I found out about my interview date on the 29th of March. Everything is online these days so likewise, I checked via the JPA website, esila. I got the 5th of April, which is the first day of the interviews. Whether that is a good thing or not, I wasn’t quite sure but well, at least mine will be over quick.
Or so I thought.
The journey though only spanning one week is tough. First, you need to prepare a whole lot of documents to be shown and certified. That meant trips to school. Out of 5 schooling days then, I returned to school for 4 days. There was always something which needed to be signed and verified by the school heads. Not only that, you have to attach all your certificates from Form 4 and Form 5, all the time hoping that this will be enough to give you as much co-curriculum marks as possible. NOTE: FOR THOSE WHO WENT NATIONAL SERVICE, BE SURE THAT THIS IS THE FIRST ONE OF YOUR STACK OF CERTIFICATES. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. While I was still in camp, my camp commandant told us that this would give us the maximum 10 merit points for JPA interview. I’m not sure what the merit points mean; but if you have that certificate, treat it like gold. You also have to take an online personality quiz. It’s not difficult – it’s all YES/NO questions.
Oh, and of course looking for appropriate clothes. I just borrowed my friend’s baju kurung and made sure I had covered shoes. You can wear formal outfit too but I heard that baju kurung is the safest. With my clear folder filled, all I could do was pray and pray for favourable interviewers and topics. With that, I went to sleep.
I arrived at Putrajaya around 7.15 in the morning and in the lobby, there are whiteboards up with lists of names pasted on it. What I needed to do was to check for my name to determine which panel I am in. I was put in Panel 3 and my name was all the way at the bottom. I knew we had to enter in groups of 5 and judging by the dismal position of my name, I knew I was going to be the last group to enter. I hope the prospect of lunch will make the interviewers more sympathetic to us. Haha!
I got to meet quite a number of my schoolmates and even those I met in National Service. It was there I found out that they more or less arranged the interviews according to the course you choose. For example, Monday and Tuesday are for medicine, dentistry and pharmacy. I’ve yet to hear of anyone applying for veterinarian science. The first interview in my panel went in at about 8.20 leaving the rest of us to our own devices. Word of advice, DON’T VIEW OTHER PEOPLE’S FILES. You’ll start feeling rather inadequate. Haha!
Anyway, I did say my group was going to be the last to enter. And I forgot to bring a book. Those who know me would know that this is very unlike me. So I suggest you should pack in some form of entertainment to keep your hands and mind busy especially if you, like me have to wait for 4 hours before they call my group in. I was surfing the net with my phone while waiting. Not bad, the wifi signal is really strong.
Alas! My turn came. I was supposed to be the second to speak but because someone from the previous group didn’t turn up (for all you know, could be one of the 30 who got the Prime Minister scholarship) the first person of my group went in earlier. This makes me the first to speak. I’m not sure again, if that’s a good thing but well, at least nobody will have said any of my points. Before you enter, you have to submit the photocopied documents to the clerk as well as your entire file. My guess is this is where they take your co-curriculum marks.
My interview began at 12. My group now only had 4 people; two malay girls, one indian boy and me. We greeted the interviewers and they told us to take a seat. All my interviewers were ladies, two malays and one indian. I was really glad when I found out that all my interviewers were ladies because that solved the awkward question of whether I should shake their hands or not. In NS, I realise that guys don’t shake the girls’ hands. I made that mistake and a lot of people were giving me rather quizzical looks. Anyway, here’s how my interview went.
They asked us to introduce ourselves in BM. This is quite standard but they didn’t really want a very long one. In fact, they just told us they wanted our name, our school, what class we are applying for and which country we would preferably like to study in. Apparently they need to fill up some documents. So ok, that was pretty easy. All of the people in my group applied for medicine with two wanting to go to UK (I’m one of them) and another two to Ireland.
Next, the group discussion. One of the interviewers explained to us that JPA sends them a list of questions to ask. The question they gave us was, ‘Do you think private healthcare insurance is an option for the government to reduce costs’? They gave us 5 minutes to discuss. So ok, we did. Once again, I’m not sure about this but I heard that they will evaluate you not only during your presentation but during your discussion time as well. I just tried to work with my group to understand first, what is private healthcare insurance and then will it really reduce costs? We agreed that yes, it does reduce costs but how? That was where we tried to come up with our respective points. Let me just say this, THINK FAST. There really is no time for us to even hear each other’s points before the interviewers told us that time’s up.
Surprisingly, our interviewers told us to answer this in BM which was something we were not prepared for. After all, the question was given to us in English. They then asked who would like to speak first. I raised my hand and started . I said (well, more or less), ‘Saya setuju bahawa insurans perubatan daripada syarikat swasta mampu membantu kerajaan mengurangkan kos. Hal ini adalah kerana bagi mereka yang mampu, mereka akan membeli insurans tersebut dan mendapat rawatan daripada hospital swasta. Ini akan mengurangkan beban tanggungan kerajaan kerana hanya mereka yang tidak berkemampuan untuk membeli insurans tersebut akan ke hospital kerajaan. Sekali gus, wang kerajaan dapat dijimatkan dan digunakan untuk mereka yang memerlukan bantuan kerajaan untuk mendapat rawatan dan perubatan. Sekarang saya akan memberi peluang kepada *the second girl’s name* untuk menerangkan secare lebih lanjut tentang topik ini’ Whether that was enough, I don’t know but they didn’t pry further into my answers or ask any more questions to prompt me to speak which looks pretty ok, I guess.
Remember though to speak in the language they ask you to speak in, no bahasa rojak. And also, try to be clear about what your point is. Like in all essays, remember to have a point, elaboration and then example. I mean, at least the interviewers will be able to understand what you’re trying to say. I learnt this from debate and sure hope it’s applicable here. =)
After all of us have spoken, the Indian lady asked us all a question. It wasn’t a group discussion but we were to answer the same question individually. And this is why you should NOT over-prepare for the interview. She asked us a simple enough question, ‘Who has a facebook account?’ We all grinned sheepishly and said yes. I mean, I was on facebook just before entering the room. Haha! She went on to say, ‘We all do but now I want you to discuss, not the advantages but the DISADVANTAGES OF FACEBOOK’. Hahaha! I felt like laughing because this is such a random question which has nothing to do with medicine really. We were given about a minute to think and we were to answer in English. They also told us that they will choose the order in which we will speak.
The second girl is now the first to speak. She said about how facebook misleads people as we can put up false information about ourselves. Next was the Indian boy. He said about how facebook leads to laziness and addiction and we don’t do anything else but stare at it. He shared about his experience and got the interviewers attention as they start asking him questions about his ‘addiction’. Next was the other malay girl and she said that facebook leads to unhealthy lifestyle because they don’t exercise when all they do is stare at facebook. And me, now I’m the last to speak. Hahaha!
Ok, I’m really really REALLY thankful that just before my interview, I was rereading all my blog posts. And this facebook topic actually falls under something I wrote quite some time ago here: http://tzequan.blogspot.com/2009/06/technology-in-communication-boon-or.html. So basically, what I said was, ‘Well, for me, the disadvantage of facebook is we have lost the ability to communicate with one another on a face-to-face level. I agree with what *the second girl’s name* said about how we can misrepresent ourselves on facebook. This obviously means we are not having a relationship with that person because the information we receive is not even real! I also agree with what *the Indian boy’s name* and *other malay girl’s name* said about how it makes us lazy. It’s true that we have become lazy to keep and maintain our friendships with facebook. For us, the only effort we will make is to just write on each other’s walls. We have lost one of the most important skills as humans – face-to-face communication. I acknowledge that facebook is important as for me; it’s one of the only ways I get to keep in touch with my friends from NS, many of which are from Sabah and Sarawak. However, it still stands that the disadvantage of facebook is the breakdown of face-to-face communication’. Phew... And they didn’t ask any questions throughout the whole thing. Not so sure again, if that’s a good thing but yeah, that’s how mine went.
After that, they asked us about our family background as again, they needed to fill in some forms. And then went on to extra curriculum activities. Mine had some problem because of the lack of sports. This drew their attention and they asked me why I wasn’t involved. I explained that I used to take part in track events but only for Sports Day. Moreover, I had a lot of other responsibilities such as being a Deputy Head Girl, Vice President of Christian Fellowship and a debator. It’s not easy to cope so I had to prioritize. And apparently, the deputy head girl was not in my application! Gah, thank God they asked me this question or it would have been submitted as it is. They corrected my application and then moved on to ‘Reality Check’.
Basically, they had to put in a lot of disclaimers such as the chances of us getting the scholarship is very, very slim and they will look into a whole lot of aspects such as social welfare. They just wanted to make sure that we are aware that this is an application, which means we are opening up ourselves to be rejected. And not get too disappointed about it. So get ready a plan B if this one does not work out.
At the very end of the interview, they asked us whether we would come back to Malaysia after our studies. BE HONEST. Seriously, because they WILL shoot you if you aren’t. So I said, ‘Well it true that money is a big deciding factor in choosing a job, as any econs student will tell you. But at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself what goes more than money? For me, it’s the values I’ve been brought up with and one of it is gratitude. I guess, a more fitting saying would be I can’t bite the hand which feeds me. So yes, I will come back’. Don’t get discouraged if they laugh and say, 'They all say that!' because well, it’s true. Everyone will say that but if it really comes from your heart, they can't penalise you for it. Like I said, BE HONEST because somewhere along the line, the interviewer had to stop a candidate and ask, ‘Are you just saying this because you think that’s what we want to hear?’ Yes, OUCH. And it’s ok to say you want to study overseas, just make sure you know why. Thankfully, they didn’t ask us why and that ends the session of them questioning us.
After that, the interview became a Q&A session instead. Haha! Seriously, they allowed us to ask any question we wanted and so we did. If this happens, ask questions! Never mind if it sounds ridiculous, as long as it is remotely related to the scholarship, just ask. You never know if they’re evaluating you. I didn’t know either but I just asked some questions too.
And then it ended! We shook hands with the interviewers and left the room. My ordeal lasted exactly one hour. To tell you the truth, I guess it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Now, all that’s left is to pray very hard that God will open this door. =)
I hope my experience helps!