BA MEng Oxford, PhD Cambridge, Former Vice President of the Cambridge University Students' Union
Julian Tan graduated with a BA and an MEng from the University of Oxford in 2011 and is currently pursuing a PhD in Composites Engineering at the University of Cambridge. He was elected Vice President of the Cambridge University International Students’ Union in 2012.
He hails from Subang Jaya, Malaysia and takes active interest in issues affecting international students, having spent over 6 years in the UK. He hopes that through his written pieces, he can discuss these issues in an honest and raw fashion.
I recall memorising the timeline of human prehistory when I was twelve - Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic - from the fresh first pages of my history textbook. It was past midnight, and their quirky names numbed my tongue and befuddled my brain. Nevertheless, I forcibly committed them to memory, motivated by the promise that hard work at school will one day pay off...
Malaysia has found itself embroiled in yet another religious controversy. For a country that prides itself on moderation, tolerance and multiculturalism, it is surely bizarre that it appears to be perpetually troubled by religious and racial extremism.
As a Malaysian who has been in Britain for the past six years for higher education, I, like many other Malaysians living overseas have had the painfully frustrating ordeal of witnessing the socio-political travesties that have developed in recent years back home.
A child lies solitary and silent on a grubby cart in Kabul. His tender feet and hands are caked in the same elements that freckle his baby face, soil his faux-regal clothes and bequeath the terrain around his fragile frame a strange equality of injustice.
So if you're in school or at university, don't pursue academic pinnacles for what they are, but rather pursue what they are a product of. You can always learn what is in a textbook tomorrow, but to learn to be hardworking, disciplined, resourceful and persistent requires a longer time and it might be too late to learn these things if you do not learn them as a student. Because there is little use for a straight-A student if all he has are his As.
I pulled an awkward smile, my brain now racing furiously to translate the humour. Half a second, then one second, then two - the window to exercise herd mentality was shutting me in! Ah, whatever, I thought to myself as I tightened my diaphragm to echo the chorus of boisterous laughter in the room.
So as Malaysia celebrates her 56th year of independence and 50th birthday, I, like many, will blow out the proverbial candles with a fire from within my heart that burns all the brighter, the fiercer and the more surely. I, like many, will wish to see less exploitation of powers and less use of religion as a tool to marginalise minorities for social and political gain.
Every year, it gets tougher - students become smarter, the competition, stiffer and the expectations, higher. Nevertheless, there are a few constructive guidelines that aspiring applicants should consider if they have dreams of studying in two of Britain's greatest universities.
Whilst there are many positives about this amazingly successful website, I've chosen for comedic purposes to highlight in this article, a less endearing aspect of Facebook - the annoying Facebook friends we all have to live with. The problem with these people is not that they are annoying but rather that they are annoying but not enough to be deleted.
Whilst I forgive them, I will never forget. The universe has an uncanny habit of restoring balance and so I rest in the comfort that one day they might have to answer to me as their boss. Until then, I wear the same armour I developed in high school - it has proven very effective thus far.
As 6 May looms (the date after the final votes are cast in Malaysia), I feel a certain excitement and dread for what the future holds. But I rest in the solace that I have done my part, and I hope you do yours too, fellow Malaysians.
As terrible as that is, we can take comfort in the fact that while terrorists celebrate in that brief moment of human frailty, they always underestimate the strength of the human spirit. Like 9/11 and the London bombings have so powerfully demonstrated, we always bounce back and become stronger than before.
I appreciate that getting into Oxbridge is extremely competitive and is a 'feat' in its own right, but it really doesn't matter whether Oxford is better than Cambridge and it shouldn't matter whether we go to one or the other or indeed any other university - at least not to the extent that it defines our identity and that is all people see.
I have always been glad I was spanked as a child. I suppose it is because there was always a mutual and unspoken understanding that in spite of the rattan cane, they loved me more than life. My father would always say, "I scold you or beat you because I love you. You know this isn't easy for me."
It can be quite unsettling to a lot of international students having to quickly adapt to the new culture and make friends with the English locals before cliques are formed. It is much easier to gravitate towards familiar people and hit it off instantly.
07/10/2012 22:25 BST
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