Hello there! Hope you’ve been enjoying the past year here in VJ 😀 (woohoo you made it through!). Transitioning from a long and well-deserved vacation to making friends with a class full of strangers and now needing to prepare for exams can be daunting. To the introverted and anxious ones out there, I understand that fear. I came from a school where hardly anyone came to VJC with me and being as introverted as I am, I found myself worried about being able to fit in. Along the way, I hit many roadblocks, made so many mistakes that although I was finally able to squeeze by in the end, it wasn’t without its consequences – ones that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

In hopes of inspiring you (or rather urging you to not follow in my footsteps), here are some mistakes that I had to learn the hard way throughout the course of my time in JC1.

Mistake one: Allowing my results to go down the drain

When lessons began a week into becoming a JC1 student, I found myself unmotivated and unwilling to acknowledge the mountain of academic responsibilities pushed onto me. In turn, I fell into the habit of procrastinating and neglecting my studies, often letting lecture slots go to waste and letting the backlog of lectures and homework pile up. Coupled with the fact that HBL ate up a large chunk of 2020, this meant that my backlog was quickly building up while I had inadvertently let time slip away too quickly.

By the time I had realised by mistakes, I was already standing in the grave that I had dug out for myself – a hole so deep that it didn’t seem like I could escape it. It took months and months of hard work (and too many sleepless nights) to make up for my losses, but the time lost is time that I will never get back.

Much more freedom in directing your learning is awarded to you in JC. While this can be advantageous to some as it means that you are able to cater your learning to a way that better suits you, it also works as a double-edged sword if you choose to misuse it. I certainly got the worst end of it when it all came down to it.

Mistake two: Being afraid to step out of my comfort zone

Coming from a school that only had a handful of students that came to VJ with me, coupled with the fact that is my . The first few months were torturous as I was stuck on the border of being neither here nor there. It felt like while I knew no one here, it was as if everyone knew everyone else. It was isolating and I was stricken by an irrational and inexplicable fear of overstepping my boundaries by “encroaching” on others’ friend groups. 

And so, I retreated within my shell, staying within my comfort zone and never doing more than the bare minimum of small talk lest I rub people off the wrong way. While this felt more comforting to me at the moment, this ended up biting me in the back. In exchange for temporary comfort, I had instead given up on opportunities that I would have otherwise had a chance at. It was almost like I had willingly let my time in VJ go to waste.

Mistake three: Not making full use of my time in VJ early on

Looking back, I realised that the two core mistakes mentioned above had compounded into my third and biggest mistake that I made – not making full use of my time in VJ early on. You only spend about one and a half years in JC and unlike secondary school where annual events are held multiple times over the course of your time in school, you mostly have a very narrow time frame for opportunities in JC. This means that should you let the opportunity pass, it is very hard to turn back the clock for a similar opportunity down the road.

At the start of the year, I tended to keep to myself, too anxious to be the one to initiate the conversation with others. In the end, I found myself without having developed very many friendships over the course of the year while everyone else had formed such strong friendships that served as a pillar of support especially during the toughest of times. 

I failed to recognise the importance of time management and consistent work early on until the point where my report card was filled with U grades. Overly fixated on my fear to “encroach” on friend groups that carried on from secondary school, I mostly kept to my lonesome and ended up passing on precious moments to bond with others. It was only when it was too late did I realise that the earlier you start to put in your best efforts (no matter how daunting it may feel), the more you will stand to gain in time to come.

In fear of rejection, I closed myself off. In turn, the doors for leadership and friendship opportunities closed on me.

At this point, it certainly felt like every step I took was futile. One step forward, two steps back. After all, hindsight is 20/20 (too soon?) and it’s easy to look back and pick out the flaws in your life and dwell on them. My mistakes snowballed and ultimately compounded into having to come face to face with the consequences of my actions (or rather the lack thereof) – results that would certainly guarantee me with an express ticket to retention. It truly felt like there was no hope left. If the only option was to quit the game and start over, then what else could I do?

However, in spite of the rough times, there remain moments that never seized to illuminate the seemingly bleak future I was faced with.

Success one: Making the most of the time left in your CCAs 🙂

In other words, “Work Hard, Play Harder”.

JC can be daunting and at times it can feel like mugging is the only purpose of being in JC. However, that doesn’t always have to be the case! Here in VJC, you’re able to join as many CCAs as your heart desires (though to a reasonable degree that is). With a wide array of clubs and societies to various performing arts and sports CCAs, there are so many opportunities to dabble in areas that you might not have otherwise considered, a place that you can make your home.

My CCA in Secondary School was Symphonic Band and I continued to be in band even in VJ for the sense of camaraderie and vibrant culture that drew me to it in the first place. Even so, I decided to pursue my interest in writing by joining Writers’ Circle and haven’t regretted a moment since. I have been able to further develop my interest in a field that I might not have thought to pursue and my time in both band and Writers’ Circle has been a very fun one.

One and a half years will pass by in an instant – one moment you’re surrounded by unfamiliar faces and the next, you would have already graduated and left the CCA in your juniors’ hands. Even the struggles that you might be encumbered with currently will soon simply be a thing of the past. We’re already halfway through the year, so what’s another half more? Learn to just let loose, treasure the time left with your CCA mates and – most importantly – enjoy yourself! After all, that’s what CCAs are all about, right? 🙂

Success two: Putting in the effort to try even when all hope feels lost

It can feel like there is a time limit to what you are able to achieve and once you pass that time limit it is as if a door closes on you and that there is nothing you can do to salvage the situation. I found myself in this mental rut that I could not stop fixating on. 

If I only have two months until the promotional exams and essentially seven months worth of backlog to slog through, how could I possibly stand a chance to promote? If it is already term 3, how could I possibly fit in when all of the cliques had already been formed on day one?

It is undeniable that time makes things harder. Time is a key ingredient in studying and developing friendships, however there is nothing that stops you from making a change in your situation. It is not set in stone that you are destined to continue down this path should you decide that you no longer want to continue down it. It doesn’t matter where you start from. All that matters is that you are willing to try.

It took me a long time. People are less scary than you might think, and you are more capable than you might think. Yes, it takes a lot of courage and determination to make these changes and there might not be a guarantee that it will be successful in the end. However, the fact that you are willing to try is a success in it of itself and it is never a crime to try.

It certainly is easier said than done. I still continue to grapple with this irrational self-imposed rule that I had set for myself. However, I find that 

As a result of my negligence, my results from the Mid-Year Exams were horrendous to put it lightly. With a mountain of backlogged lectures and only a few months to spare before needing to confront the dreaded promotional exams that stood between me and promoting to JC2, it felt like I needed a miracle in order to salvage my grades. 

I began to try to talk to my classmates, albeit awkwardly. Although it took a lot of courage (and patience from my friends), I was ultimately able to make friends that I know I can depend on. In JC, you are bound to come face to face with the building stress of exams and project work and it can become very overwhelming. Having that support system of friends is vital to ensure that you do not fall down a rabbit hole of damaging thoughts. And even though it was (and still is) to reach out and talk to others, I’m lucky to have that support system. And I hope that you will too in time to come 🙂

To conclude:

I hope that this article will serve to alleviate some of your worries throughout JC, a pick-me-up of sorts when it feels like there is no turning back. You have the capability for change. Have courage, and I wish you the best in your future endeavours here in VJC!

Article by:

Jaclyn Tay, 20S39

Media credits (in order of appearance):

Jaclyn Tay, 20S39

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