November – A Month of Dilemmas and Lamentations

This month has been horrible, to say the least.

Twice, I’ve hit my lowest point in school, breaking down pathetically before the gaze of teachers, lnowing all too well my predicament.

My workload has always been excessive, but the amount trebled this month: a toxic admixture of essays, homework, projects, oral examinations and foreign-language assignments burdened upon the “courageous” student, with only one straw needed to break this camel’s back.

This metaphorical straw is the university applications.

Tomorrow is the deadline set by the school for getting all of my applications ready. There was a mad rush by twenty-or-so year-thirteens to get it checked by only one teacher, who is the university advisor in school. It was horrible, just horrible! I tried to get hold of documents without her involvement, as my intention was to reduce the work on her part, as well as making it easier for me to upload onto my non-UK university applications. Nevertheless, it was taken badly and I was heavily reproached by her and other teachers for trying to break so-called “school policies”.

I was very upset with that. I felt that the school was being unreasonable with the deadline, but I had more pressing issues in my mind. My question was: will the school entertain my demands for documents AFTER the deadline, especially if the actual university deadlines are way ahead in February or May? I was extremely worried by this, not to mention stressed to the point that I feared that the school will leave me abandoned with my applications incomplete because they might refuse documents. Thankfully, all was resolved on the same day after talking it through (over a box of tissues) who agreed to assist me with my final steps for application.

Making choices for university is really stressful to begin with, and this deadline is in no way making things any more comforting for me. No matter how much other teachers try to console me, they cannot erase the underlying problem which still looms over my future, which is:

“Will I be able to pay for it?”

My dream is to go to a top university in Europe, more specifically the UK, where I have imagined myself to be since I was 10 years old. This year, I made the choices to study in Durham, Warwick, London, Bristol and Edinburgh. I wanted to study Journalism while I was in primary school, but as my interests evolved over time, today I applied to study Economics and Politics.

I also applied to the Netherlands, a country I have visited just this year last spring. I had a splendid time and plus I felt like it was the place to be. I feel somehow accepted in my pristine surroundings, filled with beautiful canals and bright tulips. After my visit to Rotterdam, I was inspired to apply to the presitgious Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, which has one of the top economics school in the world.

With further research about possible places to study, I also settled on Singapore, Asia’s international trade hub and economic powerhouse, in addition to being Malaysia’s rich neighbour. Their universities: the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, are not only the top in Asia, but the entire world! I know I just had to apply there and take my chances. I know that it WILL be competitive, as many Singaporeans are known to be quite ‘kiasu’, but I wouldn’t know I’ll get it unless I try.

Well all of this positive attitude in making uni choices ignores one crucial fact: my parents can’t afford it.

They reiterated time and time again that they will NOT be prepared for me to study in any of these countries, not unless I can get scholarships. They say they can only afford to send me to a university in Malaysia, and with the fall in the value of Malaysian ringgits, their words can’t be any truer. My education fund can’t support 3 years of tuition fees in England, Scotland, Holland or Singapore, let alone cost of living.

This led me to an unsolvable dilemma for quite some time, especially in the first week of November. What  is the point of applying to these unis when you can’t even go there in the end? I searched for existing scholarship programmes. While none of them were prepared to fund my entire tuition, they were reasonable discounts. Unfortunately these were not enough to convince my parents, save for the Singaporean tuition grant programme, which would reduce my international fees at the cost of working in Singapore for three years after graduation as part of the contract.

Preferably I don’t want to be stuck in Singapore after my degree; I came there to study but work? I’m not prepared to make such a big decision yet. Unfortunately it seems like I don’t have a choice, because even to earn a Singaporean scholarship that could cover all of my fees, I would need to take the grant first.

I was very upset that first week of Monday. I saw no way out: I was condemned to studying in Malaysia, which I really did not want. I have a complex relationship with my country, which I will probably elaborate in another post. More importantly, the choice on university: University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, is not really so much to my liking. I don’t really like the campus so much due to my distaste for the lazy architecture and its far distance from Kuala Lumpur, which makes it really difficult for me to pursue my language studies. In addition, the though of living in Malaysia for three years, not as a global citizen, but as a LOCAL, strikes me as condescending and depressing. I am more than just a Malay Malaysian, but most people will never look past my appearance and know my world experiences.

That first week on Monday, I also struggled to write my personal statement for my UK university applications through UCAS. I had a hard time trying to express myself to convince the universities to take me. I also had the dilemma constantly ringing in my mind, making me more upset and almost-depressed. I remembered last year’s Year 13 student whose name was Kim, and he got an exceptional 44 score and got accepted into Princeton in the US. His parents were prepared to make the financial sacrifice, not just for his US application and tuition fees, but also for paying for his SAT exams which he needed to sit beforehand. This is in stark contrast to my family’s attitude. Granted, we’re not rich. In fact, we’re probably one of the poorer families in NCBIS, a school filled with mainly elite to upper middle class households. I was the student with one of the greatest prospects in terms of IB grades, yet I felt that no matter how hard I tried, I will end up in Malaysia anyway. I felt that it would be a waste of my talent and time, having gone through the hellish experience of IB. I could have comfortably done A-Levels and still get into a Malaysian uni.

After all of the above, I memorialised that week of grief and sorrow into a poem. I would like to end this post at this note. I have never written one so long before, but I feel that I need to let it out, to let my readers know about how I feel and why I have been absent for so long. Please, if you like this poem, give your comments below. Until then, see you next month.


A. A. Kamalov

For two years, I endured

A lonesome existence.

From Sunday to Thursday

I barely survive the week.

Almost eternally, like a

Relentless pedalling of wheels

On a stationary gym-bicycle.

Locker to class, class to class,

Class to canteen, canteen to class,

Class to locker, then back home

Shifting around like a drone.

Friendships are superficial.

I trust none. I really couldn’t.

I know them just by name,

But really, they are strangers.

Where they attend, I pretend.

Unsurprisingly, this is why I

Resent such teenage liberties

Those hangouts and parties,

The decadence disgusts me.

Instead I appease the system

With industrial fervour,

I push aside petty anxieties,

Headaches and fevers

To get grades no-one

Else would dare surpass.

I was instantly recognised and

Hailed as the next Kim, while

Deluded by rational fantasies.

Then I realised: no-one wants me.

Not Princeton nor Oxbridge,

Just name any university.

All hard work is fruitless

For I’m a penniless foreigner,

And my world ruled by the dollar.

I’ve no choice but to return to where I

Belong, a tropical trash-town

Fraught with endless miseries.

So it must end this way, it seems.

Waste no more time,

Sing no more praises please.

Let me graduate silently –

No prizes or awards to console

This worker bee; this tradable,

Replaceable commodity. One day

He’ll labour and die without family

And all of the above will be

A long-lost memory.

5 Dagen in de Nederland: Land of Polders and Windmills (Part 2)

Photos first, details later…

Please see this post first before reading this one.

It’s been almost half a year since my Dutch vacation, but I still was not able to bring myself to finish editing the entire corpus of photographs on hand with me right now. I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, because of the increasing pressure of the new school year. Even though I publish this now, expect further edits to come your way and paragraphs popping under the photos I put in here. WARNING: Long post ahead with very little text! Please take your time to enjoy the flowers and sceneries ahead. Continue reading “5 Dagen in de Nederland: Land of Polders and Windmills (Part 2)”

Happy 58th Independence Day, Malaysia!

“Merdeka! !مرديكا Мәрдека!”

Image courtesy of Waikaitomalaysians

On the 31st of August, 1957, the glorious chants of this word echoed across the nation as the sun of the British Empire set upon the land of Malaya. It merged to become Malaysia in 1963 with the Bornean states of Sarawak and Sabah, and Singapore too (which left later and achieved its own independence). On this day, all states of the Malaysian peninsula are celebrating 68 years of freedom after more than two centuries of European colonial administration.

What does being Malaysian mean for me, an expatriate who spent most of his primary-school and teenage years abroad? I don’t know the exact meaning myself. There are too many things that set me apart from other Malaysians. Malaysia is not my home for most of the year. I would rather live as an expat than as a local in my own country. I detest speaking Malaysian-accented English, Malaysian tropical weather and the Malaysian education system. I am more fluent in (RP-accented) English than my own national language. I don’t add ‘lah’ at every other end of my sentence like most Malaysians do. Despite all of this, I am eternally bound to this country where I was born and raised, where all of my extended family members and a lot of my friends call home. It is a frequent marker of my identity wherever I travel etched on the cover of my passport. If I am asked “Where are you from?” I have no choice but to answer “Malaysia”, no matter how foreign it might seem to me… Continue reading “Happy 58th Independence Day, Malaysia!”

5 Dagen in de Nederland: Land of Polders and Windmills (Part 1)

Hallo, goede dag iedereen!

About three months ago, I went for my third overseas excursion this year. It already feels like I’ve gone for a world tour for the past four months since 2015 started! This time, it was even more special, because this family vacation to the Netherlands mark my first touchdown to Western and Northern Europe. Prior to this, the only European destinations I have had the honour to visit were Istanbul and Cyprus, with the latter being an island geographically closer to the Middle East than Europe. Therefore, the Netherlands is unlike any other country I’ve been to in terms of architecture, atmosphere and natural landscape. It feels very European in character, but the society is also very multicultural and globalised, especially in Amsterdam. This made me feel more at home, plus I did not feel like I stand out as a tourist as much as other places, even though there were probably hundereds of tourists roaming around the city like I did.

This trip lasted about 5 days and stayed over there for 4 nights in Amsterdam, the “capital” of the country (The Hague is the official political capital). Originally, the plan was to visit Belgium as well, but we cancelled it because it turned out that day-tours to Brussels did not take place on Sunday, the day we planned to visit there. There was a trip to Bruges, but although it is a beautiful medieval city with gorgeous canals, we decided it was too much like Amsterdam and other Dutch cities (which also have a lot of canals).

Due to the richness and wealth of attractions seen throughout the trip, I have again divided this travel article into three parts. The first part will deal with Day 0 and Day 1, the second part with Day 2 only and the rest for part 3. The format of the post will mirror the way I presented my holiday in Antalya. Continue reading “5 Dagen in de Nederland: Land of Polders and Windmills (Part 1)”

Effects of ICT on Children and Teenagers

Modern technology is a very ubiquitous part of life in the twenty-first century. Many people of all ages are using computers and other gadgets for various purposes. Children and teenagers are one of the most familiar users of computers and more importantly, the Internet. This brings about many effects to them, both positive and negative. Continue reading “Effects of ICT on Children and Teenagers”