Life@KDU College – Khairul Amin

Let me be frank, I dreaded the idea of attending KDU. I even felt a bit of resentment for my sponsors when I found out that they would be sending me there for A-Levels. To me, KDU seemed like nothing compared to the big names of KYUEM, KTJ and Taylor’s. Heck, even KMB sounded like a better choice. But when I told my friends they were down right jealous. So I thought, “It couldn’t be that bad, could it?”

Academics

Let’s get the most boring yet important stuff out of the way first.

KDU offers 4 routes for Pre-Uni education, namely: Pre-Law, Foundation in Arts, American Transfer Program (ADP), and the Cambridge International A-Levels (CAIE). In regards to the A-Levels, students are streamed (again? I know lol), into the Arts & the Sciences, each providing a set of subjects you can choose from. 

For Sciences you have: Maths, Chemistry, Biology, & Physics. Meanwhile, you have Maths, Econs, Sociology, Accounting, & Law. Note, that you can only choose your subjects from your own stream. Thus, unfortunately you’re not able to take on the creative combination of Accounting, Biology, and Sociology. Apparently the rationale was that “It makes the most sense when you’re applying to uni” lol.

When I went there I did Maths, Econs, Sociology, & English Lit in my first year before proceeding to drop maths in my second year. But wait! Something’s off! Why’d you drop maths? I thought they didn’t offer English Lit? 

Well, the funny thing is, I’ve never been good at maths. I barely got an A in both my Modern and Additional Mathematics papers in highschool, by struggling like crazy (SEMESTI peeps would know lol). Thus, I always knew that I’d drop it whenever I could in college. That’s what I wanted to do, but KDU had other plans. Apparently, English Lit alongside Further Maths had a reputation of being “The Toughest Paper”. Hence, being the kind school it is, they only allow us to take either one of them as a 4th subject, “just in case we fail”. Which, IMO, is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

You see, when it comes to teachers there it’s really a hit or miss. Some of them are terrific, some of them, not so much. One thing I can guarantee is that they are all equally dedicated in their own ways. If anything, it might just be that you’re not compatible with their teaching styles.

To be honest with you, the reason I dropped maths was because it was the sole subject pulling my grades down. I felt like I was spending all my time grinding maths papers with no results. The Math teacher was amazing, it was just that I was that bad of a student. Thus, after my decisive B in maths in my AS exams, and my incredible struggle to deal with A2 material, I dropped it.

It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I ended up with an A*A*A, with an 89 in English Lit. Yes, this is point one that I’d like to make. Why bother restricting my choices in my first year only to let me do just three subjects in my second year anyway? Plus, being constantly told that I was better off just dropping English Lit nearly cost me straight A’s in my A-Levels. Not to mention the narrow subject range and restrictions in subject choice, I’d recommend you go elsewhere if you’d like to have a more colourful academic experience.

Point two, you need to understand that A-Levels in KDU works in much the same way you’d expect an actual uni to operate. Which translates to a lot of self-study. When I say a lot, I mean a lotttt. I honestly felt like I learnt more from my friends and my self-study sessions than I do from my teachers. Did they do a good job in laying down the groundwork? Yes. Is It enough to get 4A*? No. Thus, come here if you’d like “academic freedom” but if you’d like your hands to be held throughout A-Levels, then don’t, you will suffer if you do. Why?

Third point, classes are competitive. KDU doesn’t do rankings, but a sad reality of being human (and a competitive person) is that you always seek to see how you do relative to other people. My batchmates were smart. Like, really smart. They were averaging 90%+ for each paper for each exam. Plus, since there were only around 7 people in my classes at any moment, you’d stick out like a sore thumb if you’re not doing well. You will feel pressured to keep up, and that’s a good thing. But if you’re like me at some point you will start feeling tired, and feel like things are going downhill. 

To anyone reading this, whether you’re a prospective KDU student or not, I’d just like to say that it’s okay to get a B or a C for an exam. It’s okay if you feel like you can’t keep up. It’s okay to swallow your pride and just drop that paper if it’s too hard. What’s not okay is giving up before you reach the endgame. It’s also not okay to work yourself too hard that everything does break apart.

Hence, my last point. What initially began as frustration to the laidback teaching style in KDU eventually turned into gratitude. It honestly made me feel okay that I wasn’t doing well in class or that it took me 5 hours to do a single essay or that I spent a whole day doing a single maths past year when my classmates only needed 30 minutes. In the end of the day, it made me realise my own strengths, it taught me the importance of self-determination, and most importantly to do things at my own pace. In the grand scheme of things, the most important thing in a journey is reaching the destination. Not how smooth or rough the road was.

Community & Extra Curriculars

There were only 7 people in my arts class, and only 19 people in the entire cohort. You can’t expect to have a really large circle of peers when you go to KDU. However, what we lacked in quantity, I think you’d find we compensate well enough in quality. The people I met in KDU are some of the nicest I’ve ever met. They helped me work on my grades, were always down to hangout, never had any drama, and made sure that every milestone we had together was given the attention and celebration it deserves. If you find your cohort size to be lacking, you can always choose to make friends with the hundreds of others that go to the university’s many departments. One of my friends even became close friends with an entire cohort of ACCA students (talk about being a social butterfly eh?)

If you’re not exactly extremely sociable, you’d find that your best bet of making friends outside of your cohort is through clubs and societies. However, this is one huge point where I find KDU to be a bit lacking. Despite there being around 30-ish(?) + clubs, not all of them are very active or very good at being active. Even the more active ones were either just cultural clubs that organised annual celebrations or one that belonged to a larger network of societies. Plus, when I was in first year, our school was located all the way in the Damansar Jaya campus (now closed), while most of the fanfare occurred in the Glenmarie campus. So we did miss out on quite a lot. Moreover, Corona hit us pretty hard by the start of my second year, so I wasn’t able to fully experience everything KDU had to offer.

However, I did try to make use of most of the things I had. The most active club in the DJ campus then was the debate club. When I say active, I really mean that it was trying to try to rise from the dead. Literally. When I joined they had just managed to recruit enough members and a coach to start competing in tournaments again. But that’s what made it fun. Learning how to debate from scratch alongside other equally confused people, weekly training sessions, after training hangouts, travelling to tournaments together, all of those experiences proved to be incredibly valuable memories for me. Even when we moved online, the spirit of the club lived on, and it is to this date one of the more lively, passionate, and exciting clubs I’ve ever belonged to. As a bonus, I even won a tournament and got an award lol.

Plus, the school of pre-university studies has this one tradition where the first years organise a fund-raising project of the school’s choice. In my time, we were raising money for the SEMOA Home for Orang Asli in Raub, Pahang. The experience of organising a charity concert with influencer guests, a valentine’s day business, and many other projects to collect funds all within the span of less than 2 months were interesting to say the least. Our project was cut short due to the pandemic but we were able to gain enough funds to buy their groceries and school material for three months so we consider that a win.

Lifestyle

One of the biggest advantages that KDU has is that it’s very close to KL and all the fun places in Shah Alam. So if you decided to live in its student accommodation, then you’d find no shortage of places to hangout. The only limit is your money. Though, we did get bored of KL pretty quickly lol. However, this also means that food there isn’t cheap. Most meals cost an average of RM10 per person without drinks. The school cafeteria is a lot cheaper at RM7 per person but you’d be hard pressed to find it open in the middle of the pandemic and the amount of meat you’re getting leaves quite a lot to be desired. There’s no diversity in the vegetable dishes either. So really, living as a KDU student is just like living as a regular person. Your best bet to have fun is to have fun friends, and an adventurous attitude.

Conclusion

So with all of the above being said, would I recommend KDU to anyone? The answer is, it depends. KDU’s fees are one of the cheapest in Malaysia, and it offers a plenty of scholarships if you were to choose to do A-Levels. The highest one being a 60% tuition fee waiver if you score above 6A’s in SPM. So if you need a good, cheap college, then KDU is a sensible choice. KDU also gives you a substantial amount of freedom to do whatever you want. If you’re highly independent, the kind of person who’d do well in a place without shackles, and you like to do your own thing at your own pace, KDU is a sensible choice.

If you are the kind of person with grand dreams and ambitions, and have every inch of your life planned, and would do everything in your power to realise them, then I wouldn’t recommend KDU to you. You’re better off somewhere with the facilities and support structure to help you realise those dreams the best it possibly can. But then again, with that kind of will and determination, you’d do well wherever you go.

Personally, the best thing I gained however were the friends that I met along the way, cherished mentors, driven and motivated comrades, as well a group of people that I know will have my back when I need them, and whom I’d be happy to do the same in return. 

Fate has a funny way of working. There wouldn’t be any guarantee that I’d have an equally valuable circle of people if I went anywhere else. For that reason alone, I was happy there.

At the end of the day, a school is just a school, and a place is just a place. KDU, like many other institutions, is what you make of it. The harder you try, make your experience as worthwhile as possible. If you ask me if I have any regrets then I’d say that I regret not trying harder. Beyond that I am perfectly content having spent my Pre-Uni years in KDU.

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