Raffles Institution Boarding School, DHS Hostel & Victoria Hall: My Hostel Experience

Raffles Institution Boarding School, or RIB, was the boarding school I stayed in when I studied at Catholic High. This was because Catholic High did not have a boarding school of its own, and since both Raffles Institution and Catholic High School were in Bishan, the scholars from Catholic High stayed at RIB.


RI Boarding was a nice place with a British-styled courtyard right in the middle where we would sometimes hold events. My time in RI Boarding was the first time I’ve ever stayed away from my family, so it was the place where I first learnt how to be independent.

There, I learnt how to do my own laundry, cook, and manage my own finances. It was also where I first learnt to play basketball, which I later grew to love. Before that, I was a total newbie and did not know a thing about playing basketball.


Fortunately, I had a friend and batch mate by the name of jun lam who shared his passion towards basketball with me and was willing to teach me how to play the game. My other batch mates and seniors such as wu chean and ji yong also played a role in teaching me certain skills in the game of basketball. I was also lucky to have a little height advantage so I could at least be useful in defending and rebounding before I learnt how to shoot or dribble the ball.


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During our first year at RI Boarding in 2003, Singapore was hit by the SARS outbreak, which meant that we were all quarantined and not allowed to go back home during our first semester break. As a result, we were all quarantined indoors, had to take our temperature daily, and were only allowed to go out for 30mins at a time to do our groceries.

I still remembered how my boarding master Mr. Paul Lim was kind enough to allow us access to a room with a Playstation so we could play video games over that quarantine period. I forgot how that Playstation got there in the first place but I do remember that I had a good time playing video games with my batchmates.


During our secondary 4 year, we had to move to Dunman High School’s (DHS) hostel because RJC was moving in to the RI campus and they needed the extra hostel space to accommodate students from RJC. Dunman High Hostel (DHS) was really far from Catholic High, so we had buses to ferry us to school every morning, and you would have to take the cab to school if you missed the last bus.


I still remembered how my roommate and me (we stayed in nice 2 person rooms with our own bathroom) perfected the art of getting ready in less than 5mins while using different parts of the bathroom simultaneously in the event that we both woke up just 5mins before the last bus left. Of course ideally, one of us would aim to wake up earlier so we could take turns using the bathroom, but sometimes, you just have to improvise when an emergency happens. Looking back, it was quite an experience.

Somehow, our entire cohort of secondary 4 Catholic High scholars also occupied the same top floor. As a result, we would have epic Dota/CS and party sessions in the TV room especially during exam season. I have no idea why it usually happens during exam season, but I guess it’s because we all needed to take breaks from our intense studying sessions and de-stress.


I still remembered that during our prelims (the internal mock examinations you take in preparation for ‘O’ Levels), I would study all the way till 5am, nap for an hour and head to school to take the paper, finish the paper at noon, come back and crash on the bed till evening, from which I’ll start studying again till midnight, at which time most of us would have reached a saturation point, and we would order Canadian pizza and their awesome chicken wings and take a break at the TV room, and then continue studying till I take the paper in the morning, and the cycle continues. If it was a weekend or we did not have a paper the next day, we would then also indulge on a game or dota or Counter Strike or two on top of the pizzas and chicken wings.


Come to think of it, it was quite amazing that it was around that same time that the founders of Garena, who were in NUS at that time, started building Garena which became one of the most successful tech startups in this region today. If only we knew how to code, were familiar with what start-ups were or did not have to blindly sit for ‘O’ Levels then, we might have started something.

DHS also had 4 huge basketball courts, which was awesome because I could play basketball almost every evening/night with my friends. It was on the basketball court that I met many amazing friends from China & Indonesia who all loved to play basketball. I also found it to be a good way to release stress and have a good time.


During Singapore’s annual National Day Parade and the period leading up to it, you could see the fireworks coming from Kallang Stadium when they have their rehearsals from the DHS basketball court, which was quite an amazing sight. We discovered that by accident while we were playing basketball one day. Besides that, there were also plenty of hawker stalls that are hidden gems in the area. For example, there is this stall nearby that serves really nice and cheap fruit platters and sugar cane juice.


Finally, here comes the best part of my hostel experience, the awesome friends I’ve made in Victoria Hall, many of whom are still my closest friends whom I keep in touch on a regular basis till today, and some, like Lily The Chew (mingli) and Gohgi (simying) weren’t even staying there when I was! (they’re juniors who stayed there after I’ve graduated)


The thing is, the Malaysian scholars in Victoria Hall weren’t always a tight knit group, we were more in cliques, where those of us from the same secondary school or same class/CCA would usually hang out together, and some of us did not even know each other. That was largely the case during my first year there.


Then, one fine day early in my 2nd year, I realized I really missed the mass group outings I used to have with my hostel mates during secondary school. Hence, that day, while I was on the MRT on my way back to the Marine Parade area from cell group in Yishun, feeling hungry, I thought to myself “ Hey why don’t I organize a mass food outing with the Malaysian Vhallers!? ”.

Since I have always loved food hunting, knew a lot of good food places to go to, was incredibly hungry at that time, the new J1 juniors had just arrived and nobody knew each other yet, I had everyone’s contact and knew everybody individually, plus I still had an hour and a half or so to kill before I reached Vhall, so I figured why not try organizing something?

And so I did.

To my surprise, most people were free!  So it happened! Our first official outing was to this new place I had just discovered called Simpang Bedok, where they had amazing fusion & western food. It was a little tiring and awkward at first having to introduce everyone to each other, trying to make connections and spark conversations between all these awesome people who might not have discovered how awesome each of them are yet. I still remembered making a conscious effort to move from group to group during our walk through the park connector to catch bus No.10 to make introductions and connections hoping that everyone feels comfortable and not too awkward going out with a bunch of people that they might have just met for the first time. At Simpang Bedok, we did something like an orientation session where we all introduced ourselves and got to know each other better, and we had fun!

As they say, from then on, the rest was history.


I organized a few other outings after that, but I also got busier with my CCAs and multiple commitments, I was coming back around 11pm till midnight every day, and hence wasn’t able to hang out much. However, I was absolutely amazed and touched that everyone has actually grew closer to each other since the first Simpang Bedok outing! People were taking initiative in organizing outings, birthday celebrations and so on! It was simply heartwarming!

Over time, we really bonded and became quite a tightly knit group. We also had nicknames for each other and went on numerous fun and random outings together.


Once, we went on a random overnight trip to Pulau Ubin, and we had a campfire where we burned coconuts, swung them around like bowling balls, sang songs by the fire, cycled around the island and did the “fire dance” led by the “Krazy FireGod”, who’s this super smart friend of ours who later on went to Princeton. (I shall not name him to protect his identity but all of us who were there would know hehe)

We also had multiple dinner outings to Thaipan for butter squid (this really nice restaurant near Vhall), epic birthday celebrations (including one where we celebrated consecutive birthdays by pouring water from the koi pond onto the birthday boys), food tasting sessions where I would cook cheesy spaghetti with minced pork for everyone for supper or when Chia Weei, Andrew and Linwei would share their mouth-watering otah-otah from Muar, outings  for dessert and ice-cream, as well as crazy airport studying sessions where we would take bus 36 to Changi airport after dinner and study at the McDonalds and Starbucks there till morning, and sing random songs on the floor of the departure hall with our guitar around 3am for that was our crazy idea of taking a break.


At the end of the year, we also went on a 2 week long road trip across peninsula Malaysia, where we would stop at every city where one of us was from and explored the area. Since we did not have cars or driving licenses at the time, we travelled purely via buses and public transport and stayed at our friends’ houses. We went from Johor Bahru, to Muar, to Melaka, to Kuala Lumpur and finally Penang. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever had in my life!

The trip was dubbed “Tour Kat Malaysia”.

At that point, I haven’t even met my awesome juniors like Mingli, Chok, Jon Keat and Simying etc yet!

That was because they would only be coming to Singapore for their first year in VJ the following year.




It was absolutely heart-warming to see how the subsequent generations of Malaysian Vhallers continued to hang out together. I don’t know if that is still the case now, but I do know that it was true for at least 4 batches after I left.

I know because every year, we would still have a chalet gathering at East Coast Park where we would meet, catch up and meet the juniors, and that was how I met mingli, simying, chok, jon keat & the rest.

We even had a Tour Kat Malaysia 2 some time ago where we went up to Genting to celebrate Gohgi’s 20st  and my 21st birthday!


Although most of us are studying overseas now, we still make it a point to catch up and go on trips together whenever we can! For example, some of us had a café-hopping and karaoke trip in Muar where we discovered all the amazing cafes that have sprouted up in Muar, had our dose of amazing Muar food and also discovered a place that served top grade pizza at only a fraction of the price! Besides that, we also have mini-gatherings in KL or Penang whenever some of us are back.

All in all, I had one of the most amazing & memorable times in my life in Victoria Hall and met an amazing bunch of people whom I’ve had the privilege to build amazing friendships with.


Looking back, it is scary to think of what would or would not have happened if I did not organize that very first outing on the way back from Yishun, what if I had decided not to go through the hassle of inviting everyone and just had dinner on my own, would our friendships still have happened?

Would we have been comfortable enough with each other to go on that epic Tour Kat Malaysia?

Would there have been an annual chalet gathering where I met my awesome juniors who became my close friends?

I don’t know. But I am extremely glad that I organized that very first outing, for I just can’t stand the thought of missing out on so much fun and such amazing friendships with such awesome people.


This whole experience taught me that the little things in life that we do or not do can have a huge impact on how our lives eventually turn out to be. It also taught me that amazing things can happen if you bring people together, because many of us are really awesome and have many equally awesome people around us, it’s just that we do not know it yet or have not discovered them yet. All we need is just an opportunity to get to know them or discover them, and amazing things could happen from there, be it friendships, business partnerships or even love!

That is why I love bringing people together for outings and activities, and introducing amazing people to each other despite the challenges and initial awkwardness of doing so, because the friendships and amazing things that could result just by two or more people meeting are absolutely amazing and worth it.

That is why I am the person I am today, and this entire experience has also influenced the principles on which We Could Happen is built, because sometimes, people are surrounded by amazing people, but just don’t know it yet because they judge too soon, are too defensive, or are simply too shy or afraid to say hi.

It is also where I learnt to treasure friendships so much, and realized that stupid rules are meant to be broken or circumvented (from climbing over gates, evading security cameras or simply staying out till the next day and walk in normally due to the excessive red-tape in applying for permission to stay out etc).

All in all, my hostel experience has been one of the most amazing memorable parts of my life that heavily influences who I am till this day.

Anyway, here are some photos and videos of our amazing journey together. Enjoy!


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“Home does not have to be a fixed place, it can be anywhere; as long as the people you love and care about are there, that can be home…”

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