When I first set out to write this article about my Boarding experience, I was at a loss to be frank. Should I begin with the first day of check-in when I, with my luggage-in-tow, was slightly apprehensive yet brimming with anticipation? Or perhaps I should start with the #adulting courses, when we were exposed to the nuts and bolts of adulthood and its corresponding set of skills? How about the relationships that were forged and strengthened during the fortnight? Not to mention the stacks of newspapers that became my life saviour when my shoes became absolutely drenched during an activity. (It is a long story.)
Eventually, after much deliberation and introspection, I realised that Boarding, with its mash of joys and tribulations, has truly been eye-opening. Be it the newfound independence that came with staying in a hostel or the opportunity to get to know my peers in a more casual setting, the Raffles Boarding Programme definitely stood out to me as one of the most memorable experiences in my entire GAP Semester.
Independence (With Guard Rails)
“Boarding is not a staycation”
That message was driven home quite early on by our Boarding Master as he briefed us on the rules and regulations during our first night. Yet, once the foundational ground rules were set, we were given relatively more agency in scheduling our time. Save for certain compulsory talks and courses, there were many white spaces in the timetable carved out for us. In these white spaces, we were given the opportunity to sign up for For-Student-By-Teacher Courses, in which teachers could share their personal interests and hobbies in a small-group setting. Alternatively, we could also choose the option of resting and relaxing in our room. In other words, the Boarding Programme did place quite a lot of emphasis on self-directedness, albeit with certain limitations.
Another aspect that was liberating were the Covid SMMs (or rather the lack thereof). After having endured multiple rounds of restrictions over the past 2 years, we could finally navigate school activities with relatively more ease, free from cumbersome restrictions. Granted, Covid did throw up some disruptions when some of my boarding mates were infected. Some of us, including me, also chose to mask up out of personal choice. Nevertheless, there was a palpable sense that we had almost returned to pre-pandemic normalcy, especially so after the easing of the indoor mask mandate.
With the amount of time I had spent interacting with my boarding mates in such a casual setting, I have gradually come to better appreciate the uniqueness of my friends: the habits we adhere to daily without fail; the quirks that define each of us; the values we hold close to heart. Needless to say, this diversity in personalities can be a reservoir of strength but also a source of consternation. Frankly speaking, I was initially slightly worried that sparks would fly between my roommates and I, considering that we were merely classmates before the programme. Fortunately, my worries were largely unfounded. Mutually tolerant, we sought to accommodate each other’s living habits to the best of our abilities whilst looking out for one another. Slowly but surely, we warmed up to one another. Coupled with the dribs and drabs of conversation and anecdotes we traded while in the room, my roommates and I have definitely forged closer ties with one another.
In addition, living in close quarters with my other boarding mates in other rooms also fostered a sense of community. Whether it was the regular check-ins with one another, or the greeting of one another down the corridor, the spirit of neighbourliness was unmistakable.
“Not for ourselves alone”
While time was set aside for fun and play, we were also required to complete a Legacy Project to inculcate the habit of giving back to the community. Each room could choose from a predetermined list of choices to contribute back to the school or larger community. For our group, we selected the Kindness in School Project. Under the guidance of our teacher-mentor, our project involved the writing and distribution of appreciation cards to the people that made the Boarding experience possible. With only about a runway of about a week and a half, we kept our project simple to realistically meet the timeline. However, when we handed the stack of appreciation cards to the Boarding Residential Assistants, their visible surprise at this gesture made me come to realise that the diminutiveness of a kindness act does not make it any less meaningful.
The sheer plethora of experiences over the comparatively short 2 weeks of Boarding meant some days were jam-packed with activities. Yet, on further reflection, I can now better comprehend how the different activities lent themselves in accomplishing the overall objectives and how within a fortnight we have grown in one way or another. Be it the new friendships that I forged, the takeaways I gleaned from the experience or the joys of independent living, Boarding will definitely go down as one of the most memorable episodes during my GAP Semester.