancefeste. He feels that it is important for students to “involve themselves in activities they like” as they are “good opportunities [for him] to get to know more people”.
Frisbee was a big part of Sofian’s life and he forged many strong friendships during his time in this CCA. Even though he was part of the team that emerged victorious in the 2014 Inter-school Frisbee Competition, Sofian prefers not to focus on the end results. Instead, he claims that it is the “struggles his team went through” that have made the experience truly memorable and meaningful. “You should learn to take the most out of every experience, as there is a lesson to everything, just like how there is always a moral to a fable,” he adds.
Leading up to A levels, Sofian usually spent his days studying in school, which he believes offers a more conducive learning space as compared to his home. Although he agrees that it is important to study hard for A levels, he also advises juniors not to “throw away [their] opportunities to have fun”.
Daniel Boey (14S06B) shows his dedication to the community with his participation in the Operation Smile Chapter, where he organised events to raise funds and awareness for Operation Smile, a charitable organisation supporting people with facial deformities. He is also an instrumental player in the planning and execution of the Physics Tutoring Programme, a programme catered to help students on Financial Assistance Schemes with their academic work. He believes that “service is not what you do, but who you touch. Service is the legacy you leave behind, who you have helped. I want to know that the people I’ve helped, have they become someone I’m proud of, not just faces I recognise.”
Yet, as Captain of Track and Field, Daniel also knew what it meant to juggle between his commitments. His advice would be to “focus 110%, don’t spread out your attention. We might be good at multitasking, but it’s not wise. Don’t waste your time trying to do too many things… Segment your life – so that in every sphere, you can exert to the point you can improve.”
Oliver Chan Yuan Wei
Rafflesians take up many academic endeavours in their years here – some take H3s, some take RAs and others venture heavily into the musical domains. Oliver (14S06P) has done them all. Boasting a portfolio consisting of two H3s (H3 Math and H3 Chemistry), Chemistry and Physics RA, Knowledge and Inquiry (KI) as well as being a participant of the Government Civic Engagement Programme (GCEP), one is bound to wonder how Oliver is able to cope with all of this, if at all. On top of all that, Oliver is also musically inclined, having been a member of choir and an outside of school a cappella group, yet was able to maintain a social life with his many commitments.
Oliver quipped that he doesn’t think one ‘has to actively make the choice’ between academics and a social life. In fact, Oliver claimed that his studying method has always been fairly simple: pay attention during lessons, utilise lessons effectively and get lots of sleep at night. Rather, what often ‘consumed his time’ was actually singing with his acapella group that often performed at local events like Christmas concerts and the like. Ever inquistive, Oliver’s plans on the future incorporate both the sciences and the humanities: he plans to study in a liberal arts college to widen his options and deepen his understanding of the human condition.
Phuah Wei Yuan, Wei Ke and Wei Deng
Being triplets is one thing- being triplets in RI in the same class and the same CCA is another. Certainly, Wei Yuan, Wei Ke and Wei Dang (14S03T) cut a formidable picture, especially coupled with, as they jokingly say, the ability to ‘confound their opponents on the sports arena’ , a skill they put to great effect during their Ultimate Frisbee finals last year (everyone was laughing really badly, Wei Ke notes). Humble, bubbly and sincere, the trio offer us fascinating insights into their lives: that being triplets actually makes it easier for them to mingle with people and make friends- because having icebreakers with three identical people is sure to lighten the atmosphere!
Beyond that, the trio also display an affinity with community service that should inspire many Rafflesians. The three often worked with the Share-On Welfare organisation, where they would help provide food for the the needy living in the area. Wei Dang fondly recalls that they themselves were ‘recipients of [this] organisation’ and wanted very much to ‘give back to the organisation’.
The trio offer this tidbit of advice to their juniors: ‘start early’, but ‘still play’. If not, they cheekily comment, ‘you die early’. True to their humble nature, they also point out: ‘Don’t let your ego come in the way; be open to asking anyone you think can help you.’