DETERMINED to win a scholarship to pursue her master’s studies abroad where she hoped to further broaden her horizons, Ong Sze Ning – or Summer as she is fondly known among her family and friends – devoted five months to doing research, writing personal statements and compiling supporting documents, among others, before submitting her applications. “It was a roller coaster of emotions.
There were stressful days where others doubted my capabilities, the paperwork piled up, and I was constantly thinking that my work was not good enough,” the 23-year-old told StarEdu.
All her effort paid off when she won not one, but two scholarships from two Australian universities – the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Vice-Chancellor’s International Postgraduate Coursework Scholarship and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) International Scientia Coursework Scholarship.
“Happy tears instantly came to my eyes when I received the news. For the first time, I saw a different version of myself when I looked in the mirror.
“I saw a much stronger and competent woman, who gave her best and was actually capable of reaching a huge goal she had set herself years ago,” she recalled.
“I feel so proud of myself for unapologetically upholding my values and consistently striving to become the woman I am today. I hope my late father would be proud of me, as well,” she added.
The first Malaysian to be awarded the scholarship from UTS, Summer – who received her first-class honours degree scroll at the Taylor’s University graduation ceremony on March 4 where she was the main valedictorian – has taken up on the scholarship offer from the Australian university.
“Its Master of Marketing course has always been my first choice. It empowers students to be adaptable to the changing marketing landscape,” said Summer, who began her studies at UTS on Feb 20. Studying abroad has been her goal ever since the early days of her tertiary education.
“I chose to study at INTI International University in Nilai, Negri Sembilan, staying away from my family in Kuala Lumpur, to build my independence in hopes that one day if I really got to go abroad, I would be able to handle it,” said Summer, who obtained a bursary from the university to pursue her Diploma in Mass Communication.
“Given my family’s financial circumstances after my father’s passing in 2014, I knew I had to study really hard to get a scholarship for my degree and help my mum with my tuition fee,” she added.
Her hard work saw her graduating from her diploma programme with distinction and subsequently being awarded a merit scholarship to pursue her Bachelor of Mass Communication (Hons) (Broadcasting) at Taylor’s University. As an undergraduate, she took part in an exchange programme that gave her the opportunity to study at Leeds Trinity University in the United Kingdom for a semester.
It was through that experience that her desire and determination to study overseas grew even further.
Cognisant of the importance of being a well-rounded student to increase her chances of winning a scholarship, Summer actively sought out extracurricular activities, community projects, as well as internship and part-time employment opportunities, which saw her landing different types of jobs, including being a talent manager, a communication assistant, a production assistant, and even a model for street photographers.
“It was education beyond the classroom indeed. As I got to hold events, speak in front of crowds, create commercials and handle talents, I stretched the limits of my comfort zone and developed a higher level of competency that I didn’t know I was capable of,” she said.
Being an all-rounder, she asserted, is important to build a solid and future-proof foundation in terms of one’s character, skillset and knowledge.
“As we get to engage with different individuals and form connections, we learn different perspectives of certain situations and new cultures,” she added.
On what keeps her motivated as a student, Summer shared that she takes inspiration from family, friends and prominent figures from around the world.
They are also the reason why she aims to inspire and help others in the community, she said.
To students looking to secure a scholarship, Summer had these words of advice: “Do not only work hard for your grades, but also put yourself out there and gain as many experiences as you can that you find challenging but beneficial.
“Take on diverse experiences like community service, leading roles in your clubs and societies, work experiences, extracurricular activities, competitions and so on, especially experiences that are closely related to the course you wish to take in the future.”She added that in submitting one’s application, one should answer the questions given honestly and find ways to stand out from the other applicants, be it in highlighting one’s achievements or presenting one’s personal statement.
“Being mentally and physically prepared is vital as it will be a very taxing process.
“There may be moments where others doubt you, or you yourself may question yourself, thinking it is an impossible feat and you may want to give up, but know that only you can achieve what you want,” she concluded.
Nieha, 20, a student in Melaka, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. To join Star-NiE’s online youth community, go to facebook.com/niebrats.