“..the isolation was the hardest part of studying during the pandemic..”
A new addition to the Easyuni team, Stephen Raj, or Steve opened up about his experience studying in university amidst Malaysia’s first lockdown. Here’s how it went.
- University: INTI International University & Colleges, Subang
- Program: American Degree Transfer Program (2+2) with Southern New Hampshire University
- Major: Mass Communication
What made you choose this course?
I enjoy producing anything related to the media. I also enjoy looking at video content online and thought to myself: “Maybe one day that is something that I might want to do.”
So, I went into this course hoping I could pick up the skills that are necessary to go into that industry.
Along the way, I have become quite an all-rounded person. I’ve picked up skills in different areas, like PR and marketing, advertising, and sales. I’m quite grateful for that because my job scope has expanded.
What were the factors that influenced your choice?
One of the main factors is the price. I wasn’t taking any loans and my parents were covering my university costs. So, I didn’t want to put too much burden on them by trying to find an option that’s not too expensive.
Second factor was the location. I wanted a place within Selangor, and not somewhere out of state.
And the last factor was if the course was recognisable.
Did you manage to go to the US?
I didn’t transfer to America, but it wasn’t because of Covid-19 actually. When the time came for me to transfer, the currency got higher. USD1 used to be around RM3, but it eventually increased until it was RM4! My family felt it would be expensive for me to transfer, and since there was an option for me to complete my entire degree within INTI itself, I stayed.
If I had the option, I would like to finish my degree in the US and then come back.
Any project in particular that you’ve done in university?
I made a short horror film and the whole thing had to be shot in black and white with no dialogues. It has to be as visual as possible. That was the most interesting project I had!
How was your experience studying in the midst of this pandemic?
When we went into lockdown in March 2020, a lot of us were quite happy *laughs*. We just had to stay at home! There’s no need to wake up super early and travel to 8am classes. So, in the beginning it was quite fun. We just had to log in to the class.
But after a while, because you’re stuck at home, the boredom started to get to you. You can’t actually go out to see your friends anymore. You cannot hang out at the mamak after class.
I would say that the isolation was the hardest part of studying during the pandemic because you don’t see people in class anymore.
Besides that, I don’t think studies are affected very much. In fact, it’s the campus experience. It’s completely gone because of the pandemic. That was the most frustrating part.
Have you changed in university compared to your high school days? How so?
Oh yeah, definitely.
I think how I am now and how I was during high school - there’s a huge difference.
In high school, I was quite a slacker I guess. I don’t take things too seriously. Even during my first year in uni, I would leave everything to the last minute. I would start assignments during the last two days before the deadline. Even in group assignments, I wouldn’t contribute that much.
But as a result, I really felt the consequences. My results and CGPA were affected. I had to force myself to get better. All of that taught me to be more responsible. Eventually, I learned to manage my time better. Every day, I did a little bit of my assignments instead of starting one or two days before. I also learned to cooperate with other people and empathise with my group mates.
What are your best memories as a university student?
If I had to choose one, it was during one particular semester when I had to take Music 101. The final project of the class was to put on a stage performance. It was a 10-minute musical with a short skit and a song-and-dance routine. We produced it from scratch. Funny enough, my groupmates liked my voice and I was made the narrator!
Nothing comes without a challenge. What are the toughest moments you’ve experienced while in university?
At my lowest point, I actually considered dropping out. I was halfway through university, but my results got quite bad. I was on probation for a few semesters already. If you continue to be on probation for too long, you eventually have to drop out. I talked to my Head of Department about it and she encouraged me to continue. She told me that it would be easier to secure a job with a degree.
I never got the sense that she was trying to make money for the university. She sounded very sincere and was very kind to me. I continued and within a few months, my CGPA improved a lot, and now I’m here!
Did you work part-time in university?
I actually attempted to work part-time but it turned out to be way too stressful for me. I’ll be at my workplace until 12 or 1 in the morning, and I have 8am classes the next day! A lot of students seem to be able to do that. They are like super humans to me!
What skills have you obtained from university?
The most technical thing I picked up in uni was how to shoot and edit videos. That is coming in handy - I’m actually in the process of editing something for Easyuni right now!
My problem-solving skills improved a lot. I learned more about the economy, marketing strategies, and social media campaigns.
Any skills that you would suggest students pick up on their own?
Improve your interpersonal skills. Learn to cooperate with other people. Learn to be a better listener. Try to give input and initiate things. Make sure to put in effort. These will all help when you’re working.
What is your favourite part about being a university student?
Personally, my favourite part was being able to meet so many people of different backgrounds, especially international students. Meeting people from other places is always an interesting experience. When you meet someone from overseas, you find that you have more in common with them than there are differences. That’s a nice feeling.
What do you think about the importance of higher education?
The importance itself hasn’t really changed. In the working world, the reality is that it’s still much easier to get a job with a degree. I think higher education is still important. But if you still want to postpone because of the pandemic, it is understandable - online learning is not quite the same as physical class!
What advice would you give students who are going to university soon?
If you’re trying to decide what course to pursue, it’s okay to say that you don’t know.
It’s okay, especially during the pandemic. Also, with everything online, you’d most likely still prefer to study on campus.
Don’t be afraid to say that. If you’re not too sure about what to do, take a year off. Work part-time, figure out what you want to do, and get to know yourself better.