Coming from ACS(I) Express can feel like being stuck in an awkward middle ground.
In the first few days of school, I was never part of the large groups of IP students who would gather in their classes during breaks. And of course, being the awkward kid who had been in an all-boys school for 10 years, I couldn’t have been with the girls, who always seemed to cluster together. My experience isn’t unique though—it’s all part of the (sometimes) uncomfortable process of Orientation.
After the first day, you’ll be clad in the full IB uniform, tie and all—basically indistinguishable from the IP kids. This left me in the position of being seen by the new students as just another AC guy. Yet I wasn’t able to fit in with the IP side all that well, what with all the pre-established cliques.
It isn’t all that bad, though. Not knowing many people gives you the freedom to portray yourself however you please and start afresh, since others would assume that their first impressions are of the real ‘you’. You wouldn’t get any of that “you’ve changed for the girls” stuff. Although that’s all well and good in helping you to fit in, it also means that there’s no one to hold you accountable for your behaviour.
As Orientation passes, most people will find their bearings and begin building friendships. However, you’ll probably still have to endure some weird (and persistent) problems/ questions. For example:
You did ‘O’ Levels? I thought you were from IP!
Wait ACSI has Express? You mean you’re not from ACS Barker?
And my personal favourite:
(From a teacher)
IP guys you’ll already know this but girls listen up!
These exchanges are often more funny than they are awkward (it’s only as awkward as you make it) and can be great conversation starters, especially with girls! Lamenting/reminiscing over the days you spent labouring over ‘O’ Levels can really bring people together.
Not everyone is going to enjoy Orientation. Being thrust into an unfamiliar environment with few friends to talk to is an unpleasant experience for most people, regardless of their school of origin. So, introduce yourself. Get to know other people: they might be as lonely as you are.
School Life and Moving Forward
That said, coming from ACS (I) Express can also feel more like the best of both worlds sometimes. There’s no need to adapt to a new school culture, no need to re-learn school rules, and no need to buy a new school uniform. Best of all, you get to see your old teachers every day since you don’t have to spend a long time travelling to your old school to visit them.
There will still be things where you might miss out, of course. You might not be familiar with some section of the syllabus that the IP students had learnt the previous year, and you might be excluded from the cliques formed within the Year 4 classes. However, as the year goes by, all of that begins to matter less and less. I found that what mattered more were the people around me and the challenges that we would face together, not so much where I came from.
Settling into the school and finding friends worth keeping is a slow process. It will be less glamourous than the initial introduction to the school and its people, but no less important. You have to find these people, be they from your OG, class, or CCA.
They will make your time in school worth it.
Joel Ong is from the graduating batch of 2016.