The end of the year always evokes from us deep, soulful deliberations. An odd twinge of nostalgia, a pang of sentimentality… In the spirit of Reminiscence, Victorian Press looks back on two of our biggest celebrations this year that chronicled both our successes and all the fun we’ve had.
Traditionally, College Day is the celebration of past and current Victorians’ success and accomplishments – but to many Victorians, it is more than that…
With our school flag flying high and the blaring trumpets from the school band, it is clear that College Day is anything but an ordinary Saturday morning. Indeed, the pomp and splendour of this day is a testament to its significance in VJC. As Nikki, an awardee of the Sports Excellence award puts it, “I found it really heartening that the College recognised my achievements and sacrifices.” Truly, the spirit of community that we so cherish is built not just on giving students the support they need when they struggle, but also shining a light on them when they succeed. In this, College Day is the truest representation of our college spirit of community and support, dedicated to giving outstanding Victorians the recognition they deserve.
To many of us sitting in the hall, watching each of these stellar students take their place, we do not think about all of this. Rather, to many of us, the more pressing question was simply: How did they do it? What pushed these students to go above and beyond what they needed to do, to put in the extra effort? What made these students so extraordinary?
When I asked Yong Li, the proud recipient of Dr. Ong Chit Chung Trophy for Outstanding Service to the College as well as the Wong Hung Khim Trophy for the Student of the Year, he corrected this assumption of mine. “Thank you for your flattery but I don’t believe in extraordinary people,” he shared, “I do believe in ordinary people always striving to do extraordinary things. None of us are extraordinary, but sometimes we are given extraordinary opportunities to do extraordinary things.” Inspired by his words, I realised that rather than looking at some streak of genius present in a selected few, we should be asking ourselves how these individuals caught onto the opportunities they were given instead. After a few interviews with the award recipients, we managed to crack the code for success.
Passion is the key. “I’m going to be brutally honest here,” said Jiarong, who topped his cohort in GP in the A level exams, “You can mug to get an A in H1 GP, but to get a higher score you need to have a passion for it. GP covers a wide range of topics so it’s really difficult to prepare for a specific one – you need to read widely and treat the subject more like a passion.” Having a passion for a subject unlocks the drive and motivation to study for it, far surpassing the minimal effort we would otherwise put in. These students put in hours and hours of gruelling hard work into their studies, not because they are required to do so, but did it because they wanted to. “It might sound really showy but when I do general reading I don’t see it as work but, well, it’s what I do in my free time,” Jiarong joked sheepishly.
On the other hand…what if we don’t know what we want to do? Not everyone who received an award has a passion to follow, some not even knowing what they want to pursue. Yong Li, for example, had no idea what direction his career was going to take throughout his two years in VJC. Instead, he shared how it was the mentality of giving his best for whatever opportunities he was given. “I think despite it being cliche, it is truly a mentality that drives many people,” he explained. More than anything, he later came to understand, it was about making the best decision possible – for Econs students who understand that we always have imperfect information – with whatever information we have at that point in time. Every single awardee I talked to all echoed this sentiment as they too had different priorities at different times – be it their CCAs, extracurriculars or other commitments.
Of course, whether you have passion or still searching for it, hard work is always essential. In fact, I was duly informed that these 2 years in JC “taught one the importance of hard work, and taking the barometers used to measure how you’re doing seriously”. For most of our seniors, the journey was a painful one, with blood, sweat and tears being shed. College Day was about rewarding these sacrifices – Sleep, Time and Sanity, I was told quite seriously – that these outstanding students have put in. But even with hard work, not everything comes easy.
Expecting success to be a smooth ride is like expecting LT5 to be of a warm, comfortable temperature – it would be nice, but it is hardly realistic. Every single student faced their own challenges in their journey – and having overcome these challenges deserve awards in and of itself. Triston, who topped his cohort in H1 Chinese, often had to compromise on his existing schedule and commitments to work on Chinese, which was something he found difficult, as it was not possible for him to give an equal importance to every subject and extra activity that he still deeply valued. On the contrary, Chuin Wei, an alumnus who topped his cohort in H2 History and achieved distinction for all 13 units that he offered, struggled with the lack of sleep that was part and parcel of his overwhelming workload. Despite having to sacrifice on his much-needed rest to achieve his accomplishments, he constantly reminded himself of his own passion, so that he would continue moving forward no matter how tough the journey ahead gets.
But of course, they didn’t do it alone. “As a child, my dad would buy me history books.” “My teachers helped me catch up on my work when I missed classes, which was quite often.” “My friends made sure I didn’t overwork myself – they helped me a lot with work and talked to me when I was stressed.” Friends, family, even our teachers played a big role in the success of our seniors – and continue to play a big role in the rest of their lives. In recognising the achievements of the awardees, College Day is not just about putting these students in the spotlight, but also highlighting the blood, sweat and tears both they and the people around them have put into every single achievement.
Down the generations: What our seniors want to share with us. When asked what advice they would have appreciated when they were younger, I was given an overwhelming amount of advice – all of it relevant and useful. I particularly related to a metaphor: “I feel like you’re holding onto 2 rabbits in your two hands but you will need to grip one with both hands and let go of the other, or you’ll lose both.” Trying to spread time equally, a council teacher once told the student councillors, is not going to work because when you choose to balance everything, you are bound to forgo something. Rather, it is about managing our time – all of us should be able to prioritize what to do at certain points in time.
Beyond our academics, however, there is more that we should take to heart. “Victorians mostly have each other, so we have to look out for one another” is a recurring message that resonated within us. Looking beyond ourselves – our results, our wants and what we want to do – and focusing instead on the people around us is important. “Plenty of people socialize,” they told me solemnly, “but find it hard to open up. Not because they don’t feel comfortable doing so, but because they are insecure that others may not like them.” As Victorians, we have the power to help each other through our struggles, and it is a power we should exercise to the best of our ability.
So what does College Day mean to our seniors? On an individual level, College Day was an opportunity to catch up with old friends and feel like you are still part of the Victorian community. “It’s hard to catch up in the army”, they confessed. “Old friends from JC catching up afterwards is quite meaningful.”
College Day reminds them, and the rest of us, that despite the journey being an arduous one, it was – and is going to be – worth it. When asked what they would do differently, the answer we got was surprising at first, but really, all the better for it. “Honestly, nothing. No regrets.”
As a whole, College Day is “actually about remembering why and how VJ started. That is the day that we remember and commemorate the thousands of people who’ve come before us, and what they have done to forge a culture we are now able to have without having to fight for it. More importantly it’s about reminding ourselves and successive generations to continue fighting for what we have and venture out further into uncharted grounds!”
Nil Sine Labore.
Nikhita Nair 18S34
Benedict Chang 18A13
Chong Wei Jie 18S64