Now, THAT is a title I would never have imagined myself to write in a million years.
As this is supposed to be (and hopefully will) be an informative post for future Oxford University or Biological Sciences applicant, I will try to keep this as formal as possible (meaning, I’ll save all the emotional and sentimental notes for another post!)
For anyone that came across this post, a little intro perhaps hehe. Hello! My name is Maryam Jamilah, it is currently 2017, and I am studying CIE A-Levels at Kolej Yayasan UEM, Malaysia.
I applied to study Biological Sciences at Brasenose College, Oxford University for the October 2018 entry.
When I received the e-mail from Brasenose College informing me that I was shortlisted for the interview, I was given two choices since I am an international applicant; to do the interview by Skype or to fly over to UK and attend the interview in Oxford University ( in which they explicitly implied that neither will have direct impacts on the weight of your application). I chose to participate in the interview in person (I might discuss the reasons behind this in my later posts), and so my dad booked a flight ticket for me for 3 December which is 3 days earlier than the interview date.
Basically, I had 2 days free before I started my interviews in which I spent sight-seeing, doing some last minute prep and hanging around in the JCR. JCR stands for Junior Common Room where there are student helpers that help guide the interviewees about and where there are notice boards on which information on our interview time and place are put up. It’s also a place where people socialise and play games (but I’ll elaborate further on that later).
[Sincerely hoping my parents will never read this post]
I still remember the night I wrote my previous post. After a long crying session in the shower, I poured my heart’s contents into my blog and proceeded to book bus tickets and hotel rooms to escape from reality, without waiting for my parents’ consent.
The day before, I received an offer to go to an interview at UTP, Perak (About 3-4 hours away from home). I was having mixed feelings about it, since I wanted to pursue a career in Science, but the only courses they offered were Arts. It was quite odd actually, as the program is only offered to 20 people from the top 100 students in Malaysia, yet they only offer Arts subjects. I actually decided not to go, and told my mum it would be a waste of time and energy as it was too far and had nothing to do with my ambition. A hasty decision and a mind clouded with emotions was all it took to change that.
In my previous post, I told everyone that I wanted to run, I needed to run. I actually did that. I don’t even know how, but I managed to convince my parents to let me travel there with my friends instead of them sending me with their car. I did not necessarily lie..but let’s just say I bent the truth a little bit. With my parents thinking I was going with 2 or 3 friends, I rode on the express bus… alone.
I do not know where I got the courage from. I was crying for the first few minutes, but when I looked out the window and realised that I am actually travelling alone for the first time in my 18 years of existence (even though it was just to another state) , I felt brave and independent. I felt like I could take on the world. Well… until I was stranded at a bus stop by the road for 20 minutes. Would you believe how hard it was to find an Uber driver in the middle of that small city in Perak? In the end I just called the hotel and they gave me a number for the taxi. After arriving and checking in safely in the hotel, I laid on the queen sized bed and smiled to myself. Travelling all the way here was not such a bad idea after all.
3 days and 2 nights all alone in Perak made me a changed person. I enjoyed the sceneries, the graffiti on the walls of old buildings. had meals on my own, discovered the small shopping complex about 10 minutes walk from the hotel and even watched a movie alone! I have to admit that I felt lonely at times, but in general, it felt great to just spend time with myself and not worry about how others think of me, not worry about things that were happening at home and just do the things I wanted to do without having to consider other people’s preferences or opinions. It was liberating, to say the least.
The next day, I went for the interview. Even though I was not that excited for the interview, I did felt some sort of drive to do my best as this was probably my last chance for a scholarship anyways, and it was not easy to get in the top 100 in the country. I did the cot until the last minutes, checked my answers twice and tried to show the best side of myself during the interview. I met some awesome people as well, who were also more interested to take up Science than Arts but came just for the sake of it.
Today, I do not know how to feel when I received this;
Felt bizarre to think that I almost decided not to even go to the interview, but because of a small twist in fate, and the urge to run away from my problems, now I am among the 20 people in the whole Malaysia to receive this offer to study in any top universities in UK or US.
My parents are overjoyed, I was happy and grateful too but now when the feeling has sank in, all these questions arose. What if they won’t allow me to take veterinary medicine? Would I be forced to reject this offer? Would I be stupid if I did just to pursue the course I wanted?
Hmmm. Fate, do your job. I have utmost faith in you.
I can’t believe it has already been 6 days since this happened. Please excuse my procrastination habits, but here’s my update on what happened last week.
For those who are not living in Malaysia, you might not know what SPM is. To summarise, SPM is a national exam that is sat by Form 5 students nationwide that is said to determine one’s future. For Malaysians, SPM is like the highlight of the senior year as it happens right at the end of the year. Needless to say, our Asian parents go to extreme lengths to ensure that we get outstanding results.
We had to wait 3 months for the actual results to be announced, which was on the 3rd March 2016. After long weeks of boring and idle days, the date has finally arrived.
A day before the results were announced, I was a nervous wreck. Those who are following me on Instagram and Snapchat would have witnessed my anxiety outbreak and excessive selfies due to nervousness. To be honest, the moment I completed answering my Biology paper (which was the last paper) I have already left everything in the hands of God. The questions were definitely challenging, especially with the High Order Thinking Skills (HOTS or KBAT in Malay) questions which wrecked my brain.
I kept telling myself that I would accept and be grateful for whatever result I will get but on the day before, you just can’t help but imagine the worst-case scenarios. About a week before result day, my dad had a dream and he told me I was going to get something REALLY good which scared me even more because now everyone has their hopes up and what if I messed up and disappointed everyone. I can handle self-disappointment but I really cannot face with the disappointments of other people. In short, I was a bundle of nerves, so I tried calming myself down by listening to recitations of Al-Quran (which was very hypocritical of me but it was the only thing that worked). Honestly, when things get rough the only person I truly believe I can turn to is nobody else but Allah. Every single time. So I did, lost in my nervousness I started to think of all my sins and how undeserving of me to get excellent results. Fortunately, by night time I was already too worn out to be even more nervous.
The morning of results day, I woke up feeling positive and calm. I keep telling everyone “aku redha je weh, apa apa yang aku dapat pun”. So I walked with Jun to school (which was just across the road) at about 8.30 am. Poor Jun, she was visibly more nervous than me. We went to the Surau and recited Yassin together, it was lovely to meet everyone after 3 months. Then, we headed to the hall. The day before, there were so many rumours about the TV3 coming and etc and it was true. There were reporters and photographers outside the hall, which did NOT help calm our nerves at all. In the hall, some of my friends have already checked their results through SMS and were celebrating among themselves, which made me feel like there are grasshoppers jumping around in my stomach.
*wow this post took me a long time to finish :’)*
So, we were all waiting for the ceremony to start, when a junior called me and said that Ibu wanted to meet me at the back of the hall. When I came to meet her, there was Ms.Zai, Ibu, Cikgu Halimatus and a reporter from TV3. They told me that I was going to get interviewed and I was soo confused as I have not even gotten my results yet. Then, Ms.Zai sent me out to call Zati and Diba as well, which sort of raised my hopes up as we were told earlier that only 5 people got 9A+ (which just made me even more convinced that I was not going to get it).
Izzatul was interviewed as well, so I just decided to go ahead and ask Cikgu Halimatus if I got 9A+ and when she said yes, I was just, speechless. I did not know how to feel, it all happened so fast. So when I got interviewed by TV3, they told me to pretend I already got my results and to “look happy” (lol) and asked me a few questions about my plans for the future and etc. To be honest, I really hate when people ask me my plans for the future. I don’t know, I just feel like it’s a very personal thing and it was the last thing that I would want to announce to the whole country -_- , but I had to because, OMG TV3 KOTT lol.
After finishing the interview, I went back to my seat where Amani asked me what was it about ( we were looking at the photos from her Europe tour when Ibu called me) and I just shrugged. Then, the ceremony has started where the straight As’ achievers will be announced and presented their result slip on stage. My name was the second last to be announced for the 9A+ category and although I already knew my results, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed as my mum was looking at me with a shocked plus surprised plus proud expression and I could not help tearing up when she hugged me before we went onstage.
There were seriously so many reporters at the hall and I felt that they took forever to take our pictures. It was kind of awkward as well as our batchmates were still sitting down there waiting for their results to be announced. As soon as we got off the stage, we were practically stripped away from our parents and dragged to the side of the hall for more interviews and photos. It took forever, and we had to pose in so many angles (only for one small picture to come out in the newspaper *rolls eyes*). By the time we have finished our “photoshoot session” they have already finished announcing the straight As’ achievers, which made me quite sad as I didn’t get the chance to clap and cheer along for my friends. 😦 I was so sweaty and dizzy by then and my smile was already looking visibly forced for the group photo session,haha.
My mum got her few seconds of fame as well, when she was interviewed by the TV3 afterwards- which she totally deserved after raising me up for 18 years. When it all ended, I met the teachers at the Staff Room to thank them and headed straight home. I prayed Zuhur prayer, replied to some people on Whatsapp and Twitter and slept for 3 hours straight. I guess that was the aftermath of baking Cinnamon Rolls until 3am the night before, and being nervous and jittery was exhausting as well, no lie.
We didn’t throw a bombastic party to celebrate, my mum just bought some satay for all of us to eat together, and it felt nice and warm to know that all my family members are proud of me 🙂
One thing that surely stunned me was when my father kissed me on the forehead, which he NEVER did before okay. My father is a man who rarely shows his affection- I don’t even remember when was the last time he hugged me- so when he did that I know that I have truly made him proud and nothing can describe how happy I was.
A lot of people asked for my tips on how I managed to get 9A+. My answer is, I honestly do not know. I believe that a lot of my friends deserved this too, they worked really hard and they were very disciplined and focused, way, way more than me. If I were to give you some advice, it would be to get to know yourself. Understand which style of learning suits you best, because not everyone can study the way I did. I opted for the more relaxed way of studying, where I would focus on a subject for about an hour or two and then indulge myself by watching Youtube videos or playing games before continuing with the next subject.
One more thing would be to please, please do not study last minute for SPM. You should start focusing when you are learning the Form 4 syllabus, and I do not mean you just have to spend all year studying, never. I myself was frequently going out of school for competitions, events and more during Form 4 and Form 5. The most important thing is to understand each lesson and identify the topics that you are weak in. You should have stable grades by the beginning of Form 5 and constantly consult the teachers for questions that you and your friends have never encountered before, especially with the KBAT questions, it really takes your effort to either read a lot or ask the teachers a lot.
It is also very important to strengthen your bond with Allah. Honestly, my form 5 year was the year that I felt really close to Allah. I was able to wake up for Qiamullail, read the Quran after Maghrib prayers, become the Imamah for Isyak prayers, become the Naqibah for my usrah and refresh my Hafazan especially during Ramadhan. Last year, I had the best Ramadhan ever. I wish to have a better one this year. I am not boasting in any way, and if you think that being close to Allah for the sake of SPM is hypocritical, change your mindset. To me, it is SPM and everything that happened in 2015 (family problems, etc) that brought me back to Him and I am forever grateful for that. Take the opportunity when your heart feels sad and you feel worthless, that is the best time for you to talk to Allah about all your problems, and cry as much as you want on the prayer mat, because that was what I did and believe me, it made me feel so much better and so peaceful I could not even begin to describe it.
Many people have been asking me, “so what did you ask your parents for the SPM present, since you got excellent grades?”- and all I could reply was- nothing. How could I possibly demand a present when they were the reason I achieved this success in the first place? How could I bear to ask for a gift when this success alone was not enough to repay everything that they have done for me? I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. If they want to give me a present, that’s fine- but to ask for one? It would just make me feel bad.
Also, a lot of people have been saying that “lucky you, it must be easy for you to get scholarships now”,”confirm lah ni pergi overseas”. Not at all my dears. Getting 9A+ did not make me feel secure AT ALL. There are thousands of excellent and intelligent students out there that I have to compete against and it is not easy to do so. I will have to step up my game, as my grades promise nothing other than wider opportunites but there is nothing to be over confident about, and there is a long way to go. Nevertheless, I will do my best and see where my future takes me.
Veterinary Medicine is not something that people look highly upon in Malaysia, and I will be having a hard time explaining to the scholarship board why they need to sponsor a veterinary student, but I love challenges, and I am willing to take the risk, rather than to choose a safe route but end up studying something that I have absolutely no interest in. Some teachers and friends have questioned me on why I would want to choose a course that is not common in Malaysia, but I don’t see the problem. In fact, it is even better as I would be able to acquire a job with less competition in Malaysia. If I fail to get scholarships, it will be fine, there is always another way and I have absolutely no problem with studying locally. When you think that you have exhausted all possibilites, remember this; you haven’t.
The first step to success is understanding and believing in yourself. There is a long way to
go before I become that successful person I dream to be- but I will enjoy myself along the journey till I die, and live with no regrets.
Lastly, just be grateful with everything you are given, and say Alhamdulillah always, as He is the greatest planner.
ps// I always wanted to be it the news and the newspaper!! Dream come true indeed!!
pss// I never could have done this without Arista, love you guys ❤
Actually, it has been a while since our holiday trip to Langkawi, and this is awkward but… I have already lost interest in writing about it (I have already forgotten what we did on the trip hehe). So to make it easier I’ll just link the videos that I made for the trip down below. Enjoy!
Okay, so it’s obvious that I have been putting this off for a long time. Forgive me for being lazy and demotivated 😦
So for the second day, we went to the Langkawi Cable Car for some sightseeing. Now, for anyone who is interested in going to Malaysia, especially to the popular tourist attractions, my advice for you is to first look up for the school holiday dates in Malaysia. You are not advised to go on November and December as it is a long school holiday in Malaysia and these places can get really crowded and you wouldn’t be able to find a place to stay as they will be fully booked.
The Langkawi cable car is really long and high, and it is situated at Mount Machinchang. This mountain is one of the oldest in South East Asia and one fun fact is, it is actually the birth point of Malaysia itself as it has been around the longest. The view up there is especially breath taking, you can see the hills and the sea, and it was very windy. For couples, you can buy a love lock and write your names on it like they always do in cheesy dramas hehe.
When you are up on the mountain, you can go to the Sky Bridge which is basically a bridge that was built at the top of the mountains and you have a choice to either ride a tram or use the stairs. As we were money savvy and stingy, we thought, “why not use the stairs, we are young and full of energy,”. How wrong we were, lol. You sort of have to hike down the mountain and it takes around 10 minutes to get there and by then we were already out of breath- so much for being young and full of energy- we felt like 80 year old grannies climbing up the stairs back then. Again, the view was great, and if you’re a nature lover like me it is a great spot for some photography.
Next, we went to the 3D Arts Museum which was located at the same place as the cable car. The admission fee was RM 25, but for citizens of Kedah, you get a discount of RM5 – lucky for us, 2 of us are from Kedah so all of us got a discount. The art was interesting, and beautiful and you can take a lot of funny photos for memories. By the time we were out of the museum it was already around 1 o’clock and we were hungry, so we went to the food court nearby.
The first kiosk was a German restaurant but the food was a bit pricey, so we went to the next kiosk. Unfortunately, the service was completely unsatisfactory. We called on the waitress (there was only one) several times but she completely ignored us and went to take the orders of a bunch of guys and some foreigners first although it was completely obvious we were there before them. I still feel mad thinking about it today, just because we look young, and we are girls, doesn’t mean we matter less as a customer, so I do not recommend you to go there, to save your time and money.
Putting the lunch drama aside, our next stop was the Telaga Tujuh Air Terjun ( The Seven Waterfalls) which was just a short drive from the cable car site. Again, we had to hike up a hill to get to the waterfall. One tip is once you get to the top, there will be a toilet, but it is not actually a toilet, it is just a changing room, so if you want to go to the toilet with water, you have to go down to the waterfalls and there will be another toilet there. It was my first time going to a waterfall, so it was very fun, although the rocks were quite slippery and it can be dangerous. We did slip a few times trying to climb around but luckily no one was hurt. Only 3 of us played in the water that day, and played for 2 hours climbing around and sliding 🙂
Next we went to a side road stall for some Cendol and Pasembor by the beach. Later that evening, we rode on the Banana Boat and got overturned into the water (with life jackets of course). It was so funny, and we even celebrated our friend’s birthday by the beach at sunset by burying her in sand and leaving her to get out on her own. Those were some really good memories.
By the time we got back it was already night fall, and we were so freaking tired we ended eating Maggi for dinner and going to sleep really early. The next morning, my calves hurt really really bad from all the hiking, it even hurt to go down the stairs, I am not exaggerating this.
So basically the second day was the most fun day out of all and the most tiring one too. Here’s a short summary of our second day in video form!
Okay, I have been procrastinating this post for way too long. It has been 3 days since I left The Island of Langkawi after a 5 day holiday with friends. It was very exciting as it was our first trip after being officially at the legal age of 18 years old. What made it better was, there were no adults so we were free to enjoy ourselves – with boundaries of course.
There were so many things that we did that one post would not be enough to describe it all. Henceforth, I have decided to break it down to one post for each day.
First of all, this trip was initially a mere idea during our usual conversations about what we plan to do post-SPM. I myself did not expect that we would actually be able to go on a trip on our own and get my parents’ consent. So what happened was, around November and December we skirted around the topic in our group Whatsapp, discussing how to make the trip as low-cost as possible. Eventually, we had a fixed date, a decent place to stay and a tour package.
Believe me when I say when planning a holiday, connections are really important. For instance, we did not have to pay a single cent for accommodation as our friend’s father actually owns a place for tourists to stay, and it was just opposite Pantai Chenang. Moreover, another friend and her family has just started a tour company in Langkawi, so we drove around with her brother’s help and paid minimum price for most of the attractions.
As for transportation, we had a bit of trouble thinking of a way to travel form KL to Langkawi. Initially, we wanted to take the train, which would take us to Alor Setar and our friend would pick us up and we would ride on the ferry to Pulau Langkawi. However, it was quite costy, as the return tickets for the train alone would cost around RM170 and the return ferry ticket would cost around RM 40 which amounts to RM 210 for transportation only. Fortunately, my friend looked around and discovered that Malindo Airlines only charge RM 110 for return tickets, and it would send us directly to the island, so we do not have to take the ferry. It was just perfect. Honestly, my parents were quite worried for me to take the plane as we have never tried flying with Malindo Airlines before. However, I was delighted that the plane was actually quite spacey and comfortable, in fact it wasn’t at all like a low-cost flight, almost meeting the standards of Malaysia Airlines itself.
There were 4 of us travelling from KL and 2 from Kedah. The 4 of us met up at KLIA2 at plus minus 7 o’clock to check in and catch the flight. We survived!! I think I could get used to getting on flights on my own after this. Our activities for the day started around 1pm as our friends from Kedah took way longer than us to arrive even though all they had to do was take a ferry ride, sigh. One thing about Langkawi was, it is very hot. Very. Almost all day until around 6.30 pm, the sun is just scorching. It is advised to put on as much sunscreen as you can, if you do not plan to get extremely tanned. In fact all of us bought hats and shades on the first day to survive. It was almost essential, even for a local like me :p
So basically what we did was we went to the Langkawi Wildlife Park, where we can observe and feed the animals and birds. It was a great experience, I have always wanted to feed the animals at the zoo, perhaps even volunteer soon. I have always felt like I had a deeper connection with animals than I do with humans, for some reason. Okay, I’m being weird again.
So we spent a long day at the zoo, then we headed to some places for pictures and went for a karaoke session in the evening. The day ended with some street walking, as there are many shops open around the area we slept in. Langkawi is very alive in the evening, probably because the days are very hot. So, that’s about it for the first day! Here’s a video of the summary of our first day.