Friday, May 30, 2008

5 Huge Differences Between School and University

Written by Josette

Ever since I was a kid, maybe around 7 or 8 years old, I’ve dreamt of entering university one day. That’s because my older sister got into university and my family and I followed her there on the first day. I was mesmerized by the whole place. I thought that only the smartest people in the whole wide world only got to study at such a huge place. Do bear in mind that I was a naive 7 or 8-year-old clueless kid at that time, so like I said, I wasn’t that smart yet. =)

Well, I still cannot believe that last year, I got accepted into the same university as my sister! And boy, was I taken aback by the differences I encountered there. Believe me, uni is not anything like school at all. Let me introduce to uni life now.

Difference No. 1


The lecturers won’t spoon-feed you like how your school teachers did. On the first day of class, you’ll only be given the course outline and the reading list. After that, you’re supposed to find all the books in the list by yourself at the library.

I was lucky this semester because the required readings were already available. The photostat lady was there outside my class, so I only needed RM40 to buy the photocopied readings that were already put together and stapled neatly.

Well, my sister said she wasn’t as lucky as university students are today. Last time, it seems that they had to read everything themselves and there was no one who would explain anything to them, it seems. But now, we know how many units we are supposed to take, what courses we have to go for, etc. Everything is prepared ready for us. It’s just up to us, the students, to take the initiative to study hard!

But back to the main topic. Some lecturers won’t care if you don’t attend class or if you attend class late. However, if you missed 3 classes, then there’s a chance that you’ll be barred from sitting for the exams. And if you attend class late, then you’ll have missed what the lecturer covered earlier. They also won’t care if you understand the class or not. It’s up to you to go up to them and bombard them with questions. Some lecturers are happy when students ask questions. It’s a pity that most students choose to stay quiet when the lecturer asks, ‘Are there any questions?’

Difference No. 2


Your timetable will be messy. Unlike school, your classes will be scattered throughout the day and truthfully, I hate it! I really miss those normal 8 am - 1 or 2 pm school hours. Now, my schedule goes something like this:

Monday
9 - 11 am – Class
4 – 5 pm – Tutorial
5 – 7 pm – Swimming
Tuesday
12 – 1 pm – Tutorial
5 – 7 pm – Class
Wednesday
8 – 12 pm – Class
8 – 10 pm – Class

Thursday and Friday are the same. Scattered classes throughout the day. Actually, mine isn’t so bad. There are some people who have classes the whole day, maybe from 9 am until 8 pm with one-hour breaks between classes. Yeah, that’s crazy, I know, but I think they are students from management school or the science stream people.

Difference No. 3


You’ve got to be more independent in university. No mummy to cook you home-cooked meals every day. But if you live near home, then lucky you. If not, you’re stuck with the cafeteria food although some stalls are not that bad. If you don’t want to eat at the cafeteria every single day, you can opt to go to the coffee shops outside the uni, if there are any. They may not be home-cooked but it’s something different at least.

Some students probably have to do their own laundry for the first time when they go to uni. It was quite fun to go to the bathroom and there are people there scrubbing and cleaning their clothes. Yeah, you’ll get backache but you need clean clothes, right? If you’re too lazy to wash your clothes by hand, you can use the washing machines! Yes, there are washing machines but you have to put in coins for it to work. It’s RM2 for one wash. But, I have a friend who doesn’t wash her clothes at the hostel but brings them back home to wash at the end of the week. Ah, the smell!

Difference No. 4


At school, you’ll meet your classmates every day and then get to know them easily, right? At uni, you won’t get to know all your course mates in the first semester. That’s because there are so many of them and you won’t meet them every day. It depends on the courses all of you are taking. Maybe you’ll meet some people more often than others. So, basically, you’re meeting new people almost every day until you won’t be able to recall their names. I only got to know some course mates in my second semester. I’ll try to get to know the rest next semester.

It’s unfortunate that the students still prefer to stay in cliques, like Chinese students mix more with their Chinese friends, Indians with their Indian friends, and Malays with their Malay friends. I would really like to see everyone mixing with everyone. There are some people who do mix around and good for them!

Difference No. 5


In uni, you’re in charge of your own life! Nobody, and I mean NOBODY will boss you around or nag at you. Your parents won’t be there to wake you up in the morning, they won’t scold you if you go online for hours, nobody will force you to go to your room and study, etc. Well, if you have friends who are bossy and force you to study, it’s good because then, you’ll actually study.

If you don’t study, you won’t be able to participate in tutorial classes and then you won’t know how to answer during exams too. If you go online too much, you won’t have time to study. It’s easy to get lost in cyber world because there are free Wi-Fi spots all over campus. But do make sure you spend your time wisely. Don’t get too caught up blogging or chatting on MSN because then, you’d have wasted time that you should have spent on studying.

Another thing: assignments. Your lecturer will give you assignments probably around the 1st or 2nd week of the semester. Then you’ll have to hand in the assignment around the 10th week. So you’ll have about 8 weeks to do research and write out your assignment. Unfortunately, most people (I’m not sure if it’s most people or not but so far, it’s MOST people) only start doing their assignments one week before the due date, which is not very good. Because then, your assignment won’t look good as it’s last minute work and the lecturer might give you a C+ at most.

Therefore, it’s better if you get started on assignments early as you’ll have other things to do throughout the semester, for example meetings to attend, group presentations to prepare, and lots of other things that’ll take up a lot of your time. In short, you’ll be busy.
So…how was that, huh? Did I enlighten you on life in uni? My experience may not be the same as other undergraduates’ but it’s quite general and you may expect something like this when you’re there. Anyway, it’s fun because you can join lots of exciting activities, clubs, societies, and then you’ll meet lots of new people, some you may like, some you may not like so much, etc.

But the most important thing is, you’ll experience new things. You’ll learn a lot from your courses, your activities, your friends and your lecturers. You will learn to stand on your own two feet. University really prepares you for life. But then, don’t forget to enjoy yourself while learning hard at the same time!

Related Posts:
6 Things You Should Know before Stepping Into Local Public University
Orientation in University Utara Malaysia (UUM)
First Year Experience in University Putra Malaysia (UPM)


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Friday, May 16, 2008

A Levels Chemistry Practical

Posted by CLF

NOTE: There's lots of chemistry terms and symbols below, which might confuse those who aren't taking Chemistry. Proceed at your own "risk", heh.

Preparing for the test

  • Candidates are required to bring their lab coat, goggle, exam registration slip, identity card and calculator to the exam. Also, candidates must present at the lab 15 mins prior the actual exam time to avoid any delays.
  • Check the instruments and apparatus before starting the exam. Any damage or leakage must be reported to the examiner as soon as possible.
  • Remember, practical paper takes up 23% of the AS Chemistry paper. It is the paper to determine whether you'll be getting an A or not.

Titration

  • A white tile is provided for better observation to spot the colour change during titration.
  • The burette and pipette have to be rinsed with the solution before use to avoid any contamination and inaccuracy measurement of the solutions used.
  • Value for rough titration is always greater than accurate titration.

Burette & Pipette

BurettePipette

  • Do not place the practical report too close to the titration setup to avoid the solutions spilled onto the paper.
  • Example table to record titration readings:
Titration Rough
Accurate


1 2 3
Final /cm3 26.70 26.30 26.50 26.25
Initial /cm3 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Volume /cm3 26.70 26.30 26.50 26.25

Note: At least 2 readings with the margin ≤ 0.10 cm3 are taken as the experiment result.

Salt analysis - testing for the ions

Test for cations

  • Adding 1cm3 reagent is considered "equal amount". Measurement more than 2cm3 is considered excess.
  • Take notes of the cations Pb2+, Al3+ & Zn2+. These 3 amphoteric ions exhibits special observations in order to deduce the ions. The ions will form white ppt upon adding NaOH drop by drop, and will dissolve in excess NaOH to form a clear solution. When the solution is treated with HNO3, the white ppt will form again. This test is only valid for the 3 ions as mentioned above. The reason behind this is because the hydroxide ions form are insoluble white ppt, and the hydroxide will further react with excess OH- to form a complex ions which are soluble. This can be referred to Le Chatelier's principle.
  • Pb2+ can be distinguished from Al3+ by reacting with Cl- to form PbCl2, an insoluble solution.
  • Some high-charged ions, eg: Al3+, Fe3+ & Cr3+ can exhibit acidic properties, especially when reacting with CO32- to form CO2 gas.
  • Transition element ions, eg: Cu2+, Fe2+, Cr3+ & Mn2+ are coloured solutions. Therefore it's easy to deduce the ions based on their significant colours, for example, Cu2+ is a blue solution.

From left to right, aqueous solutions of: Co(NO3)2 (red); K2Cr2O7 (orange); K2CrO4 (yellow); NiCl2 (green); CuSO4 (blue); KMnO4 (purple).

Coloured-transition-metal-solutions

  • HCl is a useful reagent to test for certain ions. If there's no gas evolved when HCl is added, one can deduce that SO32-, NO2- and CO32- is absent. These 3 anions will react with HCl and gases will evolve. The gases evolved are SO2, NO2, & CO2 respectively. Test for the gases will be listed below.

Test for gases:

Gas Test Observation
CO2 React with acid (CO32-) Effervescence/ bubbles evolved. Gas turns limewater cloudy.
SO2 React with acid (SO32-) Colourless gas with smoking smell, turns K2Cr2O7 from orange to green. (smells like burning matchstick)
NO2 React with acid (NO2-) Brown gas evolved with pungent smell.
NH3 Heating (NH4+) Pungent gas evolved. Turn damp red litmus paper blue.

Note: When heating a solution, it's best to prepare 2 damp litmus papers (red & blue) and place it on top of the boiling tube when heating to test the gas evolved.

  • AgNO3 is the common reagent to test for halides: Cl-, Br-, I-. Observations are white ppt, pale cream ppt and yellow ppt respectively.
  • Heating a solution with Al foil is to test NO3- & NO2-.
  • Ba2+ is the reagent to test SO42- & SO32-.
  • It is possible that the salt analysis part is replaced by organic compounds tests.
  • I've made a slideshow presentation identifying cations. You can view the slide here.

Calculations

  • During calculations, answers which haven't been finalised may be written in 4 or 5 sf (significant figures). Only the final answer for the question need to be rounded up to 2sf or 3sf.
  • If unsure with the significant figures needed for the answer, put 3sf instead.
  • Approximation sign () cannot be used in answering the question unless stated in the question.
  • Reading from burette is always written in 2 decimal places, eg: 25.75 cm3. Note that the 2nd decimal number must be either 0 or 5.
  • Pipette reading is fixed at 25.0 cm3.
  • Thermometer reading is usually written in 1 decimal place figure, eg: 35.4°C.
  • Types of errors:
    • Systematic error: faulty instruments giving zero error (thermometer, stopwatch).
    • Random error: error due to the surroundings (wind, heat).
  • Estimated error for burette reading = half of the smallest division = 0.05cm3.
  • Oxidation states and ΔH (kJ mol-1) must write + or - .


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Thursday, May 15, 2008

How to Boost Your Résumé Or Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Written by Michelle Tam

Imagine sitting before a potential employer as he or she takes a cursory glance at your academic qualifications. You're hoping that your degree(s) will impress them, and before you know it, they're scanning through the rest of your resume. Namely, through your co-curricular activities, participation in volunteer programs, and the like. How would yours look like? Chock full with stuff that is relevant to your line of interest, speaks volumes of who you are as a person -and more importantly, also illustrates how much more useful you can be compared to other candidates - or painfully bare and devoid of pursuits other than academic-related ones?

Regardless of where you are in life at the moment (though if you're reading this, you're probably a student), your resume or CV - curriculum vitae - can always do with a little boost. Not just for job opportunity's sake, but for your own enrichment as well.

The common choice is to do part-time work to while away the months of free time before college/universities, while others choose to DOTA their time away. However, here's a few suggestions of other things you could do to further develop as a mature, well-rounded person. Oh, and quote in your resume too, of course!

1) Volunteer for a cause or a charity organisation.


Want to save the environment? Have a penchant for helping less fortunate children? If you have no obligations or exams looming in the horizon, you can always check out the various NGOs (non governmental organisations) in the country that would be more than glad to have more helping hands on board. There are many devoted to all sorts of causes; saving the environment, the welfare of women and children, animal rights and so much more!

Just do a Google search on local organisations, and you should be able to find all the information you need. Better yet, just go to a nearby centre, orphanage or branch outlet of the charity of your choice to see what you can offer, be it time, money or energy.

http://www.hati.org.my/ is a notable portal that highlights quite a number of charitable movements.

2) Join a student exchange program.


Want to see the world before you're bogged down by project assignments and deadlines? The few months break between high school and college is the perfect time to do so! Most exchange programs require you to fork out quite a bit of money, but if you know where to look and if you're suitably qualified, you might just win a fully sponsored scholarship to experience life as a student in another country!

One student exchange program I tried out for was AFS, which stands for American Field Service. They do have a fully sponsored program to the United States for a period of 6 months called YES which is very popular, but there are many other choices (which you will have to pay for), and you can choose to go to countries like Germany, Japan, Italy and the like for periods of time ranging from 3 months up to a year!

I applied for a year in Australia when I was in Form 5, and after going through the usual routine of applications and interviews, I got the offer, but was unable to accept it as it it would have interfered with my pre-university plans and the fact that I was called up for NS. Looking back, I wish I had just postponed my Form 6, deferred my NS, and not let this chance slip by.

Student exchange programs can be pricy, but should you get an offer, do not turn it down immediately even if you don't have sufficient funding. Try and get your funding from large corporations, private companies and the like. The key here is perseverance and patience, and this in itself will help mould you into a better person.

3) Freelance in areas of your interests.


Let's face it: part-time jobs aren't exactly fun (long hours! cranky superiors! minimal pay!), but most school leavers choose to take up one to earn some extra pocket money.

Freelancing will also earn you some money, but the monetary returns may not be as significant as a 9 to 5 job. On the other hand, when you freelance, you'll be able to do so in areas of your interest. Honestly speaking, how many people fancy waitressing for a living? No one puts down 'serving customers' as a hobby, right?

If you're skilled with setting up webpages, SQL and other such techy stuff, you can set a price on your abilities and market them to people who need to set up their own domains but, say, don't know how to get hosting and other such technical know-how. If you're creative, proficient in languages, and can cope with deadlines, you can freelance as an editor, a copywriter, or even a translator!

By freelancing in your areas of interest, you're getting paid to do what you enjoy doing - a definite plus! You will also be able to quote your freelance work as experience in your resume and it will demonstrate the fact that you know what your strengths are, and how to use them (by gaining employment). Along the way, your skills will improve as well, enabling you to quote higher prices for your services as your experience and list of clients/employers grows.

4) Travel


You don't need to travel to other countries - after all, how many students have the freedom, both the ones granted by parents and financial-wise, to embark on a trip to Europe? However, if you ARE able to travel to exotic locales, good for you. Otherwise, you can start by exploring Malaysia.

Instead of heading for a shopping mall the next time you go to Malacca, take a walk along Jonker Street instead, or while away the afternoon in one of its many museums. Climb up St. Paul's Hill and gaze upon the bright red of the Stadhuys. Go island hopping in Langkawi, eat strawberries in cold Cameron Highlands, laze on the pristine beaches of the East Coast. Malaysia is chock full of beautiful destinations, and it wouldn't hurt to know the geography of your homeland a little better,

Wait a minute - how does traveling boost your resume, you ask? Simple. Let's say you're an SPM student waiting for the STPM intake. There's about a 6 months gap right there. If you don't want to/need to work, and instead use that time for leisure, you're going to have to account for that blank space in which you were not (a) studying (b) gainfully employed.

And trust me, saying 'I climbed Mount Kinabalu, trekked through the jungles of Pahang, explored the historical city of Malacca' and the like, is going to sound much better than 'I took a 6 month sabbatical doing...nothing! Absolutely nothing, to, uh, clear my mind!'.

And last, but not least...

5) Learn a new skill, another language, get more qualifications.


If you want to make yourself more marketable, improve your English and at least learn spoken Mandarin/Cantonese. It really depends on what industry you plan to enter in the future, but proficiency in English and Mandarin will always be a plus for your resume.

If you're interested in mass communications, learn how to use Adobe Pagemaker and Photoshop. If you're interested in the IT industry, brush up your programming languages like Java, C++ etc, as well as keep abreast of the latest developments in the technological arena. These are but a few of the examples of the skills you can pick up during a long break before you start the next part of your academic journey.

Knowing what to improve on is largely aided by knowing what you want to be, or where you want to go. Life is a learning process in itself, but knowing what you want to achieve in the first place will greatly speed up your progress. So figure out what you're good at, and also what you enjoy doing, and see if there's a way to marry those two together (all the better if you're good at what you enjoy!) and you'll be well on your way to success.

Well, that's my take on how to boost your resume, hope those of you reading will be able to benefit from this in some way!

Carpe diem!


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Monday, May 12, 2008

Popular Engineering Courses

Posted by Erlina

Why I choose engineering as my post? Well, it’s because I’m not quite expose to it and many girls thought engineering is kinda boring and just working with machines. They are totally wrong! A lot of boys will choose engineering because of their interests and incomes. Malaysia is developing and no doubt that our country needs a lot of engineers in future. Okay, let me intro about some common engineering courses.

If you are good in your maths and science subjects (especially physics), are inquisitive by nature and have a strong interest in invention, engineering is the course you should consider taking up. There are many types of engineering but the basic principle of all engineering disciplines lies in using scientific knowledge to improve quality of life through inventions. Depending on which engineering discipline you choose, you could be inventing new technologies and processes, products and services, or improving existing ones.

Aeronautical Engineering


If you have always been fascinated by how a large craft can become airborne, you might be interested in this field. Aeronautical engineering is all about making things fly. You will plan, design and test aircraft, missiles and spacecraft. With your knowledge, you design everything from wings to cockpit controls to create the safest and most efficient vehicles possible.

Qualifications of this course are wider compare to the other courses. You can apply for this engineering if you have diploma in mechanical engineering or electrical engineering. Not to forget, you must be a good team player too!

A Pratt and Whitney turbofan engine is tested at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, USA. Image by Wikipedia.
Pratt and Whitney turbofan engine

Biomedical Engineering

Yale labratoryPhoto by something.from.nancy.

This is a relatively a new course that aim to find new ways of tackling medical conditions more effectively and efficiently. Not only will you learn engineering aspects in the course, you would also learn about human anatomy and computational modeling. This is because biomedical engineers have to define a medical problem and find a solution that satisfies both engineering and medical requirements. You will basically learn to design and develop tools to solve problems in medicine and life sciences. The course is not limited to just one type of engineering but also integrates theories from various engineering disciplines like mechanical, chemical, computer and materials.

Chemical Engineering


Chemical engineering involves the design and operation of processes that turn raw materials like fuel, food and plastics into useful products. Besides chemistry, you’ll be studying a lot of physics and math in the course too! Chemistry studies involve study of changes in the composition and the nature of matter and its properties; while the physics component involves studying the forces that act on matter and the maths component studies the mathematical relationship between matter and its forces.

At the end of the course, you should be competent in developing, designing, operating and controlling processes (both machinery and devices). You also will learn about safety and environment issues because chemical engineers are responsible for designs that are economically viable, safe and not harmful to the environment.

A student makes light-sensitive molecules. Photo by believekevin.

Civil and Structural Engineering


Many Malaysia students are interest in this course. This course is concerned about planning and building of infrastructure such as roads, bridges, buildings, reservoirs and transmission towers. The course will teach you about physical and chemical properties of building materials and how they react under pressure or weight. You will analyze structure systems, including beams, frames and steel elements. Civil engineering is broad discipline so you will usually specialize at the end of the course. Some of the specializations that you can choose from are structure, geotechnical, traffic and highway, environmental, and hydrology and water recourse systems. By the way, you must be practical and creative at the same time!

Langkawi BridgeLangkawi bridge. Photo by peter.macdonald.

Electrical and Electronic Engineering (E & E)

Electronic CircuitElectronic circuit. Photo by Storm Crypt.

This is one of the top courses when students are applying for engineering. Electronic engineering is closely related to electrical engineering but while electrical engineering deals more with large-power applications, electronic engineering is concerned with lower-powered electrical systems. An electronic engineering course will give you a thorough understanding of analogue and digital electronics and microprocessor hardware and software. Electrical engineering is concerned with different forms of electrical charge, how they behave and how they can adapted for use. You will study about transformers, complex network functions, electrons, magnetic field and electric fields, and basic electrical measurement devices such as ammeters, voltmeters and oscilloscopes.

Materials Science and Engineering


This specialized course is concerned with study of materials that underpins most of the technology we depend on. In this course, you will learn all types of materials such as ceramics, glasses, metals, polymers, semiconductors and biomaterials. The course will also give you the opportunity to study the behavior of materials under different conditions, analyze the selection of appropriate materials for a given application, and develop new materials and methods to process them into useful objects through research and practical experiments, among other things.

You will need a good IT and analytical skills for this course.

Mechanical Engineering


If working with around machines simply fascinates you, you’ll enjoy this course. In the first 2 years of the course, you’ll study core subjects like thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, solid mechanics and dynamics. Besides that, you’ll also study about mechanical behavior of materials, electrical circuits and computer-aided design, computer-controlled systems and mechatronics. The scope of mechanical engineering is very broad, so you can opt to specialize at the end of the course.

Telecommunications Engineering


Telecommunication engineering is quite similar to electrical and electronics engineering. It brings together elements of electrical and electronics, and computer engineering. The course will cover typical signals (speech, audio, video, and data) and their characteristics as well as key techniques in handling transmission system issues (modulation, coding, multiplexing). You will also learn to evaluate system performance. You will develop skills in electrical circuits and electronics (analogue and digital), modeling and simulation of systems, applications of electromagnetism, optical fibers and communication, photonics, data networks and satellite communications.

Menara Kuala Lumpur, KL TowerMenara Kuala Lumpur is the fifth tallest telecommunication tower in the world. Photo by eshare.

Well, these are the common degree courses that are in Malaysia. I hope this is helpful to those who isn’t sure what type of engineering they should take up. Enjoy reading ~ =)


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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Deadly National Service?

Posted by CLF

Have you read the latest news?

KUALA LUMPUR: A National Service trainee who complained of an upset stomach after having lunch, died nine hours later at a hospital.

National Service Training Department director-general Datuk Abdul Hadi Awang Kechil said Too Hui Min, 18, died on Wednesday at 10.45pm at the Slim River Hospital in Perak. [link]


Another unfortunate event for National Service Programme, the 16th casualty related to the programme since it is introduced in 2004. Based on this statistic, do you think National Service (NS) is safe?

Every year, Jabatan Latihan Khidmat Negara (JLKN) promised to improve the quality of the programme to reduce the number of casualty, but to everyone's disappointment, the plan didn't go that well as they planned.

Welcome to the camp!


Why there is anymore people getting themselves sacrificed for the programme? What is actually about JLKN's plan? Until now they haven't make it clear to the public how they handled trainee's injuries and sickness, and how do they compensate the trainee's family should the worst happened.

From the previous records, we can see that medical issues (sickness and diseases) is the main cause of fatality in National Service, which "contributed" more than half of the figures.

Everyone is concern what can they do in order to prevent such disaster to happen in the future. JLKN is trying to clear up all these messes in order to maintain the pride of MoD; parents are concern whether want to send their kids to the camp in the future; and potential-trainees are questioning how they're going to embrace NS when their time is up.

M-16 rifle training.


One of the mandatory requirement to join NS is the trainee will have to do medical checkup at government clinics nationwide. This however, has been overlooked by the parents and the trainees.

A person can felt absolutely healthy and no problem, but that doesn't mean he or she is perfectly medical-fit to join the camp unless he/she do the medical checkup. There is a potential unknown disease, symptoms or sickness which the trainee didn't realised during their entire life. Well, you can only know what's the problem in yourself if you went for a checkup, that's kinda logical isn't it?

Another thing is that, the NS camp officers (based on my NS experience) doesn't really bother much if the trainee did not hand over a complete medical checkup report. They just treat it as if there's nothing happened.

Of course, they do have "special care" for those asthmatic, minor-disability, or mild cardiovascular problem etc trainees. What I mean by "special care" is that, the trainees will be given a nametag specific their problems which they're required to put on them everytime in or out of the camp. They can be exempted in physical activities (the major fun events). That's it.
The easiest way to prevent anything from happening is disallow them to carry out those potential-hazardous activities.

I can't say that their action is wrong, because sensitive trainees might get "attacked" even if they do the slightest activity, like jogging around.


Trainees at the initial stage of NS (boys haven't shaved yet). Photo by Anan Amri.


The trainees have to be responsible for themselves too. They know themselves the best, what can be possible dangerous for them, and they should not fake any evidence if they're medically-unfit to join the programme. I heard a trainee faked their medical checkup in order to join the programme but eventually something happened, luckily it's not life-threatening but he was brought out from the camp soon after that.

To add up the misery, is the hygiene and cleanness of the camp itself. Most camps are located in rural areas, surrounded by vast jungle, or situated next to a river or lake. This may contribute to more possibilities of contracting unusual diseases that rarely found in urban areas.

To rub more salt on the wound, the medical supplies and services in the camp is not satisfactory. I've heard this year they added few medical assistants in every camp, but I dunno whether that really worked out or not. It'll be good to have those professionally-train personnels around, should the trainee needs any sort of treatment, whether it's a physical injury from the trainings, or fatigue.

Sometimes, there's overwhelming response from the trainees which could keep those personnels really busy to deal with so many patients. In this case, sending the sick to the clinic or hospital would be the best choice. But.... many camps chose to deal with it internally rather than sending the trainees out to clinics or hospitals.

Trainees on holiday break. Photo by Anan Amri.


There is something to do with the attitude of the offers in the camp too. Many times I've seen trainees complaining to their teachers/trainers in the camp they're feeling ill and so on, but eventually they're all turn down by the officers. I know some of them are feinting, well some of them are really ill. It's just that the officers thought that the trainees are acting and therefore they turn down the request for inspection or treatment.

Such attitude of the officers.... is questionable. Sometimes there should be no delay to send the trainees to the hospital, because you know, time decides whether the trainee will be able to make it or not. Any dragging and delay, is possible to make the matter worse. Upon checking the records, some of the victims' family claimed that the camp officers do not send the deceased to the hospital in time, which may be the reason for the tragedy turning from bad to worst. It's sad to say this but it's all human error.

Let us pray that there will be no more such depressing news anymore in this year. It's hard to totally eliminate all the errors, because even if humans tried the best to prevent such thing to happen, it's all up to the person up there to decide one's fate.

Hope this is what every trainees will experience....



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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

UNSW International Competitions Reward You In More Ways Than One

Written by Michelle Tam

Want to pit your academic skills against tens of thousands of students? "Hmm, don't we do that every time there's a government exam like PMR, SPM and STPM?" you ask. Well, want to have fun while you're at it, possibly win an internationally recognised gold medal, and gets loads of co-curricular marks? Then read on!

I'll elaborate on the competition before I explain how it helps boost your co-curricular points.

Being a bit of a competition junkie, I love looking out for language based or essay writing competitions to join. One competition in particular that I have never failed to participate in for the past 5 years is the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia's International Competitions and Assessments for Schools (ICAS). Whew, what a mouthful!

The competition is open to students of various age groups - students from Standard 3 to Upper 6 can participate, with differing levels of difficulty for each age group. You can choose to compete in English, Science, Mathematics or Computer Skills. You're not restricted to only 1 subject - you can compete in all 4 if you want to! I've only competed in English so far, and I have to say that the standards of this exam are very high and quite unlike the English exams we take at school. I'll even go so far as to say that it is harder than MUET, which makes it an excellent exam to take in preparation for MUET. Friends who have competed in Maths and Science tell me that it's quite challenging as well! Nothing good comes easy after all.

You need to pay RM 20 per subject, but don't let the exam fee discourage you from joining this competition! Trust me when I say it's worth it. For RM 20, you get a thick, fully coloured exam question booklet, and when your results come back, you'll get a detailed explanation of where you went wrong, what the correct answers actually are, how you fared compared to all the other students of your age group, as well as an internationally recognised certificate. The detailed analysis of your answers really shows you where your strengths and weaknesses are, which helps highlight where you need to make improvements in!

You will get either of the following :
  • High Distinction (to the top 1% of entrants in each year level in Malaysia)
  • Distinction (to the next 10% of entrants in each year level in Malaysia)
  • Credit (to the next 20% of entrants in each year level in Malaysia)
  • Participation (to all students who did not qualify for one of the above certificates.)

What about that gold medal I mentioned earlier? Well, the Gold Medal is only awarded to the top scorer of each age group for each subject, which means you have to first get a High Distinction, and then be the highest among the other students who got a High Distinction, before you qualify for a Gold Medal.

Out of 34, 603 students who participated in the competition last year, only 97 got Gold Medals in various subjects. This means competition is stiff, but hey, you never know how you'll do till you try it for yourself!

I got a Gold Medal myself, for English, and trust me, it's worth the money and effort. All you have to do is sign up for the competition, race against time for 1 hour, and hand it in. Simple enough, isn't it? I'm not sure of what preparations can be done, because the paper tests you in all manner of fields such as grammar and literary interpretation, to name a few. It's a fully objective paper, meaning no essays. If you really want to prepare for it, you can purchase past year booklets from the website, the link of which I will provide at the end of this entry. Personally, I recommend reading up on the rules of grammar and reading more, as they do test you on your vocabulary and it helps to have a large vocab bank.

Alright, now I'll highlight how it helps you with your co-curricular marks. Those in Form 5 and Upper 6 will probably find this useful =)

My memory's a bit rusty, so this is more or less correct kay. I used this competition in my 'Clubs and Society' section to great effect. First off, the 'Kehadiran' or 'Attendance' part, I used from another activity I was in, which gave me 50%. Then, I also used a post from another club, which gave me 10%. Now, for 'Level of Participation', the ICAS is on an international level, so it was the full 20%! As for 'Pencapaian' or 'Achievement', since I got the Gold Medal, it was 1st on a national level - I got to put 17%!

Which summed up to an astounding...97%! Isn't it amazing? If you have can combine attendance from another club, and a high post from another, and participate in this competition, you already have around 80%, which gets you an A, even if you don't win the medal! Bear in mind that High Distinction and below is not counted as a 1st, 2nd or 3rd placing - which is quite unfortunate.

This is why I highly recommend joining this competition. Not only will you benefit academically, you will also gain plus points co-curricular wise! For those who are interested to join, please talk to your English teachers or the Head of the English Panel in your school or, for those in college doing pre-uni/something equivalent to Upper 6, try talking to your English lecturer or dean. You have to join this competition through your school as even the form which you fill in will require you to state which school you're from.

Here are some dates to mark on your calendar if you're interested in joining :

Science
  • Competition date: Tuesday, April 29th 2008
  • Entries close: Tuesday, April 1st 2008
  • Entry fee: MYR 20.00 per student

Computer Skills
  • Competition date: Tuesday, September 2nd 2008
  • Entries close: Tuesday, July 22th 2008
  • Entry fee: MYR 20.00 per student

Mathematics
  • Assessment date: Tuesday, July 22th 2008
  • Entries close: Tuesday, June 24th 2008
  • Entry fee: MYR 20.00 per student

English
  • Competition date: Tuesday, August 5th 2008
  • Entries close: Wednesday, July 9th 2008
  • Entry fee: MYR 20.00 per student

For more information, visit www.eats.com.my. I hope this article proved informative - all the best and good luck!

Updated on May 14, 2008: Dear readers, please bear in mind that mark allocations may vary from school to school. My previous schools gave out 20/20, which is the best case scenario. The 'worst case' scenario would be 17/20. Do confirm with your head of co-curricular activities - but do join the competition for the many other benefits it offers, not just for the marks kay! :)


► Read more on UNSW International Competitions Reward You In More Ways Than One

Monday, May 05, 2008

JPA Scholarship Interview Experience and Tips

Posted by Nurly

Hallo everyone. Recently, I attended an interview held by JPA for PILN (Program Ijazah Luar Negara). Hence, while the memory is still fresh in mind, it'd be great if i could share my JPA scholarship interview experience for all of you to ponder on.

My JPA scholarship interview was scheduled on the 3rd of april 2008 at 2pm at PICC in putrajaya. Just like other candidates, I was nervous and was trying really hard to kill the butterflies in my tummy - literally speaking. :P

I left home at 12pm and reached putrajaya somewhere at 1230-ish. I was indeed very early but it didn't bother me because afterall, being early is better than late, yes? I checked my name, panel and interview room on the board. It turns out that our names were listed according to our birthdays.

I saw other applicants sitting with their parents at the waiting area. Everyone looked very professional in their attire. Most boys wore black pants and collared plain shirt, only a few had coats and vests to add up to their already-smart-looks. As for the girls, mostly wore baju kurung including the non-malays and there were some who wore collared shirt and 3/4 length skirt.

While waiting for 2pm to strike the clock, I mingled with other candidates. We shared stories about school, spm, dreams and et cetera. It felt better to be able to talk and mingle with others as it helped calm my nerves down and distract me from thinking of the interview too much. Waiting alone in silence is just too agonising for me to bear.

After much anticipation, 2pm finally came. All candidates were asked to go to their interview rooms respectively. After signing my name on the attendance list, I was given a paper with a list on it. I was told to rearrange my original and photocopied certificates according to the list. While rearranging my certs, I realised that there were quite a number of people who had trouble with their certs. Some didn't certify their photostated certs and others didn't have their parents' 'slip gaji' and even the 'surat pengesahan gaji' that was supposed to be printed online.

After that, we were divided into groups. Some candidates had 7 to 9 people in one group but as for me, I had only 5 people in my group. There were 2 malays and 3 chinese. We were the third and last group to enter the interview room hence we had to wait; again. We took the time to get to know ourselves so that we wouldn't feel awkward during the interview. I felt less nervous by then.

Finally, we were called in. The interview room was very small, there were 5 chairs arranged in a curve chape facing two lady interviewers who sat at a desk. All of us wished "selamat petang." to the interviewers. Only one of the interviewer spoke and asked questions. The other lady just sat there and checked our certificates one by one.

The first session was conducted in bahasa malaysia. "Perkenalkan diri anda. nama, pekerjaan ibu bapa, kursus yang ingin diambil dan negara mana." I remembered that a friend of mine who went to the interview a day before I did had to give reasons to why she wanted to go to the the country of her choice. eg: she wanted UK and had to give reasons to why UK and not australia. She also had to list out all her curriculur activities at school. This all depends on the interviewer.

The second session was the discussion that most people feared most. I feared the discussion too because I've always been a weak debater who would easily give up when being condemned by the opposition. However, I was lucky because my group members didn't debate on the topic but just simply discussed it. Our topic was, "Malaysia is promoting itself as a centre of education. So why are all of you applying overseas?" All of us gave ideas like better education, experience, to get exposure, better R&D etc. It was a very relaxed discussion whereby even the interviewer chipped in and added her idea as well. It was very relaxed that I didn't feel like being interviewed. I had no trouble during the discussion because I could converse well in both Bahasa Malaysia and English.

Honestly speaking, whether or not you're good in english, try to speak moderately - not too fast and not too slow. A boy who sat next to me could converse fluently in English. Unfortunately, he spoke too fast (maybe he was nervous) and ended up using some Bahasa Malaysia words and there were at one point when the interviewer herself asked the boy to repeat his sentence as it was too fast and not clear.

About 40 minutes after that, we said our thank yous and left the interview room. I asked my other group members how they felt about the interview and all of us agreed, "very relaxed." We even forgot about all the nausea and nervous breakdown we had before the interview!

So you see, JPA's interview is very easy. I think I did okay for mine but I don't know whether I will be chosen among the lucky 1000 candidates for the scholarship. If i do, i shall thank God for that. If i don't, it's not the end of the road for me.

Interview Tips


Before the interview:
-Make sure you have certified all your photocopied certificates as well as your parents' 'slip gaji', 'surat pengesahan gaji' and so forth. Make sure everything is ready at least 2 days before the interview or else you'll panic. (speaking from my own experience lol)

-JPA's interview has always been in groups. Each year the discussion is a repetition of the previous years' topics. So, you should try to prepare/practice discussing a few topics (with friends or family) that you think is relevant and will be repeated for your interview. Some topics that have been repeated for nearly 3 years:
  1. Maths and Science in English.
  2. How to show your patriotism when studying overseas?
  3. Malaysia as an education centre.
  4. Sports that excel in malaysia.
  5. Qualities needed to be a leader.
  6. Secrets of success.
  7. Discuss on anything you have read from the newspapers recently.
  8. Wawasan 2020.
  9. Modal insan.
  10. Handphones, luxury or necessity?
-Iron your clothes a day before. Seek your parents/family/friends whether the attire is formal and proper for an interview. DO NOT wear jeans and t-shirt. It is very very improper for an interview. A boy from another interview room was kicked out of his interview by the interviewer because he wore baggy jeans and t-shirt and was considered disrespecting the interview.

-Interviews are usually held for more than one day. Thus, I'm sure that you have friends who had their interviews before yours. Call them up and ask them how it went. Ask what topic they got and maybe some last minutes guidelines for you. People, don't be stingy okay? Share your JPA scholarship interview experience and I'm sure you'll be loved more by your friends.

-Mingle with other candidates while waiting for your turn. It is best if you could get to know your group members first before entering the interview room. This helps to reduce your awkwardness during the discussion.

-Pray to God that your interview will go well. It never hurts to pray, yes?

During the interview:
-Put up a smile. Although it's fake *duhh* try to smile as sincere as you can.

-Sit up straight. DO NOT slouch. DO NOT cross your legs.

-Be alert at all times. Listen to the interviewer carefully.

-Speak up. Do not let other people speak for nearly 5 times when you've only spoke once. But speak up doesn't mean you should blab all your ideas during the interview. be tolerant and give other people the chance to speak as well. DO NOT dominate the discussion. If you do, your chances of being liked by the interviewer is very very low.

After the interview:
-Some would say they did okay, some would say they did terrible. It doesn't matter how you did, what's done is done and until a time machine is created, there is no way you can re-do your interview. So don't fret. Be happy because one heavy burden is finally lifted off!

I think that's all from me. I hope that this article is useful for all of you. Good luck and all the best!


► Read more on JPA Scholarship Interview Experience and Tips

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