It was a memorable occasion for graduates at the recent 33rd Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) Convocation Ceremony.
Among them was international student Soni Karri, who pursued her PhD in Computer Science at UBD in 2018 and submitted her thesis last year.
Hailing from India and having lived in Brunei for seven years with her husband and two children, Soni was delighted at being able to submit her thesis and was eagerly looking forward to her graduation, which will be a major milestone in her life.
“Initially, I thought of doing a PhD in India. However, I chose UBD as it is a very prestigious university with an international reputation. I want to stay in Brunei, as it is a beautiful country with abundant nature. It is surrounded by picturesque beaches and is a peaceful country. Most importantly, Bruneians are very friendly to expats.”
Accordingly, she applied for a PhD and secured her admission to which she recorded her words of thanks to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and UBD for generously providing her the Universiti Graduate Scholarship (UGS) to pursue PhD in Computer Science.
Sharing her challenging journey of pursuing research while taking care of her young children, Soni is forever thankful to her supervisors and UBD management who provided the right ambience and facilities to complete her PhD with flying colours.
She made special mention of her supervisors Dr Daphne Lai and Professor Liyanage Chandratilak de Silva for the guidance and continuous support.
“I am indeed very touched by their constant encouragement and kindness, which made it possible to carry on exemplary research work and reach this D-day. UBD also gave me the opportunity to participate in a summer course for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) organised by EWHA, South Korea.”
However, she added, due to the ongoing pandemic and travel restrictions, it was held virtually, where she spent three weeks interacting with researchers from 13 countries. Soni said she is fortunate to have friends and students who have provided her support and encouragement whenever she feels exhausted and down.
She feels blessed to be in Brunei during this pandemic, where every researcher could manage to pursue their research with minimum disturbance and, depending on the circumstances, they either had face-to-face or virtual meetings, while the university’s facilities helped in the smooth sailing of research work.
Soni is also pleased with the generosity shown by the university, where they supported all international students by providing free meals for a month during the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak. She is currently trying to explore opportunities to work in Brunei, as this country has become her second home.
Meanwhile, for Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Ghazali bin Haji Hussin who graduated with flying colours in his Master in Defence and Security Studies programme, being a part-time student, there was limited time spent on the campus during the course of the programme.
However personally, it has proven to be a challenging yet rewarding journey for him.
“As a part-time student, work is always a priority. However, UBD has taught me that with effort and perseverance, anything can be overcome.”
The military senior officer who was doing his in-service studies at UBD added that the university has provided multiple platforms and avenues for part-time students to interact and communicate with lecturers and supervisors effectively, which has made the acquisition of essential knowledge easier.
He shared that facilitating effective learning by the Institute of Policy Studies is by not just limiting things to the classroom setting but also promoting professional networking amongst students with the conduct of various activities outside of the classroom.
Collaboration between UBD and the Ministry of Defence (MinDef), the Defence Academy Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) in particular, gives added value to the professional military education to better equip the officers in the RBAF with a broader knowledge and insight especially in international security.
“Personally, the experience that I have gained not only challenged me to live out of my comfort zone but has also been fruitful and beneficial in my military career.”
Another graduate was 27-year-old Mohammad Amar Yazid bin Sharazuddin, who pursued a Bachelor Degree in History and International Studies.
“A few of the goals I have set for myself over the next five years would be to have career stability and satisfaction that I am content with, which enables me not only to support myself but my family and loved ones as well,” said Mohammad Amar Yazid.
He also hopes that his future career path allows him to grow further in enhancing his skills and knowledge within the workspace and can benefit his long-term career goal, as well as personally.
Sharing his experience during this pandemic, Mohammad Amar Yazid said, “You don’t always have a choice but to adapt to changes, thus it is always challenging in the beginning and having to deal with the stress of it all can take a toll.” Hence, for him, it is important to take some time off to practice self-care, to ensure one’s whole well-being is in check while in a stressful situation.
He has also learnt to always be grateful and thankful for the things he currently has in life, being in a safe space with his loved ones and trying to have a positive outlook within adapting to changes, despite the hardships it gives you along the roads.
In terms of how he handles pressure and stress at work, Mohammad Amar Yazid said to always be patient and resilient with it, though it depends on the situation and task given to him as well.
Adapting to a new or changing situation was quite challenging at first because the thought of giving up and not doing his best kept popping up, but as long as he trusted the process of it all, it wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be.
Self-motivation and having an optimistic attitude towards something new is essential along the process of adapting yourself to it, he added.
Administration and human resources would be the choice of profession to choose with his academic background, but he doesn’t mind with any other given professions, as long as what he has gained throughout his studies can be put into good use in his future career path.
For now, he is more focussed on gaining working experiences that can benefit him in other given opportunities, thus he hasn’t really thought of pursuing his studies further.
Bachelor of Arts in Design and Creative Industries graduate, Mohamad Nasihin bin Haji Mohd Lisa is among the lucky ones who managed to be employed while waiting for graduation.
Asked what his greatest achievement was, he responded that throughout his university years, he managed to do a lot of things that he could have not imagined.
Achievements included working on projects such as the UBD Spectrums Exhibition, Tiny Lit Festival Art Installation, managing UBD Creative Hub club, winning 1st place at the people’s choice award for the second edition of the Prism UBD Short Film Festival and making his own comic book titled Surviving with Nas during his final year.
“I couldn’t have done all of these achievements by myself. I do want to give credit to my amazing friends, lecturers, family and people around me who has helped and supported my journey.”
Mohd Nasihin noted that there are some problems or challenges one can solve in a day but there also those that need time to solve.
“Don’t push yourself too hard and it’s okay to take a break, treat yourself or talk about it with your friends or family or lecturers because they might have a better solution for it.
Make sure to take good care of yourself so you will be in a better condition to face those problems and challenges,” he said.
“If I encounter failure, I would take a step back and try to learn from my mistake because life is a long learning journey.”
Mohd Nasihin’s passion is all about doing art-related works such as drawing, making comics, painting, taking photos and making videos, but one thing that he would like to pursue in particular is in comics.
Although currently there are no proper established comic studios or industry that specifically does comic work, he wishes to pursue his career as a comic or illustration artist and open his own comic studio in Brunei.
Asked on his take on the local creative industry, Mohd Nasihin observed that people are now starting to get noticed on how creative industries can benefit not just the people but also the nation’s economy.
He noted that companies have ventured into the creative industries to help and support independent and local creative talents to showcase their music and film works.
With the rising numbers of small creative businesses around Brunei, he believes there is a potential growth in the creative industries with the help of government, private sector and the public. Once the creative industries reach the global market, it can become one of Brunei’s sources of income.
His job at the moment has nothing to do with comic work, but he was fortunate to be able to secure employment right after he finished university.
He has been working since June 2021 as a content creator at a company in the cars and automotive industries under the i-Ready Apprenticeship programme. His job scope is to create content for social media such as doing design work, taking pictures and videos.
Working there has been an eye-opener for him, he said, but it is not about how great you are on paper, but how good you are to be able to adapt to any kind of situation at work.
Working life is surviving but the most difficult challenge is transitioning yourself from being a student to an employee.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s hard, but one just needs to be patient and have faith,” he said.