Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My PhD Journey (Part 1 - Experience from the past)

My PhD Journey (Part 1 - Experience from the past)

PhD... The aim that I have set in mind since 2012. I was always dreaming to further my study overseas again. I studied in the University of Edinburgh from 2011 to 2012. The study experience was so great, the Edinburgh city was so beautiful and the Scotland's sceneries were so gorgeous. Yes of course there were some advantages and disadvantages of been overseas, but it is very much depending on the person him/herself. For me, I'm always looking for a new challenging thing and I enjoyed every moment good and bad while in Edinburgh. The most important was being 'Musafir' could make us closer to the Almighty Creator - Allah SWT.  With wife and kids around, we paved our own path and lived bravely in a new environment, new society and new lifestyle. There is only one word can describe us - 'Survivors'. Therefore, a year experience in Edinburgh had changed us a lot. 

PhD... Again, I take the challenge and keep saying to myself this is about the time to fulfil the last hurdle in my educational journey. My journey for 'Ilmu Dunia' will end when I'm 40. That is my target. Hopefully I could do it with Allah's will. However, this time around the journey is not easy and straight forward just like the experience that I went through for my Masters. Now I have to face a lot of tough hurdles and beyond my ability to control. One of which is the economic recession that is happening due to the decreasing of oil price in the global market. This current situation has made the currency value for 'Malaysia Ringgit' is also dropping and worsening. The Government of Malaysia has taken action to cut the budget to cope in the current situation including provision for higher education. 

To make my dream come true, I need a scholarship. Unfortunately, most scholarship providers, especially MARA and JPA have reduced the amount of scholarship allocated for overseas study compared to previous years. MARA for example, doesn't open its education loan for this year. HLP through JPA has also stringent the eligibility for applicants that want to study overseas. Some people that face this kind of hurdle will surely back off and stay calm. But that's not happening to me, I don't know why I'm so eager to study maybe because of these two reasons: 

1. IELTS - I took the test. The result was just okay - just met the university requirement, but the problem is that it is valid for 2 years only. If I don't use it now, I might have to resit the exam again, with the cost of RM650 - Fuhhh better not again.

2. SUPERVISOR - I've already got a supervisor. In fact, she had engaged two other her colleagues to supervise me. In simple word, a team has been set up for me in the UK. She will also look for funding opportunities for me. Actually, I know her for about 4 years. She was my dissertation supervisor and I was quite confident if she supervises me. She knows my working style and I know what her expectation. 

What I don't have is actually a scholarship. At this moment I should look for other scholarships and should not depend on Malaysian government-sponsored scholarship any more. Until now I had applied for four scholarships, which are:

1. Yayasan Daya Diri (YDD) - It has a very simple process, just fill in the form through on-line, upload all the supporting documents and wait for the call from the YDD representative. However, for PhD the maximum age is 35 which I'm now 35 so this is my first and last attempt. Finally, after a month, they called me and we went through an interview session through the phone. Only shortlisted candidates will be called for the next stage. The scholarship only covers for about 75% of the total study cost and the balance of 25% will be covered by the applicant. I guess I'm not the one who have been selected because I don't receive any news since two months ago. Huhu.

2. New Zealand Commonwealth Scholarship (NZCS) - Quite a tough process, besides the normative form to be filled I had also included 500 words that describe about specific skills and knowledge that I want to gain from my proposed study, 500 words about my proposed study that will enable me to contribute to the social development of my country and another 500 words to describe about  the outline of my proposed research. It was not just that, together with the form I attached the supporting documents that (must be) signed by a Notary Public. Who is a Notary Public? You will only know when you get through this. The cost for 10 sheets was RM150! (Better get prepared if you really want to apply this scholarship). Three referees must give their supporting statements; there were two from my ex-lecturer and supervisor and the other one was from my employer. A month after that, I called JPA and asked about my application, unfortunately mine was not selected only two candidates across the country have been nominated. Fuhh... very tough to get through.

3. United Kingdom Commonwealth Scholarship (UKCS) - Quite similar like NZCS but everything must be done through on-line. This time, they need four referee's statements which two from academicians and two other from an employer. I have sent the final documents in early of December and three weeks after that I got a called from JPA requested for my passport front page and university's offer letter. Alhamdulillah, I have been nominated for being one of the short-listed candidates. The result will be announced in April 2016. Pray for me okay.

4. Hadiah Latihan Persekutuan (HLP) - This scholarship commonly known by all government servants in Malaysia. The most prestigious scholarship in Malaysia. The only of its kind in the world. I have been awarded this scholarship once during my Masters. This year I applied again for a second time but the process has changed. Before this there was only one-tier interview session. Started from 2013, there were two-tier interview sessions. First at department level and second at JPA level. In 2015, about 1400 applicants have applied this scholarship. They will compete each other to get 550 scholarships allocated and only 75 places for overseas. Only the best will get it. Alhamdulillah, I went through all the processes and now waiting for the result in January 2016. Again, pray for me.

This is the first part of my PhD journey that covers only 1% of the whole journey. I hope someday I will achieve what I want to achieve. This writing also to encourage you to do your best to get what you want in life. Never give up before you try because only survivor can survive.
Allah berfirman yang ertinya, “Dan barangsiapa bertawakal kepada Allah, nescaya Allah akan mencukupkan (keperluan)nya. Sesungguhnya Allah melaksanakan urusan (yang dikehendakiNya). Sesungguhnya Allah telah mengadakan ketentuan bagi tiap-tiap sesuatu.” (Ath-Thalaq: 3).

"And given sustenance from the sources he could never imagine: for Allah is all sufficient for the person who puts his trust in Him. Surely Allah brings about what He pleases, and Allah has set a measure for all things." (Ath-Thalaq:3)

Written by Firrbudi aka Lensahijau

30 December 2015