Few days after the FIB, we received a text message from Miss Susie informing that five of us; me, Hanan, Alya, Richmon and Raziq, made the cut to become potential MinDef Scholars. I was absolutely thrilled as we were a few steps closer to becoming the official MinDef Scholars! Awaiting further news, we were asked to explore and search for prestigious universities. Some of us were even suggested to look for Top Universities in US and Canada which was incredible! Days passed by, Ding! Another message from Miss Susie has arrived 3 days before Hari Raya. While waiting for the Final Selection Process Results, we had an appointment at a tailor shop to have our sizes measured for a blazer. Could this be that we have been offered the scholarship? I could not help but wonder. Just the thought of it gave me butterflies! However, we were only told to get our measurements noted without any news of the Scholarship results.
In a few weeks, we finally heard from Miss Susie again on 26th May 2021. Looking at the notification on my phone screen was nerve-racking! I was excited and jittery upon the mysterious text message I have yet to open. Without hesitating, I read the text message hoping for the long-awaited news. However, we were only told to meet Miss Susie at the Brunei Arts and Handicraft Centre the next day around 1.30 PM. Along with that, we were asked to look presentable and fresh. I kept questioning what we were going to do at the next day as we were not informed why we were summoned. During night time, I was undeniably tossing around my bed thinking of the possible reasons we were called.
The next day, at 1.30 PM, everyone was already present. We were absolutely nervous to say the least. When Miss Susie told us that we were offered the scholarship and handed us the official offer letter, I felt like the time was frozen! We were still flabbergasted and clearly proud of our efforts. When we received the official offer letter, neither of us wanted to open it yet. We were going to save the moment to when we're breaking the news to our family. Still stunned, we were handed the official MinDef Scholar blazers. Everyone tried it on and we could not believe our eyes! It took our breath away! This just made it more real for us and it looked professional and sophisticated. After the fitting session, we were briefed about the upcoming Sembah Kenal and Award Ceremony. We were beyond ecstatic to meet His Majesty, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah and His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Mateen! Crash course on 'terasul' was provided and we were asked to memorise and be familiar with the terms. Then, we had rehearsal on our line up positions in which; Raziq was first followed by Richmon, Hanan, me and Alya. For our picture position, it was me followed by Richmon, Raziq, Hanan and Alya. During the rehearsals, the Commanders were also present and we had the chance to mingle with them. They were really friendly and welcoming!
On the day of the occasion, 31st of May 2021, I recall waking up too early as I was very elated to meet His Majesty. As MinDef Scholars, we were requested to arrive at 7.30 AM. Upon arrival, we were provided breakfast at Tarindak D'Seni Restaurant. During the breakfast, our parents had the chance to introduce themselves. By 8.30 AM, we were already at our fixed spot in the Brunei Arts and Handicraft Centre. A dry rerun was conducted, unfortunately, there was no space for the formation for our picture position hence we decided that we would just use the picture position as our line up position as well. This abrupt change caught me off guard as I would be the first to greet His Majesty!
My heart was definitely jumping out of my chest! A little while later, His Majesty was reported to have arrived. Honestly, I think I heard my heartbeat through my ears! Nonetheless, when His Majesty strode his way to us, all the anxiousness were fading away and content was filling up.
Supposedly, when His Majesty was infront of me, I was meant to say what we have rehearsed including the 'terasul' but all the words have seemed to disappear to my surprise! And His Majesty was the one to start the conversation! His Majesty asked which school we were previously from and a couple of questions regarding our plan on further studies to which each of us responded respectfully. I was also given the opportunity to talk with His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah and His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Mateen. His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah was really proud as I was a student from Maktab Duli Pengiran Muda Al-Muhtadee Billah. Both His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah and His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Mateen asked about my future plans and wished me all the best. After the Sembah Kenal, we requested for a photo together as a reminder of this amazing participation. This was a very remarkable experience and an absolutely fascinating opportunity!
Subsequently, after departing from His Majesty, we were served lunch at Tarindak D'Seni Restaurant. Frankly, I could finally enjoy the delicious courses without feeling uneasy as the Sembah Kenal went on smoothly. Next in line was our Signing and Award Ceremony at Serambi Batil Hall.
Around half past one, all the guests were already present. Commencement of the Signing and Award Ceremony begun with prayers.
Soon enough, we were called one by one to do the signing with Major General Dato Seri Pahlawan Haji Hamzah bin Haji Sahat, Commander of the RBAF and our parents. As my name was called, I was marching to the front desk with my parents. At that moment when I was signing the parchment I realized, this is it!
I'm officially a MinDef Scholar! I looked at my surrounding, trying to take in the details so I could reminisce back to this moment in the future. It was indeed the first big step as a MinDef Scholar and it felt undeniably rewarding to have made it official after all we went through.
Once again each of us were summoned to the front to receive the awards. The gifts awarded was the Scholarship Certificate, Engraved SCRBAF21 Mont Blanc Pen and Macbook Pro complete with Microsoft Office Mac Home and Student 2019, Apple Adapter, Magic Mouse and Macbook bag. This was handed by the Minister of Defence II, the Honorable Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof. During our rehearsal, we were only told that we were to receive the certificate and the Cenderamata ie Mont Blanc Pen only. I am very grateful for the gifts awarded especially the Macbook Pro which caught us by surprise! The ceremony concluded with a photo taking session at the stage and socializing with all the guests.
I was able to speak with the Minister of Defence II, members of the Defence Executive Committee, Service Commanders, Joint Force Commander, Directors, Senior officers of MinDef and RBAF and the members of the Board of the Scholarship Selection Process. They were all very affectionate, supportive and even gave us words of advice for our upcoming studies. As a MinDef Scholar, it felt surreal but I was certainly proud of each and every one of us. Our hardwork and efforts paid off! We finally made it!