Written by: Martha Henrietta Soetedjo (20-U2), Soh Iwin (20-E5), Zenov Liu Fan (20-U1)
Designed by: Kothandam Anusha (20-I1)
Dear potential juniors, are you wondering how JC life is like in Eunoia? For JAE students, are you worried about stepping into a JC which comprises a large number of IP students? Perhaps you may have concerns about fitting in or making friends?
If you have such doubts in your head, look no further! In this article, we reflect upon the issue of the JIP/JAE divide – is it as bad as it sounds on some Reddit threads? Our senior, Dillon, gave his thoughts on this issue from the perspective of a JIP student. A year on, we give you our accounts of this issue, as JAE students in Eunoia.
Similar to Dillon, I took to forums such as Reddit to find out what people thought of various schools. I distinctly remember hearing about the newly built Eunoia JC campus and immediately checking online to see others’ experiences. Among the first things I learnt were that the teachers were nice, chemistry papers were hard and, yes, the issue of the ‘JAE/JIP divide’.
“The IP kids always ignored me, it’s almost like you don’t even exist to them sometimes.”
“Whether you end up making friends with IP people just depends on your luck.”
Imagine the above being your first introduction to the school. Not very inviting, huh? Nevertheless, due to other considerations, I decided to give it a shot. After all, the comments on those forums could have just been exaggerating, right?
However, the comments I had read still lingered in my mind. Are IP students really that bad?
With 60% of Eunoia’s student population coming from IP schools, the IP majority was definitely noticeable on my first day of school orientation, and I couldn’t help but feel left out. My IP peers had already spent a month together in this environment since the JIP admission, even if they didn’t already know each other in their respective secondary schools prior to this.
But me? I knew none of them, and there was a sense of exclusivity that was unnerving at best. Reaching out was quite hard when the rest had already found their own cliques, and it didn’t help that I was highly introverted.
On the last day of orientation, my group made a huge fuss about going to different classes and missing each other, yet it had only been my third day in the campus and so I could never have felt the same. It ended up being really awkward when some started tearing up, and all I could do was watch in the corner.
At this point I thought to myself, “Those Reddit comments spoke true after all. IP students are really hard to approach.”
But, that is not to say that I was completely alone and alienated. Given more time, I soon found myself more comfortable with the new environment as we settled into our classes. Contrary to the forum comments and even my own initial perception, many of the JIP students were extremely welcoming. Instead of struggling to find common topics to discuss, we found ourselves in organic conversations as we compared the different experiences we had prior to entering the JC life. These experiences that we shared, regardless of how minute or trivial, were more than enough to make my first few days in this unknown world much more bearable.
‘Bearable’ turned out to be an understatement. I managed to find and make new friends from both JAE and JIP without much hassle (and as an introvert, I see this as an achievement!). As we acclimatised to this new environment, soon we didn’t care about such titles or backgrounds anymore and focused solely on the person themselves. Other areas such as our CCAs also provided a comfortable environment for JAE and JIP students alike.
Once we had pushed past prejudices and misconceptions, making friends was no longer a daunting task. One tip I would leave you is that if you want to make friends, you too must be just as welcoming to them. Reading the negative comments had formed negative sentiments towards my JIP peers and this made me more nervous to approach them. In fact, with my misconceptions, I initially thought a few of my JIP peers were JAE students due to how approachable and open they were. But the so-called ‘rude IP kids’ do no justice to the many kind and warm students around. It may take some time to warm up to them, but it is definitely not as severe as what I had previously feared.
Imagine this: it’s the day you collect your ‘O’ Level Examination Results. In about three days after that, you would have to make your final decision on the institution that you would spend the next two years in.
12 January 2020. I sat in front of my laptop at a loss. The system required one to fill in twelve institutions and their respective courses, and rank them in order of preference. As flashbacks of hearsay and Reddit comments that I have read ran through my mind, it was with much trepidation that I decided to give EJC a shot.
“The segregation is quite bad, what if I feel left out?” was my first thought the moment I got posted to EJC. One part of me wanted to be open and see this as an adventure with my interpersonal skills, while another part of me just wanted to keep a low profile and not make a fool of myself, and hope that the JIP students who I was soon to meet will open up to me. This was the situation one day before the JAE orientation.
The dress code was our secondary school attire, so I put on my red PE t-shirt and black shorts. Already, I felt out of place as of the four students from my secondary school who entered the college, three of them wore their white bottoms. I was the only one silly enough to wear a full PE attire. Naturally, I felt nervous as I walked in through the side gate.
For the next four days, as I took part in team building and bonding games with my fellow orientation group mates, a few of them approached me to talk about my secondary school life, which was what seemed like the easiest point of conversation then. However, as the first day passed, the conversations I attempted with my new peers seemed to mostly end with awkward pauses and silences, which was uncomfortable to say the least. Moreover, most of my group mates still stuck with their cliques, friends they have known either for years or new friends they made in the past month after the JIP admission. At that point, all I hoped was for the orientation group phase to pass, so that I can meet my new classmates and try this whole friend-making thing again.
Surprisingly, the first day of class orientation made me love my new class – the people, the conversations, the atmosphere – it was really quite comforting and fulfilling to know that these were the people I would spend the next close to two years of my school life with. Perhaps it was because we all came from different orientation groups, it seemed easier for us to mingle in this new environment for everyone. I have to admit that some of us, whether JIP or JAE, still hesitated to approach anyone, but I could feel that the conversations with my classmates were much smoother and more successful. It helped too that by then I was armed with some knowledge of the IP experience as well as a few other hot topics of that time.
As time went by, I could feel myself integrating better in Eunoia, and this can be attributed to my classmates’ willingness to interact, the teachers, house activities, as well as a good mix of platforms and opportunities. I am grateful for all that I have been offered in the college, being a student of the Humanities Scholarship Programme myself, as well as the vice chairperson of my class.
What Dillon mentioned of JIP students “not (being able to) find many common topics between (JAE and JIP students) to talk about” was an ever-present issue when conversations turned to experiences and people my JIP peers knew from their alma mater. Yet they were more than willing to explain who exactly they were talking about whenever they mentioned someone I have never talked to. This also became something we all laugh over because sometimes I can never fully understand who they are talking about since I have never met these people in my life but I do enjoy a good mystery (and watching my peers attempt to re-enact the scenarios).
This is why I concur with Dillon: “patience and mutual understanding is more important than whether we come from the same school”. Like all things, rapport-building takes time, so let me bolster your confidence by telling you this: as long as you are willing to try, it will never end badly.