Photo credit : William Creswell | Flickr
By PANG SIEW LA
If you asked me to tell you a story about myself, this is how it would begin. A small-town girl from Kelantan had been hoping for a scholarship to study overseas after obtaining excellent results for SPM. However, she did not receive any during the first period of selection. She then went through many hurdles and obstacles before starting her new life at the International Education Centre (INTEC) as a student in their American Degree Foundation programme.
The Public Service Department had offered me a scholarship after my appeal, and I was thrilled. However, upon realising that I would have to be sent to the US to complete my studies, I wondered if I should instead continue my studies at the Pahang Matriculation Centre, a college I had entered after quitting Form Six.
My parents advised me not to make any impulsive decisions. After all, it was my tertiary education. They wanted me to be what I wanted to be, to do what I wanted to do. On the other hand, most of my friends were advising me to take the scholarship. At last, after much consideration, I decided to take up the offer.
As Randy Pausch said, “The brick walls are there for a reason, they are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” And so I learnt that I should work harder and not wallow in any more dissatisfaction. In other words, I had to be responsible for all my decisions and face the consequences resulting from those decisions.
Before I received news about the scholarship, I had dried all the tears caused by rejection upon rejection from countless scholarship providers. When my friends, relatives, and teachers asked me where I intended to further my studies, I went blank.
What did I say to them? I told them that if I were fortunate enough to secure a scholarship, I would go for it. However, if I did not have such luck, I would continue in the matriculation course I had entered. They were impressed by my response and did not question me further. I am grateful to those who cared and worried about me because I realised that without their support, I would not have known who I am today. As the saying goes:
A problem shared is halved. A joy shared is doubled.
While recovering from my disappointment, I realised the importance of friendship regardless of creed and colour. Nurul Hedaayah binti Mohd Hilmi, my academic rival and best friend, is now pursuing her studies at Management of Science and Technology University. She always gives me useful advice, sees my strengths, and encourages me in my pursuance of a successful engineering career someday.
She once told me, “I think God is fair and understanding. He failed you in the first selection process because you chose Pharmacy, which I think is unsuitable for you. However, He gave you the chance to pursue your studies in Engineering, which I think is the right path for you. You are good in Mathematics and Physics, and I wondered why you picked Pharmacy as your first choice.” Her words made me contemplate why I chose Pharmacy in the first place.
To this day, I still do not know the answer and I hope it stays that way. Had I had figured out why, I might change my mind and give up what I have been working so hard for.
Hedaayah, the future doctor, always tells me that she will be by my side no matter which path I opt for in the future. Although the both of us have different dreams, we always support one another. At the time, I wished I had been offered the same preparation centre as hers. Nevertheless, I console myself by saying that friends are mere travellers in our lives.
To me, my life without turbulent periods would have become dull and dark. I have learnt a lot from adversity and I will always make sure that history does not repeat itself. And for now, I am happy and grateful with life in INTEC and all that I have.
Pang Siew La was in the American Degree Foundation Programme at INTEC. She has nothing to share except for a very humble story, which she hopes will motivate someone who shares a similar background with her to do better in his or her life.
Note: The above entry was written in 2010 for What’s After SPM?, published in 2011. This non-for-profit book project is a collaboration between Leaderonomics and a team of young Malaysians. Click here for details on the project and authors.
Click here for more articles.