Scholarships – First of all, what do you want to do?

Since we’re currently in the season of scholarship application, let’s talk about scholarships – especially since some SPM leavers must have already received call-backs from their prospective sponsors by now.

The views that I will share on this article are rooted from my observation as a former scholarship recipient – I graduated 5 years ago though, so my views may not be very current.

First thing first, ask yourself:

What do you want to do?

 

As cliche as this may sound, it’s really important that you know what you want to do. What are you passionate in? What sector do you want to venture into?

With the dwindling number of scholarships year by year, the old adage “beggars can’t be choosers” is becoming even more relevant to many.

For example, an SPM leaver, lured by the possibility of spending a few years overseas, may forgo his dream of becoming an architect and do engineering instead.

“Asalkan dapat biasiswa pergi UK, kan?”

While the seemingly pragmatic decision often makes practical sense, it also tends to end badly.

Tolerating that one subject that you dislike, let’s say Physics, and still score that A+ in SPM, is one thing. It’s just one subject, out of nine. You can still do lots of past year papers, commit yourself to some serious rote learning, and try your best to get the result that you desire – with a high chance of success.

But tolerating 4 years of learning Engineering, which goes deep into the subject matter, often with staggering level of complexity (especially in top universities), is a completely different thing.

When I was in Melbourne some of my unimates had to drop out because they simply couldn’t take it anymore. They found it untenable eventually, committing so much energy and intellectual capacity learning subjects that they simply had no passion in.

These were top students in SPM, mind you. It’s not that they weren’t intelligent. They just hated the course the scholarship that they received made them do.

Fast forward to this year, some main sponsors like MARA and JPA offer scholarships in a very limited number of fields. Engineering is one of them. Architecture isn’t. Arts isn’t.

Many SPM leavers who love Architecture will end up receiving a very tempting offer to further their studies in a course they are not very passionate in overseas.

If you’re one of them, think twice before you accept the offer.

What are your favourite subjects?

 

Random bookshop, Soho

When I received my SPM result 10 years ago, I was quite clueless of what I actually wanted to do with my life. I had a very limited exposure to the career world. My dad, along with most of my uncles and aunts work in the oil and gas sector, and seeing what they do everyday greatly influenced my perspectives at that time. I thought a career in oil and gas was what I wanted (and needed).

Long story short, not knowing what I wanted was a big mistake on my part.

If you’re in the position to choose today, don’t be as clueless as I was 10 years ago. Know what you want, if not clearly, at least have a rough idea of what you would like to do for the next 10-20 years of your life at least,

***

Here are some guides, compiled based on my observation and that of people around me in various industries. The fields of study are lumped in based on the subject that you love the most in high school.

Additional Mathematics: Actuarial Science (if you’re really good in Maths, this is a really difficult course), Economics, Finance, Accounting

Physics: Engineering, Geology (if you’re into Geography too)

English/BM: Mass Comms, Literature, Creative Writing, TESL, Law

History: Political Science, Law

Biology: Medicine, Pharmacy, Biomedical Sciences

Chemistry: Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry (if you love Biology too)

Arts/Design: Architecture, Graphic Design, Broadcasting

***

Will there be bonds?

 

This is another important question. A lot of SPM leavers look forward to furthering their studies overseas that they tend to overlook that some scholarships come with a package – a long bond.

When I accepted the PETRONAS sponsorship, I effectively agreed that I would be bonded for 10 years.

I was 17 – I didn’t really think of the implications. But after graduation, it dawned on me that the length of my scholarship bond was …quite long (duh).

So, be careful when you sign. There are pros and cons of a scholarship bond.

Pros:

Bonded scholars normally get called for job interviews in the organisation that sponsors them, even before graduation. To those who seek job security in reputable organisations and GLCs, a bond means less headaches and stress.

Job seeking, especially for fresh graduates, can be a fairly daunting process.

Personally, I feel that imposing bond means a fair proposition for the sponsors. They already spent a lot of money to provide you with the degree and plenty of exposure, of course they would want you to come back to contribute back to them. These are corporate-driven entities after all, not strictly charitable bodies.

Cons:

A scholarship bond may also prove a disadvantage for those who wish to:

  1. Continue their masters – while a lot of companies allow their staff to take unpaid leave to do masters, normally you have to serve them for a few years first before this is possible
  2. Migrate overseas – you may only think of this after 10 years, so you can forget about staying back after your graduation
  3. Have freedom in choosing career field – a lot of graduates decide to work a job that does not strictly follow their field of studies in university (eg Engineering graduate working in a corporate consulting firm like McKinsey). This is not possible for bonded scholars after their graduation. They have to wait for…10 years before they can switch firms or fields
  4. Be adventurous and do whatever hell they want – this is not possible. You have to follow the career path that the organisation has to offer you, and stay there

Different people have different goals and priorities in life, so whatever yours are, please put them into consideration before accepting a scholarship that has strings attached.

Bonds are not necessarily bad, but it’s definitely not for everyone. Choose wisely.

How about studying locally?

 

If no overseas scholarship covers the course that you want to do, or if there is a mismatch, you may still enrol in local Pre-University foundation centres. Universiti Malaya has a reputable foundation programme, upon the completion of which you may further your studies in a THES Top 200 university locally – not shabby at all.

After graduating from a local university, you may still further your studies overseas for masters. I personally know of friends and acquaintances who are currently doing their masters overseas, and they did their degrees locally. Many of them are there on sponsorships.

The door will always be open for you, if you really want to study overseas. If not now, later. You don’t have to rush. What’s important is to know what you want, and to do what you want. Locally or overseas.

***

Overseas education is definitely not overrated – it provides people who are privileged enough to go abroad with a good exposure and plenty of opportunities to broaden their perspectives. It builds character.

But it’s also not everything. It’s not something that one must have to succeed.

Follow your interest, trust you instincts, grow upon your passions. You will thank yourself in the future.

 

p.s. This post is written by a guy who did Geology in uni. He currently does PR (Content Development & Digital Strategy) for a living – and is quite happy where he is. Life works in mysterious ways.
Speak soon,
FH

Luscious by Lisa T – the new lepak place in Mont Kiara

A new cupcake joint had its first day of operation today in Mont Kiara today, and my colleagues and I went down to check it out.

We had a lovely time.

Luscious by Lisa T occupies the space in 1 Mont Kiara that used to house a German bakery – which did not do well (RM17 for a tiny takeaway sandwich, anyone?). It’s located on the ground floor, just in front of the florist and next to Pierre Cardin.

The interior spells new (duh) and it’s very Soho-esque, with dark walls and red chaise lounge chairs. There’s also a small private corner – perfect for a lazy Sunday gossip session. The drinks selection is very much standard cafe fare – latte, hot chocolate, caramel latte and such.

The floor lights up, which is pretty cool.

The very friendly and bubbly owner, from which the cafe got its name from, was there. We had a short conversation with Lisa and it was clear that she was very passionate in making cupcakes and sweet fares. And she’s a big fan of Fazura too! One of her cupcakes was named…Fazura.

Team #sayangidirimu lah ni.

The cupcakes are absolutely gorgeous, and the flavours are varied, from conventional (Rocher) to something more interesting (rose bandung and lychee, anyone?).

My colleagues and I got a few boxes (each holding six), and here’s what one of the boxes looks like:

The cupcake with the tall caramel popcorn and cream topping turned over (unfortunately, but never mind).

The cupcakes here are big; significantly bigger than those that you’d get from Wondermilk, and they cost about RM9-10 each.

Favourite:

George, the Rocher cupcake is absolutely delicious. The Rocher ball sits nicely on top of a bed of ground nuts and a generous dash of dark chocolate mousse.

The chocolate cake base is moist, with a very slight hint of cocoa bitterness – and not too sweet. This one melted in my mouth. Lovely.

Least favourite:

This one, called Scarlet Lady, looks absolutely gorgeous, but taste-wise it is slightly underwhelming. The mango cream has a very weak hint of mango taste, it tastes more like butter cream, and the base is quite dry. There’s a nice dash of passionfruit puree at the bottom. The soury goodness of the passionfruit puree saves the otherwise boring cupcake – allowing me to finish it. The maroon lips topping the cake is edible – it’s made of chocolate.

Luscious also sells gelato, which I didn’t get to try, and some savouries as well. I took out the salmon and squid pie called Finding Nemo.

The filling is very creamy, with the salmon very soft and nicely cooked. It’s a decent pie, ad quite delicious at that – not huge, but good enough for a light lunch.

Verdict

Well, this place is just downstairs from my office, and now I know that I need not leave the 1 Mont Kiara complex whenever I need some sugar rush.

Mont Kiara has a really awesome new lepak place, and that’s obviously good news.

Speak soon,
FH

Train stations around the world and why they are special

It is where millions of Hellos are exchanged, plenty of Goodbyes are said, and countless promises are made.

Train stations are where palpable emotions are experienced. It represents farewells as much as it greets you Welcome.

It’s also the pulsing heart of the city it serves – always practical as much as it is evocative.

I took my first train ride when I was 18 – I grew up in Sarawak, and there is (still) no train servicing the state. I first came to KL as a child with my family for a holiday, but then again, we always cabbed around town.

My first train ride felt like a rite of passage; I was a young adult, and I remember how exciting it was for me to be on the LRT, zipping across the city over the buzzing streets of KL. It felt surreal, and I was sold, instantly – the fascination remains to this day.

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of taking train trips in different place, from the pleasant journey from Warsaw to Krakow on the new high-speed railway to the slow ride on the chugging train connecting Melbourne with Sydney (well, partially, anyway, since I had to finish the trip on the bus), intercity train ride is still something that I look forward to.

As much as the ride fascinates me, so do the stations. Train stations are great places to observe people and learn more about the cities you’re in. It’s where you go to if you want to feel the real pulse of the city.

Also, some of these stations are absolutely gorgeous too!

Took these pictures during my travels, and I thought I’d share them here. Enjoy!

Weekend getaways: Why Phnom Penh?

Weekend trips to ASEAN destinations are always a possibility nowadays (thanks AirAsia for the frequent promos and the price wars) and the most common getaway ideas are to go for a beach-and-party jaunt in Bali and Phuket, shopping trip in Bandung and Jakarta, and a splashing Songkran weekend in Bangkok.

Having been to these destinations, there’s no denying that they’re all excellent weekend destinations, albeit a little crowded, especially in the case of Bali.

A little off the beaten track is Phnom Penh; that Cambodian city that’s often overlooked by travellers in favour of Siem Reap (which is also fantastic).

Phnom Penh!

Phnom Penh is one of my favourite cities in the region. It’s excellent for a 3-day weekend visit, and here’s why:

It is cheap. Very cheap.

Think that Bandung is cheap? Phnom Penh is even cheaper. While the use of USD has made Cambodia slightly more expensive for Malaysian travellers, the country is still cheap.

A meal in a good restaurant that wouldn’t seem out of place in Bangsar would cost you around RM10.

Fancy a tipple? A drink at one of the bars overlooking the Tonle Sap costs you as little as RM10.

A tuk-tuk ride that takes you across the town costs you around RM8-10.

A massage? RM30 per hour.

A decent room in Phnom Penh’s legendary Mad Monkey hostel: RM100/night.

Phnom Penh is cheap, and it’s a good place to relax for the weekend. With RM200-300 per day, you get to live like a king there.

The architecture is varied

During the colonial period, Phnom Penh was considered the pearl of French Indochina, which explains the many French-inspired buildings that still dominate the urban landscape in the city’s old downtown area.

Phnom Penh’s main post office

Wide French-style boulevards used to cut across the city centre, but these thoroughfares are no longer “wide” nowadays, as hawkers and haphazardly parked vehicles take up much of the space.

Phnom Penh’s typical streetscape

The central market building, constructed in 1937, is an art deco gem. It was the largest market structure in Asia when first opened. The market is still bustling today, with a large food section selling really cheap street eats (try it out if you are adventurous) and China-made household items and souvenirs.

The food section, Phnom Penh Central Market
Phnom Penh Central Market

Like other Southeast Asian capitals, Phnom Penh also has some very interesting temples and palaces. Luckily, these structures survived the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime.

The Royal Palace

The food is amazing

Yes, Thai food is amazing, but Cambodian food also deserves some credit.

It’s underrated.

In Phnom Penh, you must try amok, which is Cambodia’s de facto national dish. It’s basically a meat dish (beef, chicken, fish or pork), cooked in very creamy light curry. It tastes different; more like a fusion between Thai green curry and our masak lemak.

Amok

Their cooking style is similar with the Malays’, but Cambodians love santan so much that their dishes are most of the times very creamy.

For those seeking halal food, there are also plenty of halal dining options in the city, as Cambodia is also home to a sizeable Muslim community. Many within this community still speak Malay and practice Malay culture and traditions.

Cambodia’s version of masakan kampung

Vietnamese food is also very ubiquitous in the city, so if you fancy some pho in the morning, you’re in for a treat.

If you’re…uhm…into that kind of thing, there’s a number of Happy Pizza joints in Phnom Penh.

There is so much history

Cambodians have this air of gentility and politeness about them. They are also known to be very cultured; it was their ancestors that built Angkor, the city which, during its peak, was the largest urban settlement in the world.

However, their recent history has been marred by tragic events.

The Khmer Rouge regime, upon its takeover of Phnom Penh, began Year Zero – a push to get Cambodians out of the cities back to the countryside.

Thousands of intelligentsias, professionals, businessmen, even teachers, were systematically murdered.

Close to downtown Phnom Penh is the Tuol Seng Memorial Museum – the building was originally a school, and during Khmer Rouge’s era it was used as a prison and torture facility.

I’ve been to Auschwitz, and the feeling I got at Tuol Seng was similar. It’s a gruesome place.

Haunting in every sense of word.

The gate of Hell
It looks peaceful today; a contrast from what it was during the darkest days of Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror

It still feels very local and authentic

Many travellers liken Phnom Penh to Bangkok before the latter became famous.

There’s truth in their claim, because Phnom Penh still feels very local and original. The tourism boom that transformed Siem Reap into a mecca for western traveller has so far eluded Phnom Penh, so expect some really interesting local sights throughout the city.

Monks walking in central Phnom Penh

There are the drags too!

Well, what’s a visit to Phnom Penh without seeing the drag queens perform traditional Cambodian dances…

So yes…

Phnom Penh is only 2 hours away from home, but everything about this place, from the old-school layout of the city to the slow, less-hectic daily pace adopted by its people, feels very different.

The resilience of the Cambodian people, even after some very tragic events in their recent history, is inspiring – and if you’re still not convinced:

A book seller at the riverside

Speak soon,
FH

Why solitude matters

You walk into the cinema with your friends for a nice Friday night movie session.

Then you bump into a person that you know; sitting alone in the middle row, with a large tub of popcorn and a tall diet coke.

What would be your first reaction?

“Pity him, why is he all alone on a Friday night like this?”
“Where are his friends? Does he not have one?”
“Did he just break up with his girlfriend?”
“Is he depressed?”

These are the common reactions that people would make when they see someone they know spending time alone.

We live in the world where having company is a reflection of a person making it in the social world. The more friends a person has, the higher the position the person has on the social hierarchy.

We love making friends, and sometimes, we go out in groups most (if not all) the time not because we need to, but just because we are scared of being seen alone.

We don’t want to be that loser who fine dines alone.

Being alone, or being viewed as a lonely person, is still a taboo in our society that so values company.

There’s always a sense of shame associated with people who prefer spending their time alone.

We tend to think that when a person is alone, it must be because he has no choice but to be alone.

That he is undesirable. That he needs help.

And of course, that he needs our pity – which often comes in a way that also borders on schadenfreude, unfortunately.

***

Let’s go back to the person that you bumped into the cinema, devouring his popcorn and watching that chick-flick alone.

Why is he alone? Was he forced to do so by circumstances? If he indeed chose to be alone, why would he?

It’s simple, really.

We need solitude as much as we need company. And some of us, including the introverted ones, need the former more than the latter.

And that’s perfectly fine.

Imagine this situation – you go to work in a job that involves a lot of human interactions. You talk and write to people to get things done. Then you open your phone to take a 5-minute break and the first thing you’ll come across is your friend’s selfie – that friend that you just texted 10 minutes prior.

Then you go to the cubicle, and you meet a co-worker at the urinal. You exchanged some lines, probably about the group task that is due tomorrow, then you return to your cubicle and continue with work.

Then at home after dinner, with most of us millennials having to share their apartments with flatmates nowadays; chances are you will not get the whole couch to yourself either.

This is the reality of our generation today. Everywhere we go, even when looking at our iPhone screen, we see people, we interact with people, and we deal with people.

With all these happening day in and day out, don’t you think that we are often in desperate need for space?

I think we do.

And it kills us inside if we don’t.

Have you ever thought of your partner or friends annoying you so often, with the little things that they do? Have you ever blamed yourself for getting annoyed or moody so easily over the little things that people do?

If you have, you probably need some me-time. You need some space.

I love my space too. Frankly, going out to dinner alone sometimes, spending a week or two doing solo trips, and even taking a 2-hour drive alone to Melaka have really helped me put things into perspectives.

It’s when I am alone that I most appreciate the company that I have. Walking alone in a busy street of a foreign city reminds me of how good it feels like to have my close friends walking with me.

In many ways, spending some time alone, and getting ample space to be with myself, helps me enhance and preserve my relationship with a lot of people.

That’s why I really believe that solitude matters.

People who are out alone sometimes are not losers; nor are they miserable. They just know what they want – some space, and they are not ashamed to provide themselves with exactly what they need.

Solo latte at Huckleberry. Bring a book; lovely place for a read.

Speak soon,
FH

Of darkness and light

Nights make us miss days.
Days make us miss nights.
The glaring sun makes us miss the calming full moon.
The soft hue of moonlight makes us miss the joyful frenzy of a sunny day.
Persian rugs, with its explosion of vivid colours make us miss the monochromatic Swedish mat.
The grey IKEA chair makes us miss the ornate Turkish divan from grandma’s home.

What is life but a series of darkness alternating with vivid, bright spectrums of light?
And darkness is not always bad, nor is light.

Of malls and piazzas

What do you want?
More Park!
*builds a mall with the largest indoor amusement park in the world

What do you need?
More trees!
*builds more Doubletrees

What do you look for?
More grass!
*paves a piazza

** It rains every single day nowadays. I miss blue skies.

Speak soon,
FH

 

Never Mind I’ll Find, Someone Like EU

With the invoking of Article 50, Brexit is indeed happening.

It’s unbelievable that we’re witnessing the unravelling of that very instrument that kept Europe in uninterrupted peace over the past 60 years.

Now that Britain is out of the EU, Europe will never be the same again. The world’s order will also change; and Europe’s decline as a global power, already apparent over the last half century, will certainly be even more profound.

Let’s hope that Merkel’s Germany gets to pick up the pieces and consolidate the EU as a strong bloc, even without the UK. The EU’s poor handling of the current refugee crisis, coupled with the seemingly endless economic slump affecting its periphery, is definitely making the idea of a unified Europe increasingly unpopular in places like Hungary and France.

The rise of Eurosceptic parties in Europe. Source: Business Insider

But let’s hope that today’s shortcomings won’t cloud the fact that today’s world will greatly benefit from a strong, progressive and unified Europe.

I was in London last year during Brexit, and London Pride happened just the day after. This is what I saw:

Massive outpouring of grief. Londoners and the millennials voted overwhelmingly for Remain, but well, shit happens.

***

Positive side: Cheaper Pound = More burgers and lobsters for us.

GBP vs USD. It ain’t looking pretty for the UK. Source: xe.com

Can’t wait for May.

 

Speak soon,

FH

How did you feel this morning?

I personally think that the first five minutes after waking up is the most important part of my day.

Sometimes I wake up groggy after a long night, sometimes fresh and well-rested after a nice, deep sleep.

Sometimes I feel like a wreck.

But through it all, beneath the veneer of temporal feeling of grogginess or lapses of energetic feeling coming from having enough rest, one thing remains.

When I’m in a content phase, I have so much optimism over how my day will go.

When I’m content, I find a strong sense of purpose. I look forward to starting the day, no matter how sleep-deprived I am.

I might feel like a wreck, but I know things will get better. So I look forward to starting my day still.

That is why whenever I’m unsure of the state of life I am in at a particular moment, I’ll try go back to think of what I felt when I first started my day.

Because there were times when I felt disillusioned every morning.

There were times when I had to drag myself out of bed; to a job that I had to learn to tolerate. To face an inconsiderate boss that didn’t believe in me and my potential.

No matter how well-rested I was at that time, no matter how plush the bed I slept on; I woke up dreading to start the day.

I did not feel damn good in the morning, no matter how great the previous day was for me.

In retrospect, I think I was quite miserable.

***

So next time when you feel like you’re unsure if you’re doing the right thing with your life; try to think of how you started your day.

Did you dread it? Did you have to drag yourself out of home?

If you did, and it persisted, know that the time is probably right for a change. Get rid of the toxic elements that make your life miserable. Leave what dragged you down behind. Even if that means having slightly less money in the bank or less friends to call out for coffee with.

Start afresh, if you need to.

Nothing is worth feeling miserable every morning.

 

Speak soon,

FH

 

My first snow experience

Tell me of that particular first time experience that you would like to go through again.

I want to go back to the day I saw my first snow. I was 20 at that time, it was a chilly November in Seoul. It also happened to be my first solo trip ever – I planned to go there with my friend over our summer break, but he had to bail out last minute for a completely legitimate reason (but Pau, I must say I’m still salty over this lol).

I remember running around the palace courtyard like a child. The snow wasn’t particularly thick, and it melted after a couple of hours just before noon, but the very sight of the snow-covered traditional Korean palace roofs truly warmed my heart.

I felt like a child, I felt alive.

My first snow experience!
That was me, 8 years ago. Notice the hair – if only I knew better!
Of course, the automatic toilet in my room completely caught my attention

However I must admit, my love affair with snow was short-lived; I still remember getting caught in the middle of a blizzard in NYC, and it was not pretty.

But the sight of it, still warms my heart.

The significance of Seoul

My parents have never appreciated travels as much as I do; mom wouldn’t mind going places, but dad hates long-distance flights. It’s something that he does only when he absolutely has to. So I grew up being envious of my friends and classmates who always shared with me their travel stories with their families; They would go to London and bring back some Harrods pencil cases (very much en vogue at that time!).

I didn’t go out of the country that much.

So when I did start travelling, it was a great experience. Traveling alone was an intimidating experience at first, I felt like I was thrown into a different planet where few spoke English, but I ended up having a good time.

I found out that I could be an independent person; it taught me that I could still have a blast, alone.

It taught me that I could do things alone and still have a lot of fun. It taught me to trust strangers, and the people you meet along the way.

I want to go back to that time, when things didn’t seem to be as clearly defined as it is now.

The time of discovery, the time of adventure (peppered with some misadventures sometimes), the time of not having much to lose cause I was 19 anyway.

I’m 28 n0w, and I have a mortgage to pay every month and a job that only allows me 4 weeks of vacations a year*.

Life’s not too shabby nowadays – being adult can be fun too, but of course it’d be nice to go back to 9 years ago, to relive those moments once more.

*I know I shouldn’t complain; some of my friends out there only get 2-3 weeks off a year! :p

Speak soon,

FH