Scholar Stories: Humaira Mohamad

Humaira Mohamad is a member of the first cohort of ProjectEd scholars. Being chosen to receive the scholarship was distinctively meaningful to her as it was her first successful application after applying to more than ten scholarships. Let’s follow her story.

Gerard Way, the famed lead vocalist of My Chemical Romance, once said, “Life is nothing but a dream for the dead.” Oftentimes, when I am at the brink of giving up, what he said strikes my mind – telling me to hold on, to keep going, to fix my eyes and get up while I still can. I am Humaira Mohamad, and this is my story.

I was born in Terengganu, a state in the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, which is renowned for having remarkably intelligent students and fortunately I was one of them. Growing up, listening to my mother’s advice on how a woman should be capable of standing on her own two feet, how hard life would be when I became an adult, and how securing a professional job would solve those hardships, I ended up wanting to become a dentist. I studied so hard – too hard that I did not have time to hang out with friends at all – and was awarded as the best student for a number of times. The climax was when I got 10As in my SPM. Ah, those good times. I was delighted as my future seemed to be bright and becoming a dentist seemed feasible. Those were the days when I thought a dream was unstoppable; as long as you stayed determined and ambitious, you would definitely achieve your dream and your journey would be free of hindrance just like the obstacle-free zone of the airspace.

And suddenly it hit me. That was such an idealistic thought. It slipped my mind that failure is just around the corner. That day when I received the result of university entrance after high school, I was loss for words. “Sorry, your application was not accepted.” And the downfall began.

I grew up in a family whose father was a bankrupt businessman while my mother was an independent housewife who taught – and is still teaching – villagers’ kids to recite The Holy Quran. It was super distressing to make ends meet; my parents fought almost every single day and my childhood memory was filled with the sight of my mother crying. When I did not get accepted to university, it was down to unfavourable circumstances that I did not get the exposure of other options to further my study. Sadly, financial problems started to become the center of it.

To make a long story short, I managed to complete my diploma studies in a public university – even though it was a bit later than other friends my age – and it was funded by an educational loan after being rejected by three scholarship providers. Realizing how back-breaking it would be to pay the loan back, I started having another dream – to secure a scholarship and study abroad. Thankfully, I got accepted into The Australian National University after applying through IDP Agency. I was overjoyed and it gave me hope that it would all go as planned. The only unmarked thing left was for me to secure a scholarship.

It took me almost two years seeking for scholarships. I applied for around five scholarships, asked about three organizations, enquired so many people here and there. As it was seemingly time consuming, I decided to work while waiting for the scholarship results and grabbed several job opportunities – a substitute teacher at an elementary school, a waitress at a cafeteria, and most importantly, I ended up setting up a minor translation business and became a freelance translator and proofreader. The good thing was I managed to save some money. And the two-year period of time passed by in a blink of eye, and I was informed that I failed to secure those scholarships. Not even a single one.

It was time to surrender, I guessed. I faced the reality, declined the offer from Australia and applied to further my degree in a local university while still being a penniless person. All I had was the money I collected from the jobs I did during the two-year hiatus. When I got accepted into the university (UiTM Shah Alam – the institution that I am still a part of until now), I used the money at hand to fund my study. Still, a persistent person like me could hardly give up (and I still wonder if that is a good or bad thing). I applied for a few more scholarships, though not for going abroad but to study locally instead. I was in a dire strait when my savings almost turned to zero, and I nearly gave up. It was at that moment – that hopeless moment – I found the advertisement about ProjectEd Scholarship. I took a deep breath and said to myself, “Let’s give it another try. Once again.”

Well, it was really worth it. Out of so many candidates applying, I was one of the top three chosen. Oh God. It was such a miracle and I realized the importance of hope. Since then, my life has become more stable and I no longer have to choose between paying off the tuition fees and buying foods to eat. The scholarship kindly given by ProjectEd has allowed me to afford both. Fortunately.

To those struggling out there, I hope you stay strong. My story is nothing much to compare with your hardships, undoubtedly. However, I hope I could spark some inspiration for you to keep going and never give up. You might be bleeding now, but hard work will never betray you. We are Malaysian students and we deserve the access to tertiary education. Love yourself enough to know that you have been through a lot and you will get through this too. We did not come this far to only come this far, did we? Let’s survive.

Article written by: Humaira Mohamad (18 May 2019)

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