As I mentioned in the previous post, initially it was just a matter of getting that degree. More important is the pay rise that will come with it, the boosted income that will continue many years after. With that in mind, I set off to balance work and study, to move forward towards a better future. The minimum time frame for finishing the degree is 5 years...4 part-time and 1 full-time final year. The maximum is 9 years! I told myself I'll finish in 5 years because each extra year actually worked out to quite a substantial difference in terms of $$$$ eventually.
At that time I was staying in Penang but working in Perak. It took about an hour's drive from Butterworth. Each day I needed to leave home by 11am to catch the ferry and then meet the car-poolers on the mainland. (No Penang Bridge, no highways yet) By the time I reached home after work it would be 8pm. After dinner and a bath, by 9pm I'll bury myself in the lecture notes. That would probably be for 2 hours at most because I was not a late night person. The next day I would wake up for a light breakfast and continue studying till about 10am. Then I had to have early lunch and get ready to leave for work. All in it is 4 hours a day on weekdays except on certain days when we had to leave the house at 5 am to be in time for co-curricula activities in the morning and stay until evening. On certain nights I'd have a quick dinner in school and go straight to USM for tutorials from 8pm to 10pm. On Saturdays we would attend practicals at the USM labs. In November each year we would attend 3 weeks of intensive lectures. So if you guys think your university life is tough, think again. If you think preparing for STPM is hell, think again. I always tell my students, nothing is easy, everything is tough. However I also remind them nothing is too difficult if you set your mind for it. After one year of part-time studies, the results were released. As I said earlier, I desperately wanted to finish in 5 years. And to do that we had to take slightly more than the usual recommended units. I couldn't afford to fail any paper. If I had to repeat any paper gone will be my hopes of finishing in 5 years. I opened my results envelope telling myself, no F's no F's! What shocked me was a string of almost all A's. My colleague in school, a Malay lady, shared my joy because she admired the way I struggled between work and study. After I finish my school chores, I would bring out my notes to study during free periods. She gave me a lot of encouragement.....go for first class! It seemed like an impossible task. I didn't do that well in HSC, and having to work and study...passing would already be an achievement. But deep in my heart I know it is possible. From the second year onwards it was not only about finishing in 5 years. It was about finishing in 5 years with a first class honours. It was not about $$$$$ anymore (you get the same pay whatever class degree) but it was about pushing yourself to the limit. In the next post I will talk a bit about the strive for excellence.