Friday, March 12, 2010

I'm not giving up! Even after all the 'unfortunate' events I experienced.

This entry is dedicated for all SPM holders, especially those that have just received their results yesterday. Whatever the outcome was, one can only hope that the upcoming journey will bring more meaning to life =D
Congratulations to my youngest sister for scoring straight A’s, bashing out all records set in this family! I am indeed happy for her, and of course I feel happier for both of my parents – the last one surely have made both of you proud.

Nevertheless, I wish to share my trivial experience about the toughest journey I have had ever encounter for the last 10 years. To fellow readers, some of the content could be a bit harsh and offensive, so forgive me. I do not intend to stir any negative feelings or thoughts. This is purely based on my personal experience, of which I feel worth sharing.

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After 10 years I still feel victimized over the injustice of our education system, our culture and all the associated systems related (read further to understand more).

Since I was a small kid, I have always wanted to be the brightest or the smartest girl. Maybe because I was born to be the eldest so I was somehow obligated to always give and show my best, as an exemplary to my younger brothers, sisters and cousins. I learned about how stress can be detrimental to one’s mental and physical development at an early age. However, praise to Allah, I feel very much blessed with all the advantages He gave to me, while having my growing up pains.

Because of my thirst for intellectual success, often I penalized myself whenever I was told that my achievements were not enough or up to expectation. Of course, at a younger age – expectation scale was very much based on the one my parents’ (or any other adults in the family) set. Come to think of it now, I believe they have set the standard far too high (and too complicated) for me to achieve.

Nonetheless, that was what I wanted and to be honest I am still working hard to ensure that my dream of getting a Ph.D will come true, one day. I was a straight A’s student until I realized that I need more than my brain to be a WISE and INTELLIGENT person. I struggled to excel in studies at school and at the same time become more active with other type of social engagements, in view to increase the soft skills which were not taught in classroom.

At the age of 17 I was already actively speaking in public, actively participating in projects to polish up my communication and management skills , seriously learning more foreign languages & cultures and at some point was already working part-time in an office environment – all alongside with my daily school hours in the morning.

My SPM result was not disappointing at all – in fact I was surprised that despite my busy schedule and all those growing up tantrums I had, I managed to score Aggregate 1. So my search began to obtain a placement overseas. Prior to taking my SPM I was already sure of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. Being the eldest, I was taught be resourceful and not to rely on anyone else – including my parents. My parents only provided me with motivational support, and sufficient but limited material resources. Hence, I have never experienced any direct help from them in searching or getting things done, in the search of getting a study placement.

Though my SPM result was good, but it was not excellent enough. After many mails, phone calls and application forms, I was so happy to know that I had been accepted to NYU. The catch was it was on partial scholarship. I literally begged my parents to help me getting the financial resources. It was year 2000, and the economy was just about to bounce back. I have to admit that I don’t come from a poor family, but at the same time, my family was just an average middle class – not the ‘bloody’ rich type of family.

Family business was not doing well back then, and I was told that if I were to go – chances for my younger brothers and sisters to get a comfortable education could have been compromise. What else can I say, when I was put in that kind of situation? I was not about to give up just yet. I took all the certificates I had plus with all the confidence I have of my knowledge and skills and start walking into banks, government or NGO’s offices in the hope of finding a decent sponsorship.

I went to MARA office, but was told off because the course I wanted to take up was not listed – it was not critical fields like engineering or medicine. I could not go to JPA because my dad was reluctant to allow me to be bonded with the government for a period after completing my studies – even if I go, it will be same result as MARA.

I walked to all banks and financial institutions to see the options of making education loans. I had to sit and listen to the bank officers for about 1 hour each bank for the same requirement and minor tutorial of the process and procedures. I brought home the idea and tried getting help from my parents. Since I was not employed, applying for study loan needs to be done by parents and of course you either need to have a fixed deposit account (with money inside) or collateral as requirement. I knew that my dad has a piece of land back at kampong. However, the idea was immediately shot-down by him.  I can understand his arguments – he may have wanted to use his hard earned asset (harta) to finance the investment for his children. It was just not enough, back then.

In the end, I had to forego the offer. I went to UiTM to do my diploma in Performing Arts. The choice was somehow very difficult to be well accepted – at least to my family, including extended family at kampong. I took a study break to join my fellow country youths to represent the country for the Ship for South East Asia Youth Program (SSEAYP). The short stint was an eye opener – I learned more about myself and at the end of the program, I was so ready to make a change.

With another semester left at UiTM, I was determined to quit. I told my parents that I need to quit and wish to sit for STPM – so I could pursue my study in International Business or International Marketing or International Finance. That choice was not an easy journey as well – being a matured student and working at the same time, I was bound to prepare for the ‘toughest examination in the world’ (which I was told) as a private candidate.

Those who went to school full 2 years of curriculum should be thankful for the opportunities given. Left with almost no option – I had to prepare everything in less than 1 year. My STPM result was one of the moments I actually felt very proud of myself.

Prior to STPM, I went through the whole stint of applying for placement overseas. I was so happy to be accepted to a university in Japan, but similar with my experience 3 years before – on partial scholarship. Just because I was a mature student, and priority was given to school leavers, I was left with a very limited option of trying out for scholarship or any kind of sponsorship. At this point of time, 3 out 4 of my siblings are already in college. My parents gave the same reason for not allowing me to go. Begging was one of the things which I think may have haunted my parents for quite some time.

I flew to Sabah to pursue my bachelor degree in International Business with a broken heart. I couldn’t convinced my parents well enough to spare a few thousands ringgit so I could go to Japan, even when I knew that I had a good advantage of getting local sponsorship in Japan – if I were to go there and get enrolled (it was a requirement).

When I started my study in UMS, I had the chance of sharing my story to my Japanese language lecturer and a few other Japanese officials whom I met during my SSEAYP journey. All of them thought I made the wrong choice – by not going to Japan. Only God knows how I felt (and still feels).

After degree, I was determined to save money on my own for my Master’s study. I did get a placement to do an MBA in Scotland. I just could not afford it. So I started my career sometime about 3 years ago. I have to admit that being the eldest does not give me any advantage. I struggle making my own ends, let alone to save up some of my salary for study. But, I have yet to give up – and hope I will never be.

After ten years of feeling disappointed for not being able to fulfill my dream, despite of all the efforts – I came to term with myself, as what my dad always say to me – it’s not meant to be for me, just yet. I become so hard-headed now when people ask me just to enroll into any university to do my Masters. I don’t have to explain in length here, just enough by saying – I have my own target of what I want to write for my Masters and there is only a selected universities which I consider worth the investment. These universities have the most resources which is required so I could have a greater chance to excel in my Masters and to produce a good thesis.

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I try not to write something that is very personal, but this time is an exception. So fellow readers, some piece of advice:-

1. For students who are studying (overseas or local) on scholarship – be thankful and please make sure that you study hard enough to produce an excellent result. Please don’t waste tax payers’ money, ok!

2. For parents – don’t just let go your children, be it decision or getting the resources they need. Your child could use more help than you could think of!

3. For those who are still looking and finding the future path – be prepared of the challenges ahead. It can be a struggle finding the right resources, let alone excel. It is so easy to slip off the track!

4. For younger brothers/sisters - do understand the hardship of being the eldest. They must have had to let go many things, just for the sake of making sure you are well taken care!

5. FOR ALL INVOLVED IN THE SYSTEMS – Merits should not only be based on grades, and requirement should not only follow what’s on paper. Flexibility and exceptional cases deserves your attention as well. Failing to notice means there are chance of losing one potential contributor, socially or economically!


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