Open Letter to Graduates of SASS and GASS 2023

Dear graduates:

Congratulations on your recent graduation! You have completed your high school.  It’s truly an accomplishment to graduate from high school, and I commend you for your dedication and hard work.  Of course, you should have graduated last year had it not been for Covid19.

In October 2018, when you were barely 10 months in your new school as Form 1 students, I interviewed twelve of you—six from SASS and another six from GASS. I wanted to know your challenges as new students in our Adventist schools. I asked for stories. I wished I had the time to listen to all of you. However, I believe many of you can relate to what I am about to share with you. The stories told the following challenges you went through:

Challenges as new students

Shyness and Nervousness: Some of you mentioned feeling shy and nervous in various situations, such as when interacting with others, entering the classroom, or participating in activities.

Difficulty in Communication: Others shared their struggles to engage in conversations and often responded with only a few words. This is particularly evident in the dormitory and classroom settings.

Feeling Different: There was also a feeling of being different from others, partly due to your shyness and quietness. You also mentioned being called “quiet” in class, which contributed to a sense of being different.

Fear of Dogs: I chuckled while transcribing this. One of you expressed fear and discomfort around dogs, especially when walking to school. This particular student experienced instances of being chased by dogs and then could not be punctual for school.

Initial Discomfort in the Dormitory: A few of you initially found it challenging to adjust to dormitory life. You miss your family and felt like crying whenever your parents left the campus as they sent you back to the dormitory. Fortunately, you gradually adapted over time and found comfort in the dormitory setting.

Difficulty in Choosing a Class: Some of you shared that initially you felt isolated and disconnected from previous schoolmates in your assigned class. You expressed a desire to switch to another section where you can have classmates who treated you well and make you feel welcome.

Struggling with Academic Subjects:  Some of you found certain subjects, particularly Mathematics, to be challenging. You mentioned that studying is tough but also highlighted the positive aspect of learning more about God’s word.

Lack of Confidence: Lack of confidence in your abilities also surfaced in the stories shared. Some even expressed doubt about attending a private school. There was also mention of struggle with stage fright and not knowing how to pray or speak in front at church services. However, you gradually gained confidence and develop new skills, such as public speaking and leading worship services.

Initial Homesickness: The expected homesickness was very much in your stories then. Your stories had rich expressions the thought of wanting to go back home. Fortunately, you eventually adjusted to the new environment and enjoyed your school experiences.

Cultural and Language Barriers: Some stories also highlighted challenges in communicating with others due to language differences. You had to rely on friends for translation or used a dictionary to understand Malay instructions given by teachers.

Coping strategies

From your stories, I also learned how you coped with the challenges as new students in an Adventist high school.

Seeking Support: Some of you actively sought support from others, such as friends, dormitory mates, and the dean. You relied on your friends to help initiate conversations and overcome your shyness. You also expressed your concerns and problems to the dormitory monitor when needed.

Prayer and Faith: Most of you relied on prayers and your faith in God to cope with your challenges. You prayed for guidance, hope, and strength, particularly during your initial days at school. You found comfort and inspiration in spiritual activities, such as Week of Prayer and Bible Camp, which helped you adjust to the school environment.

Persistence and Perseverance: Despite feeling nervous and shy, some of you simply demonstrated persistence and perseverance in adapting to your new surroundings. You challenged yourself to overcome your shyness, be independent, and made friends.

Engaging in Activities: Some related that your active participation in activities, such as physical activities, cleaning the dormitory during gotong royong, and participating in sports helped in your adjustment. Involvement in these activities helped you get accustomed to the school routine and establish connections with your peers.

Positive Outlook and Mindset: Within a few months, you gradually developed a positive outlook and mindset regarding your school experience. You shifted from feeling uneasy and wanting to transfer to embracing your new school and developing a liking for it. You seized the opportunities for personal growth and experiences that the school offers.

Seeking Familiarity: Some of you sought familiarity and common ground with others. You connect with those who spoke the same mother tongue, which helped you establish relationships and feel more comfortable.

Focus on Family Motivation: Many of you found motivation in your family. You mentioned doing your best in exams for the sake of your family. Your parents’ sacrifices and support became a driving force for your academic success.

Some of you did not start your Form One in SASS or GASS. Yet, I believe that your experiences still relate to the challenges and strategies we talked about. The fact is you have entered a new phase of your life’s journey. Chances are, you will encounter some similar obstacles as when you were in high school. But here’s the good news: after spending five years in SASS or GASS, you’ve gained extra skills to overcome life’s challenges. So, you’re well-equipped to handle whatever comes your way!

Thank you for your trust in Adventist education. May God accompany you always. Make sure that He remains your utmost priority throughout your life.

Best regards,
Golden Gadoh, MAUM Education Department

2, June 2023, Friday.