FIRST YEAR REVIEW UNIVERSITI TEKNOLOGI MALAYSIA | Living In Bethesda

There are two reasons that I enter university, one is to explore my dreams in discovering a formula that can benefit mankind, another one is to secure the piece of paper that would define me in this current society. The first reason is a little unrealistic for it to happen because this university has exceeded my expectations by breaking most of the lowest bars that I have set for myself. The second reason would sound more realistic, right?

Hey everyone, I am Bryan, currently studying at University Technology Malaysia (UTM) in Johor Bharu. The course that I have taken is Bachelor of Science in Mathematics or a degree in Pure Maths.

A little background of myself, I love Maths with a burning passion because Maths is beautiful. At this point in time when I am still young (21 ahem), I have told myself that I must study hard and smart to see how high I could go in this territory. I am a straightforward person- no hiding around the bush, a slightly arrogant / over-confident person- sometimes I think that I am better than everyone, I also like to have my own opinions (quite strongly) to be imposed on other people. Plus, I had worked my ass off for a year in the education industry, tutoring, so I do have my own standards when it comes to teaching.

Here is a disclaimer, my opinions are solely mine, I mean no offence to anyone, I am just speaking from my experience and my feelings at this period of time. So, here is my first year experience in UTM as a Maths student.

Video Summary

First Impressions

UTM is actually not my first choice of university, it was my fourth choice. However, I got the course that I want to study. In Malaysia’s higher education system, it is rare that you get what you want to study, it is even rarer that you get what you want to study and where you want to study, especially for people like me. Malaysia still runs on quota system, not meritocracy. I have already crossed a couple of lines as I am speaking, so I just want to say that I am not the majority and I am not privileged enough to be seen equally as a Malaysian even though I have a blue IC stating that I am a Malaysian. Although this university is not my first choice, but I am grateful (I had to be because I could not do anything about the system in place) for the place given to me with the course that I want to study.

This was very, very unexpected. The lack of meritocracy literally fucked my plans for my future. Naturally, I told myself to set my expectations low, or to not expect anything. It is better this way, I do not want to feel my expectations go to die. (You know the feeling)

A small tip to those who are filling up your application for public university in Malaysia, please do not simply fill in the secondary choices of yours because even if you get a 3.75 for Sciences in STPM, you are not guaranteed to get those not-so-popular courses offered by your desired university. Think twice before filling in. If you are lost about how to fill in, fill them in according to ranking first, because even if the conditions in the higher ranking university sucks, you will still get a more valuable certificate than those of lower ranking.

The first week was orientation, as usual, they just wasted a week of our time to get us into the ‘mood’. Same mistake made twice by the government education institutions. However, in the midst of the wasting time, I had time to think about what my next moves are, and to settle down myself. I got myself out of their mundane, useless talks and briefings which could be summarised in point forms and temporarily be in their choir that is going to perform at the end of the week. What I do not like about this orientation was that, I had an incident that a random 2nd-Year stranger slept in my bed without my permission- soiling my bed with his sweat- when I was gone practising for the choir. Another annoying shit was that they made a hell lot of noise just to get us up in the morning for the next round of orientation. But, looking at the bright side, the people at UTM are friendly and nice, they can be good friends.

In general, I feel like I have entered a place where the pacing is slower, probably two times slower than what it is in KL. The other aspects are still OK, period.

Lecturers

This is somewhat disappointing, I have not yet met lecturers who are really good at Maths. What I mean by that is when you meet the lecturer, you somehow want to listen to what he has to say and you can feel his passion when doing Maths. Two semesters have passed, but nope. The only thing that I have for my future lecturers is that you don’t screw me up- by not teaching the wrong concepts, not being racist, not having double-standards, not being over the head if you are not that good- then it is all good. I can only rate my lecturers, at best an average score, because beyond that is non-existent, period. What I mean by average is knowing the required knowledge and teaching with the prerequisite responsibility of an educator, there are only a handful of them, around 20 percent of them, if you get one or two of these during a semester, consider yourselves lucky.

Now, unto the lecturers that are ‘unique’ and ‘special’ in their own way (which composed around 80 percent)

There are those who are racist, I no need to describe more about this. If you enter their class, you will feel them judge you by your skin colour, for the entire semester (I am using them because there is still a significant percentage of lecturers are like that) and your marks might depend on your skin colour and your name. Ya, our university’s finals still wants us to write our full names on our papers, so that they know which race sit for the exams. Why are we supposed to write our names if some of you are going to be racist and unfair when marking our papers? Why not just fill in our IC number and our Student ID, aren’t these requirements fairer?

There are those who are pretentious and egoistic, especially those who have higher rankings in the management of the university. They ‘act’ like they are doing their job with excellence, but in fact they delegate most of their responsibilities to ‘teaching assistants’ who are struggling to get their own shit together to carry out their job. They also have the ‘know-it-all’ feel flooding the room, their noses are always higher than yours, you always feel like you are belittled in front of them, simply condescending. At times when they are wrong when discussing a particular concept, they just brush through nonchalantly and acting like nothing has happened or they just skipped the entire part, leaving it up to us to google.

There are those who are, I don’t know how they can become lecturers teaching Maths in the first place, they can’t even get some basic facts right. For instance,
i) They do not know the total maximum probability is 1.
ii) Another eye wrenching ones are those when it comes to proving some concepts, they can simply solve half of the equation for the LHS and for the RHS and consider it proved, why not just multiply zero on both sides then consider it proved then?
iii) One more regarding epsilon-delta definition of limit which is one of the most basic analytical concepts of mathematics could not be shown or proved by multiple lecturers in the faculty, they just shrugged away with my question and finally I just looked it up myself on the internet.
iv) Some more ridiculous ones are those who took 2 hours to inverse a 3×3 matrix and failed doing so.
v) The most ridiculous one which became a meme among my friends is when I was asking how to use Cayley-Hamilton theorem (Linear Algebra), the lecturer replied to me that this is a theorem discovered by someone called Cayley-Hamilton. That was the answer he gave me. What. The. Fuck. That was when I literally gave up on the majority of lecturers in my faculty. Come on, if you really do not know about something, just admit it and google it, what is so hard in admitting your incapabilities?

Me and my friends did try to correct them multiple times but to no avail, it is just useless and time-wasting to bother their mistakes.

There are those lecturers who are uncertain about everything or able to create confusion almost all the time. These people give us unnecessary burden for our minds, making life harder for students in general. Why can’t you be certain with what you say? At some lectures, when I slightly pay attention to what the lecturers had to say, often times I found self-study is a better choice than listening to them, they can be misleading at most times and often being confusing by not being clear with some easy concepts or not being align with what they previously said.

There are those lecturers who do not know what they are doing. If you do not know what you doing, why are you even teaching the subject? Are you trying to bring us down? We did try to ask these lecturers consistently about the compulsory tests, projects, marks that they are incapable to telling us, and there was once we even brought things up to the dean, which apparently all these are just worthless efforts.

There are those who disappear for half of the semester just to come back to existence to ask us to evaluate them. What in the world. These are the subjects- U course, the so-called ‘killer’ subjects just because of their inept lecturers and course structure. Your shortcomings should not be affecting my CGPA, these unknown pressure applied to students is not healthy at all. At this point, I gave up on caring for these subjects because there is no point in doing so, the grades given are almost random, so ya.

These traits of lecturers are real, and I can attest to them. I do not want to say names in this video, but you know who you are. Some lecturers have multiple traits mentioned above, so beware. If you get any lecturers as mentioned above, pray to God and know that you need to work hard unnecessarily to make sure you have enough receipts / evidence to score the subject.

That is why my views on them are just ‘as long as you do not screw me over then it is all good’. I am not hoping anything from them. If I don’t know anything, it is better for me to ask myself or google, rather than waiting for their answers which is sometimes the misleading one or no answer. My expectations were low, but damn, it is simply disappointing seeing this happening in the Top 5 University in Malaysia and 187-th in QS rankings. We always joked about how the better lecturers are at the engineering faculty, and I think that is the case.

Syllabus

I can say after two semesters of studying, I still find these two semester combined could not even come close to one semester during my STPM-days (Form 6 or A-level equivalent). The syllabus is just too easy. Yes, I am not afraid to say it, and I can prove it too. A lot of stuff that are taught were just taken from A-level Maths and Further Maths and STPM, only a marginal 35 percent are new stuffs which are also just taught on the surface level.

To be honest, I feel a little disappointed also because I applied for this course is because I want to do more rigorous Maths, more analysis, more proofing, not coming in to just know how to use a particular formula. This course’s name is Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, I signed up for all the rigorous stuffs, not coming in to plug in, substituting formulas and theorems, these are the jobs of the engineers, not mathematicians. Mathematicians are supposed to know more about how a concept come about, more analysis, more proofing not just merely subbing numbers into equations.

Let’s say if you want to know more about a concept, how to derive a certain equation, you would not get answers from our fellow lecturers, ask google. Trust me. I have experienced it almost every time. This is because the lecturers have a mindset that these are not important for us future mathematicians, so you can see how this place works.

Of course, from another perspective, if you just want an easy degree certificate to enter the working society, you are welcome to UTM. If you have an average sense in Mathematics and have a firm enough foundation in Mathematics, you can easily be the first class in the course. Even if you are not-so-good in Mathematics, like still having a tough time doing simple differentiation and integration or applying basic statistics concepts, you can still pass with a certificate at hand.

My point is, this course is too easy. If you do not hate Maths, you can definitely graduate with a degree in Maths in UTM. Personally, I was able to finish an entire semester (around 3 or 4 Maths classes) in a month and a half, give and take, while also completing and compiling their tutorials, tests and finals to share them with the entire faculty. To be honest, this is considered slow already because I was toying around.

On the flip side, I am worried about whether my certificate have enough credibility to help me get into better universities overseas to do my Masters or even to secure a job.

A little hack to those who are studying in UTM, just do the finals for what you are studying, you are guaranteed a B+ and above mark. If you are lucky, an A would not be a problem.

Management of The Course

The office of this faculty does not allow us to take any extra classes. I thought this is a university where we can choose what we want to study as long as it is within what we are required to study. Hmm, maybe I am wrong, perhaps this is just an elevated version of a high school where you only can go to classes that are already assigned to you. Seriously, I had tried a few times to get extra credit for my semester and even some of my seniors tried, but no one got it, we even got a ‘lecture’ from the office and from our academic advisor.

When we are asked to ‘choose’ our classes for the 2nd semester, we are not exactly ‘choosing’, there is no exact timetable for the classes nor which lecturer is conducting the class, we are just given random section numbers to ‘choose’ from, we only can pray that no classes clash with each other and hope for the timing of the classes make sense, no big gaps in between classes.

My friends at other faculties have these ‘basic’ choices of choosing the time of the lecture and even the lecturer who is teaching the class. I am not comparing, I am just saying where is my ‘basic’ rights to make my choice?

Up until this point I have accepted the fact that the office does not want anyone to disturb their ‘order’ in their arrangement of classes. So, I better take this time on my hand to do other things more beneficial rather than ‘complaining’ about them because they would not change no matter what.

Coursemates

Generally, they are good people, most of them can be friends, but never teammates. Until this point of life, taking this course, some of them could not understand simple factorisation, some of them could not do simple differentiation and integration, some of them could not even understand basic mathematical concepts, some of them are irresponsible, quite a number of them are just straight up lazy. Therefore, when doing assignments, our lecturers knew very well how to delegate each group (normally according to skin colour), they had at least one person who is capable of doing the assignment in each group, making sure no one screws up the carry marks.

Most of my coursemates are just here to be here, going to university just for the sake of getting a degree to find a job, living one day by one day. Bagai kais pagi makan pagi, kais petang makan petang. There is nothing wrong about it, I am totally fine of you wanting a normal life. I can bet about half of them do not even know what they want to do after the degree, another group of people might just not want to be in this course or just picked this course out of no other choices (not knowing what this leads to). What to do?

Points aside, it is saddening to not see anyone with a great passion for Maths in this university, I thought I would meet someone who has a burning passion for Maths in university ever since I was in high school. But, I think I am wrong.

People

Generally, the people in UTM are good people, perhaps only my faculty is like this. I know some other people from other faculties, they are very hardworking and have a goal in their lives. My friends even cited that my faculty is a little bit weird, in the sense that they have more people with better study spirit. Nonetheless, the majority of UTM is very easy-going, not-really fast paced, chill people. Very different from the people in KL, somehow they will give you a feeling of ‘Nevermind lah, no need to bother so much about anything’ type of vibe.

However, if you look deeper, by attending different clubs and societies or just helping out in some events, you might get to see the hidden gems in UTM. They are the ones who work their asses off silently with greatness waiting ahead of them. Luckily, there are still these kinds of people existing in UTM, or else I would be speechless and doubtful about this university. Normally, when you talk to them, they would not show much or talk much, but if you talked more with them, you would be awed with their achievements. I have talked to some people who had multiple research exchanges overseas, some great people in the fields of robotics who won UTM several championship worldwide, some founders of small start-ups that have quite a success around UTM, some great photographers and videographers.

UTM did produce some really great people, like the one who founded al-Ikhsan, the one who helped in the capture of a photo of the black hole.

Although I had mentioned most of my faculty is not-so-good, perhaps a change in perspective would be better.

Got leng zai or leng lui or not? Yes, there are. You just need to know where to find them.

Best & Worst Experience in UTM

My best experience in UTM is attending Robocon, it is like a competition to recruit people to build robots to compete at both national and international level. It was an eye-opener having to join Robocon, although I did give up halfway but I realised how much can a person push themselves and see really passionate people doing what they are really passionate about. Eventhough I bust my ass round and round and feeling really, really tired, but I actually learned some new stuffs after entering UTM. It is one of the best moments that I had in UTM, almost like a wake-up call for me when I was slumping around, still finding ways to adapt into UTM.

My worst experience in UTM is UTMSAT or KoQ Day. This is a compulsory system implemented by UTM out of nowhere, forcing people to join clubs and societies, or else it will blemish our final certificate. In my opinion, the motto of the system is good but the execution and presentation is just a waste of time and effort. You can read more about it here. I do not want to waste too much time talking about this. In summary, this system is shit because it was not planned at all beforehand and everything is just a mess which results into a burden and a waste of time to students where it is mandatory to spent (waste) around 8 hours on every Tuesday just to get two attendance. This is also a heads-up for those who wants to apply for UTM, this stupid system affects everyone in UTM.

Atmosphere

Chill, very chill. The general impression that was given to me throughout this two semester is the chill vibe. I do not know about you, but I really do not like this type of vibe, probably because I come from KL and I had worked at fast-paced company before, so I do things snappily, I do not like things to be dragged out for too long.

The chill vibe can be good at times, it gives me some extra time to think about what I am doing. But, most of the times, the chill vibe have affected me greatly, from a person who worked and studied simultaneously previously, earning a decent income monthly to this dude right here literally just killing time by doing nothing. I have stopped being productive after entering uni, perhaps this is like a rest for me to think about life.

Hahaha… Bullshit. These are just excuses that I gave myself. The environment can really affect how you live your life. So, I am tuning myself back on track by doing something, like this Youtube, doing Maths outside of UTM, learning Japanese, and occupying my time with productive activities.

Clubs & Societies

I am quite neutral about this. If you like to do something, like doing music, UTM will have a club for you. Mostly of what you can think of, the more common hobbies, there is a club for you. There are many people entering different clubs for very different reasons. Some enter a club for fame, some for status, some for recognition, some for attention, some for getting know people, some for doing what they are passionate about, some for killing time, some to just be with friends. You get my point, enter a club with the right intentions, and you will get what you want.

Plus, if you are entering a club to gain experience, do it with humility and with the right attitude. University is a place for you to try out stuffs that you have not ever tried before, so do not be afraid of being at the wrong if you hold true to yourself with the right attitude. I bet you do not like to see fake-ass bitches roaming around in a club just for fame and attention, that would not last long, so do not be those people.

Living Environment

Have you ever been to Cameron Highlands? UTM is more or less like that. The chill vibe that the majority of people had, and the copious amount of trees surrounding the campus. It is more like going for a 4-year vacation than actually studying. There were many rainy afternoons orchestrated with forest breeze, cajoling me to take a 2-hour nap even when I know I got to do something more productive. Some nights, bees visited me and my roommate, or else everything is good.

My dorm is often in the not-so-good condition category, my friends often joked that I stay in a haunted building, and ya, it really looks haunted at night. Plus, the lights around my dorm and around UTM are always dysfunctional, we also joked about how advanced UTM technology is that we use the moon as our main source of light at night. And, the worse part is that the toilet around my dorm building is poorly maintained, they are dirty most of the times, a lot of doors could not be closed, so we have to result into taking a brick to act as a door-stopper when we have to bath or take a shit.

Apart from that, as a runner, the routes in UTM actually make good cardio training for running marathons. To prepare for the Penang Bridge marathon last year, I trained by running up and down Bukit Cerapan and also by walking to and fro my classes because the UTM buses are quite misleading and cannot be trusted.

Generally, UTM gives a chill vibe while living here, as I said, it is more like going for a vacation rather than studying.

Amenities / Food

I had a tough time with the food for most of the time. The chinese has a saying that goes, 水土不合, which means I am not accustomed to this place’s custom, like food. For almost every meal that I had taken in or outside UTM, I had to shit myself out really hard. The worst one is at our faculty under a shady hut, the food there is like laxatives, everytime I had a meal there, I will sure have diarrhoea non-stop for the day. There was once I caught a bad stomach ache and was puking non-stop because I ate their food. Not only that, this happens to quite a number of food stores in UTM. So, just beware of what you eat in UTM.

But there are good foods too in UTM, the one that I like most is the Istanbul guy near my dorm and the vegetarian food there. Some other food stores are too far away from my dorm. Probably will make a video about it in the future?

It is quite convenient to go shopping for basic needs, there is a supermarket outside, just need to grab some friends and take grab outside to Taman U. There is also a dobi there to wash clothes. For myself, I like to go out once a week to get some fresh air. But, if you are finding those stuffs but not wanting to go out, every college should have a mini-market and a dobi.

If you want to go for movies, cheong-K, gym or whatsoever, just Grab. It is quite convenient to do so. Some more, Singapore is below Johor, getting there for a small get-away is quite easy too, just remember to bring your passport.

The best facility in UTM is the swimming pool. Pick the right time, normally in between classes, go for a swim and the entire swimming pool is yours for an entry fee of RM 3 during weekdays. That place is well maintained and quite clean.

For transportation wise, the buses are capable of bringing you around UTM, but they are quite slow and often at low frequency during non-peak hours and during peak hours, the buses will be packed like sardines. So, Grab, bicycling, and walking are the go-to for a lot of travelling within UTM.

Why Bethesda?

Bethesda is a pool where people wait there for miracles to happen, mostly for healing. But, there were no actual records of people being healed by jumping into the pool, they just simply believed an empty promise and waited for something to happen. They were stuck. They kept going back to something familiar that was disappointing all the time. It is like being trapped in some sort of trance, surviving. At points of desperation, we seek comfort at a Bethesda. It organises our fear and pain so beautifully that it created a trap for us in the form of comfort.

I did not see this coming from a mile away. I only realised this during the lockdown, which is after one and a half semester. From someone who had a productivity level of 7 or 8 out of 10, to now a mere 2 or 3. I kept wasting my time doing things that can be done at a shorter period of time, like the Parkinson’s effect- “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”- and I felt good about it without realising how much I have fallen from my past self. There is no use regretting or blaming myself anymore, I have done more waiting and wasting than doing efficiently, it is about time that I get my shit together and think about how to get back to high productivity and getting out of the trap of comfort zone.

Hopes?

Nothing much. I hope that I can maintain my burning passion for Maths and get back my limitless productivity in this type of environment, and to learn more Maths outside of this uni.

Hopefully this post / video would not affect my status in my studies, I do not want this post to be like something I wrote previously (MY FORM 6 EXPERIENCE: A PAIN AND A GAIN IN VAIN. (STPM)) which got me into a hell lot of trouble. I mean I have the rights to voice out my opinions and it is not wrong to do so if I spoke from my experience and my feelings, I am just giving my honest feedback and hopefully someone hears it and make some changes, although I know this would unlikely happen due to the bureaucracy and the systemic flaw that most of Malaysia’s university have. So, I just hope that my writings / voice would give a heads-up to people who wants to enter public uni in Malaysia to not expect much from them because they often break your expectations.

Afterthoughts

I do regret the times during my SPM and STPM (IGCSE and A-Level equivalent) that I did not study harder to achieve the best score. I realised this a little too late. If I had… There is no ifs and buts now. I just want to say, to those who are taking your SPM, STPM, IGs, A-Levels, IB, put in your full effort while doing so in order to get the best result to go to better places with better environment. I am not saying Malaysia is all bad and having a normal life is all bad, but if you want something better or a change for yourself, work hard and smart for it, do not be lazy.

Although I might sound regretful from my writings, this is what it is, I still need time to adapt and learn to take advantage of my environment and circumstances. It is a steep learning curve from my consequences of not scoring good enough (3.75) in my STPM. I need to put in more effort, the right effort, in discovering my hopes and dreams- to discover a formula that can benefit mankind.

Hope. Joy.. Feelings cloaked as words.

Craving for more? Down below:
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Hope. Joy. Feelings cloaked as words.

6 thoughts on “FIRST YEAR REVIEW UNIVERSITI TEKNOLOGI MALAYSIA | Living In Bethesda

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