I have heard of Penang Free School when I was young however I never really paid much attention to the school and never asked anyone about it as well.
After my SRP results was released I celebrated with my friends when we went to Assumption school to collect our results.
Assumption School has always been special to me as it was a walking distance from my village and I spent my childhood days being educated there.
Yet after form three all of us were supposed to be transferred to another nearby school.
I remembered vividly when I glanced at the newspaper on the day the result was released.
Penang Free School emerged tops with the highest number of top scorers in the country and there was an individual who scored the perfect result thus becoming one of the top student in the country.
If all the bright students were to line up then it could probably stretch to the nearby girls school.
For whatever reason that I could not understand, I told myself that I wanted to go to Penang Free School.
That was the best school in Malaysia and in order for me to become better I need to compete with the best.
Therefore I made the necessary request for transfer with the help of my dad.
Another friend of mine from Assumption School wanted to go there too.
So at least I didn’t feel so alone.
When the transfer was successful I found myself facing a different challenge.
Penang Free School is in the island and I stay in the mainland.
When I wanted to study in Penang Free School I never thought much about the logistic nightmare that I might encounter.
I didn’t do research on how best or efficient I should travel there or even rent a place in Penang.
I just wanted to go to Penang Free School.
I wanted to be in the best school with the highest number of top scorers in Malaysia based on what I read in the newspaper.
That was the one and only motivation.
That motivation was enough to drown all the possible hiccups that might occur along the way.
So when the transfer was successful I looked forward to this new phase of my life.
As both me and my friend were successful in the application transfer my friend s dad was kind enough to fetch both of us in the early morning to the ferry terminal.
We need to take a ferry across to the island then grab a public bus in order to reach the school.
I remembered that we learned along the way, after a few trips on what busses that will lead us to the school.
The ones that we knew were no 5,6 and 11.
The quickest one was 11 as it had less stops however it was less frequent so you need to know the timing well in order not to miss it.
If you missed it the thought of facing the headmaster would be a dreadful experience.
When we finally arrived in the school the first thing I noticed was almost everything was white in colour with respect to the school building.
I guessed that the favourite colour must be white indeed.
Even most students wore white pants and I was in dark green pants.
So I stood out alright on the first day.
Both of us went to the administrative office and after some paperwork we were both sent to our classes.
That was where I realized that we would not be in the same class.
He was one of the top students in my previous school and he had be to be in the adjacent class.
It struck me deep.
It meant that if I were to throw a stone into a crowd of Penang Free School students I would most likely hit a top student.
That thought kind of send shivers down my spine.
The reputation of the school already left you speechless and here I had the opportunity to be with the cream of the cream.
When I was introduced to the class I was shown where would be my seat and it was nice to find out that the boy sitting next to me was just transferred to the school recently as well.
So I wasn’t alone again from that perspective.
That made me felt a little better.
I didn’t talk much.
Perhaps I was trying to observe more.
Everybody used English in their communication.
Their English was perfect like the ones that I watched on the tv news channel.
My English was not on par so it was best that I kept my distance.
But I made a choice to go there to compete.
So by hook or by crook, I need to adapt.
And I need to learn quickly.
Classes were conducted mostly in English.
So from the very morning until the classes adjourned for the day it was nothing except English.
At first I felt like I was in a foreign land.
The culture was so different yet unique.
The environment was lively and there was a lot of interactions between the students and the teachers.
When the day finally ends and it was time to go home I felt astonishingly relieved.
Both me and my friend grabbed a quick lunch at school before catching a bus to the ferry terminal.
The bus came and we jumped in.
Halfway along the route we realized we were in the wrong bus.
So we jumped off however not before being given a nice little lecture by the bus driver.
We were lost in the middle of nowhere.
Two boys who never really ventured out much were now trapped in a place that looked so alien to us.
With the spirit of adventure within us, we managed to find our way home.
I remembered that I reached home at about 4plus in the afternoon.
There was no hand phone at that time so we couldn’t call for help.
My mum and dad was kind of taken aback.
They probably thought what kind of school would hold their students until so late in the afternoon on the very first day.
It was a hell of an experience for the first day in school.
However I could remember it until today because Penang Free School is indeed a very special place.
I learned how to speak proper English over there.
I competed against the best over there so that I know where I truly stand.
I realized that I could play a bit of football with my best position being a left winger.
I joined the chess club and was lucky enough to play competitive chess against other schools.
I get to know a myriad of colourful characters over there, some of whom I continue to keep in touch with.
I had fantastic and very dedicated teachers that only wanted their students to excel in life.
For these reasons Penang Free School will always be special to me.
For it brings out the best in me.
And show me how wonderful school life could be if you happen to the in the right place at the right time.
Happy 200 years celebration, my Alma Mater.
May there be many more in the future.