Tips to studying effectively

With lots of facts to memorise and absorb, there are times when studying seems more like a chore.

Studying may appear effortless for some students, but for others the struggle is real. As you find your concentration depleting, so does your enthusiasm for learning.

However, the ability to study is something that you can train yourself to be better at. Luckily, there are creative ways to help you study and excel.

For effective studying, here are some simple and practical tips that you can apply into your usual study methods.

Create colourful diagrams

If you have a set of fancy stationery, colourful post-it notes and highlighters, now is the best time to use them as visual aids that can be helpful when revising. Also, you are more likely to use them to create your own notes and diagrams.

Producing creative drawings such as diagrams and mind maps to illustrate what you have learned not only makes revision fun, but also helps you to memorize notes better.

In addition, these drawings can motivate you to create more notes in the future for effective learning.

Choose a good place to study

One of the keys to effective studying is choosing the right place and time, and this may differ for each student.

Sometimes, a change of scenery can help in regaining your enthusiasm for studying, whether it is the local library, a coffee shop or the park.

And while some students learn better when they study somewhere more private and quiet, others concentrate better with background noise as their company.

However, if being outside is not possible, do consider studying elsewhere in your house.

Take regular breaks

Studies have found that taking a break to relax and unwind is essential for achieving productivity and a positive outlook on the future, as well as improving one’s concentration.

This may also apply for young working adults who are working long hours in front of a computer or university students who are pulling all-nighters to study.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (AZAM) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This article first appeared on The Borneo Post, published in the print version on Saturday, September 29, 2018.

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TVET Career Opportunities Are “Endless”

John S. Gaal, Director of Training and Workforce Development, Carpenters’ District Council of Greater Saint Louis and Vicinity, took time out from his busy schedule at the World TVET Conference 2015 to sit down with SarawakYES! and discuss his passion for technical vocational education and training.

Q: Could you introduce yourself and your background?

A: My name is Dr. John Gaal, I am the Director of Training and Workforce Development for the Carpenters’ District Council of Greater Saint Louis and Vicinity. So in essence it’s the St Louis carpenters union. I oversee all training and education for our 22,000 members. Our geographic area spans the state of Kansas, the entire state of Missouri and about the southern third of Illinois. I oversee the apprenticeship and journey-level upgrade training programs. We have nine schools, two of them are in Kansas, six of them are in Missouri and one of them is in Illinois. Our programs cover carpentry, cabinet making, floor laying and millwright work.

Q: What are some of the questions a person should ask before considering a vocational career?

A: I believe that both students and parents have to be engaged in this process. Far too often parents have pre-conceived notions of what TVET is based on their experiences 20 or 30 years ago. And the world has changed so much since then, especially with regards to career and technical education, apprenticeships and other types of non-traditional learning. More often than not the students are so young that they follow the lead of their parents and are often disappointed because they aren’t armed with enough information to make decisions on their behalf. So they often live in the footsteps of their parents and unfortunately that isn’t very good from a relative standpoint because their parents are 20 or 30 years older than them.

So in essence it should be a team decision and it should be between the parents and the child and, of course, if they have an educator who’s been a mentor, that individual should also have some input into the process because education – whether its academic education or technical education – is so vital to the future of these children and their success down the road.

Q: Can you list some of the career options for people with TVET qualifications coming through your system?

A: The opportunities are endless. A lot of people think when they hear carpenter, immediately they think about someone pounding nails into wood. We have a lot of carpenters that never touch wood. They work all with metal. They’re building buildings out of metal, and of course you don’t nail metal, you weld it, so we have to have people who can weld. And a lot of times we get people from other sectors of the economy … maybe they were in agriculture, and if you’re a farmer you have to know how to weld, you have to fix your own equipment. So we attract a lot of rural students into our program, and a lot of our work is done in the manufacturing industry as well because we have specialty categories such as cabinetmakers and they work in factory-type shops. We have millwrights, who sometimes fabricate machinery bases in a shop and then go out into a plant and they set the machinery base and maybe even the machines themselves.

So we draw from a lot of different categories, and as we move into the 21st century, deeper into it, we’re seeing a lot of blurring of lines because in the past we had situations where only an electrician worked on electronics, and we had other types of mechanics who worked on the hydraulics and the pneumatics, but now we’ve come up with in TVET this category called mechatronics – and these people are like the new Renaissance man, they have to know how to program computers, they have to know possibly how to run a 3D printer, they may have to actually set up the machine, they may have to do the change over from one part to another part on the same machine, they may have to switch between machining something in wood to something in plexiglass and then an hour later something in aluminium. This is a mixture of a lot of different talents now.

I think too often we have these very rigid programs. When I was 18 years old I didn’t know what I wanted to be. And we’re asking kids, children, to make those tough decisions. And then you wonder why only 30 percent of the people who go to college graduate in the United States. That’s a tough decision at 18 years old. So we’ve got programs out there now that are giving our children viable options. With eight college degrees, and two post-docs and an apprenticeship on my resume, I’ll be the first to say that college is for everyone at some point in their life, but it’s not for everyone at 18 years old. I think that puts a lot of pressure on our kids and I think there are better ways to go about this and, personally, I think it’s the apprenticeship programs because it combines learning with hands on work.

Q: What does the future hold for TVET?

A: I believe that events like this that you are hosting here in Malaysia are vital for TVET from an international perspective because we come here and learn from each other. And we’re able to take those bits and pieces of those learnings and experiment with them back in our home locations. I do believe a lot of minds are open at events like this.

For a wonderful country likes yours, to make the investment that your government officials made over the last year in preparation for these three days, that’s starting at the top. That’s showing commitment. When we know the leaders are committed it helps bring people from the bottom up.

Q: What advice would you give to a young person about pursuing a career in TVET?

A: As a student, you have to experiment with what’s available. I think to come in with a preconceived notion that you have to just take the sciences or just take the maths, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice. There’s some really neat stuff going on in today’s world where these things are converging with the arts. In the United States we have what we call STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, STEM education, STEM occupations. There’s a movement now to change that word from STEM to STEAM and put an A in there for Arts. You have to be creative to be an artist, you have to be innovative to be a scientist, so we’re going to converge those things and it’s almost going to be a back-to-the-future type issue.

So don’t pigeon hole yourself just in music and not try your hand at the math, don’t pigeon yourself in biology and not try your hand at carpentry. Because somewhere along the line there may be something that you learn between the two and one day your looking at a program on the TV… and you will say ‘what if I did this and this, maybe I could join those concepts together’.

So as a young student I think they need to do a lot of career exploration, and it’s a disservice to our children if the guidance counsellors are not engaging those students in those exercises. Children today are very active learners … they want to engage. They’re not passive learners anymore.

My plea to the students, open your minds and try things. And with the teachers, open your minds and go out and learn what’s really going on in the real world with your area of expertise. And I think with parents we have to reach out to them as well and say open your minds as well because today’s TVET isn’t your grandpas vocational education.

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Advancing TVET through Innovation in Sarawak

Prof. Dr. Wahid Razzaly, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia sat down with SarawakYES! at the recent World TVET Conference 2015 to share his thoughts on TVET, innovation, and what young Sarawakians should consider before entering this field of work.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about innovation in TVET?

A: Basically, TVET is a field area that comprises learning, work, and also what we call technology. Innovation involves all these 3 elements. So basically what I was talking about just now (in the conference) was innovation in the learning part only. So basically, in a TVET system we’ve got what we call input process and output, and the output must really have an impact on the industry. So the innovation processes must loop through and you can have this in any of these sectors. For example, if you talk about what is the innovation in TVET with respect to delivery, that’s about virtual learning, that’s about a blended learning and that’s about how you use social media to address the issue of TVET. TVET needs to innovate with the industries, not on their own.

Q: What are some examples of innovation being applied in the field of TVET in Malaysia or Sarawak?

A: At UTHOM, we design a program that can extract the importance, or the relevance, of industries and their standards. And thereon we develop a program to produce TVET teachers, or a coach for these industries. In many respects there are many innovations going on in TVET. As an example, one of my PhD students is doing research in Samling, which is a very big industry employing thousands of workers. And the innovation that he was trying to suggest, or to be innovated, was to have something that we call dual training system, in Samling. Which means the Samling as a business entity will have learning within the company, and as it goes now it will be able to sustain into the future. Because in many industries … there is a curve, if you don’t do research, if you don’t bother about what’s going to happen next, then the company will collapse. So basically my student is studying about how learning could be addressed with respect to workers, either as a technician or as the supervisor. If Sawarak is to have many of these people, I think the dynamism of Samling would be great, and the Sarawak corridor would move faster.

Q: When we talk about TVET, there is a sense that safety might be an issue, resulting in some dropping the idea of pursuing it as a career. How do you think this has changed today?

A: This is something that was perhaps true 10 years ago. But we have what we call the Department of Health and Safety, we have got Acts, we have got the Environmental Act, and we have many acts to ensure that workers are protected, either health wise, environment wise or safety wise. I’ll give you an example – in the petrochemical industries, I have been through an oil rig and it looks a very dangerous area to work on, that’s TVET. But you see, we have got processes and procedures, we have got standard operating procedures, we’ve got well-trained TVET workers, and therefore minor incidents will not happen, they will not happen in the present day provided that the industries invest in safety and the industries understand what it takes to keep its workers happy and healthy.

Q: Tell us what are the things a person needs to consider before venturing into this field, into TVET?

A: TVET is getting much attention from the government as well as from elsewhere. And with Malaysia becoming the chairman of ASEAN and also between the Ministry of Human Resources, and also the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education, they’re putting in a lot of money; I think about 2 billion, spent on TVET.

But the thing is how to make the right choice; I think that has got to be left to the parent. I would blame the parents if their kids refuse to go for TVET courses or TVET programs. Basically, we have got to educate our kids – blue collar is normal, better than white collar. I’ll give you an example – my son is earning more than what I’m earning just because he is involved in TVET industries, that’s a fact of life. And therefore any parents, I would suggest that they need to see things from a proper perspective. One thing, the kids they have got 12 intelligences, do not only consider one intelligence. No, that is wrong and it will be a wrong decision to suggest to your kids that ‘look you need to go to university because you have so many A’s’. No, remember that your kids have many more intelligences.

So parents should know what are the other inclinations or traits within their children. And this is the thing that I would like to suggest, that TVET institutions should tell the parents, ‘please know your children, what are their traits and what are they good at’, not just going for one line of thought which is academic, universities.

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Preparing Sarawak Students for the Workforce

Prof. Dato’ Abdul Hakim Juri, Vice Chancellor, University College of Technology Sarawak (UCTS), spoke with SarawakYES! on the sidelines of the World TVET Conference 2015 in Kuching about how to ensure students are ready to enter the workforce.

Below is a transcript of our interview:

Q: How do you feel educational institutions these days help prepare graduates to ensure that they can feel confident and ready to enter the workforce?

A: Definitely it is very challenging now for educational institutions to prepare graduates for the workforce. Of course, the role of educational institutions is to provide the graduates with the knowledge that they require, the functional skills that are required for them to be able to exit from the educational institutions and join the workforce. So that’s an important role that has to be undertaken by the institutions, providing the knowledge. Secondly, the graduates also have to be provided with the necessary skills, the soft skills that are actually required. During this conference it was mentioned that employers employ based on technical skills and knowledge, but many employees are being sacked because of a lack of this soft skills that they do not have. So it is important for educational institutions also to provide the graduates with the necessary soft skills, the social skills that they require to be able to work in the industry.

There are a lot of expectations now in terms of communications skills, ability to think critically, to solve problems that are actually new, a lot of demand in terms of their ability to work in a team, and many additional skills that are required by industries. So educational institutions will have to also implement and deliver this within their curriculum, and mostly are being done through core curriculum activities and a lot of other initiatives being done at the institution – not just in the classroom, but also outside the classroom.

Of course, there is also the responsibility of the educational institution to change the attitude of these youngsters, or these students, because attitude is actually very important now to be prepared for work. It is very important for them to have the right attitude, not to think negatively on anything that is actually being thrown to them. It is part of the learning that they have to go through. So young people will have to be transformed from having certain negativity about things. Their attitude also has to be transformed to become more positive people, willing to continuously learn. So all in all, educational institutions will have to give them this knowledge, the skills and also the right attitude, so that they are more confident that they are more prepared to be entering the workforce or to join the industry.

Q: What are some of the right approaches for graduates for them to gain a career to fulfil their needs.

A: Young people sometimes have their own wishes, of what they want to do, what they want to become. And I think this is good with the various advancements that we have in technology, young people can actually find out what is actually required out there, what is actually the demands in terms of the industry. So for our graduates, for educational institution graduates, they have to start understanding what is happening outside of their world, what is happening in the country, what is happening in the State in terms of the developments that are taking place. And being involved in the discussion of the economy, knowing what new industries are actually being set up. From there they will be able to identify suitable careers.

Some may want to adopt careers that are actually of interest to them, but they may find it difficult later on in terms of being able to find jobs or be able to start up any kind of businesses if they are actually entrepreneurial. So it’s very important to know more than just what is happening currently, for example, in the school or in the institution. They have to be exposed, there has to be a lot of counseling done, in terms of what are the prospects, what is the future. Some of the jobs may not yet exist. There may be jobs that are going to be created in the future, so graduates have to be open-minded. Of course, an education prepares them towards a certain kind of actual profession, but they don’t necessarily have to stick to that profession, they have to be able to adapt to the changing situation that is going to take place in this world.

So, it is important for graduates to be able to have continuous learning, finding out what is going to be their future, what are the new technologies coming in, and from that they will be able to identify suitable paths or roots for their career that will be rewarding and also successful for them.

Q: Are there any tips you can share on how graduates can stand out?

A: Again I think a lot has to depend on their own initiative. Educational institutions can provide the environment, educational institutions can provide the various programs, but if the students do not want to take the initiative to learn all these many skills, then they will be left behind. So I think students must be willing to work extra, spend more time on activities organised by the institutions, and not just attend class and sit for exams. So for students to stand out they have to take up these leadership roles, they must be willing to be responsible … and this will then place them in a different position when they graduate, and when they leave the educational institutions they are much more prepared, and they will not be shy, they are willing to take up any challenges given to them.

Q: Tell us a little about the workshop that happened earlier on today?

A: This workshop was discussing about the use of e-learning in technical education and vocational training. There is a misconception that maybe e-learning is not really suitable for TVET because TVET tends to be standing for very much skills, very much a hands-on kind of approach towards learning. But we now see that there is actually a lot of e-learning already being implemented and used to support education and learning in TVET – maybe not completely, but some aspects of the program can actually implement e-earning using the various technologies that have already been incorporated.

So the discussion was more in terms of the experiences of the presenters from New Zealand, from Portugal, from the U.S., and from Philippines, where they are already implementing this in their TVET programs. So the conclusion is that it does actually help in terms of improving the delivery of the TVET programs, it helps to reduce the cost of not having to have a lot of equipment. So it’s all up to the innovation and creativity of the institutions in terms of how to actually apply this e-learning in their programs.

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The Importance of TVET in Sarawak’s Development

TVET is becoming increasingly important across Sarawak and the number of career opportunities becoming available to Sarawakians is growing rapidly. At the World TVET Conference 2015, SarawakYES! interviewed Hallman Sabri, Executive Director, Sarawak Skills Development Centre (SSDC), to hear his views on the future of TVET.

Q: Please share with us what this conference is about?

A: The World TVET conference is the biggest conference that PPKS has ever held. And the objective of this conference, first of all, is to promote the development of TVET in the country, particularly in the state of Sarawak. Secondly, this is where (there is an) intellectual discourse, intellectual exchange of ideas of how to promote and to develop TVET. That is the main concern for this conference.

Q: Why do you think the exchange of ideas, or discourse, is important for Sarawak?

A: What we should be doing here is, we are part of the government effort to tell the State or the country, that TVET is … important to the development of the nation. That is important. In developed countries, we can see they have done this for many, many, years, and we have done this but not in a systematic way.

Q: What are some of the courses that are available in Sarawak that you feel fits into the event and meet the job demand in Sarawak?

A: That’s a good question. If we can see that the SCORE itself is a testimony that we are going to be an industrialised State in Sarawak. And of this SCORE, we have 10 major industries that we’ve got to attend, and I think to fill the gap of the workers we have to equip our young generation with the technical and vocational skills so that they will be able to grab the job opportunities that will be available in Sarawak.

Q: What do you think of the readiness of the young people today.

A: We have to be realistic on this, that’s why our effort is to promote TVET. Most parents still find that TVET is a second choice education. Most parents would prefer to send their children to academic, not TVET. That’s why we have to convince, we have to inform the communities, that TVET is the answer for the future.

Q: Can you share with us the kind of facilities maybe PPKS has in place that offers proper training to students considering vocational studies?

A: Of course I’m delighted to inform you that we have been in existence for 20 years, from a small training provider that is backed by the industry. We have 60 industry members in it, we have around 30+ courses which are available and we have programs like mechanical, we have programs like mechatronic, we have civil engineering, we have plantation, we have IT, nursing, and now we are running a program on Training Aircraft Maintenance Engineer.

Q: Is there any additional support that PPKS provides for their students to prepare them for the workforce.

A: In terms of student support, the background of students that attend these courses … is that most of them can’t afford to attend the program and we have to rely on government funding for them to attend the program.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: We believe that TVET is the way forward in PPKS. We still find that we have lots of things to enable the young generation to take up TVET, as a choice, as a first choice education they should grab the opportunity because in the future it will be difficult to find a job that can suit the industry development of the world now. So I think we have to accept the reality that the world is changing, technology is changing and this is the answer for our future generations.

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Five reasons Sarawakians must always keep learning

By SarawakYES!

WITH the world around us constantly changing and evolving, having the ability to learn and adapt is critical.

The same can be said for our places of work. Employers and workers need to be always searching and developing new ways to work if they want to keep pace with those around them – or even push ahead of their peers.

By continually learning and developing, employees enhance their appeal to the company they work for and to hiring managers seeking to recruit the best talent.

Some companies are even willing to help fund some learning opportunities for their staff, whether it’s language classes or a short course on improving your social media skills. Would you say no if you had the opportunity to better yourself and improve your value?

There are plenty of reasons why Sarawakians should never stop learning – here are some we have hand-picked for you.

Get out of your comfort zone

Taking on a new challenge not only stimulates your brain and creativity, but also opens up new ways to look at things.

Pushing yourself beyond your normal comfort zone will also do wonders for your self-esteem and, ultimately, make you feel happier. And happier people are often better at their jobs!

Become more valuable

The more you can do well, the more valuable you will be to current and prospective employers.

These days, it’s not enough just to complete your university degree and expect to gradually climb through the corporate ranks.

To make yourself more appealing, continuous learning helps broaden and sharpen new skill sets.

This not only sets you apart from your colleagues and peers, but can also enable you to seek higher compensation in regards to salary and/or benefits.

Adapt quickly to change

With the speed at which technology changes these days, it can almost make you dizzy. But it’s vital to keep up-to-date with the latest software, programs and processes implemented in the office.

By keeping your finger on the pulse of these changes, you can stay ahead of the curve and demonstrate more worth to your employer.

Stay healthy

Scientists have proven our mental health outlook is best when we continuously exercise our brains with learning.

People who make it a priority to learn new skills and improve upon existing ones are less likely to suffer from illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease.

You can even learn about things that help the rest of your body as well.

For example, learning about proper nutrition will help you maintain a better diet or learning about time management will help you guard against excess stress.

Giving life more substance

People who take the time to learn new things seem to live life more deeply.

Learning something valuable remains with you. The more you learn, the more you’ll be able to make connections between pieces of knowledge – and the more tools you’ll acquire to enhance creativity.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (Azam) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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Developing networking skills at university to enhance your career

FINDING a job can be difficult enough. Making the task even harder is the growing trend of companies simply not advertising available positions.

Instead, roles are filled through recommendations from other employees, staff movements within an organisation, and through formal and informal networks. Essentially, networking of some kind is helping fill a large number of vacancies.

What you need to keep in mind is this: don’t wait until you have your first job to start networking – if you’re a university student, start now.

You might ask whether networking at university is really worth it. You’re working hard towards your undergraduate, or post-graduate, degree; you’re not even in the workforce yet, so what’s the point?

The point is that in today’s competitive job market you need every advantage you can get. Consider the students you’re surrounded by at university – while many of them may be friends, upon graduation they may also be friendly competitors, applying for the same jobs as you.

So building connections while at university can potentially boost your future prospects, or you may meet people who can help advance your career further down the track.

Networking doesn’t have to be hard work. If you look closer at who you’re surrounded by, a network already exists – you just need to tap into it. Apart from other students, there are lecturers, members of student clubs and associations, while outside of university you may be involved in other organisations – such as a volunteer group or sporting club — where you can make connections.

There are also other opportunities outside of your university environment. Perhaps there’s a conference being held in town that focuses on your field of interest. If you can attend, introduce yourself to people, collect business cards and contact details and then keep in touch with those who may be able to assist you once you graduate.

Of course, networking is not easy for everyone, especially when walking into a room of unfamiliar faces. But there are ways you can prepare yourself: be clear in understanding your goals; practise your small talk skills so conversations with strangers are not so daunting; and remember to always maintain eye contact and not let your eyes wander around the room in the middle of a conversation.

While you may still be a student, that doesn’t mean you can’t start building your own professional profile on LinkedIn, which is where a lot of companies now turn in search of recruits.

While you don’t necessarily have a lot of work experience to include, you can still highlight your education, positions you’re interested in, and of course connect with people — whether they are friends, family or alumni networks.

So don’t just sit back waiting for opportunities to come knocking. Be proactive and make opportunities happen.

This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (Azam) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

* This article first appeared in The Borneo Post (

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The importance of mastering English for your career

Do you have a strong command of English? Your level of English language skills could have a significant impact on your career – or potential career.

If you are ambitious, the ability to master the global language is critical to your ability to achieve your goals or land your dream job.

Being able to communicate in English instantly opens up a vast number of doors for potential employment opportunities. It broadens your global outlook. It expands your knowledge.

It connects you to the world.

Coming from a country where English is not the first language doesn’t mean you can’t master the language. If you are willing to put in the commitment to learning the language, you will be rewarded. Suddenly your appeal as a prospective employee will soar – with two languages under your belt, you will be in higher demand.

Not only will you be able to operate confidently in your native country, you will be able to operate and do business confidently in other countries.

If you’re a business owner exploring the possibility of expanding overseas, you will require English to deal with officials in other countries, in dealing with suppliers, contractors and future employees. Without English, you could well be lost. And your business, which may have the potential to appeal to customers in a wide range of other markets, may never reach its full potential.

If you’re a student who wants to study abroad, or even take one of the scores of online courses offered by universities in the U.S., the U.K, or Australia, for example, then having a level of English mastery opens up those opportunities.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in IT, science, medicine, diplomacy, working as a pilot, or even entertainment – to make an impact and be able to work effectively, English is essential.

Want to find a higher-paying job? Want to climb the corporate ladder? Want to work with international corporations of organisations? English is essential.

In Malaysia and other parts of Southeast Asia, Chinese influence is growing, as is the expansion of Chinese corporations into the region. While this may bolster the argument for people to adopt Mandarin as their second language instead of English – which may be correct in some cases – English will continue to be the dominant language of global business.

In fact, even Chinese companies expanding to non-Mandarin-speaking countries, are well aware they need to have a certain level of English if they want to become global companies.

As The Economist noted last year, a number of multinational companies that originated in non-English speaking countries have since adopted English as their official language.

This has not only been witnessed in Europe, but also in Japan and even in China, where Lenovo has made English its main language for doing business.

* This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (AZAM) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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Preparing for university – managing a balanced life

When you make the shift to become a full-time university student, it’s important to be well prepared. Not only should you be clear about what goals you want to achieve, but making sure you have balance in your life is critical in achieving them.

The early years of your university life present an opportunity to develop some good work habits and discipline. At the same time, the commitment needed when studying for your degree can be quite intense, depending on what major you have chosen, and all-consuming for three or four years.

So how can you set yourself up for success while also enjoying a balanced life?

For those with a lack of discipline, developing a plan or schedule can certainly help, and can also determine whether you can achieve everything that you want to. During this process, make a list of what’s important to you outside of your study — whether it be family, friends, exercise, or travel — and prioritise the things that matter most.

Maybe you even need to put some goals or activities on pause for a while.

During your journey, there are also some questions you can ask yourself, which will help you assess the status of your desired balanced life:

• Are you satisfied with life, work, and your relationships?

• Do you feel healthy — emotionally, physically, and spiritually?

• Do you feel you have a sense of control over your life?

• Do you still find time for fun?

Of course, along the way there may be times when you are confronted by high levels of stress, whether it’s the result of a heavy study load, financial worries or some unexpected events in your personal life.

This can make you feel overwhelmed and can also hurt your motivation at university. So how can you prepare yourself for these kinds of situations?

Perhaps take a fresh look at your goals and reaffirm with yourself that they are right; reassess your list of important things and adjust them if necessary, though ensure study remains a primary focus; why not give yourself a little treat or reward every time you complete a goal or task you have set yourself?

Throughout your time at university, remember to check in with yourself every now and then to see if you’re still maintaining balance in your life.

If you find you’re lacking in some of areas, reassess everything to see how you can restore some balance. If you’re expectations are too high and too difficult to sustain, consider toning them down slightly, at least for a while; learn to say no occasionally; adjust your schedules so they are more manageable. And, perhaps most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

* This article first appeared in The Borneo Post (

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How to choose a university major

Do you want to be an engineer? A psychologist? How about a doctor?

Deciding what career path to follow is not always easy and can change numerous times before you finally settle on a direction. All this can make choosing a university major an equally challenging task.

When preparing to make the big leap into university, there are endless things you need to consider before making a final choice on what course to study.

“I think they need to look at what their strengths are, what they really enjoy,” Professor Anthony Cahalan, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer of Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak, told SarawakYES! earlier this year.

“It’s very difficult to do foundation and then a three- or a four-year degree if it’s not something that you feel passionate about,” Cahalan said.

With the mid-year intake now starting to swing into action at universities, many young people across Sarawak will be grappling with the question around what major to sign up for.

When making a considered decision, it’s worth keeping a few things in mind, looking towards the future rather than focusing on the short-term. If you are confused or unsure, try and talk with friends or family who have completed a major that you are interested in, to hear what advice they have. Most universities also have counselors on staff that can provide guidance.

There are other questions you also need to ask yourself:

• What career options are available with this particular course of study?

• Is the course offered locally, or would I need to relocate?

• What is the earning potential and career growth opportunities in these areas?

• What skills will I develop through this major?

• Does this major offer opportunities for internships or study overseas?

• What percentage of graduates from this course is usually offered jobs related to the major?

Answer these questions and you may find yourself closer to a resolution.

You also need to keep in mind that the results you achieve in your final year of school will also play a significant role in what courses you can apply for, and what courses you believe you can excel in.

“There’s no point in applying for something that they cannot achieve,” Mohd Fadzil Abdul Rahman, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Student Affairs and Alumni at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), told SarawakYES! earlier this year.

“For example, if your qualification is so low, but you want to get into the engineering faculty … you will struggle. You have to look at your results first and then ask yourself whether or not you’re capable of getting into any discipline.”

* This is a weekly column by SarawakYES! – an initiative driven by Faradale Media-M Sdn Bhd and supported by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (AZAM) Sarawak – to provide advice and stories on the topics of education and careers to support Sarawakians seeking to achieve their dreams. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

* This article first appeared in The Borneo Post (

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