4 min read

And it seems like I might not be able to go to Auckland after all. You see, I originally applied for New Zealand Government's Commonwealth Scholarship after I decided that I couldn't study laws through University of London after all through its online distance learning courses.

Contrary to popular beliefs, studying law requires full time attendance of actual classes - at least for me. Working full time in a rural town like Semporna severely limits my opportunities to connect with law teachers and other students, not to mention obtaining access to precious resources like textbooks, peers' notes and the privilege of talking to teachers face-to-face. All these precious resources require equally huge amount of other types of resources, namely money and time - things that I do not have even after working full time for several years now.

So I thought - why not take up a postgraduate study in the field I am already working in (i.e. English language teaching), commit to producing high quality research and try to find reputable teaching work overseas? That way, I can increase my earning power significantly and thus earn enough to go back to law school full time.

And now, you might wonder - why go all through the trouble? Well, it is economically beneficial to study and be a professional in more than one field, plus being both a teaching and law-practicing professional allows one to work as long as possible pass conventional ages of retirement. Like I have mentioned before, as much as I want to study laws full time, I have neither the required fund nor the ability to leave my current job to retool myself as my uncle once advised me.

Anyway, back to the Auckland story - I found out about New Zealand Government's Commonwealth Scholarship through a Facebook post shared by my former final year project supervisor in UNIMAS. Coincidentally, I was sitting for my 1st year laws examination in Kota Kinabalu at that time, and boy was I depressed the whole time I was there. I was truly excited about the prospects of going overseas to study full time; after all I was only able to complete undergraduate study locally due to lack of fund. For the uninitiated, the scholarship is managed by New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade through its New Zealand Aid Programme (NZAP) agency.

And so I did all the necessary research and preparation to begin my application. I applied to several universities in New Zealand, registered to sit for IELTS in June (it was bloody expensive), wrote my application essays and begged for reference letters from several prospective referees. It was a really trying but exciting June for me as I completed all the paperwork. Since I had to get my supporting documents certified by a notary public, I had to travel several times to Tawau. Thank goodness it only cost RM1 to get this old lawyer in Tawau to certify each of my documents.

By mid June, I was able to snag a conditional offer from University of Auckland to read M.A Tesol at its esteemed Faculty of Arts; all I need to do is pass my IELTS examination and send all the documents to the appointed local nominating agency, namely the Public Service Division (or known as the infamous JPA - Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam to most Malaysians).

Imagine my devastation when I later found out that I have missed their internal deadline by two weeks from the deadline set by New Zealand Aid Programme agency. The kicker was I have already tried contacting the person-in-charge for almost a week before their internal deadline (which I still did not know by then); unfortunately, the telephone calls went unanswered until a few days after I have sat for my IELTS examination.    By then, it was already too late to submit the documents for PSD's consideration. The disappointment came as a huge blow as I have spent a huge amount of money and effort to get all the necessary supporting documents and to convince several people to be my referees. There was nothing left to do but to wait for the IELTS results.

Still, not wanting to discount any probability that PSD might consider being kind to me by allowing my application to slip through, I sent all the documents to the person-in-charge. By late June, I found out that I scored a measly Band 8 for my IELTS Academic examination - not all indicative of my true English language proficiency seeing that I teach English full time.

Which brings us to today - I received a full offer from the University as well as a nomination letter to their immigration authority to fast track my application for a study visa. It is a bittersweet moment to find out that one is good enough to secure a place in a world's top-100 university to study, and yet miss out on applying for a full ride scholarship due to idiotic reasons. I later found out that my workplace's administration office did send an email regarding the aforementioned scholarship, but it ended up in the "Spam" folder as Google suspected that the email was probably a spam. For once, Google managed to screw up my prospects because I allowed it to manage my domain's mail server.

So, what am I going to do now? Well, there's nothing left to do but to reject the said offer and apply for other scholarships to study elsewhere. Such is my unfortunate fate, and I have learned a truly bitter, expensive lesson from this event.

Update #1 (08.07.2015) Today, I found out that NZAP administers another scholarship called New Zealand ASEAN Scholars Award. Its closing date is July 31st and local applications are managed by the Scholarship Division of our Ministry of Education (Higher Education Sector). There might be another chance for me after all.

Charles. C

Charles. C

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