Many of those who took STPM would echo my feelings that it was a @#$%&. Put aside the long schooling hours, limitless syllabus not to mention turning up every day in uniform, failing this exam denies you entry into a local public university and eternal shame to the family (severity of the latter is negligible).
Despite objections from many ‘advisors’, I ended up doing Form 6. At that, in the same school that I went through Form 1-5. Along with with a few other hard core classmates, we were branded ‘old furniture’. In the blink of an eye, the few of us have already spent 7 years together; some marriages don’t even last that long.
Nonetheless, one thing STPM did was prepare me, for the creature that is university life.
The application to local public universities in 2012 was a relatively straightforward albeit unfair one (this one needs an article of its own). Then, we were allowed to apply to any public university through UPU except USM, where we had to submit a separate application alongside a RM 30 application fee. With UPU, we were allowed 8 choices while USM allowed (correct me if I’m wrong) 4. Given that applying to both would theoretically increase your chances, most of my peers and I did just that (begrudgingly paying RM30, but hey what is that amount compared to a university spot right?).
I received an offer from UM and after a begging (‘rayuan’), I was also offered a spot in USM. As appealing as being a student of the top ranked university in Malaysia sounded, UM was located opposite my secondary school: a place I spent 7 years in, remember? Besides, 2012 was also the height of the APEX status marketing for USM; where the university branded itself as a premier research institution.
So after getting into a university of this prestige by the skin of my teeth, I was surely not going let my university spot go. The idea of studying in a foreign land (technically over the sea) was also infinitely more exciting than going to a school so close to home.
When September 2012 came, I packed my bags and left the concrete jungles of Kuala Lumpur for the sunny shores of Penang. It is hard to describe the feeling of living on your own for the very first time, away from your parents and everything else that is familiar to you.
Every day was an adventure back then. The realisation that every step I took was a step in an alien yet familiar place. It was as if I was reliving Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk experience. Or maybe USM was like the moon to me, with KL being Earth. It is after all some distance away, very dry in certain months of the year (certainly not as dry as Engineering campus though) and has an undulating terrain.
The higher degree of freedom coupled with USM’s relatively relaxed student policies, I savoured every moment; lapping it up like a newborn puppy given fresh milk.
Four years on, I can confidently say that there is and will be no place like USM. My experience at university has been nothing but enriching. The lifelong friends I have made, adequate on-campus facilities and opportunities that were available, made my personal and professional growth possible in such a short amount of time.
That being said, no experience is perfect. There were a few chinks in the shiny armour that is our beloved university. Some of which I wish to explore in subsequent articles.
After the Form 6 experience, I have told myself that I would not want to stay in a place for too long. Familiarity does breed contempt, they say. But if today you were to ask me whether I could turn back to 2012 and do it all over again, my answer is a resounding YES!
Happy New Year everyone! May 2017 bring you happiness and opportunities abound.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of DuaRinggit.