It still feels surreal when I recall the time Miss Susie texted us on 6th May 2016, Friday 4.30pm to 'report' to Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (SHHBIDSS) by 8am the following Monday. My heart raced as I read that text over and over again. Could it be? Will I finally obtain an answer? But, little did I know that it was already the start of our life changing journey. Yeap, we were to start the first day of our Freshmen Induction Programme! Upon arrival, Zi Ling and I were welcomed by Miss Susie, the Head of Scholarship and Training Division at SHHBIDSS where she ran through all the exciting activities that we would be doing for the whole 8 weeks of the programme.
Later, Lt. Siti Syamimi and Major Don from the Inspectorate Unit briefed us on the importance of wearing appropriate safety clothing in the work place, complying to office safety rules and taught us how to intervene appropriately should we see any hazardous act within the premises of MinDef. They were really effective in conveying the message as I still feel the shivers down my spine when I recall the gruesome images shown throughout the videos. It really woke us up and reminded us to never overlook and ignore the safety rules imposed.
Then, we were given a tour around the MinDef library and Info Centre where we learnt of the library's policies, reading materials available and facilities. I was amazed at the vast collection in the library especially in defence studies and journals. The best part was that new scholars like ourselves will be allowed to make full use of these facilities, and we even received our very own library card on the same day.
The day continued with a talk on 'Terasul dan Bahasa Dalam' by Ak Mohd. Noor Hamaddi from Jabatan Adat Istiadat Diraja. We really appreciated the talk as we now know how to converse with and address members of the royal family and people with titles. This will be particularly helpful when we meet His Majesty the Sultan to express our sincerest gratitude for being awarded the scholarship during Royal Brunei Armed Forces Day on 31st May 2016. Can't wait!
Sarohakim, Nadiah, Azma and Amirrul were finally able to join us after the talk and measurements for our very own MinDef blazers were taken. Miss Susie then re-explained what to expect throughout the programme to the six of us. Since Nadiah, Azma and Amirrul are still sitting for their exams, sadly they won't be able to join us for the programme except for annual reflections on week 8.
On Day 2, Dr. Chris Woo and Mr Stuart Lee from Rhymin & Partners started the 3 day communication skills course. For the first day, we learnt the history and basis of communication, how to challenge fear before presenting and techniques to describe an object, person or emotion most effectively. We were also reminded how pausing between words, emphasis on certain words and changes in the pitch and volume of speech can really change the whole context of a sentence. A funny example used was saying 'the panda eats shoots and leaves' in 2 different ways. Have a try yourself, reader! In between sessions, we would also have fun activities and mini games to practice what we have learnt.
The second day of the course focused on learning the different types of body language to convey different feelings and knowing how to react to the body language of the audience as a speaker. Later, we were given useful tips to create professional slide shows such as using only 30% of the slide for text and to avoid using more than 2 font colours per slide. I personally feel that this part of the course was most significant because such valuable knowledge will assist us in future presentations, be it in university or in our career.
On the last day of the course, we were taught the ideal structure of a presentation, i.e. having an impactful introduction, persuasive body and strong conclusion and techniques to achieve all three. We also learnt methods to evaluate constructively and how to write a professional report. Since we will present a reflection and submit a report on a weekly basis, we were glad to have experienced this last day so we now have a proper guideline to make work much easier.
To end the course, we endeavored to implement most if not all the techniques that we learnt over the 3 days in a final presentation. In the case of Sarohakim, Zi Ling and I, we presented a mock roadshow presentation and received valuable advice and feedback from our coursemates, Mr Stuart, Dr Chris and Miss Susie so we can improve and present the best we can for the actual roadshow in week 5.
On the last day, a staff from Outward Bound Brunei Darussalam (OBBD) briefed us on the programme as we would be heading to Temburong the following week. We were certainly looking forward to all the unconventional sports that we might be able to experience like rock climbing and flying fox.
So in this part of the article, you will get to know the fitness training that we experienced over the week. Our very first fitness training was at the mini stadium and I was really awed by the fact that we would have a personal coach, Coach Ranage, to guide us to the road of fitness. We first jogged for 2.4km followed by push-ups, sit-ups and stretching to cool down. Since it was the first session, coach went 'easy' on us to kick off our training.
The next day, the level of difficulty amplified as we did our training at the stairs leading to the entrance of the national stadium. The workout included walking, missing a step, missing two steps and running up and down the flight of stairs, 10 sets of each. It was very exhausting but we felt a sense of achievement at the end after completing the circuit, but not forgetting the body cramps too. The session ended with Sarohakim declaring that stairs is his newfound enemy.
On Thursday, morning fitness was in Dewan Gerak Badan in MinDef which included several exercises using weights, lunges, planking and the usual; sit ups, pushups and stretches. Unlike the past two days which were mostly cardio, we focused on muscle toning to strengthen our muscles.
For the last training of the week, we trained on the track in Sekolah Sukan and focused on stamina training which comprised drills, long distance jogging and then the usuals. At night, we had our first karate lesson! I always wanted to learn some self defence and I finally have the chance to fulfill my wish. We managed to learn a block and a punch but it was vigorous nonetheless as we were moving (and squatting) non-stop but hopefully, we will be able to adjust quickly after a few more lessons.
In conclusion, we are still at the stage of adapting to the new environment in terms of fitness training, living independently and working life. The communication skills course really opened my eyes and exposed me to whole new knowledge and skills that will certainly aid us in the future. Up until now, every single activity has been full of rewards and we definitely can't wait for the next weeks to come. Thank you, MinDef!
By Lim Chai Tze, 2016 MinDef scholarship recipient