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  • Writer's pictureAmber Ang

We Were Girls Together: Unique Experiences in an All-Girls School

Updated: Oct 14, 2023

Spending a whole decade in an all-girls school was a chapter of my life that I hold close to my heart. As I moved on to junior college and beyond, I realised that the memories I made were indeed one-of-a-kind. Looking back, it was my time in my all-girls secondary school that left an enduring impression on me. From the cherished traditions to the invaluable safe space that witnessed our growth, this was an experience truly one for the ages.

Valentine’s Day: Beyond Romance

One of the standout traditions in my secondary school was Valentine’s Day, affectionately abbreviated to TKVDay (I was from Tanjong Katong Girls’ School!). This celebration went far beyond mere romance; for us, it was redefined as a tribute to our sisterhood. On that special day, our entire school would be brimming with infectious excitement. Handwritten notes and sweet treats would be exchanged among friends, and we eagerly roamed the school to share affection with our peers -- whether they were friends from other classes, seniors, or juniors.

During break times, our school corridors blossomed into a delightful marketplace. Different student groups came together to sell items such as roses, plushies and balloons. Some even set up Polaroid booths where we could snap pictures with our friends and keep them as a memento. They would usually channel the proceeds of these sales towards various Values in Action (ViA) projects, such as supporting vulnerable groups in the community. This provided us with even more opportunities to shower our peers with affection and love, all while contributing towards meaningful causes.

While the actual day definitely took centre stage, the real magic of this longstanding tradition lies in the effort that we weaved into our gifts. Days or weeks prior to the occasion, I recall gathering card-making supplies and taking trips to the supermarket to handpick an assortment of candies and chocolates. On Valentine’s Day, I would arrive at school with a sizeable box neatly storing these goodies, ready to distribute them among my friends.

Whether our gifts were handcrafted, penned with heartfelt messages, or thoughtfully purchased, they all bore the mark of a labour of love. For our close friends, we also took great care to consider their preferences, ensuring that our gifts were tailored to their liking.

While I delighted in crafting and purchasing gifts for my friends, the joy of receiving these thoughtful tokens was also unmatched. I still have all the cards and notes that my friends have gifted me over the years — they serve as precious keepsakes and reminders of simpler and more lighthearted times.

Angel and Mortal

Another cherished tradition in our school was the “Angel and Mortal” activity. In this system, Secondary 2 students took on the role of “angels”, initiating pairings with Secondary 1 “mortals” within their junior class. For example, angels from 2E1 would pair themselves with mortals from 1E1. The activity not only facilitated meaningful connections but also ensured that mortals would have someone to seek advice from and share their experiences with.

To add an element of mystery, angels would often adopt playful pseudonyms to conceal their true identities, all while maintaining a friendly and down-to-earth tone in their correspondences with their mortals. I remember giving myself a quirky (at least I thought it was back then :P) pen name, “Captain Pickle”.

On the angels’ part, the strategic delivery of their letters typically occurs during recess or after school hours when mortals are less likely to be present in their classes. This exchange of letters continued throughout the term, culminating in an eagerly awaited grand reveal on Valentine’s Day when angels and mortals would finally initiate meet-ups in school. This activity provided all of us with something special to look forward to on a weekly basis.

I’m not exactly sure when this tradition first started in our school or who it was initiated by, but in hindsight, it is a beautiful concept. Having a senior to turn to for guidance, especially in those first few months was a true blessing for new students who were acclimating to the new school environment. After all, we had all once been fresh-faced and clueless students when we stepped into our school for the first time. This sweet gesture embodies the spirit of sisterhood that lies at the heart of many all-girls schools like ours.

Transitioning to Junior College

Moving on to Junior College definitely brought about some changes that I couldn’t help but notice early on in the school year. While I appreciated how some of my classmates shared candies with everyone on Valentine’s Day, it was undeniable that the grandeur of celebrations here had waned considerably — there wasn’t anything much going on, and the occasion wasn’t made a big deal. The only thing that made it feel like TKVday again was this picture that we took… all the people featured here were from TKGS!

Moreover, my interactions with my new classmates, though friendly, still carried a sense of something lacking. Up to that point, I didn’t really have male friends, so it often felt very unfamiliar when it came to interacting with guys. While such interactions should be routine for most people, for me, they really weren't. It was somewhat of a culture shock to me. I had a tendency to gravitate towards my female classmates as I had a preconception that they would be more approachable, and that it would be easier for me to carry a conversation with them as compared to my male classmates.

This wasn’t a particularly healthy way to go about forming new friendships, and was incredibly limiting for me too. But at that point, having to navigate a whole new environment still found me reverting to what I was so comfortable with.

These shifts were not totally unexpected. I knew that I just had to get used to the changes and embrace new interactions, and over time, it did get a lot better. While I missed what used to be, this heightened my appreciation for those unique experiences I had in an all-girls school that could not be effortlessly replicated.

We Were Girls Together

Through some conversations with my friends, I came to realise a common stereotype about girls from all-girls schools, one which suggests we can be prone to cliquishness and gossip. I must admit that I have encountered my fair share of drama and toxicity during my time here. During those early secondary school days, we were still mastering the art of handling our bizarre emotions and the occasional friendship tensions. Often, many of us found ourselves resorting to the kind of theatrics you would expect from a teenage sitcom. Navigating the complexities of girl friendships, with all its highs and lows, was indeed an emotional rollercoaster.

In the same breath however, I have also witnessed the evolution and maturation of my friendships. Over the years, it was refreshing to see many of us setting aside our past conflicts to cultivate connections built on unwavering trust and support for one another. Our collective growth from girls to young women was truly empowering.

Recently while scrolling online, I stumbled upon this Tumblr textpost about friendships forged during one’s formative years -- and I think it perfectly encapsulates the girlhood and sisterhood we shared :D

In this unique environment, we found the freedom to be our authentic selves. We were girls together, navigating the turbulence of our teenage years, bound by our shared experiences and challenges. I’m glad that most of my closest friendships today are the friends I had made during those years of yore. Even amidst the shifting tides and transformations that life brings our way, I hope they continue to endure.

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