New kid on the block

MOVING to a new environment like a school can be quite a challenge for students. I say this based on experience.

I was born and raised in Brunei, despite having Malaysian parents. Chung Hwa Middle School in Bandar Seri Begawan had been my second home for nine years, from kindergarten to primary school.

I feel indebted to the school, as it had taught me well and was where I had made some excellent friends and acquaintances. The teachers were awesome too.

I thought I would continue my schooling there until I complete my secondary education but as fate would have it, I found myself being dealt with the UNO reverse card when my family decided to move back to Malaysia permanently.

That decision saw me leaving behind all I had known my whole life.

Sarvendra: Focus on your goals and don’t worry about things that are out of your control.Sarvendra: Focus on your goals and don’t worry about things that are out of your control.

Having relocated to Malaysia in September 2019, I was enrolled in a school in Selangor. This was a stark contrast to everything I knew. There were new subjects, and almost all of them were taught in Bahasa Malaysia.

In the private school where I used to study, most subjects were taught in English, hence starting out in the new environment, I had to cope with learning all subjects in Bahasa Malaysia, except for English, Mathematics and Science.And there were new teachers, new classmates and a whole new culture to get used to.

The 13-year-old me was simply not ready for the avalanche of challenges headed my way, and I felt stressed having to attend school at one point.

Nevertheless, I can now say rather confidently that I have fully adapted to my school environment and culture. I feel I truly belong here and I have many friends.

Having experienced for myself the shift from one school to another, I have several tips which may come in handy for those in the same situation as I had been.

Firstly, brush up on your language skills. Knowing more than one language is useful to ease communication with others as most people speak several languages.

Next, be confident. If you really want to enjoy school, ask your teachers questions, talk to people and make new friends.

Not everything was handed over to me easily. Some things, like making friends and speaking up, take effort. So, confidence is the key. Another tip is to be friendly. Be nice to everyone, be they teachers, students or staff members.

Acknowledge people with a smile. Sooner or later, they will take notice of you, giving you a sense of belonging in the community.

In addition, be active in extracurricular activities. I am part of the prefectorial board in my school, for example. Not only do I enjoy it, I have also earned the respect of my teachers and made new friends.

Lastly, don’t let stress get to your head. It’ll be hard, no doubt; in the beginning, I was stressed about the simplest of matters but I have since gotten over it.

Focus on your goals and don’t worry about things that are out of your control.

Entering a new school environment can be harsh but a little effort goes a long way and it can really make life easier for you.

Sarvendra, 15, a student in Selangor, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team.

1 How would you feel if you had to relocate to another state or country with your family?

Use three adjectives to describe your feelings about it.

Then, look for another two adjectives in today’s copy of the Sunday Star newspaper that would aptly describe how you would feel.

2 Imagine that Sarvendra was new to your school.

What would you tell him about your school?

Prepare your points and then, carry out a “Welcome to our school” presentation.

Have your activity partner rate your presentation.

3 Sarvendra is fairly new to Malaysia.

If you could give him a pop quiz about our country, what are some questions you would ask him?

List at least three.

Then, test out the questions with your activity partner.

Did he or she get a perfect score?

4 How much do you know about Brunei?

Look in today’s StarAsean+ section in the newspaper for three facts related to the country.

Start a “Do You Know?” section in your StarNiE scrapbook and write down the three facts. Next, share your findings with your activity partner.

Since 1997, The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) programme has supported English language teaching and learning in primary and secondary schools nationwide. Through Star-NiE’s teacher and student workshops, annual contests and monthly English language resources for classroom use, participants of the programme reportedly showed marked interest in the language and progress in their proficiency. Now in its 25th year, Star-NiE is continuing its role of promoting the use of English language through a weekly activity page in StarEdu. These activities are suitable for use individually and in groups, at home and in the classroom, across varied proficiency levels. Parents and teachers are encouraged to work on the activities with their children and students. In addition, Star-NiE’s BRATs Young Journalist Programme will continue to be a platform for participants to hone and showcase their English language skills, as well as develop their journalistic interests and instincts. Follow our updates at For Star-NiE enquiries, email

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