Thursday, 13 August 2015

My MARA scholarship interview

This went way back in 2007 and it was my first interview ever.

I remember that day, when I received a yellow parcel from MARA stating I received an invitation for an SPC interview. I was jumping up and down, nearly kissed the postage guy on his cheek and was screaming my whole lung out. My mum was ecstatic. FYI, my mum was the one who did my online application for the scholarship and of course she picked MARA. I was just couldn’t be bothered (you know, kids when school ends).

I didn’t apply to any other scholarships because back then, I was an arrogant selfish child and I was pretty confident I’ll score this one and only scholarship that I applied.

I also had to write a thousand word essay about my study and career plan and so forth. I picked Uni of Manchester and spent 3 days bragging about in and putting them on a piece of paper. But the offer that I received for medicine in Australia and why not? I wasn’t in despair; Australia is closer to Malaysia which means I can come and go back home without putting any pressure sores in my bum from a day-long flight trip!

There were 2 interviewers, a male and a female and it was held in this massive meeting room in the previous office of MARA, above the Kopi-O Corner Satok. I met the future doctor candidates too in the room where we were told to stay kept and still. All the kids were from prestigious boarding schools and plagued with their golden written essays about their bewildering achievements. And there I was, a boy from a public school with no idea about the politics in Malaysia who will be trying to sell himself in the next few minutes.

During the interview, they asked me in Malay but they expected me to answer in English. I was baffled initially because I was tempted to answer in Malay but they wanted to assess my English so I just had to answer in English. It was kinda weird; I prefer to have the conversation in the same medium (English) rather than doing this bilingual interview. Maybe my not so genius brain was not wired properly.

They asked me all the typical questions; Tell me about yourself? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are your hobbies? And all the cliche questions that you can think of.

But they got me stumbled later on. They asked me why didn't I instead apply to Middle Eastern Uni since I was a graduate from a public religious school?  So I told them I was more inclined to Unis with better worldwide reputation but at the same time I was trying not to undermine the Egyptian Unis as well. They were not buying it; why would a student from SMK Agama would want to go English speaking countries?! And the grueling was still rolling; are you planning to build another PUSRAWI? I was like what the hell is that (mind you I was a selfish brat who did not care at all about developments in Malaysia back then and around that time there was no PUSRAWI in Kuching). So I made up a story and I was pretty sure they were left puzzled and perplexed with my empty-can answer.

I left the office after the 15-minute interview like a sore loser. I called my mum to pick me up and I devoured whatever served in front of me.

Hopes were shattering like icy hails. I was completely in the state of tawakkal and the only thing that crossed my mind on that time, I wish I had read, prepared and practised MORE! But eventually, I received my scholarship offer and since then, things are doing well.

Read more about Malaysia and worldly current news. Exercise and try to dress to impress. Sell yourself in the most arrogant way but keep it subtle. Be confident of what you want and your goals. Be enthusiastic and your charm will come naturally. Smile more and appropriate eye contact (not too confronting). Remember, you are competing with other students who probably had similar achievements as yours but what separates you apart is personality and attitude.

And it is okay (apparently) to feel bad after an interview. It was nerve wrecking to sit in a room while strangers were looking at your CV and interrogated you down to your spines. It is understandable.

Anyway, if you are sitting for any interviews; jobs, scholarship etc. I wish you all the best! Amin.