After much considerations over my friends' experiences and opinions... I decided to go with school. Definitely, it burnt my bank account with the school but I'm glad I've made it through.
The nearest driving school to me was the one located at Woodlands, SSDC. Though it's not exactly near because from my place to the school takes at least 45 minutes travelling time (on a bad day with bad traffic, it can take me almost an hour). I decided to apply online and booked my Basic Theory Test (BTT) online too. Paid $155.15 for online enrolment and another $6.80 for my BTT. I enrolled myself online on 27 April 2013 and I only managed to book a earliest date on Saturday for BTT on 22 June 2013 (approximately 8 weeks wait)
Because I made an online enrolment, I didn't know (or rather no prominent notification to me) that I would be given my driving booklet and driving study guides. Lucky for me, Hazel just took her BTT for conversion of her Malaysian license and so she passed me the books to study for my test. When I passed my BTT on 22 June 2013, I paid $25 to apply for my first Provision Driving License (PDL). (Man, I was so excited!)
Unfortunately... When I tried to book my classes online.. I realize the weekends were very full all the way till August! So I took some night classes and at the same time booked my Final Theory Test (FTT). I managed to book my FTT on 16 August 2013 and my first lesson on 22 August 2013 which was a Thursday night. (First lesson night time... Great...) I had no choice as I didn't wanted to waste time. Enrolment to the course is valid for a year, and plus PDL is only valid for 6 months (I wanted to plan my time well so I wouldn't have to pay another $25 for the stupid PDL) So I waited for another 8 weeks for my FTT and 9 weeks for my first driving lesson. Unfortunately, I got dengue in August and hence... I failed my FTT (I did not study at all) and had to rebook again. It was another approximately 8 weeks on 4 October 2013. Thankfully, I managed to pass my FTT on the second try.
On my first day reporting for lesson, I was at a lost of what to do. I went to the information counter and asked where should I report for lesson. So the kind instructors crowding around the information counter at level 1 told me take the lift up to level 3 and look for a TV screen that would show my name. So I went up with just my PDL on hand and looked around. I found this yellow screen TV right beside the toilet and stood there waiting for my name to appear.
So I saw my name, and my car number. I walked out from the sliding doors feeling butterflies in my tummy fluttering. I was excited but scared at the same time. After all I really wanted to learn driving for the longest time and finally I made my way here.
I went to look for car 49 at the lanes specified on the information board and sat at the passenger seat and waited for my instructor.
Soon my instructor appeared at the car and asked for my PDL and driving booklet. It was then I realize, I was supposed to be given a driving booklet to record all my lessons and progress but I didn't have it. So my first instructor, Fami explained everything that I needed to know, what I need to do and etc to me. (I panicked like mad but he told me it is alright and he assured me that so long I have my PDL, he can do the recording on a piece of paper first and I can ask the next instructor who took me to write it in the booklet once I get it.) The first lesson was getting to move the car back and forth, learning about what is the brake, what is the clutch, the changing of gears and etc. It may sound stupid to you if you're a driver and you're reading this but man, changing gears is harder then I thought. I couldn't figure out how to differentiate which gear was which position. At that point of them, getting the car to move back and forth already make me super thrilled. Not to mention thereafter I get to drive rounds and rounds (yes nothing but round and round) on the top level of the circuit. That, made me feel so proud of myself. (idiotic, I know but I'm not denying how thrilled I was.) 2 hours of lesson quickly ended from 8:20pm to 10:20pm. I still remember Fami telling me to take the shuttle bus from SSDC to opposite Admiratly interchange because by the time my class end, it's late and surrounding SSDC were tons of industries and their workers' dormitories. I took his advise and took the shuttle bus to opposite Admiralty and then switched to 925 from that particular bus stop. Usually by the time I'm home, it's almost 11:20pm (which is about an hours' journey though I stay at Yishun.)
My next lesson was on a Sunday, so I went earlier to collect what I should have collect months ago. (like 4 months ago, pfffft) So I got my BTT and FTT guide book, after I've passed my BTT, I also got my blue booklet that records all my training progress. (Now I'm completely 'armed' with the necessities.)
For my second lesson, I got someone new. Someone I didn't know again. I was kinda upset because I don't know if the next instructor would be as nice as how Fami was. But thankfully, my second instructor, Hidayat was a nice instructor too. I was still in the circuit doing all the moving in rounds and rounds. (it may sound boring to you but back then for me was just amazing)
It makes me wonder if the instructors get bored of just going round and round. For them, I'm probably the 27348th student, but for me it was completely fresh. (I think it's a really tough job. Hahahhaha)
Through Fami, I also learnt the trick to booking slots on the internet. In the beginning, I don't know about what's trysell and I didn't know how to keep refreshing until a slot appears. When I told Fami that I passed my BTT in June but wasn't able to book any lessons in July, he told me that I should treat the website like a stock market. Just camp there, and refresh everyday and I'd definitely get slots. Of course I should prebook my lessons if I have the cash in advance when the windows are open. If I haven't remember wrongly, they open 3 months in advance. True enough, I did as told and I managed to book all the slots I wanted. (Thanks alot Fami, though you'd never read this, but really thank you for being my first instructor and gave me so much advices and tips. I may had been just another student to you, but you'd be one instructor I'd remember)
FINALLY, my first 'road trip' on the Singapore road was on 29 August 2013, 8:20pm. I've gotten yet another instructor again and.... Okay, I call him 'the grumpy old man' but of course he was harmless but very naggy. He brought me on the road and kept nagging at me for 2 hours. Can you imagine it? It was my first time on the road... I was scare.. It was night time, I couldn't see too well, there were so many cars, there were slopes, there were stationery vehicles, there were traffic lights, pedestrians and so much more.
I honestly, was overwhelmed. I thought I was going to die.
Oh, and I stalled my car beside Republic Polytechnic that traffic light. (Whoever you may be behind me, sorry ah. Lol!)
That day... I kept silent throughout my drive. I was upset because it was my first time but this instructor kept scolding me. I couldn't say anything because it's true, I was a newbie and I sucked. So I shut my mouth and quietly drive. I was very unhappy when my lesson ended and I told myself I don't even want to see him again. I even thought of fixing my instructor to Fami so that I won't have to 'risk' getting another nasty instructor. Fixing an instructor for per lesson would cost me at least another $5 more. So imagine 24 lessons would have cost me at least another $100. Of course, fixing an instructor has it's pros.
The instructor will know your weakness and strength inside out. You are comfortable with your instructor and chances are you'd always us the fixed instructor's car. But... I gave up the idea eventually. I thought I should just.. adjust myself to any conditions.
Oh ya, I'm not revealing whose that grumpy old man (hahhahahah) he is nice in his ways, you just have to understand his intentions. And no, it wasn't my last time seeing him. I saw him another 2 times, making total 3 lessons with him.
After my first road trip, every lesson was learning new things. And every time when I have lesson, I never dragged myself to driving before, in fact I was always looking forward to it. Day by day... I went for lessons and more lessons and eventually, I managed to pass all my assessments and subjects. The day for me to book Traffic Police Test (TP) arrived. I-was-fucking-thrilled.
The only disappointment I had was... I didn't managed to book my TP before I flew Korea last year. It also meant I had to renew my PDL. (sigh)
So on 28 November 2013, I booked my TP and it was a good 8 weeks wait or so again on 6 February 2014.
I met another instructor name Letchu, he was a super hilarious instructor. He told me about how I should go about planning my revision classes before my TP. He said, I should at least book 6 lessons more before my TP so that I'd be confident enough. I didn't book 6, but I booked 4 instead.
My TP was on 6 February, so I booked 1 lesson, 2 weeks before, then another 1 week before and 2 lessons 2 days before. I must say, the 2 days before my TP was super crucial. Lucky star must have shined on me because I got another fantastic instructor.
2 days before my TP, I was nervous like shit. I wasn't confident and I had problems with looking out for the points for my vertical and parallel parking. I-just-couldn't-see. Don't ask me why. I was at the same time frustrated because every different instructor told me different things. Some told me that I cannot tilt mirror, some tell me can. You know how frustrating it is as a student? We have no one to believe and trust except the instructors and yet every instructors have their own set of ways to do certain things.
My last, and final instructor was Hilman. The first thing he came in was to ask me, "when is your TP?" I told him, 2 days from now. And he started to drill me on my parkings for 2 hours. I really, park until I got so fed up. Lol. He helped me looked for points that I could see and still able to park. He ditched all the other markings that is according to the book and he took his initiative and creativity to 'create' my own markings that only I know, I can see and still able to aid me to park perfectly. Since it was only a day left to my TP, I decided to fix Hilman for my last lesson. I didn't want to risk having another instructor who have to figure out what my problem was and start to correct me. It'd be too late by then. I'm glad I paid for the extra $9.60 just to fix him. I wouldn't have been able to park well during my test if I haven't met him. (Thank you, even though you'd not likely to read this too but you've no idea how great of a help you've been for me. If it wasn't for you creating those 'markings' for me to understand, I could have failed.) I did told him I don't want to see him again, but of course not because I hate his face or him but because seeing him again means I'd fail, so of course I wouldn't want to see him again! Hahahha.
And so the day came. I was on my way to school for the last time to take my test. My slot was 10:15am so I was to report to school at 9:15am for my warm up. When I went in the room, I was the only one and it turned out that I was the only one taking class 3 test that day for that slot. My warm-up instructor brought me to the car and took me for 1 last trial before my actual. He indicated that he will correct me immediately when I'm wrong. 45 minutes flew by and I was back at the school in this 'prison' looking room nervously waiting for my turn. I was all alone. I was going mad. Thankfully for all my mates on my apps, I felt better.
Soon some guys joined me in the room, but they were taking class 4. At 10:15am sharp, my TP test appeared at the door and called for me. I took a deep breathe and... off I went.
I had to adjust all my mirrors... seat... etc and there it was. In my mind, I was repeating Hilman's voice in my mind. Every point and every mistake I ever made. All the things to look out for, it was going on repeat in my mind. Remembering what each and every instructor once told me. From Hilman, Fami and Hidayat. Each of them whom taught me different parts of the circuit. Soon, I completed my circuit and out I went. I was relief it was over. On the road, it wasn't as clear as it always was. I had never driven on a weekday morning, so I was worried but thankfully.. I was lucky that it wasn't too hard.
That was it. I passed. I fucking passed!
I had to surpress my excitement and keep my expression cool. Of course deep inside me I was popping champagne and screaming like a mad ass. I took my result slip and dash out to level 4 to watch the gross video. After it was over, I went to take a photo ID for myself and I was waiting for my turn, to make my license. My driving license. After a good 8/9 months, I made it. I really made it. All the time, money and efforts spent on this driving license was all so worth it.
My journey with SSDC had been pleasantly fun. I met at least 9 different instructors throughout my 24 lessons there. Each and everyone were patient (almost all hahahaha), nice and made my 2 hours enjoyable all the time. Most of them would chat with me and made lessons interesting. (it's very awkward when 2 people in a silent car... and no one speaks so I'm glad my instructors all had been easy-going and friendly.)
I will miss the times when I was a trainee and all the stupid mistakes I made. Having someone beside me telling me what to do and where to do. But of course, I look forward to my driving journey on the road on my own from now onwards.
Instructors, thank you once again, and see you when I see you again. :)
Here's my journey in a nutshell. Maybe it would be helpful in planning your driving journey.
DRIVING LICENSE, CHECKED!