Celebrating Me

Archive for the ‘Advice & Opinions’ Category

This post is pretty darn long, so you might wanna bookmark it for later reading.  

It’s March and it’s that time of the month that’s especially busy for most school leavers. The SPM results have just come out and worthy students are clamouring and competing for good scholarships. Some are opting for Form 6 while others are vying for tougher entries into matriculation programmes.

2 weeks before, my head was spinning from all the seemingly infinite number of choices of scholarships available. My motto was simple.

Apply for as many scholarships as possible.

That way, the chances of getting shortlisted would be greater whether or not I wanted the scholarship. I know, I know. Why waste time on applying for scholarships I don’t even want?

The ugly truth behind my scholarship application frenzy was because I didn’t want to enter Form 6 at all cost. For those of you who know me well enough, you’d know that before this I wasn’t too hot about attending Form 6.

At that time, I was even seriously considering the idea of accepting a scholarship that I did not want so long as that meant not going to Form 6.

Although I didn’t hold anything agaisnt going to Form 6, the thought of having to go through the whole Malaysian high school experience again, albeit for only another year and a half, scared me away.

Fortunately, all my selfish preconceptions changed about a week or two ago when I had a heart to heart talk to my parents about my choices after SPM. Let’s just say I had to kill my ego and adopt a totally new outlook on Form 6. Not an easy thing to do considering I’m a very stubborn person.

Right now, I have drastically cut down my scholarship prospects to those I only feel really worth it. And that’s like only 2 or 3 from the 10+ scholarships I was going to apply for.

As far as I know, lots of people would opt for private colleges over entering to form 6 anytime. Why the sudden change, you might ask.

The logic behind this “madness” is because at this stage, there are not many real pre-university scholarships out there.

My dad and I went through the terms and conditions of the scholarship awards from private colleges like KDU, HELP, INTI, Taylors’ around Malaysia offering A-levels/Pre-U courses through the lens of a magnifying glass (it’s figurative okay?).

Our findings? Most colleges only offer fee waivers or partial fee waivers, which means students don’t have to pay the college fees.

But if that’s the case, what about other expenses? The “scholar” still has to pay extra supplementary fees, accomodation, food, transport and other personal expenses. There’s not even an annual allowance. You call that a scholarship? So before applying or accepting any scholarship, be sure to read their terms and conditions and also their scholarship “perks”.

But if you’ve got the money, then these kinds of scholarships which only offer fee waivers would be good to go. This isn’t the case for most average income students which this article is targeted at though. Taking loans would be inevitable at one point or another. 

I find the majority of really good and valuable scholarships offered are mostly tailored for undergraduate studies. Scholars can easily obtain a 5-figure annual allowance for their course.

For A-levels or pre-U, the choices available, although many, isn’t as comprehensive compared to undergraduate scholarships.

I’m not saying there are no good pre-U scholarships around. Of course there’re a few where the particular education body is really interested in helping notable students complete their A-levels with distinctions. The allowance given covers everything, from accomodation to transport to annual allowance.

Obviously, these scholarships are tougher to obtain and are quite selective but I’ve got nothing to lose anyway.

Last night, I thought about it carefully and I’ve compiled 3 main choices. For those of you who are still in limbo and haven’t decided on anything yet, reading this article might be a good idea especially in you’re on a tight budget.

1. ASEAN Scholarship

This scholarship is one or the most generous scholarships I’ve come across at pre-U level. ASEAN scholarship covers everything: food, accomodation, lodging, waiver of fees and other personal expenses. They even give you a $500 once only settling-in allowance up front to help students adapt at fist. Best thing is this scholarship comes with NO BOND. As in you’re not stuck to any organisation or whatever. The accepted scholar is given $2400 per annum which means $200 per month.

Now although that sum is quite tight to live off every month, I’m betting the Singaporean government purposely allocated that specific allowance as a way to curb students’ spendings and as a strategy to restrict students’ from wasting their time at entertainment hubs.

Also, whenever I think of Singapore, I think of some cosmopolitian, hip and trendy, modern kinda city. Like damn prestigious wei. No doubt the standard of education there is so much higher than Malaysia’s. Whatever it is, experiencing student life in Singapore is something that doesn’t come very often.

The only qualm I have is that if I do get accepted, I’d only be posted in January 2010 which means I won’t be studying anything this year. Whether that’s a good thing or not, it depends on how I use the time. Also, the duration of course is 2 years. That means I’ll only finish pre-U when I’m 20! Oh gosh…is there an express course?

I suppose I’ll just have to apply first and see how things turn out. Dude, I might not even get shortlisted yet.

So while waiting for the application to be processed, students might as well attend Form 6 first. If you do get accepted, yay you! You’re off to experience college life! Woohoo! But if you don’t, then that’s okay. There’s still form 6 for you to rely on. I mean, contrary to most people’s belief I don’t think form 6 isn’t bad. No point moping.

Those few months in Form 6 won’t be a waste in any case cuz you’d have done some reading up as a buffer. Besides, there’s no harm in doing extra revision up front right?

2. Enter Form 6. Period.

This ex-number one Form 6 hater is going to write an entire article (more like sub-article really) on the wholesome goodness of attending Form 6. So you’d better listen up. This doesn’t come very often ya’ know.

Petty things first:

I’ve weighed out the pros and cons of Form 6 with an open mind. Bad news first: I’ll be stuck in a uniform. Gah…Another thing is I won’t be going through the college experience for another year and a half. Pooh…

I’ve managed to pacify myself with the following good news though. At least I won’t be studying Form 6 in the same high school. It’ll be in a different high school instead (duh!). Change is good. I like change. Besides, the school uniform will also be different than the normal boring blue pinafore.

 Now for the more important, non-petty facts:

Actually, entering Form 6 is basically like getting a scholarship by itself. In simpler words: It’s the cheapest pre-university/A-level option there is out there even if you’re not an A student.You don’t need to pay for any fees except the compulosry MUET fees. Addionally the living cost is way cheaper because you’ll be living with your parents, and

Personally, if you have the results to get into the science stream, I think it would be wiser to opt for the science package even though your interest may lie in arts. This maximises your choices once you leave school. You can always switch to art courses later if you choose to.

But if you’ve opted for the arts package, then you won’t have the privilege of switching to science related careers during your university years. You’re basically stuck with arts, even so more if you had the brains to start off with. You’ll regret it.

What’s more, the science subjects are taught in English.

In Form 6, the arts subjects are only taught in BM. And if your command of English language is weak, you’re good as doomed once you enter university.You might as well apply for scholarships if you opt for the arts subjects and hope for the best. Then at least you’ll be able to study them in English from the beginning instead of struggling later.

But if you’ve got a strong command of English but you don’t have the results to enter the science stream, form 6 is also a good option. I doubt you would have any problem translating BM to English.

I like my choices to be as varied as possible especially since I haven’t decided what to do yet. So after completing Form 6, my options would be very open.

Compare this if I were to take a foundation programme which meant that I’d be stuck in that college until I completed my studies (which would be approximately 5 years in the same university). And god forbid if I decided half way that a certain course doesn’t suit me.

I’ve heard that Form 6 is much harder than matric programmes or other pre-U courses. STPM is one of the hardest examinations in the world if I’m not mistaken. But if you’ve got the brains and confidence, why not go for it? I heard Form 6 also equips students with a stronger base when students pursue their degrees later on.

I suppose STPM has to be tough to be recognized as equivalent to Cambridge A-levels or Australian A-levels. Also, STPM is accepted internationally. And if you’ve managed to obtain excellent STPM results, you wouldn’t have trouble getting shortlisted into prestigious universities.

Whatever it is, I might as well enjoy another one and a half years of high school before leaving for university. And I darn better score good grades in STPM if that’s my choice.

3. Apply for Malaysian Matriculation

One good thing about these matriculation programmes is that they’re by the government and therefore, the facilities provided there are top notch. So rest assured that you’ll be studying in as conducive an environment as possible. Also, these government scholarships are quite generous. Well, it is the government’s money.

Look at the bright side of it though. You’re almost certain to do very well in exams which can lead to pursuing your studies in top local universities because you’re gonna be seriously drilled day in, day out. You get to save one year compared to your other peers too. Also, getting 4 flats would be snap easy.

But of course you’re gonna be seriously drilled day in day out for a complete whole year. As in no dating, no fooling around, no shopping thrice a week, no … fun. If you don’t mind a whole year of your life just studying to ace your exams then that’s okay.

There’s a catch though. Usually these kinds of government scholarships come with a bond. So after you’ve completed your studies, you’re tied down to the government service for a couple of years. For some of you, that sounds okay. I mean, it’s a job. Who doesn’t want a job in recession times?

But for me, I want to be an entrepeneur which means I don’t want to be working my ass off for other people.

Another snag is that these kinds of scholarships are quite hard to obtain especially if you’re a non-bumiputera. Of course other factors come into play too, like your performance in the interview and co-curriculum achievements. Also you’ve got to have excellent SPM results especially for your science subjects.

I’m very confident that I have 2 chances of getting it: Slim and none.

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So to summarize the whole long thing, it’s down to three choices: Form 6, ASEAN Scholarship and Government Scholarships.

I think the real headache should only start after the completion of my A-levels/STPM/pre-university because that’s the time I’m going to be choosing a permanent course, permanent university and all other permanent stuff for the next couple of years (Although I might just ditch everything once I’ve finished my studies and pursue a totally different path. Hey, I like the freedom of spontaneity).

p.s.: I don’t mean to offend anyone in this post. These are just my personal opinions and may not be accepted by everybody. So don’t take it too personally if it doesn’t match with your views. Thanks =)

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So let’s say you’ve decided to take the plunge and go green (as in go vegan). What can you expect from people? To start off with, once people know you’re a vegan chosen-as-a-lifestyle-and-freewill-choice, be prepared to be bombarded by heaps and bags of questions. I’m a vegan and I’ve been asked same questions over and over and over again by different people, I can practically recite the answers in my head.

So if you ever feel like converting to vegetarianism or being a vegetarian-for-a-week wether you want to lose weight, detoxify your body or just because your doctor asked you to, it’ll do you some good to read this post.

I’ve listed down some of the most common questions I often get posed with. These answers are based on my own views and isn’t the same for all vegans.

Don’t you feel any desire to eat meat?

As a matter of fact, no. Really, I don’t. So stop smirking. I was brought up since the day I was born, without meat. That’s why I don’t find it hard at all to resist meat dishes that surround me daily. Sometimes (as in very seldom) I do feel the urge to eat meat, but that’s mainly out of curiosity.

Anyway if I ate meat that just means more animals around the world being tortured in the most malicious, cruel, nasty, shocking way with living conditions so horrific it would be much better if they were killed immediately. No biggie.

If you’re thinking of becoming a vegetarian after years of being brought up as a meat eater, then you’ll probably feel a gnawing, yearning, longing, craving  (I just love using adjectives) desire to eat meat for a very, very long time.

Just joking.

Actually, I don’t know. I suppose it depends on why you decided to turn vegetarian. If you really cared about animals and hated the fact that they have to be slaughtered to satisfy your tastebuds, then the desire to eat meat will be only temporary. But if you were forced to go vege because you had to get rid of that depressing roll of fat before Valentine’s Day, then obviously you’re not commited enough.

In any case, you’ll still need discipline and will power to break your old habit though. But it’ll be worthwhile.

But you’ll be lacking important nutrients found “only” in meat!

Believe it or not, these types of questions are usually posed by “smart”, “intellectual”, “brainy” people. I tell you what. If I were lacking in “important nutrients found only in meat, I’d be long dead by now. These so-called smart people abide by the book rules too much.

The most common deficiency vegetarians are said to “suffer” from is lack of protein. Well, I’d say that’s a load full of bullshit. Yeah, yeah, fish is one of the main sources of protein and yada, yada. But that’s just one source. Protein can be gotten from tofu, soya bean, tempeh, and etc. To know more about other sources of protein, look up wikipedia. I’m no nutritionist.

Another so-called deficiency is lack of iron. Some of my friends have proof that I lack iron at times. That’s because in the morning it’s so goddamn cold my hands and lips become pale (which indicates lack of haemoglobin, which means lack of iron). Another thing is maybe I didn’t eat as many vegetables as I’d like to the day before, so my iron store ran out of supply. For normal people, you’ve got your red meat, but for vegans, we depend a lot to get our daily iron intake from lots of green, leafy vegetables

Conclusion is, vegans are, in no way, deficit in anything. So get your facts right.

I pity you. Vegetarian food is so bland!

Well, if vegetarian food was that bland, I wouldn’t have trouble losing that extra few pounds at all!

And vegetarian food is nothing to be pitied about. The variety of vegetarian food is as wide as meat food nowadays. We’ve got vegetarian fish, vegetarian chicken, vegetarian sausages, vegetarian ham, vegetarian duck, etc. Basically anything that you can think of that’s meat, add the word “vegetarian” in front of it and there you have it! These fake “meat” foods not only look real, it taste really good too! And healthier than real meat too. But still, don’t go and overdose yourself with vegetarian meat if you don’t want to end up looking like a pumpkin. Vegans aren’t immune to looking like Santa Claus, you know.

But obviously, the best types of vegan food are obviously fresh fruits and vegetables and nuts. That’s a no-brainer.

What do you gain from being a vegetarian?

Everything! Just pick up any Vegetarian health book and it’ll list down all the pros of vegetarian food. And mind you, its one heck of a long list! It’s obvious isn’t it? A vegetarian diet nowadays is considered a cleansing, detoxifying diet targeting better health. Nowadays, more and more people are opting to go vegan. You can literally see it with the increasing numbers of vegetarian shops sprouting everywhere like button mushrooms.

I believe that when you eat good food, wether vegetarian or not, you’ll get a mental or physical boost or both. As you know, good food = fresh fruits/ vegetables/ wholesome nuts/grains = vegetarian food = mental/physical boost.

Quite contrary to some people’s belief, most vegetarians actually grow (physically) at a much higher rate. Not sideways mind you, but in height and muscle. Of course there are fat vegans. That’s because they eat more carbohydrates like lots of bread, cakes etc. than wholesome food. But I think most vegetarians wouldn’t end up obese or anything because at that stage, they’d already be very health-conscious. If not, why’d they even bother becoming a vegan?

Currently I don’t use any facial cleanser or whatever (secretly, I’m hoping to buy a skin serum with a ridiculously hefty price tag that’ll make my mom’s eyes’ pop right out of her sockets…heehee…) yet I think I have a pretty good complexion. Not amazingly polished and satiny, but smooth enough. What’s more, I’m using any normal bar of soap that’s totally considered a no-no in the skincare business as it’ll “dry your skin up”. I do get breakouts here and then, but I blame it on the junks I eat like cookies and chocolates and stuff like that. Hey, my mom opted for me to be a vegan. I still have the license to pig out. Hehehe…

And guess what? Before my mom turned vegetarian, her “adult height” was 158 cm (pretty short eh?), but after turning vegan, she actually grew a couple of inches taller! And she’s “supposed” to stop growing when she’s an adult! Of course everybody’s different and so the effects won’t be the same, but I sure am damn confident the results will be on the positive side of the health scale.

Do you like being known as a vegetarian?

Ideally, if I had it my way, I wouldn’t want anybody to know I’m a vegan. Know why? Because people are really annoying busybodies. Some people get so “concerned” about what I’m eating, that they’re literally poking and peering into my food with remarks such as “Wei, you sure this is vegetarian ah?”, “Let me taste your food first. I wanna check wether it’s vegetarian or not.”, “What?! You’re eating an egg?? OMG!! Noooo…!!!” I’m not saying everybody acts like this, but you know certain people.

On the other end of the scale, there’s the super nice people who’ll go out of their way to not eat meat in front of vegans. Personally, I don’t care whether you’re eating a snake in front of me or not (okay, that I do care). But seriously, it’s absolutely fine by me. I’m not going to be offended or anything.

I think you might be wondering why, by Merlin’s baggy ripped jeans, I’m writing this if I don’t want people knowing that I’m a vegan. That’s because chances are, you know me and you probably already know I’m vegan (in the past, I just loved telling the whole world I was a vegan). For those who don’t know me, well… good, let’s keep it that way. Kidding. I suppose I can’t forever keep a secret. Almost everyone who knows me will, at one point or another, find out I’m a vegan.

Some people scorn vegetarians. Once, during lunch, my dad’s colleague invited my family to have lunch with his family. Apparently, he looked down on our family’s vegan choice stating that by being a vegetarian, children can’t grow properly and they’ll have stunted mental growth. And he was showing off his fat son as a “properly nourished child”! My father tried not to snort but I nearly choked on my food then.

LOL, that’s the corniest piece of advice and no doubt corniest piece of evidence I’ve ever heard and seen! Oh well, you can’t blame them for being totally ignorant.

But the fact is when people think that vegetarians are undernourished and they try to talk you out of being vegan that means they really think that they’re doing you a favour. So just let them talk. I bet some of them don’t even know what a vegan is. Best advice is let them yap and watch their ego expand.

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So there you go. Next time you ever meet another vegetarian or ever wonder how vegans can stand being, well…vegans, this is roughly how they think.