Posted in Poems (or so I think), Random Stuff

Finding My Malaysia

Today my heart whispered loudly

Do you know, do you know that history has been made

I can love my country with unfettered chains

And know that She will feel the same

Because today I found you Malaysia

And I am coming home to you.

 

 

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Posted in Education, Random Stuff, UofI, Writing assignment

Constantine: The Pagan Christian

Wrote this for my World Religions class – it’s my first-ever attempt at historical analysis. Also, I was running on only four hours of sleep on this, so this piece is rather disjointed. Nevertheless, let me know what you think of it, especially if I got any facts wrong! 

The conversion of Constantine I to Christianity is a subject of much contention among historians. This is partly due to the fact that Constantine never publicly declared his conversion to Christianity in any of the sources chronicling his lifetime[1]. However, there is no doubt that his devotion and adherence to its teachings lifted the religion’s status from one of a religia illicita[2] to that of the state’s favored religion. His impact was so great that, upon his death, he was buried in the Church of the Twelve Apostles in Constantinople, and recognized both as a saint and as the thirteenth apostle[3]. In this paper, I will explore Constantine’s motivation in proclaiming Christianity’s legitimacy and his navigating the rule of a pagan empire with the introduction of a formerly persecuted religious movement. I will also argue that Constantine’s decision to recognize Christianity was driven by political ambition as much as religious influence, and how this affected the nature of the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. Finally, I will discuss the reformations in Roman political and religious tradition following these events.

Image result for constantine the great

When your people won’t let you Christianize the empire.

Constantine often touted his vision before his military victory in the Battle of Milvian Bridge as the moment of his ‘conversion’[4]. There is a high likelihood that this was merely a political statement; being aware of Roman pagan beliefs in omens and visions, Constantine would have known that the then-pagan the Romans would be more receptive towards this justification than any other reason he could have publicly provided. Instead, historical records show that Constantine’s ascended to the seat of power in the Western Roman Empire during a period of great instability. The tetrarchy (lit. rule of four) imposed by his predecessor, Diocletian, circa 300 A.D. caused power struggles between the four ‘co-emperors’ and made administration of the already-bloated empire convoluted.

Image result for diocletian

Emperor Die-O-Christian – geddit?

Constantine possibly sought to establish a unifying factor for the empire in the form of Christianity, a religion that requires the absolute obedience of its followers. It is also worth to note that Constantine’s mother, Helena, was rumored to be a Christian and that he began his career serving as a diplomat in the courts of Eastern Rome where Christianity was more widely accepted[5]. He must also have recognized the futility of persecuting Christians, as past emperors’ attempts at eradicating what was then considered a deviant cult had continued to fail. Constantine recognized the political value of small but growing Christian minority, declaring himself Pontifex Maximus of both the Christian faith and of the Roman gods. This historical decision allowed him to claim authority over not just a majority, but of all Romans, pagan and Christian alike.

In spite of his apparent conversion, Constantine initially maintained key Roman traditions such as the celebration of Sol Invictus and the practice of sacrificing animals during religious rituals immediately following his rise to power. This duality of his words and actions were particularly apparent when he sacrificed not to the Christian God, but to Sol Invictus – the Roman god of the unconquered sun – after his Milvian Bridge victory[6]. This was a wise decision. At the time, a majority of Romans were pagans, and a sudden ousting of the old gods would have been political – and personal – suicide. Some coins minted during his reign had both the Christian Chi and Rho inscribed on them, and others bore the figure of the Roman Sol Invictus[7], further emphasizing Constantine’s early efforts to appease pagan Rome while gradually introducing Christian elements to the empire.

As his reign grew more secure, he began implementing Christian-centric policies, the most impactful being the Edict of Milan[8]. Widely regarded as the Magna Carta of religious liberty[9], the Edict leveled the playing field between Christianity and paganism, declaring that both were protected under the state. This normalized – even popularized – Christianity. Individuals were now free to convert to Christianity without fearing for their lives as the Edict outlawed religious persecution. It also removed the strict conditions previously placed on the building of churches. For the first time in Roman history, policies motivated by religion were being made. And although Christianity was not yet a state religion, this would soon culminate in the development of a symbiotic relationship between the Church and the Roman state, which will be discussed in the next paragraph.

Before Constantine, a Roman emperor was viewed as a beatific manifestation or representative of whichever god (Jupiter, Sol, Mithras, etc.) he espoused; to defy the emperor was to defy the divine. With the legitimization of Christianity, the Roman state officially recognized a higher power than the emperor, which redefined the authority of the monarchy. The emperor was no longer a divine entity – instead, he was considered a custodian and an enforcer of religious doctrine. This left a void to be filled – if the emperor was no longer the supreme power, what was? Here, the Church, now empowered by Constantine’s Christian-centric policies, assumed the role of religious authority and soon developed a relationship with the Roman administration as advisors. To emphasize this shift in power, Constantine would enter his court surrounded by bishops and priests, in contrast to the parade of military officers that would have accompanied his predecessors. Constantine also began applying Christian doctrine as Roman civil law. It can be argued that this is because Constantine saw Christianity not only as a creed but a set of rules that had to be implemented for it to be properly practiced[10]. For the masses, abiding the rules soon meant following the basic tenets of Christianity[11]. Roman law became Christian law[12], and vice versa. Elements of Christianity also seeped into the Roman military, as the crucifix emblazoned on a flag soon became the symbol of Roman military victory.

Later in life, Constantine increased efforts to propagate Christianity across the empire. He placed Christian governors in Roman provinces, and financially incentivized the conversion of pagan temples to churches, as well as the construction of new ones. Constantine also moved the capital of the Roman Empire east to Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople (now Istanbul), hoping that a fresh start would allow him to establish a purely Christian metropolis.

Nonetheless, perhaps his greatest contribution to the spread of Christianity was his calling for the convening of the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. Also known as the First Council of Nicaea, it was the first ecumenical council of the Christian Church[13]. Although failing to conclusively determine a set date for Easter (one of its main purposes), the Council introduced decrees regarding the consecration of bishops and confirmed the primacy of Alexandria and Jerusalem over other religious sites[14].  Most of all, the Council of Nicaea saw the composition of the Nicene Creed (the statement of faith that God and Christ are one) which is now a vital part of Roman Catholic doctrine[15]. By presiding over the Council, Constantine deepened the relationship between the Church and the state, and further emphasized the importance of secular patronage in enforcing the Church’s role in the administration of the empire.

Nicea

Now, everyone play Nicaea.

After his reign, Constantine’s sons continued his policies – laws were passed in favor of Christians, and despite the existence of the Edict of Milan, paganism gradually lost its equal status and fell victim to the same suppression that Christianity once suffered. The Church assumed authority over educating the masses, determining ethical norms, and the advising of political leaders.

Having noted this, it can be said that Constantine was significant not for his debatable conversion to Christianity on his deathbed, but for the power that he imbued the Church with by recognizing and supporting it[16]. With his legislative backing, what began as a sympathetic recognition of a persecuted minority grew into the establishment of a powerful religious authority. This was coupled with wise political decisions made early in his reign that allowed him to support the Church and spread its doctrine with little to no resistance from the Roman people, which led to the Christianization of the state, and hence the conversion of almost the entire Roman Empire. His time as emperor also saw the reformation of the role of both state and Church, and the development of universal Christian doctrine, as well as the establishment of a new Christian capital. Today, the impact Constantine’s decision reverberates throughout history and civilization. While many contend his conversion to Christianity, his devotion and faith in the religion, shown through his actions and political choices, cannot be denied.

 

[1] Tyler Yung Laughlin, The Controversy of Constantine’s Conversion to Christianity (West Oregon University, 2007), 18.

[2] Sunni E. Mathew, Constantine Effect on Christianity (FFRRC Seminar, 2009), 1.

[3] Ibid, 3.

[4] Eusebius, Life of Constantine (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), 204.

[5] J.F. Matthews, Encyclopaedia Britannica (Britannica, 2018).

[6] Francis Opoku, “Constantine and Christianity: The Formation of Church/State Relations in the Roman Empire,Iloran Journal of Religious Studies Vol.5 No.1 (2015): 19.

[7] Elizabeth Marlowe, “Framing the Sun: The Arch of Constantine and the Roman Cityscape,” Art Bulletin 88 (2006): 225.

[8] Ibid, 21.

[9] Alexander Flick, The Rise of the Medieval Church (Project Gutenberg, 2013).

[10] Alexander Flick, The Rise of the Medieval Church (Project Gutenberg, 2013).

[11] Francis Opoku, Constantine and Christianity: The Formation of Church/State Relations in the Roman Empire (Iloran Journal of Religious Studies Vol.5 No.1, 2015), 25.

[12] Ibid, 26.

[13] The Editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannnica, Encyclopaedia Britannica (Britannica, 2018).

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Alexander Flick, The Rise of the Medieval Church (Project Gutenberg, 2013).

 

Posted in Poems (or so I think), Shorts

Yardstick

the nurse asks

“weight and height?”

“a 4.0 GPA and 100 for all my reports.”

the counselor asks

“so how are you today?”

“Not bad – only one A-minus throughout my high school career.”

her parents ask

“girl, have you eaten?”

“had my fill of perfect assignments today.”

someone curious asks

“how far can you run?”

“22 credit hours, but i have to stop and walk for a bit in between.”

the girl has a yardstick

that she uses to measure how far she’s come

– no, the yardstick has a girl

and when the yardstick breaks

Error 404: girl not found

 

*And yes, that was one heck of a hiatus. Feels good to be back.

 

Posted in Learning Curve, Overseas, UofI

How to Malaysian at the UofI #5: Things They Don’t Tell You

If you’ve come to look for the panacea to homesickness, you won’t find it here. This one isn’t about hunky-dory things. This one has been brought on by a few questions the facilitators got asked at the USAPPS workshop last week, and most of which I’d like to address here. Here goes nothing.

There’s a common myth that university is supposed to be this orgy of socializing and reinventing yourself – a myth that I’d like to dispel. In university, especially in one as big as the UofI, lectures often involve more than 200 students. I found myself sitting next to one person during Chem 102, then scribbling notes between empty seats in Math 231, eating alone during lunch, meeting up with committee members in the evening, and spending most of the night studying by myself, or occasionally with a friend. University life wasn’t what I had expected it to be. Instead of making a huge bunch of friends that I regularly went out with, I learned to be comfortable by myself.

It sounds depressing, sure, but honestly, university is a lot of learning about how to deal with things on your own. And along the way you make friends. It’s interesting to note, though, that many of the USAPPS participants asked whether it is difficult to make ‘American friends’. Well, no doubt we come from different countries. We have different accents, beliefs, cultural quirks, and to just sweep all these things under the carpet would be a mistake. Of course these things make finding commonalities harder. But they also make great conversation starters. At the end of the day, we’re all clueless college students. Some of us merely happen to be playing the four-year game on home court.

I often get asked questions like, ‘Is there discrimination?’ and ‘Will they look down on you?’, which is normal. And while I’d like to con-fort you and say ‘No worries! Murica got your back!’, the reality is that discrimination is as much as a fact of life as the fact that Fred Weasley died. Honestly, we Malaysians have this in-built reaction to Western culture in which we irrationally admire everything they do, and as long as we give off the impression that we are less than them, that’s how long the cultural barriers will remain. Show yourself and your culture the respect that you show others’, before expecting any in return.

So yes, to my Malaysian friends making the journey overseas, racism is real. Discrimination happens. You will feel isolated, lonely, and constantly pine for the sound of Hokkien (or maybe that’s just me). The feeling of cultural vertigo never quite goes away. You will wonder why your life isn’t nearly as interesting as your friend living in California, or why your Instagram story isn’t nearly as full of international friends and live performances. You may start to regret your decision to study two oceans away. You may need to cry in the middle of the night, wondering when your international-student life will turn into the exciting joyride that every blog, Facebook and Instagram post says it’s supposed to be.

College life is stressful. You will worry about your GPA. You will lament your choice of taking a class that you were not required to take, but still did because hubris. You will miss home, and the familiar smell of belacan cooking in the kitchen. You will worry about money and rent, and whether there will be enough to travel at the end of the semester. And for international students, you will wonder if you will ever fit in, if America will ever feel like home.

I cannot give you any answers. But, personally, I just stopped caring too much and did whatever I felt I wanted to (except for booze, drugs and sex – because aku anak Malaysia yang ingin membanggakan negara). You only have four years in the US, maybe less.

Make it count.

Posted in Learning Curve, Overseas, UofI

How to Malaysian at the UofI #4: Not Food

So I get that food is uber-important to us Malaysians, but going overseas requires a little more preparation aside from the small grocery shop that we will be carrying in our luggage. I mentioned that I’d expand a little more on medication, so I’ll be doing that plus listing a couple of other things that helped me acclimatize during my first few months at the UofI.

I had two medicine bags – one in my carry-on, and another in my checked luggage. Here’s what went into both:

Carry-on MedPack

I had with me chewable vitamins, because immunity drops when you’re 30,000 feet in the air. Plus, you’ll be exposed to so many varieties of pathogens you’d probably not want to get onto the plane if you stop to think about it. I also packed a strip of Panadol (just in case I fell sick), Eno, lozenges, and Vick’s inhaler nasal stick for blocked noses.

Image result for vicks menthol stick

While chewing gum is not medicine, I threw it in my pack, because my ears get blocked pretty badly while flying, and I’m not really a fan of the cotton-in-my-ear sensation.

Check-in MedPack

This was my personal Chinese sinseh and Guardian Pharmacy all rolled into one. I take a lot of Chinese traditional medicine, so I had herbal pills for everything from cough and indigestion to fever and period cramps. If you’re old-school like me, traditional medicine is definitely allowed, so it’s fine to take along any kacip fatimah or ginseng extract pills, but please make sure to label them with their functions. I included prescription anti-inflammatory pills for sore throat, flu medicine from my family doctor, charcoal pills (in case American food did not agree with me), more Eno, plasters, muscle-ache patches, extra vitamins, an entire box of Panadol, and more lozenges (because I have overactive tonsils). In general, bring along whatever you think you need (especially things like inhalers or respirators), but LABEL THEM with their ingredients (if possible) and, more importantly, their purpose.

Oh yes, musn’t forget good ol’ Tiger Balm and Vicks Vaporub.

A set of winter clothes

I’ve had some friends ask me if it would be better if they waited and bought their cold-weather clothes in the US. While winter clothes are significantly cheaper here, it would also be wise to invest in at least one set of winter clothes (coat, long johns, scarf, gloves, woolen socks) before flying, as you never know when you’d be able to make a trip to the store once you arrive. Come prepared.

Spares

Spare glasses, contact lenses, retainers, shoes. At least, that’s what came along with me. Spectacles (or glasses, as they call it in the US) are pretty expensive, and so are contacts. Retainers (and any dental care in general) isn’t covered by the university insurance. So if you want to save a few future bucks, invest in spares before you leave.

Comfort items

I brought my teddy bear with me. I am not ashamed of myself. Things that help remind you of home may ease homesickness a little, and help you cope with your new environment. It’s also like having a bit of your family and friends with you. Bring along anything that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, be it a old blanket, a squishy pillow, a beloved book, or a smelly doll – whatever works. No one judged me – or at least, I think so.

Posted in Learning Curve, Overseas, UofI

How to Malaysian at the UofI #3: Food for Thought

Okay, so I’ve had a couple of friends ask me what kind of food they should/should not bring to the US, so here’s a list of common items we Malaysians typically cannot live without, and whether or not US Customs would suddenly decide they need a bottle of belacan.

1. Milo and Nescafe

JUST BRING. LIKE TWO PACKETS. I used up two large packets of Milo 3-in-1 in one semester (but that’s just me lah). Also, if you’re a hardcore Milo fan, invest in a couple of kg’s and take some along because a small tin of Milo can cost up to $7 in the US, depending on the region. If you’re a Nescafe enthusiast , don’t hesitate to invest in one or two packages. The United States simply does not have the variety of pre-mixed coffee that Malaysia does.

2. Maggi

While IndoMee and cup ramen can be found in abundance in the Land of the Mee – I mean Free – there is simply nothing like a good, hot bowl of Maggi Kari to warm you up on an abysmal winter day. Also, you cannot find Maggi Kari here, so do bring your own personal supply along. Mind the chicken-flavored one, though. The rules are pretty blurry on this one, but if the Customs officer had a stressful day, he/she might just confiscate your Maggi Perisa Ayam.

3. Malaysian Spices and Condiments

Image result for babas spices

I would strongly advise bringing a small supply of your own spices and curry powder (Babas, usually) until you can figure out where to buy decent Asian spices on the University campus. While there are at least three Asian marts selling a generous variety of powders and spices, a small stash may help you while you’re figuring out where to buy everything you need to make your Tok Ma’s rendang kambing. Besides that, things like kicap (soy sauce) and oyster sauce are totally fine, as long as you don’t bring along five bottles of each (that looks plain suspicious). Also make sure to wrap all glass bottles securely to prevent any breakage, because your luggage bag is going to be thrown about. ALSO BRING CHILLI SAUCE.

4. Belacan

I have not yet entered an Asian mart on campus that sells belacan. That being said, the admissibility of belacan into the United States is pretty ambiguous. Sometimes it passes right through Customs with no problem, other times it gets confiscated. My opinion? Just bring it along. If it survives Border Protection, you can look forward to a nice plate of nasi lemak. On a side note, shrimp is also okay, as long as it’s dried, and does not come in insanely large quantities.

5. Medicine

I will expand more on this later on, but for starters, make sure you have Panadol, prescription flu pills, Eno, and vitamin C chewables. The change in time zone and weather can affect some people pretty badly, so painkillers and vitamins will definitely help to ease any discomfort that you might be feeling.

With that said, I’d like to add that it’s advisable to label all food items clearly and concisely. I wrapped my medicines and any food products that might cause any confusion for the Customs officers in clear plastic bags, then labelled them with their names. For medicines, I added their purpose. For food, I listed their main ingredients.

The basic rule is just to bring along whatever you feel is necessary to help you acclimatize in a new environment. Don’t be too afraid of what may or may not get taken out of your luggage bag because honestly, it very much depends on your luck. And just in case you still have any doubts, head over here for more information of the US Customs and Border Protection website to find out!

Posted in Learning Curve, Overseas, UofI

How to Malaysian at the UofI #2: Dealing with SAD

Oh, I remember the (literal) dark days: fourteen hours of night, sub-zero temperatures, and consuming an entire bag of Cracker Jack on the dorm linoleum floor while sobbing piteously at the visual masterpiece that is Kimi no Na Wa. Every day I’d trudge to work at the bookstore in the morning, visit the gym for a little, cook tomorrow’s dinner after my bath, then watch some Netflix or Hulu. On the weekends, I’d go over to my friends’ place and cook a little more, maybe watch a movie. I seemed to be running on fine – or was I?

A heaviness seemed to have taken up residence in the recesses of my chest. I felt disinterested and disillusioned most of the time. I began wondering what my purpose in life was. I questioned the reason for my existence and started having some pretty dark thoughts (that I won’t disclose here for reasons that I won’t disclose here). Back then I didn’t realize I was suffering from a mild case of winter depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD (very aptly named, by the way) is a psychological condition that affects people who exhibit normal mental behavior throughout most of the year. Scientists at the NHS have drawn hypotheses that suggest that the lower levels of sunlight during winter disrupt the production levels of melatonin and serotonin, leading to lethargy and a general feeling of discontent and frustration. The longer nighttime hours may also cause the body’s circadian rhythm to go out of whack. Other symptoms include:

  • Craving carbohydrates
  • A persistent low mood
  • Low self-esteem
  • A loss of interest/pleasure in daily activities
  • Difficulty in waking up/falling asleep
  • Gaining weight

Out of the six symptoms I listed above, five happened to me. There are ways to deal with it though. Human-to-human interaction helps greatly, as working at the bookstore raised my morale during the day. Working out also does a great deal for your serotonin levels. If you’re not a gym sort of person, find some time to bundle up and take a lunchtime walk. Sunlight does wonders. Try to keep to a healthy balanced diet, and use cooking as an excuse to occupy your time.

For my fellow Malaysian students (and international students), the university campus typically gets very quiet during the winter break, so find opportunities to work part-time, or plan a trip out-of-state with friends, or take up winter courses. If you aren’t able to do that, stay over with your friends on campus, and spend more time with them. Call up your family and friends when you need someone to talk to. Try to avoid looking at Instagram pictures of your other friends enjoying themselves in sunnier states. If that is not humanly possible (blame the ubiquitous nature of social media), by all means look, but do your best not to fall into despair comparing your winter break with others’. Distract yourself with reading, or cooking, or apartment redecorating.

It gets pretty rough for people used to tropical climates here in Illinois, especially first-timers. Educate yourself and prepare for the possibility of winter depression. It’s real yo.

Bloody hell. What kind of ending is that? Anyways, you can find more on the symptoms and treatment for SAD on the NHS website.

Posted in Learning Curve, Overseas, UofI

How to Malaysian at the UofI #1: Prepping for the ice-pocalypse

This one is specially dedicated to my friends bound for the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign this coming Fall, or anyone in particular looking to learn how to survive subzero temperatures four months a year. It’s gonna be sort of a mini-series, so I’ll be starting off with learning how to avoid death by freeze-nap.

So, I don’t know about you guys, but before coming to the UofI, I had this picturesque image of the Main Quad in my head that kinda looked like this:

Image result for uiuc main quad

But the university websites forgot to mention a couple of itsy bitsy things like:

Image result for uiuc rain
This
Image result for uiuc snow day
THIS
Image result for illinois strong winds
AND THIS.

And hence this little PSA. So here are a few things that helped me (your friendly neighborhood Equatorial-country native) survive my first Winter (and late Fall).

Woolen inner wear

These include long johns, socks, and leggings. They essentially function like a second skin, and can be very comfortable if you buy the right one. Woolen ones are harder to come by in Malaysia, but synthetic ones work just the same. Synthetic material also tends to be more water resistant, which is something you’d want for your socks (especially during Fall of the Perpetual Rain). However, you’d have to wash synthetic inner wear more often than woolen ones, because they tend to develop an iffy smell if you don’t clean them for more than a week.

Invest in good-quality innerwear, though. If possible, don’t be stingy about it. A  good set of long johns can mean the difference between comfort and ants in your pants.

A down coat

A down coat is (duh) a coat stuffed with down, a material typically made of goose or duck feathers, or synthetic fibers. They come in all styles, colors, sizes, and fashions, but I would personally recommend getting one of those Michelin-man ones that extend below your knees. Reason being that those coats are designed to increase surface area to trap more warm air. Also, a long coat is better at preventing the winds from riding up your gluteus  maximus. Some of them even come with an inner layer that you can zip on and off, depending on how cold the weather is. Also, get one with a large hood (preferably with synthetic feathers) to prevent the wind from getting at your face.

Mine kinda looks like this:

Image result for guess winter coat black women

It’s not fashionable, but it works amazingly well.

A sturdy scarf.

No, one of those flimsy cotton ones isn’t going to work. Neither is a soft fluffy one. Get serious, heavy-duty scarves that can stay upright on your face, even when the wind is blowing at 70km/h. Knitted woolen scarves are really good (my friend made one for me and it helped me survive November and December). But in January, when things start to get bad, you’ll want a stiffer, thicker scarf. I bought mine at Target, and it’s the green one in the picture below:

And since I’ve shown you this picture, I’ll talk about leather gloves.

I bought them at Target, too. They double as half-mittens, and have an inner synthetic lining. I wore them throughout the entire winter. They helped me stand -20C weather, piercing winds, and torrential rain. I am not exaggerating one bit. And as I am cursed with perpetually cold hands, these gloves are a $39 blessing. I’ve tried mittens, woolen gloves, touchscreen gloves – but nothing worked as well as the leather ones I now swear by.

BOOTS. Mustn’t forget boots.

 There are two kinds of boots that you will need if you’re studying at the UofI: rain boots and snow boots. The former because it rains non-stop during the later Fall months, and cold, wet feet is the last thing you want to have on a day with five consecutive classes. The latter is absolutely necessary. I have these pair:

Image result for columbia black winter boots

They are huge, chunky, and rather ugly in an endearing way, but they are also warm, waterproof, and non-slip. Do not skimp on these. I repeat: DO. NOT. SKIMP. ON. WINTER. BOOTS. You will live, miserably, to regret it when you cannot walk to class without slipping on ice at least seven times and arriving home at 5pm with damp, wrinkly feet.

Jean Valjeans

Jeans. Mankind’s savior in all weather conditions. I would advise getting a few pairs of reasonably baggy jeans for winter wear. Baggy because you’d be wearing layers of inner wear underneath it, and I would not recommend walking around like an overstuffed bratwurst. You can also survive Fall if you have a couple of good-quality pairs without any inner wear.

Flappy hats and beanies

I got a one of those flappy-eared hats for warmth, and BOY does it work well. It looks terrible, though, so I don’t wear it unless the wind is blowing and my hood will be rendered null and void. I also got a floppy beanie, and that works fine, too. The basic principle is to get something that covers your ears, because that’s where you lose a lot of heat.

Image result for floppy ear hat
Flappy ear hat, otherwise known as a woodchuck hat.

Layer!

Layer your clothes. I made the mistake of buying the thickest of everything that I could get when I got here, and wasted some money. The trick isn’t to buy the thickest jacket or scarf on the market, but to wear your clothes in layers. Each layer of clothing traps a separate layer of warm air, and that’s what actually keeps you warm. So basically, more layers = more warm air = more comfy. Here’s an example of what would typically pass of as ‘warm’ for me in the winter.

  1. Camisole
  2. Long-sleeved blouse
  3. Thin inner jacket
  4. Down coat
  5. Woolen leggings
  6. Jeans
  7. Long socks
  8. Snow boots
  9. Beanie
  10. Big scarf

I get cold easily, so it might be overkill for some of you.

You can also find some things that really helped me here and here. 

There you go. That’s all I can think of for now. Whoever you are, I hope this helps you, and please feel free to ask me questions in the comments below!

Posted in Learning Curve, Overseas, Poems (or so I think), Random Stuff

That Didn’t Feel Like 9 Months

It was a blink of an eye, an endless eternity

It was an journey that stretched infinitely into the horizon

It was more life lived in nine months than in nineteen years

And bipolar weather bringing ghastly winds

It was cornfields and soybeans

Peppered with concrete, mortar, reused paper and wooden swords

It was the musty smell of running women

And grunting men pulling their weight in iron

It was 5km in 35 minutes for the first time in a lifetime

It was finding out that three hours of sleep sufficed

And that 3D modeling meant more than a bath

It was AMIRA and Gaussian and Otsu and thresholds

And that there is so, so much more left to learn

It was the sheer excitement at imagining a machine poop cement

Coupled with the “Oh my God, maybe I’d get to make it”

It was starting off on stumbling feet

–  Ah, dammit, I am still stumbling –

Most of all it was, is, and always will be

The freedom, the liberation, and the bittersweet sensation

Of knowing that you are where you’re supposed to be

9,250 miles away from where you left your heart.

 

Posted in Education, Scholarships

Academicians’ Boats

In case you don’t get the title, think synonyms.

Anyways, SPM results are out, and I have a burning sense of obligation to spread the good news of financial aid for higher education.

Just kidding. Mid terms are over, I just had a bag of chips, and I want to write something. Hurrah Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand! I will now proceed to divulge the secrets to the application process of

THE YAYASAN TENAGA NASIONAL SCHOLARSHIP

Image result for yayasan tenaga nasional scholarship

Why this one? Well, they’re my sponsors and the only one I can be sure not to give you faulty second-hand information of, so here goes nothing.

Yayasan Tenaga Nasional (YTN) offers two types of financial aid: study loan and full scholarship. I’ll only be talking about the full scholarship, because I ‘Jon Snow’ on the former.

The application process of this scholarship is pretty straightforward. There’s an online application that you have to fill out, but they go old-school with the supporting documents. You have to mail them your certificates, exam results, identification documents and the like. I also strongly suggest including a resume and a reference letter. They may or may not read it, but it’s just better if you have something extra they can refer to. I had to wait for about two weeks for the application results to come out. You need to remember to keep checking their website to see when the results will be out. Also keep tabs on their application page, because that is where they post the results, and where you’ll have to confirm your attendance to the interview.

As for the types of scholarships they offer, YTN sponsors students interested in the Civil, Electrical Power and Mechanical Engineering. They also offer scholarships for Accountancy. From what I know, they offer both local and overseas scholarships. The local scholarship is for engineering and accountancy programs at UNITEN. The overseas option will have students complete their first year of university at a Malaysian prep college (probably INTEC), and complete the remaining three years of undergraduate study at a university in the US. Students can also opt to apply to study in the UK, Australia, or New Zealand. I’m not too sure how those work, however, and can only give solid information for the US program. As for the type of sponsors they are; from my experience, YTN has been accommodating and efficient. They’re caring sponsors, answer emails promptly, and it doesn’t hurt that they support their students pretty well, financially speaking.

On the side, here is a list of things that you will need in preparation for scholarship applications:

  1. At least 10 copies of certificates of your significant achievements or koko activities
  2. At least 10 copies of your identification documents including (but not limited to) your IC, passport, and birth cert
  3. At least 5 copies of your parents’ tax release forms
  4. At least 5 copies of your parents’ paychecks
  5. At least 10 copies of your exam results from From 1 to Form 2
  6. More than 10 copies of your exam results from Form 3 to Form 5
  7. At least two reference letters from  teachers/mentors/employers
  8. At least 10 copies of your CV/resume (learn the difference here)
  9. A sturdy file to keep all the paper in
  10. At least one packet of A4 envelopes to mail your documents
  11. BLACK BALLPOINT PEN 
  12. A muka tembok to keep going back to school to ask the headmaster/mistress to sahkan all the documents
  13. A guilty conscience for all the trees you murdered

More information regarding other scholarships can be found here. If you have any questions, please post it in the comments, or PM me via Facebook. I’ll be happy to help out.

Also, I have to mention that this post was inspired by my friend’s blog post about JPA scholarships. Give it a read! I cannot promise possums or cherry blossoms, but it will be awesome.

Lastly, to all SPM 2016 candidates: BRACE YOURSELVES – WINTER IS COMING (or the sheer scariness of adulthood, at least).