Tuesday, April 29, 2008

National Service: Boon or Bane? (Part II of II)

Do read National Service: Boon or Bane? (Part I of II) before proceeding to read the following post written by Michelle Tam.

How was the food? Was there enough for everyone?


I get this question all this time - seems like the quality of food there is a major concern on the mind of most Malaysians!

First off, let's discuss the quantity of food available.

As you may have surmised, we were fed 6 times a day. Breakfast, morning tea, lunch, evening tea, dinner, and a light supper of sorts at around 10.30 pm. For breakfast, there would be stacks of fluffy white bread, slabs of margarine and containers of kaya and strawberry jam and even peanut butter, if I remember correctly. There would be hard boiled eggs and kicap manis. There would also be heavier dishes for those who like a hearty breakfast - sometimes there would be fried kuey teow, nasi lemak, roti canai, porridge, and a few other varieties that would differ and rotate from day to day. For the heavier meals like lunch and dinner, there would be rice and an assortment of dishes like curries, fried stuff, and vegetables and there would always be fruit at the end of every meal. I remember us getting bananas, apples, oranges and the juicy pears that everybody loved. For the teatimes, there would be sweet, hot tea and little snacks or local kuih like currypuffs and even bubur chacha.

It could be said that the food was abundant - only the time to eat it was lacking. There were never any limits - for instance, if you liked the pears and wanted to bring some back to your dorm, by all means load some onto your plate. The girls always ate less than the boys, and boys being boys, their share of food on their side of the canteen would be finished first. If most of the girls had taken their share (it was a buffet style dining concept) and there was lots left on our side, the boys were more than welcome to take second or even third helpings.

Sounds great, you say! Looks like there's enough to go around for everyone! That's very true, but let's look at the quality of the food.

The food might not suit certain palates and tastebuds - I know some people who rarely ate at the canteen and chose to survive on snack food and fast food available at the cafe (a very popular hangout spot - the equivalent of a Starbucks in any major shopping mall) and a burger stall which was also near our dorms. Some deemed the food provided too oily, others too spicy, while some were just picky eaters. Some only appear at the canteen when there's nice food on the menu, like an English breakfast with baked beans and sausages, or a barbecue dinner with succulent lamb cutlets and coleslaw.

It really depends on how selective you are with what you eat, what sort of a budget you had, and what you deem edible. To me, everything was edible...nothing would outright kill you. Besides, it's National Service, not a gourmet festival! Those who came from less fortunate backgrounds wouldn't bother paying extra money for a burger when they could get their meals at the canteen for free. Those who didn't like the food and could afford it, chose to pay to get something else to eat.

What about the vegetarians, you ask? Well, the management at my camp was very attentive. They provided good food for the vegetarians and there would always be a special corner where vegetarian food was served, like dhall and sambal tofu and an assortment of vegetables. Personally, I thought very highly of them for catering to their needs without fail.

So there you have it - don't worry about going hungry or starving at NS!

Hmm, your schedule sounds very packed. What did you do for fun?


I have to say that for the first batch of any NS intake (the ones in January), the schedule is VERY hectic and the activities are spaced rather closely to one another. Why so?

See, the first batch gets the MOST holidays of ANY intake. We get breaks for Chinese New Year, the odd day off here and there, and according to my estimation, I actually served only two and a half months, not three! Therefore, to make sure we had as thorough an experience as other batches, our schedule was decidedly more packed.

The activities themselves were fun most of the time, but during the weekends where we get our handphones back (YAY!), most decide to catch up with their family and friends. See, it's much better to 'gayut' or talk endlessly on your handphone as opposed to yakking away on the public phone while a long queue grows behind you. Others choose to read, play board games or just chill out with their friends.

There was also a TV in the canteen where you could catch up on whatever RTM and TV3 were offering - of course, there was no Astro. You could also hang out at the cafe and chat over a cup of coffee.

How about your religious needs? There's a surau for the Muslims, but what about those of other faiths?


When it came to religion, as far as I know there was never a problem in my camp. The management was always very accommodating. Buddhists would be brought to a nearby temple, Hindus to another temple, and Punjabis would be brought all the way to Seremban (my camp's in PD) so that they could pray at their Gudhwara.

Let me relate to you a personal experience. I'm a Christian, and there weren't many of us in camp. At first, our trainers brought us to a church where the sermon or the prayer meeting was conducted in Mandarin. Problem is, most of us couldn't understand much Mandarin, we were 'bananas' so to speak. So we told our trainers the problem, and the weekend after that, they drove around with us in the van until we found a church where the service was conducted in English! I for one really appreciated the fact that they understood our problem and took the trouble to accommodate our request.

Hmm, NS sounds pretty bearable so far. Surely there were some downs?


Of course there were some less than pleasant parts...but they weren't horrible enough to ruin my entire experience.

For instance, I didn't really agree with the whole 'One person slips up, everyone gets punished' rule. It didn't strike me as fair, and being a Corporal or one of the trainees that were granted ranks, you get scolded before the trainees in your company get their share of the tongue lashing. However, I learned that this proved to be a somewhat effective measure - the jokers and the less disciplined lot, while loving the attention they get when they goof off, learned that others didn't appreciate doing push ups or extra marching as punishment for their deeds. To avoid being disliked by their peers, they learned to behave.

There were also times when everyone got yelled at for the mistakes of only a few. I remember when we were all decked out in our traditional best for a cultural night, when we were punished just because a few people had broken some rules. Imagine girls in baju kurungs and kebayas and guys in baju melayu and kurtas, looking all nice and elegant, having to do push ups. Looking back, it must have been quite a comical sight!

There was also a foul black pool beneath the monkey bars - those unable to make it across would fall into the nasty stagnant water and clamber out smelling like dead fish. Needless to say, most of us had a dip in it as pretty much everyone was useless at monkey bars. However, with the ironically named 'Kolam 100 Bunga' or 'Pond of Fragrant Flowers' (there were many names, but I only remember that particular one) beneath our swinging feet and straining arms, many of us learned. Fast.

Also, there were supernatural sightings, which occurs in almost all camps really. Some on night duty reported unusual coldness at certain part of the camps, while others swore they heard boots clomping on the roof of some dorms.

For those who dislike physical labour like mopping or cleaning out the bathroom, NS will be difficult as we have gotong royongs quite often where everyone is expected to pitch in. Those who are handphone dependent or Internet addicts will also find themselves restless and feel 'cut off' from the world.

Last, but not least, apart from my friends and family back home - I missed my washing machine very much. Remember people, the TV you can do without, while a washing machine really saves you a lot of time and effort! We did have a laundry service that washed our class clothes, sports clothes and famous 'blue zebra' uniforms, but this was tricky - if you don't time your laundry correctly, you'd have to wait for the laundry truck to come, quickly haul the big heavy laundry bag into the dorm and quickly find the uniform set you need! This happens sometimes when people forget to send out one set of uniform for washing yesterday, wear a nice clean set today, then realise they don't have a set for tomorrow!

What were the parts of NS that you truly enjoyed?


Now that you know most of the basics of NS, let me remind you of the good that makes me recall it with fondness.

My trainers were very sporting. Sometimes, when we have packed lunches in the bus on the way back from community service trips, we'd ask them to let us have a picnic of sorts, to let us eat at the beach. When we weren't hard pressed for time, they would agree and join us for lunch, and we'd scamper off to the beach happily, find a nice picnic table, distribute the packets of food and eat together with the wind in our hair, the sea right before our eyes and golden sand beneath our feet.

Sometimes, the female trainers would join us girls for a giggly gossip session at night, just joining us in our dorms in their pajamas and bringing along their bolster, and it would be SUCH fun to hear about previous batches, how much naughtier our batch is even though the ones before were no angels, share snacks and laugh and talk into the wee hours of the night. The trainers were still authority figures, but more importantly, they became our friends.

I really, really enjoyed the Community Service module - there were many activities, but I remember helping to clean out the Balai Raya of a village together with my friends, walking from door to door in another kampung to talk about the dangers of Dengue fever and handing out pamphlets so that the kampung folk would be reminded of how to prevent the Aedes mosquito from breeding.

I got to meet people from all walks of life, from all sorts of backgrounds. There were extremely rich people, and extremely poor people whose parents could not afford to visit them. There were those hoping to enter university and talking of education plans after SPM, while others spoke of returning to jobs as a factory worker or as a salesgirl. I got to know the person behind the stereotype - a Minah Rempit or a female illegal racer, who really was quite sweet and had a wicked sense of humour, and scars on her knuckles as a testament to the accidents she got into. A boyish girl who got into trouble for her penchant for the fairer sex, but was really a very down to earth person who only got defensive and abrupt when people questioned her sexual orientation.

The numerous inter company competitions were fun and fostered a healthy sense of competition as well as a loyalty to one's company. Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta. We all had our own company songs, cheers and flags, which we had to guard zealously. If any company lost their flag i.e. left it unattended and let a trainer take it, the entire company would be punished. We were all fiercely competitive, striving to be the best in any activity, be it water rafting or jungle trekking.

We got to see some cool things, like a huge weaponry and army vehicle exhibition. I remember looking at the gleaming barrel of a machine gun on display, and watching another soldier demonstrate how a rifle is properly held. One of the best memories I have is actually being inside an armoured tank, and emerging from the top together with two other friends, laughing exultantly in the sun as we waved to our friends and the trainees from other camps while the tank rumbled around in a big circle. This was an honour and a privilege available only to a few due to time constraints, and those with ranks were given a chance to ride in the tank - a chance which I will always cherish.

Others had a chance to be on a ship at a naval base, which must have been awesome. I got to see JPA RELA members scaling down a tall tower in a jaw dropping display of skill and bravery as they demonstrated a rescue attempt for civilians trapped in burning buildings or those unable to make it to safety. I got to see the inside of a fully equipped ambulance, the fireproof gear of firemen and the tools they use. I trekked through the jungle with my company behind me, each of us holding on to one another's belt in a demonstration of faith. I had a parang in one hand, and the only lantern we had in another, while another one of rank navigated our way through the leafy darkness with a compass.

We battled the choppy currents of the sea as we rowed our rafts, yelling out a count in unison to help us glide through the waters. We did the camp's signature 'Chicken Dance' totally unabashed, enjoying ourselves en masse as our trainers turned up the song on the radio. We slept beneath the stars, waded through mud, frolicked in the sea, clomped through swampy marshes in jungles, built glorious bonfires that kept away wild animals, were scared off by hundreds of fire ants, but helped each other set up camp in a different location.

Sometimes we got into arguments, sometimes a company declared another company to be their rival for the champion's cup, and sometimes our competitiveness got the better of us, but on the last day, we all cried like babies as we waved goodbye to our friends. I remember super macho guys weeping quietly as they hugged their good friends tightly, girls taking pictures together with puffy red eyes and half-happy-half-sad smiles, people exchanging handphone numbers and e-mail numbers at the very last minute. I remember looking up at a bus, with a boy gesturing the universal 'call me' sign from behind his window, and how we laughed as he mouthed his number slowly while I took it down! I watched the buses depart from the compound one by one - being a Serembanite, my parents picked me up, while my friends from Johor and Malacca returned to their hometowns by bus.

I have a whole treasure trove of memories, mostly good, and I hope I've managed to give you readers a clearer idea of what goes on in the 3 month program. It was truly an unforgettable experience for me, and if you guys get the call (and if it doesn't clash with your tertiary education plans), I entreat you to give it a go. Apart from having what would hopefully be a great time, you'll learn a whole lot of things, like independence, resilience, patience, a greater understanding and empathy for people from all walks of life, a reinforced sense of unity - and, of course, compass reading skills ;)

Carpe diem!


► Read more on National Service: Boon or Bane? (Part II of II)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Toyota Eco Youth

Toyota Eco Youth LogoI think frequent readers of this blog (read: you) will notice the banner featuring Toyota Eco Youth by now as the banner is being featured from April 13 till end of May. We know and love Toyota, but what is Toyota Eco Youth anyway? Read on.

“Today's youth is tomorrow's future”, this is what Toyota strongly believes. And because of this belief, Toyota gives back to the society by launching Toyota Eco Youth programme to instill environmental attention in our youth as the right perspective can change the world.

The Toyota Eco Youth (TEY) programme is an exciting competition involving 16 teams from 16 schools across the country, each representing 1 state and Federal Territory. Each team consists of 8 students and 2 teachers. The challenge of the competition is simple: to reduce environmental impact in their respective schools. Sounds very interesting, right? How I wish I were able to take part during my secondary school years.

The TEY programme was built with the purpose of instilling eco-awareness and promoting environmental conservation in school children. UMW Toyota Motor believes that the more we know, the more aware we become, thus fuelling our motivation to act responsibly toward our environment.

The students involved have reported an increased level of awareness for environmental conservation, while vouching for the Problem-Solving Approach as an effective and practical strategy. The Department of Environment has also invited TEY into the “Sekolah Lestari” umbrella, a joint venture with the Ministry of Education.

Toyota Eco Youth 2008 PlayersThe players of 2008 TEY competition have already been chosen and are contesting for lucrative prizes with RM10,000 as the first prize. Is your school one of them? The TEY 2008 competition, which lasts for eight months, kicked off in mid of February this year with a training and workshop session to introduce the participants to the Problem-Solving Approach and existing environmental issues in schools. In the next stage, students submit proposal papers of projects to combat these environmental issues within their respective schools. Their finding will be verified by a visit from the organizing committee, who will also give them pointers on how best to proceed. Selected schools are given a RM1,000 grant by Toyota.

Even though most of us are not the players, we can declare our support by spreading the word about TEY programme or even just downloading cool desktop icons, email sign-offs, screensaver and wallpapers from its official website.


Visit Toyota Eco Youth official website today!

► Read more on Toyota Eco Youth

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Post-Graduation Work Permit for International Students Studying in Canada

Posted by jjme

Good news for prospective students who are looking to further their studies in Canada. Recently the Government of Canada introduced changes to work permits for international students, making Canada more attractive for skilled individuals.
"Effective immediately, and for the first time, these international students would be able to obtain an open work permit under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program, with no restrictions on the type of employment and no requirement for a job offer. In addition, the duration of the work permit has been extended to three years across the country. Previously, the program only allowed international students to work for one or two years, depending on location."

Additionally, this change will increase the opportunity for international graduates to become permanent residents of Canada. The immigration process is very strict and cumbersome, but I think the government is slowly taking steps to increase the chances of attracting foreign skilled workers to contribute to the growth of Canada.

Link to official announcement by the Government of Canada --> HERE.

A side note:
When I first came to Canada for post-secondary education, international students were not allowed to work legally in Canada. Yes, not even part-time jobs to help pay for school fees and expensive living costs. It's a tough student life, especially without being able to work part-time as in Canada. Apart from this recent change, last year the government introduced an "On-campus work permit" that will allow foreign university students to work part-time jobs. The validity of this permit is tied to the study permit, but at least now students can legally gain additional income to support themselves for the time being. Phew! I am glad to see these positive changes :)
End side note

In short, fear not for post-graduation employment woes in Canada, if you are or planning to be an international student . I believe that working in Canada is an eye-opening experience and the work culture is totally different to that of the Malaysian workforce.

P.S. - If you would like to know more about living and studying in Canada, I will be more than willing to share that information here. I am usually very busy at work and I hardly have the time to blog ... sorry! And so it will be more convenient for me if you request a specific topic. At the same time, I will still try my best to update with new posts regularly.

Stay tuned!


► Read more on Post-Graduation Work Permit for International Students Studying in Canada

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Khazanah Scholarship Interview Experience

This guest post was written by Amelia, who blogs regularly at her personal blog.

Here are some tips for those who are going to the Khazanah scholarship interview (I'm not too sure when the interviews end, although due to my very late blog post, it may already be over! Forgive me!) at Mandarin Oriental KLCC:
  1. If you are early and very rarely in KL, do drop by the Matahati exhibition in Galeri Petronas; viewing art has a calming, sedative effect (although there are a couple of disquieting, unnerving art pieces on display) and will help you to calm down before the interview. The pieces are all wonderful, unique, and in a word, breath-taking.
  2. Do take advantage of the fact that your interview is in a 5-star hotel! In the quarantine-cum-waiting room that I was ushered in, fancy hotel food (spinach risotto, masala chicken with dahl, bread and butter pudding with condensed milk) was set out for the shortlisted applicants to enjoy, and not many ate; maybe because they were too nervous?
  3. Don't worry too much about getting your original documents in order because the judges don't really look at them. I'm not asking you to plagiarise your credentials, but don't tear your hair out if they're not in perfect order!
  4. Use the toilets. Even if you don't have to go, just use them. 5-star hotel :) 5-star toilet. Enough said.
  5. Speak to all the other shortlisted applicants. It's fun to make new friends, and chances are, you're going to meet people who have common interests, because we're all such nerds, aren't we? :)

Now, on to the real interview; I was scheduled to go for a 2pm interview on the 8th of April, and asked to register half an hour earlier. However when I arrived, the morning session wasn't done yet, so I was delayed by about 40 minutes.


Eventually I was ushered into one of the three interviewing rooms for an individual interview. My panel consisted of two interviewers, the man was from the Human Resource division of the company, and unfortunately (being horrible with names) I've forgotten the woman's name/job post. They were both extremely friendly and began by joking that they were really tired because they'd been interviewing since morning and had to have lunch, which was why my interview was postponed.

The first question they asked was to tell me about myself. Unfortunately I didn't do too well at this bit because my mind just went blank. All I could think to talk about was my general family structure (ie. I'm in the middle child, my sister is overseas....and that's it) They kept indicating for me to tell more, but somehow everything slipped my mind (excuse the venting of frustration in such a public outlet, but doesn't every interview seem to have gone disastrously upon hindsight?) and I couldn't elaborate any further.

Most of the questions that they asked were related to my co-curricular activities, asking me to elaborate on certain activities that I'd done ie. choral-speaking, editorials, writing. I told them that I loved writing upon which they asked how I planned to develop my interest (another mind-blank moment; I've noticed that the interviewers like to hear more and more. They're favourite phrases seemed to be "Mm-hmm, what else?" and "Okay, please continue", even though I'd already racked my brains for content).

When I told them I wanted to do a double degree in accounting and communication in Monash University, Australia they were open to the idea (Khazanah seems to be pretty open about the courses that they send their scholars to do, which is definitely a good thing for those pursuing less conventional degrees) and we talked a little bit about foreign education, Australia vs Malaysia (I used to study in Australia for a bit). However, because Khazanah has a track record of sending scholars to America and UK, I was told to choose between those two (I picked UK because they're accounting processes are similar with Malaysia's)

In the lulls during conversation, where I tried my best to smile, and be cheerful (note: at this point I had this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that I had made the worst impressions possible with my pregnant pauses and basically short answers, but I tried to redeem myself, desperately, if you will) the judges joked around with me. The woman commented on my Scrabble certificate and said that she and the other judge planned to go play at a Scrabble tournament that evening because they had 'no life'. They were really very jokey and down-to-earth, which lent a nice informal atmosphere to the interview.

Nearing the end, they asked two traditional interview questions. The first one was, why, out of all the other equally qualified applicants, I stood out. Why I deserved the scholarship above the rest. Once again, mind blank. But I tried my best to wing it, saying that I was very passionate and...(that was basically it, Tuesday was Major Mind Blank Day) So it really pays to prepare for these sort of questions! The second, and final question, was "Who is the most difficult person that you have ever had to deal with?"

My answer was that I was the most difficult person I'd ever dealt with, simply because I and I alone am fully responsible for my actions, thoughts and decisions, and that there were very many things I'd done, or flaws I had (which they asked me to elaborate upon) which I'd love to deal with, but due to some weird complex, I hadn't. I conveyed the frustration of wanting to better myself but being faced with the bitter disappointment/knowledge of being 'only' human.

I have no idea if that was a good answer or not, but it was the only one that I could go on and on about, so I suppose it was good to end on that note. That concluded my interview, at which point they asked if I had any questions to ask them. I enquired about the selection process and they said that the shortlisted applicants will be selected based on how they carry themselves, their body language and etc (there was no mention about financial need, though we were asked to bring our parents' payslips) Apparently 4000 people applied for this scholarship, though I'm not sure how many got shortlisted. As for the interview process; if I make it pass this round there are 3 more selection rounds to go through - one group interview, and two with management (if I'm not mistaken she mentioned meeting the board of directors)

So the Khazanah scholarship is obviously a very intimate one (in the sense that the BoD are directly involved in the selection process), apparently last year only 15 were given out! I'm not sure if I did too well at the interview but I really did enjoy myself as the interviewers were funny, friendly and very young at heart :) To recap, the main issue to them was why I was different from alllll the other applicants with similar achievements. They were also pretty interested in knowing whether I'd applied for other scholarships and if I'd managed to secure any (I'm not sure if having secured any would be a good or bad thing. Your two cents?)

That's the end of my rambling guest post for today; to those of you who went/are going for this interview, I wish you all the best! :)


► Read more on Khazanah Scholarship Interview Experience

Sunday, April 13, 2008

NS experience

Posted by CLF

Like many young Malaysians, I was chosen to join the National Service (Program Latihan Khidmat Negara) in year 2007. I was chosen for the 2nd group (March-June), and placed in Kem Wawasan near Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

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Chosen for NS, some people will be dancing in joy, while some will brandish their agony and despair for being "forced" to join the program. It's a love or hate affair, like many thing else. For me, I'm 50-50 when I realised I was chosen.

On the negative side, I was thinking will it be waste of time to spend 3 months to train in the camp when I can learn and explore more new things before continue studies?
On the bright side, I take it this is a chance to get to know more people, as well as experience living in a military life (not close to it actually), this will be the only chance in my life I'll be doing this (unless I'm joining the army, which is very unlikely).

My attitude towards NS changed, soon after I came back from it.

First of all, many people lash out negative feedbacks on this program, saying it's a waste of time, energy & resources. Heh, only those who didn't join the program see it for themselves will comment in this manner. I'm standing firmly for my stance, National Service, PLKN, is not a waste of time, energy and resources.

If you look at the statistics from JLKN (Jabatan Latihan Khidmat Negara) since the 1st batch in 2004, more than 90% of the trainees agreed that the program is beneficial as they learn lots of new things there.

So, what I actually gain from NS? Heh, I think the most important lesson I learn is mutual-respect between one and others. Although we're living in a multi-racial country, there's still unavoidable racial slurs passing around, including in NS camp, I believe many trainees had the same experience while staying in NS camp.

Well, for the case in Sabah camp, at the beginning it's quite obvious that trainees from Semenanjung will gather together while the local Sabahans are with their own kin. After some time, you'll see all of them will be mixed up together. Same goes to the minorities too, the most important is that all of us could get along well together. Without this, I dare to say you wont be able to enjoy the best out of NS!

Talk about those trainees from different racial background, we also couldn't forget religions as well. In Sabah, the Christians are "categorised" into few types (should I use this word?). There's the usual Anglican, Roman Catholic, Protestant, as well as their native SBS, SSB etc Christianity "types". Until now I havent really figure out what's all about, but I only know that some of their worship time is different, say, we're quite clear that they go for Church on Sunday, but for some of the Christians in Sabah, they worship on Saturday or Friday. I regret I did not ask my friends more details about the religions back then. :S

With all the diversity among the trainees, it's kinda surprising to see how all of us can get along well together. Here, the role of the trainers/teachers is vital. Kudos to all the trainers/teachers in Kem Wawasan, whose able to address our problems well. We're lucky to have great trainers/teachers there to help us out, especially those who're far away from home (well, how can you go back to Semenanjung from Sabah other than AirAsia? Swim? lol). Again, the trainers & teachers are the only place where you can channel all your problems.

Bear in mind, no matter how you complain to your parents, they cant really do anything to help you other than consoling through the phone. Unless the matter is serious, the parents can try to approach the camp's administration, or the person-in-charge of JKLN, Mr Abdul Hadi Awang & Mr Lee Lam Thye.

Another thing bout the camp I went..... the infrastructure isn't perfect. There's no direct electric current supplied (we're running on generators), and there's no chlorined water supply. The camp is located besides a river (Sg Papar), so that's our water source. There's a pump and filter to clear the water before it is channeled to the water pipes. However, I said it's imperfect, and the water supply is one of everyone's headache.

Sometimes, the pump stalled, means we wont be having water supply to do daily chores, how scary... And sometimes, the filter spoilt, making the water murky and dirty. We've to bear the circumstances and we've to use the "teh tarik" water to do things, use it to wash our cloths, and to bath with it! OMG!!

Hahah, when I think of that now, I guess that's some sort of weird experience. I dont really think the other camps will have problem like this, or maybe I didnt heard of it? Heheh.

It's quite unfortunate for me as I've to leave the camp earlier in order to continue study. I think I only stayed in the camp for 7 weeks (close to 2 months), and then I was sent back to KL.

When I first get into the camp, I've plans to "escape" from it, but the tide changed direction when I'm close to end my NS life sooner than expected. I'm a little regret to get out from there so soon, because the best of NS is the days before the upacara penutupan (closing ceremony). :(

I'd like to share with you some pics I took when I'm there.

Our weekly time-table. This pic is taken on the day I'm leaving, 6th May. (click for full view)

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Hari Terbuka, Open Day for the camps.

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Boys' nightmare lol.

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Rainbow over the camp admin office.

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We've to keep our boots shining all the time by polishing non-stop!

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M-16 Rifle practice.

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Community Service at Beringgis beach.

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"Datang dengan paksaan, Pulang dengan kenangan." Our camp's motto. :)

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A video tour to Kem Wawasan.


Rehearsal for the Open Day, featuring Jay Chou's "Fearless".


Last word from me, joining PLKN is really an unforgettable experience. I think it's a good training ground to build up a person's independence, and somewhat prepare to face the world out there, the life after school.

Hope you enjoy this post. :)



► Read more on NS experience

Saturday, April 05, 2008

National Service: Boon or Bane? (Part I of II)

Written by Michelle Tam

I had the fortune (yes, fortune) to be among those selected to undergo National Service (NS) back in 2005, and ever since then, I've been firmly convinced that NS was a boon for me in many ways.

I know that many of you probably have some sort of distaste for the program - it's hard not to when you hear all sorts of horror stories from some who have undergone training and utterly hated it. However, since I had a pretty good time during my 3 months there, let me highlight some of the better parts of NS that become forgotten in the deluge of negative news about it.

This will be in the style of a FAQ - these are the questions I most commonly encounter from those curious about NS, so here's hoping it will help those of you who have been selected or are just plain curious about NS!

Where did you serve?


I served my 3 months out in Kem Rachado Bay, located in Tanjung Tuan, Port Dickson. It's supposedly one of the smaller camps in Malaysia - the canteen was barely a minute away from most dorms, and our training grounds and obstacle course were close by the dorms as well. One of the unique features of my camp was the fact that it literally straddled two states - one half of the camp was in Negeri Sembilan, and the other half was in the state of Malacca! Also, we were within walking distance of the beautiful (but purportedly dangerous) Blue Lagoon beach, which we used for our water based activities, unlike other camps which had to utilise man made pools.

What was your daily routine?


My daily routine was pretty much the same from Mondays to Fridays, and if I remember correctly, Saturdays were 'half days' and Sundays were days of rest.

We would be awakened by the azan, or the call to prayer, for our Muslim friends right before dawn, and while they shuffled sleepily to the surau, the rest of us non-Muslims would get ready for the day. After they were done, we would gather at the assembly area to sing the NS anthem and the Negaraku, and also recite the Rukunegara, if I remember correctly. After that, we would do our morning exercises, which would vary from simple twist-here-twist-there stuff, push ups, star jumps, to lots of running. Think running on the beach looks good in romance flicks? It's actually quite torturous and worse than running on concrete roads - double the effort to lift yourself up after your feet has already sunk into the soft sand.

After the morning exercise, we would go to the canteen for breakfast, before rushing off to shower and freshen up before morning classes began. There were several modules for our classes, some of which being Character Building, and another I remember was Nation Studies or Kenegaraan'. There would be a short morning tea break after an hour or so of class, and after that tea break, we would continue our classes till lunch. After lunch, there would be the physical training modules like march pass and obstacle course training which will normally take up the whole afternoon, before we indulge in some 'lighter' activities in the evening, like netball for the girls and sepak takraw for the boys.

After evening sports, we would freshen up - bathrooms are almost always full, because with the oppressive heat and the different sets of uniforms we had to wear, it got really hot and uncomfortable - and adjourn for dinner. ,After dinner, another round of classes would begin before we had our evening tea at around 10.30 pm, with lights off at 11 pm. But the day isn't over yet - at least, not for those on night duty. Those on night duty would have hourly shifts until 4 am to round the camp and make sure everyone is in bed and not, say, attempting to scale the 12 foot wall in the obstacle course.

Continue reading: National Service: Boon or Bane? (Part II of II)

Related link: Official website of Program Latihan Khidmat Negara (PLKN) | Photo by owaief89


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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

JPA Scholarship 2008 Interview Experience

The post below was written by wilson, an active member of Student Malaysia Forums. He blogs regularly at his personal blog.

Hihi, my name is wilson. Below is my experience for the jpa interview 2008.

On second of April, my father drove me to Pusat Konvensyen Antarabangsa Putrajaya (PICC).

The place is not difficult to find. In fact, my dad and I had gone there on last Sunday to determine its exact location and have a look at the building, so that I can prepare myself mentally. Yes, I would be having my jpa scholarship interview there.

My interview time was on 8am, but I had reached PICC at 7am. For one, I am afraid of traffic congestion (in fact, it's quite silly to worry about that...). Secondly, being early is much better than being late.

I went into the huge and rather-grand building and followed the directions along the way to the interview place. I then checked my panel and interview room. It's panel 5 and room 15. I put my signature beside my name and then went outside to take fresh air. I was together with my classmate. So coincidentally, we got the same interview time. This is called fate!! Haha.....

The sceneries out there is really beautiful. To the future interview candidates, You should actually bring along your camera to snap. How can you possibly miss it? Furthermore, this helps you relax and stay confident.

Finally, the waiting time passed and it's 8.

My friend and I went separated to our respective panels. I registered at table 5. By register, I mean I just had to sign on a paper beside my name. Then I began arranging all my certificates according to a sequence that was listed on a paper given to me. After submitting the photocopy certs, I had to wait again. Oh no! I badly wanted it to be over, as my heart was thumping faster and faster, harder and harder. I think my blood pressure was shooting up that time, will that be 150/110? Wow, this blood pressure is definitely incredible!

Eventually, it's my turn. The interview was-as usual- done in groups. A group of eight candidates including me went inside. The room is not very big. And the distance between the interviewers and us is just about 2 to 4 meters.

We started off by introducing ourselves one by one in Malay language. It's very kind of the interviewers to tell us what to say when introducing ourselves. But some of the interviewers won't do so, as what my friend had experienced. This was part 1. I talked about my family, my co-curriculum participation including the competitions that I took part in. In my opinion, a very important part (VIP) when introducing ourselves is to mention the reasons why we want to choose that course. Tell honestly and just bluff a bit if you want to.

However, I did not bluff at all. I said i want to do medicine because that's really my dream and passion since small. Then............blablabla........ I was quite nervous. And when I talked about my ambition to be a doctor, my sound changed a bit and it seemed that I wanted to cry. But I wasn't actually so. Perhaps, it's an effect being over-nervous. Honestly, I have no idea whether this is good or bad.

Next was part 2: group discussion. Our topic was "Handphones, a luxury or necessity?" Every one of us had to say something. Don't talk too much or too little. Be moderate. If you are not good in spoken English, talk slowly as you need time to convert your thought into words. For the english-ed people, the ideas and words all flow into their minds because they are already used to speaking English. Never try to talk fast to pretend that you are good in spoken English. You will only end up in trouble. This was what I noticed during the interview.

Finally, after about an hour inside the room, we are "released". I was so relieved.

I think I did not do very well in the interview. I just have to pray that I would get jpa scholarship offer. But I have also prepared for the unwelcome result.

Lastly, good luck to those going for scholarship interview.

Related link: Read Amelia's interview experience on her personal blog too.


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