By Isaac Leong (4A)
Back in 2011, my friend and I were at the 10th anniversary batch dinner of the Class of 2001 helping out with the sale of Raffles Merchandise. All of a sudden, an alumnus came up to us and told us to treasure our time at Raffles. He looked slightly drunk, and it wasn’t surprising since the occasion must have been full of fond distant memories for him. Nonetheless, it did make both of us think about the way we spent our time in school and whether we were making those moments count.
Looking back at this encounter, my friend Cayson Chong (4E) coined the term YORO (You’re Only in Raffles Once) to sum up the man’s advice. We first shared this at our Student Leaders Camp last year when we talked about making the Rafflesian experience memorable for our peers and juniors. As a batch of student leaders, we came up with various plans—from getting CCAs to put emphasis on the process of training hard as a team, instead of only focusing on winning medals; to initiatives, like the fortnightly TGIF events, that encouraged students to take some time out of their busy school life to bond with their friends. These plans have been an overall success thanks to the hard work of many student leaders, but their effectiveness on a personal level may be more difficult to ascertain.
In the past year, many of us have become increasingly indifferent to matters in school and gotten caught up with our own world of work—it’s not uncommon after all to find some amongst us who see their GPA (Grade Point Average) as the only thing to work for in RI. But the Rafflesian experience is so much more than that, and it is really up to the individual to decide the kind of memories and experiences to bring away after six years at Raffles.
My first three-and-a-half years have been special—not because of big achievements and events, but because of the great people and the little things that have come to define my memory of Raffles. Whether it was supporting my classmates for inter-class soccer, or doing wild (and sometimes insane) things together with them—like the numerous birthday pranks we pull on each other or the last-minute decision to go topless for our Merchant of Venice Drama Challenge in Year 2—these experiences are what I look back fondly to. On hindsight, I cannot be sure whether it was the fun or the stress of schoolwork that made the experience so memorable. Even the most strenuous projects that had us working till midnight were ‘amazing’ because of the experience of slogging it out with like-minded friends.
This sense of being part of a bigger community extends outside of my class, and it is the reason why I choose to throw myself into school life and prefectorial work. Though it sometimes comes at the expense of grades and schoolwork, knowing that I’ve only got six years to make an impact on the people around me is what drives me. Perhaps these experiences have also taught me how to put aside the instinctive feeling of awkwardness to do what I really love and feel for, be it going crazy at match support, or contributing the wackiest ideas at Orientation planning meetings. Some were bad ideas that eventually failed, and many others we laughed off for being impractical. But amidst all these wacky ideas, there were some that made us rethink our approach to various issues. Sometimes, this made all the difference.
At the end, living the Rafflesian experience to the fullest involves throwing yourself into it and sometimes failing, but looking back, doing these things with great people will be truly worthwhile. So, don’t hesitate to cheer your heart out for friends fighting on the pitch, be willing to take part in Dramafeste even if you’ve never acted before, initiate something to help a classmate in need, and give your best to make the best of this once-in-a lifetime exprience!
Isaac Leong is currently the Headboy of the RI Prefectorial Board.