An Amazing Series of Events

Jun 30, 2014 in , , , , , , ,

The last post I made was about three months ago in March, and I must say it feels a mixture of nice and strange to be back in this blogging space again. I've really missed my blog! A lot of things have happened this year, and it feels wonderful to finally have the time to jot them down here. I tried to update my journal, but somehow it feels different from my blog. This still feels very much like my online home, even though I've been using facebook more nowadays. I'm going to try to work roughly backwards in chronological order, but some jumping around might be required.

I finished my exams on June 11 with Literature In English, which happened to be the very last paper for this A-Level season. Nice, right? I declared my freedom, went home, then went to tiduuuur, as I had been planning for months.

Selfieeee! after my exams. One of my first selfies... hm.

The next day though, I was back in KDU again, bright and early in the morning! Did not have to pass by my exam room though, thankfully. This time was for a ceremony (and I got to go shopping after that)! So, no stress at all, unlike the previous day, which was nice. I had been told about two weeks before that I got two awards for AS (last year's exams): Top in Malaysia for History, and Top in Malaysia for Literature In English. Both are these are really blessings from God.

Hard work does pay off indeed, and God has awesome ways of making sure that happens. It may not happen the same way for everyone, but putting in a lot of effort is definitely rewarding.

When I think about both these subjects, they mean different things to me. Literature is the subject I truly love for A Levels, and it's the one that gets me all excited, from the time I started AS until now, after my whole course. Starting wasn't very easy - it was very gloomy, actually, since we started with Hardy (The Darkling Thrush is as spectre-gray as it sounds) while it was thundering outside - but I enjoyed every second of it. I cracked my head when my lecturer, Ms Hema, told me to think! think! and felt like combusting several times. But it was worth it when my essays finally started to get better; when I got the hang of it, and discovered that even though we initially thought that being so technical would kill our love for literature, it was because I now knew all this that I was able to appreciate what I was reading so much more. The first time I read through the texts, they were just texts. Some, especially A Streetcar Named Desire, blew me away and left me blinking at the wall when I finished it (Ms Hema laughed when I told her my reaction some months later...), but studying them (as scholars, she says) lent me a brand-new perspective that made me fall in love. Some texts were not exactly my favorite, but it was interesting studying them all the same. The same thing happened for A2. In all honesty, I found the texts a little dry when I first read them on my own. But when we started discussing them in class, I got more and more excited. We did Sense and Sensibility, along with As You Like It. There are a lot of interesting things to discuss in both, and along the way, I fell in love with a character or two. We also did Paper 7, in which we don't know the texts we are tested on. Quite interesting, because we were so used to knowing everything about the texts. It was also freeing, however, getting to explore what was given, and having the freedom to hypothesize and argue as I wished (*cough* as long as it was backed by the text). I read interesting bits of literature through this too, and got myself all excited while writing some essays (yes, I'm that nerdy - homework got me excited). After my last paper, my classmate and I went to see Ms Hema. She gave us books to make sure we didn't stop reading (dear Ms Hema: I finished the book two days later and I thoroughly enjoyed it - thank you!). She's really such a lovely lecturer, and I know I couldn't have done it without her. So, just over a year after my first class, I finished my A-Level study of a subject that excited me on all accounts. It is a subject that changed me as a person: for the foreseeable future, I will get excited about alliterations and anastrophes; metaphors and similes; epigrams and aphorisms (these two in particular caused me great grief). But it's also more than that, because through learning this subject, my way of thinking, and perhaps my style of writing have changed. Ms Hema warned at the start that we would see the world differently, and she was certainly right.

History, on the other hand, was a completely different monster altogether. I started it one term late, spent 3 hours sorting through my friend's notes that first afternoon (after driving rather far away to pick them up; on another note, my friend is awesome), one weekend reading an A2 section instead of AS (it seemed like a mistake a few days after, but I didn't regret it later on), and the rest of my waking hours catching up. But it was more than worth it, and I got out the same effort that I put in. I fell in love with the French Revolution, and let its ideals fill me while I studied it. I cracked my head (along with the internet) for the Industrial Revolution, and learned about the Agricultural Revolution too. I met a senior, Livia, at a CUMaS event, and was very excited to meet her because I was struggling so much at that point. She's really inspiring, and made me dare to believe that I could actually do well for that subject. It turns out that my struggle was just part of the journey. History wasn't fun, and it was hard, but it was so worthwhile. Even though Literature gets me excited, History is the subject that I have, well, a history with. To me, it wasn't just a subject, but an experience, and something I had to do. I may not remember the population numbers of Britain in 1801, 1851, and 1901, but I will never forget what the experience taught me, which was that to start at a disadvantage does not mean that you cannot do well. It means working harder, but it is still very much possible. This year, we studied the Cold War, which was very different from AS because it is a recent occurrence, mentioned jam donuts, and Missouri mule truck drivers. Even though I survived AS though, A2 History was still quite hard. But for all the struggles, we still got together during the last class, and had fun with our lecturer. Mr Thiru is over 70, but he is incredibly sharp, and he let me into his class from the start ("new student, there's no way you can't catch up!").

Last History class with the unforgettable Mr Thiru. Can you feel the classroom love? A few classmates are missing though.
The other subject I took was Economics. For this subject, I had an absolutely wonderful lecturer, Ms Elsie, who, even though she had a comparatively large class, still took the time to know all of her students. Because of her, I never had any doubts regarding the subject itself. Whilst History and Literature made me want to tear out my hair and question all I had learned at times, that never happened with Econs, and it's due largely to her teaching. She always had the right answers to our questions (and I don't mean just telling us that the answer to #18 is B), and also foresaw our questions (and a number we didn't think about...). She also let us into her home for Chinese New Year, and a nice number of us happily trooped in, haha. Apparently we were the first in a good number of years to take her up on her offer. We got to see her very large collection of teapots and magnets, hehe. One set of magnets were of various dim sum dishes... That was my favorite, heh. She has a beautiful heart, and a beautiful home too.

After our last Economics class, with the lovely Ms Elsie on the first from the right. These are some of the awesome people that helped me keep my sanity, and they're all wonderful people! :) I hope we meet again.

It's strange now to think that I probably won't have good reason to go into a KDU classroom again - not for classes, at least. I've made a lot of wonderful friends too (not just ones contrived by eighteenth century authors) who have helped me along the way, and taught me a lot of things (and took selfies with me). I made friends not just with my course mates, but seniors who gave me good advice, and my juniors as well. Our very last day of official classes saw us being very loud in the halls... I'm going to miss them too, and I really hope that our paths cross again one day.

Going back to the days before exams ended, however, they were hard. A2 has in general been harder than AS was, especially due to the very simple fact that we had so much less time. We were told that we have six months, but in reality, it added up to only about three, and with this limited time, we had a lot of ground to cover that was deeper than AS. Already having a foundation helped, but only to a certain extent. I thought I was quite literally going to lose my mind several times, and wasn't very mentally stable. But I survived, and I suppose that is what is important. The exams were tough, but some papers were okay. Now I have to wait for results. They will be released in mid-August, and now that I have done the practical work already, I have to pray very hard. I have to meet my offer, after all.

This leads me to another wonderful thing that happened this year: I got an offer to read Law from the University of Cambridge. This is the "absolutely miraculous news" I mentioned earlier this year. It still feels amazing, and I know that God is the only reason this happened. I worked hard and got a lot of help, of course, but it still wouldn't have been possible without Him. A year before I got my offer, I had already started my A-Level course, but definitely wouldn't have foreseen this. My choice of subjects, which turned out to be the ideal combination for Law, was not even my own, but God's planning and intervention. I didn't voluntarily choose History, and had I continued with my original plan, perhaps I wouldn't have come to this point. Then there was my application itself. The personal statement was what I considered the most important part, and I had a lot of help with it (you don't even want to know the number of drafts I went through with a sledgehammer). I still remember taking a day in the middle of trials to work on it. I stared at a blank page for the whole morning before my parents took me out to look at something other than a big white space. Eventually though, it turned out to be alright. The day I got my offer, I was actually feeling physically horrible. I had an 8AM class, and couldn't breathe properly. It was History, and I crashed my way out of the class during the middle of it. I went home to rest, and switched on my computer to do homework. Before that though, I checked my email, and there it was, the decision email. I stared at it, and called my mom. My finger hovered over the email - keep in mind that I was feeling horrible then - and finally, after months of wondering, I saw the decision. That moment was just plain exhilarating. I couldn't believe it at first, but no matter what device I used to read the email, it was the same. I still think it's a miracle that only God could have done.

This particular event also led to another miraculous occurrence. I was invited for a scholarship interview by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), and of course, went for it. We had lunch with some of the panel, following which the interview itself took place. Mine was a little long, and after that, I decided to just leave it to God. But of course, I couldn't let it go, and kept wondering and thinking and worrying if I could get it. Interestingly enough, however, I got the call the day after I finally let go. I remember that it was the day I got back two Literature essays with marks I was quite happy with (perfect marks). While waiting for my transport, I got the call. I screamed (after the call ended, not during) and rushed back upstairs to look for my Head of School, who, alas, had just gone out. A few minutes later, I got another call that made the news more exciting - it wasn't just the undergraduate scholarship I had hoped for, but the Kijang Emas scholarship. About a week later during a ceremony, our Governor, Tan Sri Zeti, officially awarded me with the scholarship.

Picture credit to Justin Lim, my fellow scholarship recipient

It was really inspiring and truly an honor to meet her. Throughout the ceremony, I kept thinking how amazing it was to be there. I had to give a speech on behalf of my fellow scholarship recipients, which was a good experience.

When I look back at the past one and a half years since I first started the A-Level course, it feels amazing to know that I have come this far. My parents have been supporting me since Day One, and my friends have been so awesome too. It has been wonderful getting to know them all, and my lecturers too, who went the extra step. KDU as a whole has been so supportive, and I would never pick a different college. When I started, KDU wasn't perfect and still isn't - what is important though, is that it is constantly trying to improve, and that it is filled with amazing people. My Head of School, Ms Sathya, is one in particular. She is an Iron Lady. She pushed me to do my best while supporting me, and she also championed a lot of facilities for me. I seriously love her for who she is. It's not just my own lecturers who helped me either, but so many others who did not teach me and even the staff, and I know one in particular who always prayed for me. They have my sincerest appreciation and love.

Above all though, God has been guiding me through it. I know that on my own, there is absolutely no way that I could have done it, and it's just amazing to look back and see how God has been in control all along the way. Things may not have made sense then, but they sure do in hindsight.

Now I have about three months before I'm supposed to start my course, and I'm just trying my best to make full use of my time. After my exams, I went to Penang to visit my grandparents and my cousins, which was nice. I did some shopping with my mom with grandma (at this point my mom questions: some?!?!). Got more clothes than I ever got at one go... Oops. Also ate a lot of durian, hehe. Took a detour over the weekend further north to visit old family friends. The result was more food and durian. Last week, the Bank had a pre-departure program, and it was fun getting to know the other scholars, who are all brilliant in their own right, as well as the returned scholars, who helped answer our "burning questions." As a whole, it was a good experience, and I feel very privileged to get to be a part of this now.

Well, that brings me to the end of a rather long post, if I do say so myself. It does not cover everything that has happened this year, because that would be quite impossible, but the main events are here, at least. I shall try my best to post more often about how I'm keeping myself occupied during these summer holidays. So far, it's been busy, busy, busy (diacope!) since the moment my exams finished, which is rather nice because it means I haven't gotten bored yet. I haven't been so busy, however, as to not have the time to read! I've read a few books so far, including a trilogy, and will probably finish Wuthering Heights tonight. I'm building up a nice stack of books that are to-be-read in my room, and I'm really excited to devour them one by one. How that will go, I will also try to let you know. Until my next post, then, and I hope that won't be too long from now!