Two St Joseph’s International School students among 171 gold finalists

KUCHING: Two students from St Joseph’s International School (SJIS), Kuching are among the 171 gold finalists in the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2021.

The competition, with the theme ‘Community in the Commonwealth’, attracted over 25,000 students.

Ong Rui Yu and Christabel Lau from SJIS won gold awards while Lydia Ting, also from the school, was awarded the silver award.

The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition is the world’s oldest international writing competition for schools. It was established in 1883.

With thousands of young people taking part each year, it is an important way to recognise achievement, elevate youth voices and develop key skills through creative writing.

Ong Rui Yu

According to Ong, the writing competition was mandatory for the students in the school. Hence it was natural to submit their entries after all the effort they had put into it.

“It was a challenge to gather my thoughts and feelings about an ongoing pandemic when all I wanted to do was escape from this world.

“It took me one month to work on my ideas and drafts. Initially I was working on a ‘wedding toast’ to our frontliners until 1am one day, the phrases came as I was crouching under the table to gain a new perspective.

“In a frenzy, I wrote some of them down in my notebook and the next day, I structured these ideas into the seven silences. From then on, I struggled to put my thought to words,” she said.

On her topic ‘Keeping Connected through the Covid-19’, she explained that her goal was to write about these silences so that through her work, she could connect with her readers.

“I wanted to document the people’s experiences — both highs and lows. Major sources of inspiration for my writing were from ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel and two pieces of music — ‘Moon Song’ by Karen O and ‘I’m Forrest…Forrest Gump’ by Alan Silvestri,” she disclosed.

Christabel Lau

Lau shared that she would not have been aware of the QCEC if it was not for her teacher. Through the competition, she was able to improve her writing skills drastically.

“It took me about a week to come up with different ideas on how I’d want my story to go. The story concept was revised thrice before I decided the current concept.

“It was my goal to make the drafting journey as fun as possible and it took about two months before I came up with a final draft that I was proud of,” she said.

She added that competitions such as the QCEC allowed her to explore the depths of her creativity and expand her knowledge on what was happening around her.

“I strongly encourage students to challenge themselves in writing competitions as you really do learn and gain a lot of awareness on a variety of topics. e.g., climate change, life and so on,” she advised.

Lydia Ting

Meanwhile, Ting said she came to know about the competition from her teacher and that it took her five days to complete her essay.

“Personally, I was very surprised and glad as it was really unexpected to receive the award.

“Joining this competition for the first time has really opened my eyes and motivated me to become a better version of myself. I look forward to writing again in the future,” she added.