Freshmen Induction Programme: the beginning of a better future. First week of the programme definitely showed an overview of that slogan. I actually did not have any expectations of what was going to happen throughout the whole 8 weeks. I had a lot of question marks in my head and I did not know what I should feel about the programme: to feel more nervous or to feel more excited about it?
For the first day of the first week, we were only asked to meet up at the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (SHHBIDSS) at 7.30am. Coincidentally, I arrived around the same time as 2 of my fellow scholars: Syasya and Hanan. So, the three of us, along with our mothers, brought our big luggage inside the building together. We bid our farewells with hugs and promises to behave ourselves. It was a really emotional moment because we have never been separated from our family for a long period of time. My absence from the family was really rare that even my grandmother went to send me!
The remaining day continued with a briefing regarding Occupational, Health and Safety (OHS) conducted by Maj Dk Nurhazrimah bte Pg Hj Hassanan from the Inspectorate Unit, followed by a talk on 'Terasul Dan Bahasa Dalam' by Awang Mohammad Zaizul bin Haji Daud from Jabatan Adat Istiadat Negara, Jabatan Perdana Menteri and Melayu Islam Beraja (MIB) talk given by Dr Awang Haji Muhammad Hadi bin Muhammad Melayong from Majlis Tertinggi Melayu Islam Beraja. At the end of the day, we were finally brought to our secret accommodation, only to be revealed we will be staying in Apartment! I was so glad it was not any barrack or hostel, or anywhere intimidating. We spent the first night just cleaning and organising our apartment: wiping tabletops; sweeping and mopping the floor; arranging cutlery and crockery into kitchen shelves; unpacking our clothes.
We had our first day of Communication Skills Workshop organized by HRD Services (HRDS) at SHHBIDSS which was led by Dr Smita Wimmer and Ms Khairinnisa Isa (Ms Nisa). This workshop stretched out for 3 full days and we were also joined by junior officers whom have only served for the MinDef and RBAF for under 3 years.
In just that first day alone, we gained a lot of insightful information. For example, we learned that communication needs to always be done in two ways. An activity that demonstrated this perfectly involved us being paired up; one person was given a digital drawing and was tasked to give detailed instructions to his/her partner, which had their eyes closed, on how to copy the pattern shown on the digital drawing onto a separate piece of blank paper. The results of this activity were really funny because each of the designated pairs had different drawing outcomes! Besides that, we also learned of the critical skills we need to integrate into our personality. Some dispositions of the critical skills include being open-minded, being analytical and being open to criticism.
In the afternoon, the workshop mostly tested us on our grammar and vocabulary, as well as our spelling and memory retention skills. This was also necessary because sometimes we no longer realise how many errors we do in our daily, basic English usage. Afterwards, we had a surprise visit to the RIPAS Hospital! Coincidentally, one of the personnel from the Scholarship Section, Ka Alya, had her birthday on that day and had given birth to her firstborn the previous day! It was a really sweet moment, as we surprised her with balloons and she even cried after seeing our surprise! At that moment, I really felt like we were really on MinDef's side and we all just felt like family for a reason. Ka Alya was introduced to us at the beginning of our Selection Process and she has been through with us ever since.
The next day, we finally, officially had our first training! We were introduced to SSjn Pg Murshid, Sjn Nurul and Sld Bakhri. They are our Personal Training Instructors (PTIs) for these 8 weeks. Our first training started with a warm-up of four laps around the track and some dynamic stretching. We were then tested with an endurance training, in which we were given 30 minutes to continuously jog around the track without stopping. As a result, I felt super exhausted as I had never ran for such a long distance before this. I even made some walking stops in between some laps but the PTIs pushed me and told me to just reduce my speed to the slowest jog pace I can make. When I finally had reached my ultimate limit, the PTIs then allowed me to walk as that was just our first day.
After we had our cooling down session, we walked back to SHHBIDSS and we were given approximately an hour to finish showering and changing into our working attire. We then had our breakfast and continued the Communication Skills Workshop. Day two of the workshop focused more on essay writing skills. The speakers explained to us how to tackle certain questions and whether we should approach them as essays, reports or even proposals. We were even given samples of university questions and were asked to present how we would answer them. Afterwards, we had the lovely chance to meet our fellow scholar from 2016, Dr Nadiah! She had recently finished her final year exams in Cardiff University and would soon return to the UK for her Foundation Year programme.
When night-time came about, it was time for our first Karate lesson! MinDef has provided us with Karate training so that we could better protect ourselves once we start being alone and independent in the countries we plan to study in. It is just a precautionary measure before we encounter any possible threats in the future. I was super excited for it, as I had never taken part in any sort of Martial Arts nor known any form of self-defence strategies beforehand. On just that first lesson alone, Sensei Sofian has taught us many basics of Karate: from the way of tying the belt to the 'alter-ego' that we develop after wearing the Karate Gi (uniform) to the basic punches, kicks and blocking methods.
After Karate, we rushed back to the apartment because I have an interview with Stony Brook University from the USA. Alhamdulillah, I got the offer afterwards! According to the U.S. News Best Health Schools ranking, Stony Brook University is ranked third in the best Clinical Psychology programmes. The first and second best universities – University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and University of North Carolina, respectively, unfortunately do not offer their Doctorate Psychology Degree (Psy.D.) for international students. Thus, Stony Brook University is best fit for me as they allow international students to undergo their Psy.D. programme.
On the fourth day of the programme, we followed our morning warm-up routine and then headed to the gym! The PTIs demonstrated us the 6 compulsory work-outs for us and how much we had to do them in a rotation of 3 sets. This was also exhausting but I definitely personally enjoy this more than the plenty of running we had the day before.
We then headed to SHHBIDSS again for our final day of the workshop. In the same groups like the previous day, we were tasked to create and present a poster about the History of the RBAF to our imaginary audience (O-Level Students). For this specific task, we were given the opportunity to visit the RBAF Museum opposite of SHHBIDSS to gain more information which are not readily-accessible on the internet.
Lastly, there was one final groupwork that required us all to make powerpoint slides. Each group was given different topics. My group had to present about Our Army and why we should value them, at the same time having to persuade the general public to join the army. I believe that each of the groups have done a splendid job in finishing up a decent presentation within a short duration of time. However, there are definitely rooms for improvement, as what the feedbacks from our instructors have implied. Raziq's group were declared the best for the final presentation whereas Syasya and two other junior officers (Naqibah and Nabilah) received individual prizes for getting the most stars throughout the 3-day programme! At night, I had another interview with Case Western University, USA.
Finally, the last day of the first week came. In the morning, we were all told that we were going to Tasek Lama. My expectations were us going for hiking. However, we never went beyond the first steep hill! We were told to jog uphill and walk downhill repeatedly for 10 times. Personally, I think this was the toughest training in the first week.
After that, we all made a stop at the Medical Reception Station (MRS) because most of us had never gotten our Tetanus Shot yet. This shot was necessary to be done before we all go to Outward Bound Brunei Darussalam (OBBD) in week 4. We all needed to get this shot as it can help us avoid a Tetanus (lockjaw) infection. The poisonous bacteria that cause Tetanus, which live in places like water, soil and dust, can enter the body through breaks in the skin such as cuts and puncture wounds. If we do not become immune to the disease before going to OBBD, there would be a high risk of suffering from muscle spasms, muscle tightness and muscle cramps, as well as suffering from breathing difficulties and seizures. In worst case scenarios, when the infection is left untreated, Tetanus could even lead to death.
We then headed back to SHHBIDSS and made finishing touches to our powerpoint slides for our reflection session. I feel like all of us improved after undergoing the Communication Skills Workshop and some even integrated the techniques taught by the speakers in order to perform an effective presentation, such as the Merkel Diamond and the Kawasaki Rule.
When presentations were done, we were introduced to a Senior MinDef Scholar who studied in University College London (UCL), Haziq! It felt really nice to meet him because he was able to answer our questions as much as he could, based on his personal experience such as overcoming homesickness and fitness maintenance abroad. In the afternoon, we had our second Karate lesson: it was really fun! I think Karate is slowly growing on to me, except for the part where my thighs get sore afterwards. After Karate, we made our final packing preparations and then we all checked-out after 7.
This was my perspective on the first week of the programme. I am really grateful for what the government has prepared for us: from the comfortable apartment to the delicious refreshments prepared in between talks. Although I realise that I am lacking in terms of physical fitness skills and confidence, I hope to slowly but surely evolve into a better individual and to continuously learn as I go through this 8-weeks long programme! Looking forward to what the following weeks have in store!