The Lion City: Uphill Battle


My homeroom teacher asked me to report to her my study schedule every Friday for two months until O-level began. Sensibly, I felt overwhelming sense of regret. All those hours I put into honing my skills in DotA were of no use now. Moreover, regret didn’t suddenly make me good at Physics. And so, for the next two months, I played one of my greatest catch-up games yet.

For the next few weeks, my daily activities were eerily organized and somewhat painful:

I woke up,

I studied for two hours,

I ate lunch,

I studied for another four to five hours,

I ate dinner, and then

I studied again until I went to bed at midnight.

Of course, some days I studied less and some days, I would spend time playing mini-soccer or basketball with my friends after or before dinner. However, my day-to-day was all about studying.

There was no room for error. I was so behind that the simplest Chemistry concept, such as Van der Waals force, gave me headache. I needed to memorize things I never even heard before. Thanks to ditching classes! I needed to start practicing writing essays. Mind you, I was horrible at it. Countless other things I jotted down on a torn, crumpled piece of paper served as a reminder on what I had to do to survive.

Being scholars had a lot of perks, but should we fail to maintain our grades, we were at risk being deported. The scholarship contract was for four years, two years of secondary school and another two of junior college. If we were to be deported, we were required to pay the tuition fee worth of those four years, or so we were told. It wasn’t cheap, certainly not for me.


Time flew, and the curtain was up. It was showtime. I admit I wasn’t ready for O-level, but nothing I could do. O-level wasn’t held in one day as it was held across multiple days depending on what subjects you took. Despite its importance, O-level’s week is a blur to me. Every blanks I filled and every words I wrote translated into a combination of alphabetical and numerical grades we obtained for each subject. They were, in order from best to worst, A1, A2, B3, B4, C5, C6, D7, E8, and F9.

Months of waiting for O-level results also went by quickly, and truthfully, I couldn’t even remember the process of receiving the grades. For all I cared, my total points (after rather complicated calculation) was 10. Was 10 good? To general public, I would say so. To scholars, it was so-so. Many of my classmates got 4s, 5s, and 6s. As you might have guessed, the lower it is, the better it is. My homeroom teacher was somewhat satisfied with the result I procured. After all, I did better than few of my classmates. I was projected to be last in class, but I wasn’t.

I kept telling myself I had learned my lesson to not procrastinate, and to focus more on studying. Unbeknownst to me, my journey in Singapore would only get more difficult from here on, and perhaps, lessons weren’t learned.

St. Andrew’s Junior College

Fast forward another month of applying to junior colleges, I was finally accepted into St. Andrew Junior College, SAJC in short. Based on previous year’s A-level results, SAJC was ranked sixth or seventh among seventeen junior colleges in Singapore, and its cut-off points for enrollment was 10. I somehow managed to wiggle myself in despite getting exactly the cut-off points. Shortly after, I decided to have (Biology-Chemistry-Math-Economics) as my choice of subjects.

Orientation week was fun. I met a lot of new friends, in which none of them would be my future classmates. I was then placed into 10s13 class. As I stepped into SAJC soccer field for my first morning assembly together with my new 10s13 classmates, I was stunned for a brief moment.

To be continued . . .

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