Niki Cheong – Digital culture commentator
CHEONG joined BRATs in 1995 and returned in subsequent years to help out with the programme. He participated in the first year-end expedition trip which took him and 30 fellow BRATs rafting down Sungai Perak in Perak.

Since then, Cheong has become a prominent digital media personality and journalist known for his ReWired and The Bangsar Boy columns in The Star. He was also formerly an editor with R.AGE and came full circle when he spent five years running and facilitating the BRATs programme between 2006 and

Why did you join BRATs?
I had always enjoyed writing as a kid, so when I saw the call for applications in Sunday Star, I immediately set out to send my application in. I didn’t know anything about journalism then, but I have no regrets.

Was there a moment you remember most from your experience?
I think the experiences from the two expeditions I participated as a BRAT – rafting down Sungai Perak and exploring Danum Valley in Sabah – had to be the best moments.
As a city boy, I never imagined I’d have to shower in the river and have no constant access to toilets. It was tiring and a lot of hard work, but it was also extremely fun.

What was the most important thing you learned through BRATs?
At that stage of your life, you feel like just another person in a school uniform. Unless you were a prefect or really brilliant academically, there was nothing special about you.
Being forced to put myself out there when meeting and interviewing people did wonders for my confidence and taught me that there is more to life than just my studies. I may have been a bad writer then, but seeing my name published showed me that I may be good at something after all, even if it was in my own head.

What impact did BRATs have on your life?
For someone like me who ended up in journalism, the impact of the programme is quite obvious. But looking back at the past 17 years and where I currently am in life, it was the other things that made the most difference – lessons in life, living and working with people, being taken out of my comfort zones. When I was editor of R.AGE, this was what I tried to pass on to the new BRATs, more than just journalistic skills, because not everyone will end up as one.

Calling all BRATs!
If you are a former BRAT, we want to hear from you! Tell us your fondest memory of the BRATs, and send us a photo from your workshop if you have one.
Our email is You can also tweet us at @starbrats, using the #BRATsIs20 hashtag.

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