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.


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 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


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
  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).

Posted in Education, Scholarship interview, Scholarships

Karma and Community Service

I figured since I received most of my help applying for scholarships via blogs, I’d repay the favor by posting one on scholarships myself, to help prepare whoever reads this for what is to come. Links to the scholarships can be found here.

(Viewer discretion advised: all content posted is purely writer’s personal experience).

1.Start with the easy ones

Yes – prepare yourself for spending hours on end staring at the computer screen, filling out forms that eventually seem to make no difference. But it’s going to make a difference. I started out by finishing the ones that could be done fast – PETRONAS, Maybank, PNB, Yayasan Tenaga Nasional – these are a few of those that can be completed in one sitting. Other applications like the Bank Negara Scholarship and the Yayasan Khazanah requires an essay each, so you’ll need to spend more time on those.

2. Fill in the paper forms with pencil first

I made the mistake of filling in both my Maybank and PNB forms with pen. I think I murdered at least two acres of virgin jungle reprinting those forms. No – correction tape or liquid paper of any kind is acceptable on those forms. So yes, fill in the blanks with pencil like the good, environmentally-friendly human being you are then finalize in pen.

3. Essays must be prepared beforehand.

Some scholarship applications require an essay, like the Bank Negara and Yayasan Khazanah Scholarships. There are no set rules to writing the perfect essay, but it would be good if you talk about what really matters to you with someone else. It will help you come up with ideas on why you want to do what you want to do and not sound pretentious about it. Don’t try to play humble. But don’t be too vain. Yeah – sounds like you need to swim while drinking water. I feel you. Also, pre-write the essay in Word document if possible. Then just copy and paste.

HOWEVER – Bank Negara will ask you to write an essay on the spot (cuz they merciless dat wey) so sit down for a bit, and think about your achievements, what they mean to you, any significant events in your life, your goals and why they are that way. List them down or talk about it – whatever helps. Then write when you are ready.

4. Deadlines are lies

No. Do not, under any circumstance, listen to that deadline. Doing anything on the day of the deadline is what you call A BAD IDEA. So many things could go wrong. Your Internet could crash. The post office could be closed. Envelopes could be sold out. The world could end. So get it done as soon as possible. Cause you never know. Stuff happens.

5. You will suffer, but you will be happy about it

Yes, those applications can really affect your self esteem. It’s as though all those co-curricular blanks were meant to be filled with international-level participation and those SPM spaces were meant for strings of A+. It will affect you. Take some time off for a breather. I don’t really know how I got out of that semi-depressive state myself, but I think telling myself that it was okay to be okay helped. But all things come to pass, and eventually you will finish that application and who knows? Maybe good news in a few weeks? It will all be worth it.

I think that’s about it. If there are any questions you’d like to ask me just post it in the comments below (if anyone does read this, of course). I’d be glad to be of assistance.

PS: You’ll need at least five sets of photocopied and stamped certificates and at least ten copies of your IC. So be prepared.


Posted in Education, INTEC, Writing assignment

The Most Emo Thing I’ve Ever Written In Response To The Most Emo Thing I have Ever Read (And also possibly the longest title in the history of titles)

This is in response to May Sarton’s ‘The Rewards of Living A Solitary Life’. Please do comment!

I refuse to give this reading response a pedestrian opening. I will not settle for ‘May Sarton’s essay, “The Rewards of Living a Solitary Life”, in its entirety, is about…’ and so on. No one can sum up this piece of validation, this piece of recognition, of what it truly means to dare to live alone in a sentence of less than twenty unique combinations of the English alphabet.

Hence, I will begin my response with this: May Sarton was homosexual.

And maybe it was her homosexuality that drove her to choose a solitary life over the continued rebellion against society’s status quo and the struggle with her emotions. Maybe she, too, had to take the plunge her friend took, and discover that perhaps, she was not such a bad person to be with after all. No matter what her previous circumstances, it is evident in her writing that she truly enjoys her life of solitude, describing it with a certain delicacy that gives even her dullest affairs, like watering plants, a poetic flounce. It is her ‘zone’, in a manner of speaking. However, her high praise for the perks of living alone could make one question her true thoughts. Could she be hiding her fear of societal rejection behind a thin veneer of proud individualism? Could it be that Miss Sarton lacked the confidence to face other individuals, and so had to settle for a life of lonesomeness?

That would be a perversion of her true intentions, to my mind. Her words (“Solitude is the salt of personhood”, “Alone we can afford to be wholly who we are”) are a reflection of honest opinions, and are in no way a defence in lieu of strength of character. To her, solitude is an opportunity for self-discovery, and even to some extent, an adventure – not an excuse to shy away from the challenge of fulfilling the expectations of others. It is her belief that making the conscious choice to live alone is an act of bravery – daring to see yourself as the person you truly are, to strip away all opulent glorifications you may have inclined to place upon yourself, and to stand before the world, metaphorically, naked. And I could not agree more. Who are we but the people we are when we are alone? Personal experience tells me that I am not myself with other people. External communication requires that I put on an elaborate façade and give away a little of the ‘Lillian-of-the-day’ to every person I meet or talk to. Inevitably, I lose the ability to see the world through my own eyes. Instead, I am hovering above my physical self, watching my every move through a foggy glass ceiling clouded with the opinions and thoughts of others. And like Miss Sarton, this is when true loneliness sets in.

Here, however, I have to disagree with this extraordinary piece of writing. Although I do feel the same way as Miss Sarton does after a long day of conversation and experience, loneliness is not always a negative feeling. After all, however am I supposed to feel full again if I have not been emptied? And although the writer may find that the senses are dulled when experiences are shared, I, on the contrary, feel that they are merely halved as to share one great experience between two separate minds. The sensation of being with others is not always ‘suffering from our differences in taste’. In fact, it is refreshing, for it is in others that I see reflected a different image of me. My faults and positive qualities are all at once magnified in the eyes of another, and the moments of loneliness that follow allow me to reflect on the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are reasons as to why I hesitated to reveal that shred of personal truth that day, why I softened my perception for the sake of the men and women around me. And the moments of loneliness urge me to ask myself – what do I have to hide? It is in these moments that I know what I have to do to become a better person. And I think these moments worked their magic for Miss Sarton, too. She needed time to find herself again in the vast emptiness that was left behind after all she had given away during the day. And she did find herself – better, braver and wiser.


Choosing to live a solitary life is truly an act of courage, for the prospect of discovering nothing after a long, hard, look into the depths of your soul is frightening. But upon finding something, and even liking it, being alone suddenly becomes a gift. Even so, only when coupled with encounters saturated with other human presences can we fully appreciate the profundity of solitary life. One cannot exist without the other, for much like Miss Sarton’s ‘charming friend’ it is from the fear of being isolated that we see ourselves for who we really are. Even the writer herself ritually goes through the motions of rediscovering herself after a hectic day – the small instances of self-awareness and inward adventure come during those moments of acute loneliness. But selflessly giving small pieces of yourself away only to be filled later, in solitude, with a renewed sense of self – that is most beautiful of all.

Posted in Education, Random Stuff, Scholarships


Yeoww guys! It’s been a really long time since I posted something, so….here is something I cooked up for the Washington Essay. I hope you guys could help me out maybe? Please? I beg you? Suggestions on how to improve the essay and whether or not I sound like a human being and not a geek is very much appreciated. i really, really, sincerely, truly, absolutely, need your help. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

Describe an experience of cultural difference, positive or negative, you have had or observed. What did you learn from it?

Drinking water never felt more sinful.

In a class of eighteen fasting Muslims, it felt as if every small move I made – sipping water, pushing back a loose strand of hair – was blasphemy. What was I doing here? A lone Chinese amongst the three hundred Malay scholars – I did not belong.

Everything I said, everything I did, was different. I spoke fluent English instead of Perakian Malay. I left my frizzy hair loose while every other girl wore a hijab. I sang One Day More in the shower instead of Getaran Jiwa.

For the first few weeks at INTEC, I was unhappy. I had no close friends save for my roommate. I could see no similarities, no common ground on which to spark a decent conversation.

Hence my last ditch attempt at the pursuit of happiness – fasting.

My friends giggled as I flopped into my seat, exhausted. Fasting was hard. I woke up before Subuh and stuffed myself with energy bars – a huge mistake. I spent the rest of the day uncomfortably thirsty, a strange taste developing in my mouth as the hours passed by. I finally found out how excruciating it is to stare at your fried noodles, honeyed date at the ready, while waiting for the azan to sound at Maghrib.

Maybe it was the lack of food and water that knocked some sense into me, but it occurred to me that maybe being the odd one out wasn’t so bad after all. I had been educated to respect, not to appreciate; trained to be considerate, but not to care. This was merely an opportunity to finally learn to understand, appreciate, and to truly care about a culture so close to mine.

Most importantly, I now know better than to have energy bars for Sahur.


Posted in Education, INTEC, Writing assignment

Why Quote???

“A man’s true wealth is the good he does in the world. Beauty is eternity gazing itself in a mirror. But you are beauty and you are the mirror.”   – Khalil Gibran

Initially I thought this was the most baffling quote I had ever had the misfortune to come across. Eternity gazing at itself in the mirror? What kind of narcissistic persona was this poet trying to portray? Almost immediately, I pictured a colossal ethereal woman staring at herself in a giant, cosmic mirror, combing her flyaway black hair with a dinglehopper while humming The Little Mermaid‘s ‘Part of You World’.

But of course, I cannot submit a story of a singing entity with long black hair.

This required some thought. So I put my rusty brain to good use, and after much squeaking and shuddering and desperate, derisive snorts I finally recalled something.

As a child I rarely saw my grandfather. As a teen, I barely spoke to him. Instead, I spent most of my time taking surreptitious glances at him while he slept, praying that his chest would rise and fall. He never disappointed. He’d doze in his metal reclining chair, snoring lightly with the television remote control in one hand and a fly swatter in the other, the ceiling fan circling languidly overhead. Sometimes, if I was lucky, I’d see him get up and cook a simple meal, sit down and watch a Cantonese drama while arguing with my grandmother over politics. His life was the epitome of contentment. I remember thinking that such a man must have accomplished everything he’d ever wanted, to be able to live out his old age so peacefully.

My father told me otherwise. I was regularly regaled with tales of how my father’s family suffered in poverty as my grandfather struggled to maintain his furniture company. It wasn’t much – a simple start-up that focused on making furniture that catered to the personal tastes of their customers. But my grandfather – bless his soul – was never a very good businessman.

They say kind men will never be good entrepreneurs. While most of the time I would refute that statement, in my Ah Kong’s case, it could not have been more true. He would lend too much money and make too few deals. He’d expend himself helping out his friends in need and leave his company to the inexperienced contractors.

The result?

My grandmother spent most of her life cooped up in the Parliament, relentlessly pushing heavy black buttons at the typing machine. My father and his siblings would walk to school. Their clothes were sewn by my grandmother, or, in a best-case-scenario, hand-me-downs from more affluent cousins. To say that life wasn’t a bed of roses for them would be an understatement. It was more like lying on a carpet of needles, minus the physics law of pressure.

Strangely, though, my father never held anything against Ah Kong. Neither did my aunts and uncle. They faithfully came to visit him each evening, and Chinese New Year was always a merry affair. I remember being very confused. How did one man err so seriously, so many times, and still sleep so soundly even at two-thirty in the afternoon?


That’s what my father told me when I posited the question to him. Ah Kong was not a moneymaking machine for sure, but his heart was as large as it could get (quite literally, too). He was a good father, a good friend, a good husband, and above all, a wonderful individual. His wealth did not manifest as millions stowed away in the bank, or in large shares in multinational companies. His wealth was the successful children he brought up. His wealth was the grandchildren he watched grow up from the size of a loaf of wholemeal bread to the towering Once-ler my cousin is today. His wealth was a house full of noise and the clattering of plates, of screaming and crying of toddlers, and of a loving, grumpy wife with a penchant for nagging. That was my grandfather’s wealth.

That serene look on his sleeping face did not come from years working out million-dollar deals. That look was the product of his absolute certainty that he had lived his life as best as he could, and every little thing about him echoed his mindset. He was Eternity gazing at his imperfect reflection, and it was one of a man of true wealth. He was the Mirror reflecting all he had ever done, good and bad, and he held none accountable but himself.

And at the end of the day, his reflection showed him a wealthy man in all ways that mattered – none too good-looking, but it was a reflection he liked. Satisfied with everything he had done and everyone he was to leave behind, my Ah Kong passed away in the month of March 2013. I was sixteen.

This is just another assignment from my lecturer, and it is a paltry memoir, but this is where I remember you in the virtual mess that is the Internet.

Eternity or not, beautiful or otherwise, your family misses you, Kong, and we thank you for all the blessings you’ve showered upon us.

Your granddaughter.

Posted in Education, INTEC, Writing assignment

In Lieu Of Swords


There lives a cynic in me, constantly humming Kumbaya in the most sardonic tone you can imagine. His name is Steve. This cynic’s entire lexicon consists of that confounded word. If I were less introverted, if I were braver, if I were not tied down, if I had been given the opportunity, if I were Daenerys Targaryen – assuming I had to put a dollar in a glass jar every time that blasted word surfaced I’d be richer than Donald Trump’s ex-wife.

Residing in the deep recesses of my mind also lies a short, slightly rotund lady with a horn-rimmed glasses and a neat bob of purple hair. I christened her Brigitta, the antithesis of Steve. She’s much nicer.

Today, Brigitta decided that my life’s goal was to fight for equality regardless of culture and creed. I rather liked that idea. Then Steve had to interject, saying that I had nothing to fight with and everything to lose. And I decided that his point, although rather morbid, was true. I had a family to care for, a scholarship to uphold, no money, no swords, no guns and most of all, no A-bombs! How could I expect to succeed without any A-bombs? They’re, like, vital in every skirmish, no?

The argument went a little like this –

Brigitta: You idiot! She can do anything she sets her mind to. Let her save her country.

Steve: What if she has to sacrifice her family’s privacy and safety?

Brigitta: It’s all for the greater good. They’ll understand. Look at Malala Yousafzai!

Steve: She was shot in the head. Three times.

Brigitta: She survived and she was martyred.

Steve: So you want Lillian to be shot in the head and then martyred?

Brigitta: You…you filthy lawyer. This fight means something to her! It’s what she’s always wanted.

Steve: What about those scholarship terms? If she breaks them to join a hippie rally – what happens? If she decides halfway that she’s not built to take the pressure and it’s that it’s too late? What happens then?

Oh yes, I forgot to mention – there’s this other little guy. He’s tall, bespectacled and wears tailored suits made in Italy. He usually sits in the corner while Brigitta and Steve pull their punches. It’s atypical for Roger to come out so blatantly, but I’m glad he did today.

Roger: Hey, now guys…hold your horses (he’s arcane like that, my Roger). Yes, it’s a huge risk for her to fight for what she believes in – but that is a thought so many others have had. She wants to take the road less traveled, to make something of her life. She knows well enough that she and every memory of her will dissipate into obscurity one day, so let her make the most of it. She’s lived her whole life frustrated for those not granted the same opportunities as those around her – so let her try to make a difference. Let her fight for equality – regardless of race, religion and social standing. Let her –

Steve: Die?

Roger: Well…sometimes dying for the right cause isn’t such a bad thing. She believes in it. She believes that it will cause a paradigm shift. She believes that she can cause that paradigm shift. She wants to see everyone treated equally. And her actions don’t have to be big or bold. They just have to mean something. Is that so bad? She doesn’t have guns, or swords, or bombs for that matter. But does she need them? She has her voice. And then there’s us.

Like I said, I liked Roger most of all. And yes, I would fight for equality. If only I could get those –

Just kidding.

But it’s true. I’m totally devoid of anything material. No funds, no political backing, nothing much to help me fight for what I believe in. My actions will be small, and I can only hope that the little pebble I toss in the vast ocean of reality will send ripples enough to change not all, but some lives.

In lieu of swords, I have my voice, my spirit, and my thoughts.

Posted in Education, Scholarship interview, Scholarships

The One That Nearly Got Away

No, whatever you’re thinking, this is not about my boyfriend. Don’t have one, not looking for one.

I was thinking about karma and stuff  – and I remembered the flurry of scholarship applications I went through. I applied for approximately ten scholarshipsand I recalled how the countless blogs about scholarship applications helped me along the way. So I’m returning the favor. Here, however, I shall only talk of the Yayasan Tenaga Nasional scholarship application process. If I do include information for the other scholarships, I’ll be sitting here till Jon Snow comes back to life.

First thing’s first – the application typically comes out right after the SPM results. Google it! Try all the variations, and when you finally arrive at the website, there’ll be a term stating that you require a certain number of A+’s to be eligible.

Rule #1 of scholarship applications: JUST APPLY. Screw the terms. You never know.

Now, concerning the interview – it’s different each year. Before me, they organized a three-day camp packed full of tests and interviews. During my year, they called the applicants to attend an interview session at the UNITEN hotel. It was only for a day, thank Zeus.

It went like this: registration was at 8 a.m. or so, then all the applicants were called to sit in a hall for a short talk introducing YTN and the scholarship terms. The group interview session began after a short tea break. We were separated into rooms based on the field we applied for. I was an applicant for civil engineering and there were five other applicants with me. During the group session we only had two interviewers. We were asked to sit at a table and answer the question sheet given to us. One of the questions was ‘What make you special?’ or something like that. I told them I was ambidextrous, does that count? I must have drank too much coffee that day… Next we applicants were further divided into two groups, three people in each. We were handed colored marker pens, a piece of mahjong paper and a question something along the lines of ‘Pollution and the Solutions’. Here’s a piece of advice: don’t be too domineering. Be a team player. Open your mind and consider all opinions. Work with your teammates, give good ideas, and lead where you can. The interviewers can see right through your act if you put one on. I was fortunate enough to have team members that I worked well with, and our presentation later on was quite a success, I must say.

After that nerve-wracking event we had a very welcome and delicious lunch, courtesy of the UNITEN hotel. And then it was time for my neurons to begin firing again.

I was interviewed by a panel of four TNB representatives for my individual interview. I can’t remember what they asked me because I was just so darn scared my hands were freezing and I had to use the toilet after the whole ordeal. I do, however, remember that they asked me if I cooked curry. I told them that yes, I did in fact cook curry. I gave them my grandmother’s recipe for chicken curry complete with all the spices needed. The interviewer in the middle, a very nice lady that I got to know later on, smiled at me from the beginning and I just zoned in on her to keep my confidence. The two other interviewers at the side just stared and stared and stared at me and shot pointed questions at me. I made one of them laugh in the end, and it was a good thing I guess.

I thought I wasn’t going to get this scholarship. I thought I was done for. I waited for the allotted three months and still no news. So I went to Form 6. But then, miracles do happen. I got the call one evening when I thought my chances of getting a scholarship was nearly zero. Yay!

I don’t think I’m qualified to give any professional advice on how to ace a scholarship interview, but there is one thing I want to point out: many scholars would advise you to be yourself during the interview. My opinion? Be the best you. If your true self (the no-holds-barred self) likes to sleep in their underwear and fangirl about fictional characters …well…maybe try to tone it down? Don’t put on a show, don’t give them jacked-up sob stories, especially if you don’t have sob stories. Most of all, don’t try to be someone you are not. They can smell it, I’m sure of it. BE THE BEST YOU. Also, it’s okay to be nervous, it’s okay to have cold hands. It doesn’t matter. What matters the most is how you present yourself: no pretentiousness, pure originality. I believe that’s what the interviewers want. Someone who’s comfortable enough in their own skin that they don’t need anything else to glam themselves up with. Oh, yes – preparation is everything. Read up on the scholarship you’re applying for and the company offering for the scholarship. During those few weeks, Google will be your best friend, your soul mate, the toilet seat to your toilet bowl. Inseparable. And THE INTERVIEWER IS NOW YOUR BEST FRIEND. Go for it. Talk, laugh, joke, whatever works.

Last of all, I want to mention that sometimes you will feel undeserving of the scholarship. You will feel inadequate and small. You’re gonna see many other applicants who’ve achieved more than you’ve ever dreamed of. But it’s okay. You’re gonna have to take some time, think about it a bit, maybe if you want to coddle yourself then you can moan about it (I did that) – but sooner or later you need to move on. You cannot let that affect you. I know because I get that every single day at a college full of scholarship holders.

There’s a long journey ahead. May the Father judge you fairly and the Crone guide your way.

Peace out.

Posted in Education, INTEC, Random Stuff

This Wasn’t My Idea

If you ever have the misfortune of sharing a prison cell with me, rest assured that your social and psychological care are in the capable hands of dedicated Potterhead, professional weird-outer and source of spasmodic passionate conversations on everything Game of Thrones, Lillian Lau. My academic intelligence, however, remains questionable to this day. As you sit down awkwardly next to me and we grudgingly begin a conversation, you discover that I’m facing lifetime imprisonment for defacing the internet with a deluge of anime and Percy Jackson. Weapon of choice: a WordPress blog. So you ask me, “Why write a blog?”.

First thing’s first – let me clarify that this blog is not the lovechild of me and my undying love for writing. In fact, publishing a blog was the last thing on my list, right behind jumping head-first down Niagara Falls. Secondly, if I even remotely remind you of your Aunt Sue twice removed, no matter how nice or pretty she is, let me say this: NO I DO NOT LOOK LIKE YOUR AUNTIE. The sentiment, however, is appreciated. While walking towards the canteen for a welcome but unsurprisingly disgusting lunch, you pick up the courage to inquire, “May I read it?”. I snort and say, “Sure. If you have a phone.”. Setting down your tray dripping with grey goulash you grin covertly and pull out a cellphone you managed to sneak in. My eyes widen as I see the local thugs approach you from the back. You, being happily oblivious, continue tapping enthusiastically on your iPhone’s aluminium silicate screen. Finally realizing a menacing presence, you turn nervously. Your living daylights are promptly knocked out of you. Oh yeah. That reminds me. I haven’t answered your question yet. So why this blog? Once you’ve come to your senses, read on and find out 🙂