Life@UMP – Software Engineering


“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.


Life at Monash University as a First Year Medical Student


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Before writing this article, I checked my student e-mail for the thousandth time (my paranoid self does not think this is an exaggeration) for an e-mail about supplementary exams. Unless I’m hopelessly blind, I think it’s safe to say that I didn’t receive any, which allows me to introduce myself correctly – Hi! I have just completed my first year of MBBS in Monash University, Australia.

I did my A-level at Taylor’s College, Subang Jaya so if you’re reading this and grumbling about A-Level, trust me, you’re not alone and yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel. During the university application period, I applied for Pharmacy and Medicine in universities in Malaysia, UK and Australia. I was fine with studying anywhere as long as I had a university to go to. However, I did hope to get into an Australian university or International Medical University (IMU) because I wanted to start studying in early February. To cut the long story short, I never thought I could do it but thankfully, Monash saw a potential doctor in me.

I remember being so fascinated by the cultural diversity in Australia when I first arrived. I’ve met Russians, Greek, Europeans, Canadians, Hong Kongers, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Singaporeans and of course, Malaysians. I find the curriculum in Monash appealing because it’s a 5-year undergraduate programme. Some universities only offer post-graduate or 6-year programmes. We also get site visits to clinics and hospitals pretty early on, which is good to remind you that you’re treating real patients and not just textbook diseases. There’s also dissection of real cadavers in the second semester when we start Anatomy and that’s one of the advantages of studying overseas – you don’t get that in Malaysian medical schools.

I did experience a difference in the academic culture as studying in university is centred around self-learning rather than the spoonfeeding we’ve been used to. The lecture slides are never enough and I always find myself worrying about the depth I need to cover. So this is where VESPAs come in and it’s one of the huge reasons that I love studying in Monash University. I have never known what VESPA stood for (expect an update if I do find out) but it’s basically a study group where seniors from a year above guide juniors a year below them. Juniors get their questions answered and seniors present revision PowerPoint slides with the main takeaways from lecture slides that sometimes tell way too much or too little.

I’m just going to take this paragraph to shameless gush about MAMSA (Malaysian Medical Student Association). MAMSA, to me, is the reason why studying Medicine in a foreign land isn’t as daunting as I thought it would be. We’re made up of medical students from Monash and Melbourne University. We have our own VESPAs every week and two to three revision lectures per semester. We also have many social events! It’s different when you meet people who speak Manglish abroad; they became my safety net.

Truth be told, I’ve still got a lot of Melbourne left to explore as the workload is never-ending and the city is a 40-minute train ride away. However, for the little that I’ve seen, Melbourne is a lovely place. Thanks to its cultural diversity, the food in Melbourne is A++. Heads up for the massive meal portions which can feed two and free food everywhere! There are also various festivals going on all the time. I honestly think that Australia houses some of the friendliest people on the planet – any random person you meet on the street would go out of their way to direct you to your destination or give you suggestions about the events there are to enjoy. Strangely enough, I feel both abroad and at home in Melbourne. There’s just that perfect balance – or maybe it’s because there are just way too many Asians.

Come find me if you do come to Melbourne! I always seem over-excited at first but I really just love meeting new people. I’ll definitely try my best to answer your queries if you ever need help. Random note: be prepared to learn to cook if you’re looking to save $$!

Good luck! Or as the Aussies say – Chookas!

The writer, who chose to be anonymous, is now a second year Medical student at Monash University, Australia.

To Stuff or not to Stuff that in?

That is the Question.

Pack light like Mike!

Pack light like Mike!

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Packing can be a long and arduous process and — I’ll admit — even infuriating at times, especially if you’re going abroad. This means that once you’ve forgotten to pack that favorite poster you need to look at before going to bed every day, you will not be sleeping for weeks, until you get used to not having it. We wouldn’t want to trouble our parents to mail us expensive parcels now do we?

Pack early.

Or at least think about what to pack at least 2 weeks prior to your departure date. When you finally get down to business, you’ll realize that there’re far more things to pack than you had initially thought of.

Essentials first!

The most important things are your documents — passport, visa, health records, flight ticket, and other documents without which you will be barred from boarding the flight or enrolling into university. Bring also sufficient cash to last until you open a bank account. Christians, pack your bibles!

Don’t bring your stuffed animal!

Just kidding, but only if it fits, and only if you’ve sworn to never part with Teddy (or Hippo). Or else do consider this option. It’ll save you a whole lot more space in that luggage.

Forget (some) electronics.

Apart from laptops, cellphones and their adapters and chargers, do not attempt to bring appliances such as an iron or a toaster or a hair dryer. The type of voltage differs from country to country, and you’re better off without all that weight anyway. If you need to be more convinced of the hassle involved, here.

I know you’ll miss your local food…

But don’t. Well all right, you can bring a few pieces of Teluk Intan heong peah if you’d like but ONLY A FEW.

Medical needs

Health care could cost a lot more in the UK and USA than in Malaysia. Do make sure you have a working health insurance plan throughout your course of study. Stow items (e.g. medicine) critical to your health in your carry-on bag and NOT your checked bag.

Winter clothing

Many experienced folks have said that it’s advisable to buy them when you’re there. Winter clothing sold overseas is much cheaper and apparently trendier than the ones here. When you’re overseas, also look out for garage sales where people sell off things they no longer need at really low prices.

Number of checked baggage allowed

In my case, we were only allowed one checked baggage per passenger. You are strongly advised to check with the airlines you will be flying with before packing.

Deciding what to put in the checked bag and the carry-on bag.

Some items are prohibited in one but allowed in the other; some items will not be allowed on board at all. Please do refer to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) webpage for a detailed list of prohibited items. Link here.

Your carry-on bag should contain the most important things i.e. passport, travel documents, money, jewellery, other irreplaceable expensive items, laptops and other electronics. You might want to bring an extra set of clothes and underwear just in case there happens to be a delay with retrieving your checked bag.

Check the current temperature of the place you’re bound for.

Dress appropriately for the climate. Bring along an extra jacket in your carry-on bag so that the weather does not take you by surprise.

No lithium in the checked bag.

Temperature or pressure changes on the plane may cause leaks or fires. To quote the American Airlines webpage, “Spare lithium, lithium-ion batteries of any kind are not allowed in checked baggage. Spare lithium, lithium-ion batteries for devices such as laptops, cell phones and cameras must be packed in carry-on baggage with the terminals covered/insulated.”

Ensure that your laptops, cellphones, iPads and tablets have sufficient charge before leaving for the airport.

US-bound passengers will be required to switch on their electronics before boarding. Failure to power your devices up will result in confiscation. This precaution was imposed in response to possible threats of terrorism. More details here.

Google for college checklists.

You might already have a checklist of items to pack but college checklists on the net could still be a great help to remind you of things that might have slipped your mind. Most of them, though, are extensive, and include things that are unnecessary or impractical for an international student to stuff them all into a TINY 28-inch luggage. Nevertheless, use it as a GUIDE. Here’s one.

Travel arrangements

Make sure you plan an itinerary before leaving your home country. This includes your temporary accommodation and the means of transport to commute from one place to another. There are many options when it comes to accommodation. I would suggest that you ask a few upperclassmen if you could stay at one of their places because this is likely to be cheaper. Else, you can opt for student youth hostels at a lower price than hotels. I was told that hotels around the university might double, triple or even quadruple their rates at peak seasons like this but if all else fails, it is still a viable last resort.

Rule of thumb: pack light! Toss out things you can afford to live without or learn to live without them. Leave some items to be bought after you arrive. Keep repacking to narrow down your list of things until the most essential ones fit snugly into your bag.

In the end you’re bound to have something you just wish you could bring. You might even go as far as attempting to use the Undetectable Extension Charm on your bag. Here’s where learning economics might make you feel better, or worse, — depending on how you see it — but either way, you will definitely be more accepting of the situation: you will concede to the economic reality of opportunity costs, that human wants are disproportionately greater than available resources to satisfy those wants.

Good luck!

Jacqueline Wong

Jacqueline Wong

Jacqueline Wong Huey Yean never (erm, rarely) gets tired of ice-cream, Hong Kong dramas, green tea, doodling and theology. She majors in economics at the University of California, Berkeley, though she secretly wants to be a graphic designer one day. To glorify God and enjoy Him forever is the chief end of this wretched sinner, saved by amazing grace.

What’s Next When Your Offer Turns Unconditional?

What’s the A-Z list of what to do after receiving your unconditional offer?

Preparing For Uni?  Stop Stressing Out!

University is a big word. It is a big word because it carries so much determination, expectation and accomplishment with it wherever it goes. If you aim to go to university, then you probably know the feeling it evokes when you even think about it.

There’s stage 1, where all you do is think about it, it’s like a crush that never goes away. With stage 1, you continue to work hard to achieve the grades you need.  After that comes stage 2, which is when you actually get accepted to University.  This is the beginning of what seems like a never-ending preparation for 3 or 4 years of your life. It is, however, not as never-ending as it may seem at first. To put it into perspective, so many before you have done it, so why can’t you? Fret not, I’m here to help.

Step 1: A basic Google search

As the acceptance letter sits beautifully on your now very cluttered desk, you need to start finding out more about where you’re going. Of course, you will have (hopefully) already done this before you applied. However, there’s always something new to discover or learn about a place. I’ve been in Malaysia my whole life but it seems like there’s always a new spot in the city to hang out in. Start with the University itself, followed by an online exploration of the city that you’ll be living in. This includes the weather.

If you feel unsatisfied with a basic Google search, start making friends. Most Universities create Facebook groups and Twitter accounts. There are usually even Facebook groups for your on campus accommodation, if you choose to live on campus. This way, you get to meet or at least talk to some your fellow freshers. I have found that this is the best way to shake off a bit of the pre-University nerves. You get to meet loads of people that are in the same place as you which makes you feel less alone in this uphill battle. You might even get to meet some people that you may already know, or people that are flying off to university from the same country as you.

More often than not, these Facebook groups and Twitter accounts allow you to ask as many questions as you want about the university and the city. You’ll get current students answering your questions personally. So ask away – ask about the city, ask about the campus, ask about the best places to hang out in. As a student, sometimes the best answers comes from other students because they know what a student might be interested in. A travel website can tell you the best places to visit as a tourist, but a fellow student can tell you the best places to visit on a student budget.

Step 2: Getting Your Visa Done

The answer to your question is yes, it is stressful, but only if you don’t know where to start. Take it from me, you should ask the people who have already been through the process. There is a 100% chance that they will tell you that the process isn’t as stressful as it seems on paper. First, find the Visa websites for the country you’re going to and find out which type of Visa you will be needing.

If you’re planning on studying in the UK, you will most likely need a Tier 4 Visa. Here’s a website that will guide you out of the abyss and hopefully get you a successful Visa application – You can also ring Malaysian British Educational Cooperation Services (MABECS) and their consultants will answer all your queries regarding your UK Visa Applications. The contact details can be found HERE

Upon receiving your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studience (CAS) from your university, you will have to submit an online application. Fill in the online form, get a tuberculosis test done from the assigned centers (there is a specific list approved by the UKBA which can be found HERE), make an appointment with the Visa office and make sure you have all your documents. Last but not least, show up for your appointment on time! All of this is stated on the website given. After all that, you’re all set!

Step 3: Shopping & Packing

There’s a reason ‘check the weather’ is included in step 1. In order to go shopping, you need to know what to buy and what you already have. Otherwise, you will be spending loads of money on things that you probably won’t need. Keep track of weather forecasts so you know if you’ll need a jumper or a hat. Know yourself before you shop or pack. The golden rule of packing is asking yourself the following: “Am I going to shop there?” If you’re anything like me, you probably will. Aim to be financially and spatially savvy, do some research, ask around, compare the prices of clothing items in the country you’re in and in the country you’re going to. Chances are, super thick coats are probably more expensive in tropical Malaysia than freezing-cold England. You can also take it to another level and find out when all the sales are.

When packing, take a minute to explore your room and reevaluate your belongings. What do you really use and need on a daily basis? Is there ever a time that you’re going to need that particular thing? If not, then why bring it along? Remember, you are charged a whole lot of money for excess baggage. To ensure you’ve packed right, ask someone else to go through your luggage i.e your mother. They’ll probably nitpick and ask questions, and if you can’t answer why you need a particular item, then you don’t need it! And never ever choose last minute packing as an option – I did and I have regretted it since.

Lastly, weigh your luggage before you leave for the airport. Missing your flight and/or paying extra money is not a fun start for the long journey you have ahead of you.

Step 4: Flying Off

Before leaving for the airport, do the usual check your parents always do before a trip. Passport, travel documents, boarding pass, medication, cash, a book or two, gadgets. Make sure that you have everything you need before your journey. Make sure that you are at the airport at least 2 hours before your departure time.

Ultimately, begin your journey with a positive attitude and embrace the adventure. Even though for some it may seem purely academic, you’re still embarking on a new adventure every time you do something new.

And remember, university preparation doesn’t have to be stressful. So many others have done it before you and they’ve made it through. So, start Google-ing!

Siti Hasmah Charles Mok is an 18 year old adventure enthusiast. She will be  studying law at  the University of Sussex in Brighton. She’s obsessed with film, books, music and everything fashion. If you ever see her, do say hi!