My Journey with Global UGRAD by Firdaus Bin Ahmad Azman

Firdaus photo
Firdaus at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport holding his university’s sign with two friends

My journey began on October 18, 2016, when Morris Deri, now an alumnus for the program, was undergoing his exchange semester at Minnesota State University Mankato. During his semester, he approached me with the prospect of applying for the same program. To put things into perspective, it was a flagship program performing under the Fulbright Grant, a highly coveted scholarship sought by applicants of great stature and contributions. Knowing his idiosyncratic aptitude, it didn’t surprise me when he secured the spot. I on the other hand rest at the opposite end of the spectrum, and making it through the selection process was not an auspicious odd for me to hold. In all fairness and unbeknownst to most Razakian, prior to my degree, pursuing stellar results was not in my best interest.

I was a drop out, transferred to three different schools and subsequently earning a sub-par result during my SPM year. In my diploma year I did not fare any better. The sole interest was then to find recognition among my reckless peers while pursuing a hedonistic lifestyle with little care for my future. My current character is a recent change. I rerouted my life towards a better future. I attribute this to random encounters with strangers who empathized and believed in me. Nevertheless it is still a recent tale, paling in comparison to those who have always been well-rounded achievers. Those who I had always thought would have had better chances than I did.

People had faith in my capacity, due to my aggressive disposition, and a person once said this would allow me to survive the academic environment of the United States. I was still nonchalant to the idea of being selected, and the endorsement did not convince me. For a while I remained in contemplation, sharing it only with those closest to me. All of this changed when my parent and strongest supporter pushed me to do so, despite them knowing my futile attempts to obtain five different scholarship throughout my degree, they remained resilient in my ability. Armed with their blessing, I planned my steps.

My first challenge was to produce two essays. In order for me make the cut, I had to compose two essays of the quality of an outstanding student. Thanks to my engagement with UNIRAZAK’s academic and community service responsibility, the contents were in abundance, the issue however was in my writing and my convoluted mind. Realizing this, I mustered enough courage to seek tutelage from two of TARSOG’s notable individuals, Madam Jenny Gryzelius and Dr. Abdillah Noh. The latter was personally known to me, where his rigors on educational matters and not providing leeway, helped me to achieve a better standard. After a period of revisions, I submitted the essays along with other requirements for the application deadline.

Passing the interview was the next challenge. On February 2017, I received the momentous call from Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange (MACEE) informing me as one of seven candidates qualified for an interview session on Thursday 16th February 2017 in MACEE’s office. Series of intensive mock interview were done with the help of Madam Jenny and Dr. Abdillah, on a myriad of possible questions. At 9.30 am, 16th February 2017, the moment came when my name was summoned, having said my prayers, I greeted the interviewers and made my best introduction. Nothing, however, would have prepared me for a glance through the setting, my submitted dossier resting on their table, and yet there was no need for them to review it while the interview was in session, as they had come to know the seven candidates by heart. Making the right choice was their main objective. Unswayed and steadfast, I braved the questions, and what was scheduled as a half hour session ended up consuming an hour. With the interview over, I bid farewell to the interviewers and other candidates, knowing that a lengthy interview session was a foreboding omen.

In the following days, I went to see the tutors who had tirelessly helped me through the process, and recounted my experience of the interview. Nonetheless, they were optimistic, and it was confirmed in March 2017. MACEE revealed to me my greatest achievement of all time. A euphoric moment struck me, with tears running their course, the realization that I would participate in an exchange program, with cultural contribution, sharing, and bonding in the United States no longer an inauspicious odd. I was granted the prestigious honor of being one of the five candidates chosen, and would depart to Florida in spring 2018. My life’s story, resolution and commitment in giving back to society, turned out to be an important aspect of an outstanding candidate. Never had I been so wrong in my ability.

This is one of the compelling reasons that I have in writing this synopsis is to highlight the importance of believing in one self. Another reason was Professor Nik Rosnah’s belief in my story deserving an article, so that I could leave an aspiring legacy for Razakians. Thank you Professor Nik Rosnah for holding to my promise. To Global UGRAD, World Learning, MACEE, Fulbright Scholarship, and the United States Department of State, thank you for giving me this opportunity. A special thanks to the Dean and Deputy Dean of TARSOG Professor Dato’ Mohd Ibrahim and Dato Muhamad Hamzah for their encouragement and support, Dr. Abdillah and Madam Jenny for their unconditional dedication, Madam Esmat Levin for her psychological support, Ustaz Aizuddin Hakim for the platform and administration lessons in CSR, the Dean of CSASI Datin Nor in her support to students, CLMS’ Sir Razol Mahari and Madam Rosleen Khairi in their guidance, Ms. Harvinder Kaur and Sir Khairi Ismail in their investment in me, and lastly, Morris Deri for his approach and suggestions. Overall, thank you everyone in UNIRAZAK, and most importantly TARSOG members, both lecturers and administrators in helping my undergraduate journey.

Written by Firdaus Bin Ahmad Azman, Malaysia, Global UGRAD 2016-2017 at Florida Gulf Coast University