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Personal Experience


Before I start this section, I wish to add a disclaimer that my experience is mine alone. Different scholars would have had different experiences, and as a result vastly different feelings toward their choice of taking up this scholarship. By no means am I representing the story of another person.
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I absolutely loved my experience in Singapore. And if Hermione Granger slipped up one day and turned back time on me to return me to my 12 year old self, I would definitely still choose the same path that I did. Of course, Hermione Granger doesn't slip up, and so what I am left with are very fond memories of the six years I spent in Singapore. That, and also I don't want to go through examination stress twice all over again.

Coming in alone at sec 1 was both nerve-wrecking and super exciting at the same time. I was only twelve when I arrived in Singapore and I didn't know a single person. I did have two cousins studying in Singapore then, but they cared more about football and DoTA than they did their little cousin. It didn't help that my parents dropped me off at my school's "scholar briefing" one day after I arrived and went on their merry ways back to my hometown, leaving me to my own. I remember having to return back to hostel on my own, not having a single clue which stop was my stop. I ended up stopping two bus stops away and had to walk all the way back (not before flipping a coin to see if I should walk left, or right because I didn't know my bearings). I arrived late for lunch, and the hostel caterer had packed up the canteen. I was famished, and so after tearing up a little and putting on my best puppy begging eyes, the uncle agreed to get a plate of spaghetti carbonara for me.

That was how I started my journey as an ASEAN scholar. I was lost. I was confused. I was scared I wouldn't find my way back. I left it completely up to the fate of a coin-flip to decide which way to walk. Each step I took would have either led me one step closer to home, or one step further away. I don't know what would have happened if I had walked in the wrong direction. But this I know for sure - each step I took was a step of growing courage, wisdom and confidence.

Extrapolating the microcosm to the macrocosm, the best takeaway I have from my scholarship years would be the immensely rich personal growth I had experienced. Living and studying away from home taught me so many valuable lessons that I would otherwise probably not have been able to experience should I have stayed at in the comforts of home.

I learned to be responsible for the choices I make in life. Be it tangible choices such as what subjects I should take for O Levels, what JC I should apply for or intangible choices such as choosing to lie to teachers or not, I was going to be held responsible for my actions. And like it or not, there was no one by myself to save my own ass should I slip up. My parents weren't around to chide me for bad decisions; they weren't there to clean up my mess. Along my way, I made some very silly mistakes, but in the process of taking responsibility, I got to know myself a little better each time.

Academically, I also had the privilege to take some of the best courses in the world. I took the Singapore-Cambridge O Levels and the International Baccalaureate. Without the scholarship, I probably would not have been able to afford both courses. This applies to the travelling I did as a student as well. Some trips were school-organized/MOE-initiated, and as a result I was able to go on a subsidized rate. In school, I was also stretched repeatedly beyond my limits. Opportunities were abundant for me to grab in my schools. I managed to represent my school for athletics (even serving as team captain in JC), to be part of the student leadership in schools and organize various school events, to rough it out in Outward Bound Singapore, to visit the Land of the Rising Sun on a school trip, to be a member Singapore delegation to Shanghai for a regional youth leadership event, to build houses in Cambodia for community service, to engage in an independent science research (which has convinced me that the lab and I can't be friends), to organize a nationwide carnival for charity, to play various competitions (of the sport I was in) in various countries like Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, and so so much more.

Beyond school, I also had the chance to dabble in many miscellaneous interests. Because Singapore is so small, yet so extremely cosmopolitan, you can virtually find anything within two or three bus rides away. In my six years there, I dabbled (with varying degrees of success) in cross-stitching, pole vaulting, kayaking, comic-drawing (I actually collaborated with two classmates to draw a comic book with our teachers as characters for teachers' day), story writing, playing the flute, fencing, learning kendo (japanese sword fighting), volunteering at hospices and childcare centers etc.

The second best takeaway would be the friendships I have made during my time in Singapore. Living in a hostel, it is inevitable that you see certain people all the time. You go to school with them, you eat breakfast and dinner with them, you have late-night chats with them. It's like a perpetual sleepover plus the added ability to kick your friend back to his/her room should you want some alone time. You will be able to form special close friendships that is really quite different from friendships you form at school. At hostel, you see the person at his/her best and worst and he/she sees yours as well. I have be fortunate enough to make a few close friends at hostel that I am quite sure will last a lifetime. When all are equally far from home, and you only have each other to rely upon, you tend to form a special bond that can't be broken easily. Hostel friends aside, I have also managed to meet a few wonderful Singaporeans that have eventually gone on to become some of my closest friends. These are people who offer me their house to stay in when I come back visiting and have no room in hostel; these are the friends whose parents voluntarily fetch me to and from from school; these are the friends I can SOS to when the hostel printer konks out (which is very common). Friends are the same everywhere, I guess. And while I probably would have found equally good friends if I had stayed back home, I am extremely glad and grateful for those I met during my time in Singapore.

Maybe one day I will head back to stormy (for it is more stormy than sunny) Singapore for further education or work. But maybe I will not. Whatever the future brings, as of now, the memories I made as an ASEAN scholar will be treasured dearly and kept close to heart. And by writing this post, I hope that you too will be able to etch your own memories that you will fondly look back upon when it passes.

50 comments:

  1. Umm How is it that you can take both the Singapore-Cambridge O Levels and the International Baccalaureate? Aren't they two different things? Confused...

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    1. The O levels are taken after sec 4, like an SPM equivalent. The IB is taken after JC2, like an STPM equivalent.

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  2. will u b on a tight budget?

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    1. Hi, sorry for the late reply. I only just saw this comment.

      Hmm..it really depends on many factors:

      1) personal lifestyle. Do you eat out often? Do you shop often?
      2) school you are sent to. Miscellaneous fees at some schools are higher than others. For example, my JC charged $50 a month while my secondary school did not.
      3) activities you join. I had to pay ~$600 per year for my CCA in secondary school but did not have to pay a single cent in my JC.

      Stuff like that. I would say that if you're a thrifty person, the MOE stipend should be able to tie you over most things. Probably not enough if you're looking into saving the money...but should definitely be enough to sustain a reasonably healthy lifestyle in Singapore.

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  3. Hi, I find your blog really helpful and appreciate your sharing!
    I'm just curious, did you feel stressful studying in Singapore especially during your JC years?

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    1. Well, if you mean academic stress, then yes, I definitely did feel stressed out during examination years (i.e. end of Sec 4 and JC2), but then again, who wouldn't?? (okay fine i know extremely well-prepared on-the-ball people who weren't, but i'm not one of them :P)

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    2. That being said, those times were also times where I forged the closest friendships with my friends around me who were going through the same experience. We formed study groups, helped each other, encouraged each other and pulled through together. :)

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  4. Hello Klarissa,

    I'm aunty Daphne from Shah Alam. Thank you for writing your experience and present the details in such an orderly yet totally enjoyable fashion. I'm impressed by your writing skill, having read that you came from a Chinese stream primary school.

    I have a daughter who will be sitting for her UPSR this year. I am keen to let her have a try at the scholarship. I assume that you are a girl(judging from your name) and would like to ask you on the following:

    1) is it generally safe for a 12 year old girl to study there alone? Do you need to take a bus by yourself to the school? I'm concerned as Singapore has a lot of foreign workers. Can you elaborate your experience relating to the your caretaker in the hostel. Are all the hostels within the school compound or most are outside of school?

    2) if the my daughter is learning piano back here, will the school make any arrangement for piano lesson there?

    3) does a state swimmer have any distinct advantages in the selection?

    Thank you Klarissa and have a nice day.

    Daphne
    Shah Alam

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    1. Hi Daphne,

      1) First of all, I find it insulting that you are implicitly accusing foreign workers as perpetrators of crime when the large majority of them are just in Singapore to eke out an honest living. Yes, your daughter will have to take the bus. And the MRT. And taxis. And walk *all alone* on sidewalks.

      My hostel was located 40 minutes away from my school and I had to commute everyday where I had to pass by numerous foreign and local workers (gasp, horrors!) on a daily basis.

      2) No.

      3) I don't know.

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    2. Klarissa, what a bitch you are :) Maybe Daphne didn't mean it that way. Must be the 6 years of living in SGP :)

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  5. I think it's amazing that you bothered to document your scholar journey for interested strangers :) This blog reads like a tribute of sorts to all of us scholars out there, regardless of the paths we've taken and will take. 6 years here has irrevocably changed and molded me as a person- hardships and bad hostel food and academic pressure and foreign workers (gasp) aside, I regret nothing. All the best exploring the infinite doors this scholarship has opened for you!

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  6. Wow I'm really impressed by your experience. I have to say that I really am looking forward to making new friends IF I manage to obtain the scholarship which for me is a pretty thin chance. I know that this a pretty prestigious scholarship and that the chance of any one of us to grab them is from 0 to 1. Anyway , I congratulate you on this and hope to read more inspiring posts! :)

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  7. Hi, thanks for the informative blog and erm...just a few questions if you don't mind:
    1) Do Physical Fitness Examinations (or something of that name) apply to JC? If so, is it something to be worried about?
    2) How often is it that you have to do research online? Because I heard that there are no free Internet lines there and if research for schoolwork is necessary, my pocket may be burned financially.
    3) Regarding hostel issues, are we allowed to leave our hostel as we like as long as it is before curfew? Or do we need to seek permission before? (Hostel for JC scholars)
    4) Admissions using A level opens in September. But I thought our A levels are taken at the end of the year? So is it possible for us to apply for unis without the A level results?

    Looking forward to your reply. Thanks!!

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  8. Did you work in Singapore after A's?

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  9. thanks for sharing your experience. I'm a sec one scholar. I have a bit of a homesick problem, do you have any advice for that?

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    1. Hey! It's completely normal to experience homesickness. Even in my later JC years, I continued to experience homesickness periodically in varying degrees. Talking to people about it is definitely a way to go. Why not talk to your fellow scholars about it, I'm sure a few of them are also feeling the same way. You could also try calling home more frequently. And lastly, find activities to immerse yourself in while in school - club activities, hanging out with friends, etc etc. Don't keep it to yourself! I wish you all the best!

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    2. thanks, i mean, because my roommates are from johor, i am from kl, so their parents can visit them more frequently, so i doubt that they ever feel homesick... My roommate's parents visit him every week....

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    3. can visit him frequently* sorry for that( same person) and another comment below, was also by me....

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    4. Anyway, which secondary school did you studied in, which hostel did you stayed in?

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    5. Haha yes. Johor people tend to have that trend of visiting parents. It will come to pass, don't worry! Living in Singapore gets better with time in my opinion :)

      Also, not sure why my school history is of importance. I went to an all girls secondary school and an all girls hostel, which by your roommate's gender, I can safely assume is not where you study or live. If you read my blog carefully enough, you would find out though that I then eventually went to ACS(I). Though again, not sure why you would want to know.

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    6. haha, just curious. Anyway, thanks for you advice:)

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  10. can visit him frequently*

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  11. when would you get the notification for the interview

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  12. I'm 15 years old, i'm so interested with this ASEAN Scholarship, i'm from Indonesia. May i know what's the rules to entering the SHS? Is that curious to lived in hostel just by your self or just with your roommate(s)? Where are you come from? Anyway, what's the meaning of JC?

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  13. I am not sure what SHS stands for so I can't help in answering that.

    You would be living with your roommate(s) in the hostel. The number of roommates depends on which hostel do you go to and how the admin staffs allocate the boarders.

    JC stands for Junior College which is a pre-university institution that offers A Levels or International Baccalaureate (IB) for mainly 2 years.

    Feel free to email me at jimmyteoh96@hotmail.com if you have any other inquiries. I would most probably be able to answer your questions as I was a Merit Scholar for the ASEAN Scholarship.

    On a side note, this blog may no longer be active since 2014 as the author no longer replies to comments from what I observe. If you would want response for your question, check if the blog is active next time =)

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  14. Does anybody receive the letter from the MOE that calls those short-listed candidates for the selection test for AY2016 Asean Scholarship for Malaysia?

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  15. Yes, my Standard 6 daughter and her classmate.

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  16. For Standard 6 - better learn Spore maths syllabus...especially geometry like lines and angles and so on. Msian syllabus do not cover that in primary level, if I can remember well..

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  17. How about Secondary 2 applying for secondary 3

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  18. No matter if you are in form 2 or form 3 in Malaysian govt school applying for Sec 3 scholarship, you will be given the same paper to do. You maybe at a disadvantage because you haven't studied Malaysian Form 3 maths. The maths paper for the entrance exam for Asean scholarship at any level will be more difficult and at a much higher standard than normal Malaysia form 3 maths unless you are from a private school doing your British syllabus - IGCSE. For entrance exam for Sec 3, best to study Singapore Sec 3 maths/additional maths syllabus. There are topics like you have never studied in your lower secondary syllabus before. But of course there are English and General ability tests too. They are equally important. MOE will take into consideration for all tests. Good luck.

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  19. I have prepared Singapore Maths Secondary 2 syllabus. By syllabus I mean the whole chapter in Secondary 2. I asked my aunt to bought Maths Secondary 2 (CASCO Production) a few months ago.. (Before Chinese New Year). Mr/Mrs Anonymous, no offence really. I was advised by an ASEAN scholar to learn Secondary 2 syllabus. However, thank you because you are willing to consume your time to reply to me and giving advises. Anyway, are you applying too?

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    1. Dear Tan,

      From what I have gathered from others who had gone through the maths paper, best to practice Singapore Secondary 3 Additional maths and elementary maths (express level). Some even practiced O levels maths to prepare themselves for it. I am not applying but just helping to give some advices and hope to see more from our country getting the scholarships. That's all.

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  20. Thanks..... I will try my very bestto get this scholarship... It's my dream

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  21. Hello everyone! Good luck to all who are applying this year!! I noticed that there has been a lot of traffic and need for a good place for conversation between applicants and present/past scholars. So I have created a forum tab which you can find on the top and side of any page in this blog. :) I hope you will have more conversation there and I will try to answer as many as I can as well! :D - Klarissa

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  22. Hello Klarissa
    I just sat for the selection test in Malaysia. I really want to go study in Singapore if I get the offer. My mummy says ok but my daddy says no. He says it is too expensive because we still have to pay a lot of other stuff not under the scholarship and it will cost him a lot in the Malaysian ringgit which has shrunk so much. He read your blog and says he cannot afford the many trips you took or the activities you took for cca. He says internet is not provided and phone calls will be very expensive. It is true? Did your parents spend a lot of money for you when you were in Singapore? Please help me so I can explain to my dad. Thanks.

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    1. You still have to fork out your own money for books, stationery, daily essential items, uniforms, subscribe hp data (some hostels don't provide free wifi), public transportation fees to and from school because no free school bus provided,miscellaneous school fees each month for some schools, entry fees for some competitions you want to enter or any CCA camps because these are not included in the scholarship. So, your dad will need to give you extra pocket money each month. Please note that hostels only provide free breakfast n dinner during school days because lunch is on your own when you are in school. School usually ends around at 2 to 3pm. Sometimes till 6pm if you have extra classes. The yearly allowance of Sgd2200 per year (sdg183 per month) is insufficient for all stated above. Your parents will have to give extra pocket money for all the above. Food at hostels are not exactly great and there will be times when you want to eat out on weekends or have some outings or watch a movie with friends. You still need extra cash from your parents. Let's say your dad gives you extra Sgd300/month, that will be about Rm900 per month. So, I understand your dad worries. Hopefully there is no need for private tuition in Spore because tuitions are expensive there too. It can cost about Sgd60 to Sgd80/hour, depending on the tutor. In conclusion, the Asean Scholarship do help us a lot by giving free education and accommodation but your dad still have to give you some money for you to live comfortably on your own.

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    2. Oh ya, the scholarship allowance is paid quarterly and NEVER punctually paid. There are no fixed dates on when it will be paid after 3 months. Sometimes it could be later than 3 months. So, that is why parents need to give their kids extra money rather than having their scholar kids starving to death.

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  23. Hi, scholarship covers almost everything, you only spend a minimal in my view.

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    1. It doesn't cover everything. Please read the above. Thank you.

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  24. Has anyone received the offer letter for 2017 Pre-U ASEAN Scholarship? It would be great if we could discuss about it together. I mean about the preparation and list of things to bring of course. I'm still not sure what colour of sports shoes and jacket are allowed in the JCs

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    1. Any idea which JC you are posted to? If you know, you can google their website and find out the school attire n shoes. Usually sports shoes are allowed in jcs. I noted colours like grey, black, white or dark blue are worn. But some jcs are quite lenient and they allow any colours.

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  25. Hi Klarissa, it seemed your blog was around 2012 , how are you doing now after the sec 1 to IB schooling in Sg?
    My daughter has started the sec 3 this 2018 from Philippines. Thanks and more power!

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  26. Hi Klarissa, it seemed your blog is around year 2012,it was a really enjoyable blog, by the way, if i may ask, after sec1 to IB schooling in Sg, how are you doing now? My daughter has started in sec 3 this 2018 from Philippines. I hope you can share your after asean scholarship experiences, too.

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  27. Hi Klarissa, i have been reading your blog and I really enjoyed it.By the way, if i do get the scholarship, will I be able to study with students who get scholarships too?

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  28. Are there a list of schools to look at that the asean scholarship usually go to?

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