I came across this essay topic for a Sec 3 Express End-of-Year (EOY) exam by one of the top schools in Singapore. And my student attempted this question. With some of my edits and his permission, I will publish his paper for our learning purposes.

Honestly, I was very impressed with his attempt when I first read it. But I thought there are some room for improvement. Leaving language features aside and invest some time to ponder upon: 

  • what contributed to the good impression of this essay?
  • how were the 5 senses employed in this essay?
  • are dialogues and author's inner thoughts useful?
  • how would you have improved this piece?

I will cover these questions and techniques in class. Students, ready up for a mind-blowing session!

*Hint: the title of this post gives a big clue.

Describe your best friend and explain what it is that endears him/her to you.

Where I studied, everything was white. Spotless white walls, pristine white furniture, even a majority of white classmates. This was an elite school in upscale Bukit Timah, where apparently the children of the who’s who study at. It was a common sight for student councillors to witness their schoolmates alighting from their premium continental cars, sometimes even complete with a chauffeur. For some unknown reason, I find myself like a fly in the milk. Taking the bus as my daily commute to and from school, I often had to walk the pebbled pavement lined with manicured bushes where the often dusty bus stop is. I can only assume that it is dusty because I was probably the only one using it.
The common canteen chatter would often circle around the topics of the brands they recently acquired. “Oh, I managed to buy the limited addition Air Jordans online last night at a steal of $2,000. I finally have something to wear for my weekly basketball training now” I overheard one of them saying and remember thinking to myself “what my family of 5 can do with that money!” I often reminded myself that I have no business here and all that I should do is do well enough to graduate and I’m done with this premature aristocracy.
Through my first year, I kept largely to myself, minding my own business and skilfully avoiding awkward conversations of material gains. Partly because I have no knowledge nor experience to talk about any of those. However in my second year, James started to befriend an oddball like me. With great skepticism, I maintained my distance and kept our conversations to mostly school related. Slowly, he got me hooked on soccer and we would play ball after school for hours on end. Others would talk about their favourite soccer players and how they want to dress and play like them, James was genuinely in love with the sport and wants to share his passion with me. That, I really appreciate. “Finally, a decent friendship”, I remember thinking to myself as we played “one-touch”.
James would come to school every morning in his father’s BMW and his well-worn soccer ball. He refused to buy a new soccer ball simply because “there’s no need as it can still be used”. To me, that was extremely refreshing, coming from this excessively abundant school culture where people buy things just because they can. We got to know each other better, and naturally, we paired up with each other for our projects. This was where I dare say, he is my best friend. When I was certain enough that he would not judge me, I invited him to my house to finish up our projects, he not only did not scoff at my tiny apartment, but even offered to help my handicapped parents clean our house. 
I was humbled by how down-to-earth he was, that despite his super wealthy family background, he even bothered to befriend a nobody like me, and even offered to get his hands dirty to help my family when he could easily have asked his one of five maids at home to do it. James taught me that it doesn’t have to be what we are that defines us, but who we are that ultimately makes us all humans. Apart from being born differently, we are made equal. He showed me what it means to be not just a friend, but a better human being as well.