“What university is that?” “Where is it located?” “Never heard of it lahh.” These are just some examples of statements/enquiries I, a future Software Engineer, received when proudly proclaiming I’m from Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP). Yes, you now might have a mysterious voice in your head saying the exact same thing. Well mates, the non-glamorous UMP is situated on the side of Tun Razak Highway, Gambang, Pahang in Malaysia. Basically, it’s in a random Malaysian rainforest. Animal sightings are a norm, usually just wild boars and dogs, and occasionally more exotic ones such as snakes, lizards, monkeys and once a Kongkang (Slow loris).
Like all public universities, application is done through the UPU system. Here is a simple guideline for those that chose the A-level-ish path:
- Input personal details
- Input pre-u details and results
- Input course/university choices
- Hope and pray
Like many other poor souls out there, my prayers weren’t answered. The dreams of threading into the hallowed grounds of Universiti Malaya etc now in shambles. Nevertheless, dreams can be rebuilt, restructured, reconstructed and reprogramed. Fantasies aside, I come from the widely praised Malaysian Matriculation Program, at least that is what they claimed. For me, that one year at another random Malaysian jungle was absolute torture, classes non-stop from 8am to 5pm, lab reports every day (Science stream), quizzes every hour, study every minute. Well it does give the advantage of 1 year compared to Form Six.
A year and a half (3 semesters) has passed since I opened the door to my hostel room. Compared to my tenure at Matriculation, life at UMP was easy, I only have 16 credit hours average per semester in my 3.5 year bachelor’s degree course. I do not face the daunting stress of medicine courses, nor do the memory crunching Law degrees, and neither do my fellow university mates. Yes, my university is filled with future engineers ready to innovate the future or a varsity filled with lazy people looking for ways to get things done easy, depends on which way you see it. Judgements aside, we all live mostly in harmony no matter our ethnicity or background brought together by our mutual hatred of our Student Council members and Students Welfare Department.
Moving on, as students, we normally would be busy rushing deadlines and completing assignments. Typical, but then again as a Malaysian, we like to compare things. Don’t tell me you never compared our durians against foreign species of durians. Yes, but here is a norm to compare our busy schedule. Who is free? Who is busy? What course is that fella from? Ubiquitous questions thrown around to investigate each other’s cramp schedule, with many agreeing that Engineering Management students could practically sleep through the weekend without worrying about Monday, a luxury to the others.
Talking about schedules, what would fill up a Software Engineer’s schedule? Most people would probably guessed we are a group of geeks with thick lenses staring at a desktop typing the enigma code out. Nope, half of my syllabus is actually project planning and management. I was surprised to find out that I’ll be learning ways to plan a software project and requirement elicitation in my first semester. Of course we still learn those weird codes and computer languages. But as I learn, I realize Software projects are not like typical engineering projects, and require different set of procedures to run due to the more unpredictable and competitive world of cyber business. So don’t go around imagining us as some fat, ill managed slob slurping down Pepsi while burping out lines of incomprehensible codes. We are more capable than you are, jokingly of course mate.
Unfortunately for us, even with our busy schedule, we’re expected to make time for co-curricular activities. Sounds normal? Here’s the catch, points will be gathered based on our involvement in the activities. Points gathered will be used during application for next year’s hostel arrangements, and there is a minimum threshold you need to pass o be eligible. My first year’s point threshold was a record high, 3900 points, as compared to the previous year, 2100 points. To make this look daunting, an international level involvement only yields 200 points. Oh and Malaysians’ love for comparing does not spare this either, competing to see who has the most points.
Well, this is what I got myself into – an average kid suddenly thrown into a whirlpool of expectations and social competition. Then again, it was no less what I expected, these norms were already taking root during Matriculation. Competitiveness between students are high within public institutions knowing only the best are acknowledged here. I myself expected a tough journey ahead before putting on the tie for the orientation. You might say, “mate, your university’s rank is over 2000!?” I tell you, education anywhere is equal, it’s the experience and things you learn that are not from your lecturer’s that’s worth it all. I came here with expectations for myself that I wish to be met, UMP is just a training arena.
So far, life has been kind enough, bumps along the way but nothing too rough yet. Socially I’m doing well, my trilingual (as a Malay) ability distinguished me well among the students here. Education wise, I’m just average, nothing too fancy. I’m here to mature and experience, a Degree certification is just a paper if you can’t even talk to the stall cashier, let alone some company’s CEO. My advice to future university students, look to improve more as a person, it’s more important than getting that Upper case printed “A”. Also, try not to forget to have some fun, this might be your last time where you can do so at full capacity. Those who are prospecting their future with UMP, well don’t put your hopes too high, it might disappoint you a little, it’s a public university after all. Then again UMP might be better off than a few other public universities since it’s fairly new, hence better facilities. Its close proximity with Kuantan (30 minutes’ drive) does not really isolate it from civilization too.
For enquiries you can contact me through my Facebook (Mhd Qym) or through Twitter (@MuhdQaiyyim). Just drop me a message or anything, I’ll try to reply as soon as time allows me too. So I’ll sign off by saying, good luck and may the force be with you.
Muhammad Qaiyyim is currently striving for his Bachelor (Hons) in Computer Science Majoring in Software Engineering at Universiti Malaysia Pahang. A true geek powerful with force. Frequently spotted at the basketball court or anywhere that resembles a dojo, with a laptop closeby.