No matter what school we go to, our time spent there tends to feel like the definitive school experience, and it can be hard to imagine campus life elsewhere.
But Canto-pop singer Joey Wong was able to get a taste of school life in two rather different settings: a girls’ local school and a co-educational international school.
The 27-year-old attended Marymount Secondary School (MSS) until Form Five, then she transferred to South Island School (SIS) for Grades 11 and 12.
From a young age, the King’s College London graduate has been sharing her vocal talent with the public, and during her MSS days, she was even crowned champion in the English Solo category at the school’s talent show.
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Wong sat down with Young Post to talk about changing schools, and the pros and cons of the two learning environments.
“If I had to choose again, I would still do it,” Wong said of studying at both a local and international school. “I think it’s a good move.”
Still, it was easier said than done. Having already become settled and formed friendships at Marymount, saying goodbye was a wrench.
“When I went to SIS, I had no friends. I had to start all over again.”
Wong described her early days at her new school as a period which she’d “remember for the rest of her life”. “I had lunch by myself in the toilet. I waited until the lunch break was over, and then I came out,” she recalled.
But while you may feel at that moment that you’ll never be accepted, Wong reminded others going through the same experience that the pain is temporary.
“It’s just a phase. It’s just because you get scared or you’re shy, and you don’t [know how] to take that extra step or move to communicate with other people.”
Her advice, she said, was to break out of your comfort zone: “be brave”.
“Talk to your classmates more, try to be nice ... and just be yourself,” she added. That’s exactly what Wong eventually did, and soon she was eating lunch with her own new group of friends.
Apart from being surrounded by strangers, another thing that worried Wong about moving to an international school was having to adapt to a mixed-sex environment. “In a girls’ school, you don’t have to think about anything. It doesn’t matter if you have a bad hair day,” she joked.
At her new school, she became a lot more conscious of how she looked, spoke and behaved. “There’s just so much more to think about.”
Even so, it was a positive socialising experience.
“Because at the end of the day, when you get a job, there will be men there. So you just need to learn [to communicate with them].”
Yet her time spent at an all-girls’ school helped her learn new skills, and become more independent and self-reliant.
“If we had to carry something heavy, it was all on us. We just did everything by ourselves,” she said, adding that the really difficult duties were left to the boys when she was at South Island School.
At Marymount, she was also taught to be fast, efficient and competitive, and clearly visualise her goals. Her schoolmates there were very driven, and the classes and examinations more rigid.
“At my local school, everyone knew what they were working towards ... improving their grades, making their report cards or résumés look good.
“But at South Island, it was more about exploring different things.”
Ultimately, it was this mix of determination and creativity instilled in Wong at each school that helped get her to where she is today. Her music career has gone from strength to strength; she recently staged her first solo concert at the Hong Kong Coliseum.
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Looking back, Wong would love to thank her 15-year-old self for staying true to herself.
“When I was in high school, I would always join different singing competitions ... I didn’t do it because I wanted be a singer,” she said. “I just did it because I enjoyed singing and being on stage.”
These early exploits helped connect Wong with people who have guided and supported her throughout her music career.
Still, if she could go back in time and speak to her teenage self, she’d tell her to “work harder, and be nicer to people.”
Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge