Nurul Huda Asilah binti Haji Asli graduated recently with a Masters in Halal Science (Halal Laws) from Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA), one of the many students from the university that completed their programmes amid a tough, pandemic-dominated academic year.
The 11th UNISSA Hafl Al-Takhawuj, the university’s convocation ceremony, saw 354 graduates receive their diplomas and start a new leg of their journey, seeking work or continuing on to further heights of academia.
Journeys were made tougher by the ever present risks and dangers of COVID-19.
For Nurul Huda Asilah, it was a challenging year. “In the middle of our studies, there was an outbreak of COVID-19. It left us with no choice but to continue our studies at home,” she said.
“At first, I found the experience kind of difficult, especially in looking for reference, collecting inputs from our respondents in our research, all the while trying to complete our thesis within the deadline.
“We were so used to in-person learning, especially being able to attend lectures and discussing face-to-face with our supervisors.”
“However, along the way, we got used to it,” she said, adding that there was plenty of cooperation for it to go smoothly.
After graduating from her two-year Master’s Degree programme, Nurul Huda Asilah said that she is in her second semester of a PhD programme in Islamic Media and Communication Technology at UNISSA.
Meanwhile, an international student from Pakistan, Qaisarali, speaking on his journey to finishing his PhD in Islamic Banking and Finance said completing his research “was a roller-coaster” of a journey. He had no research background, but with the assistance from supervisors and support from the faculty, he was able to complete his research.
Qaisarali said there were plans to travel to Malaysia to collect data for his research on Syariah governance on the performance of Islamic banks.
Those plans were disrupted, due to the pandemic and its travel restrictions. So he used other means to carry out data collection for his research to complete his PhD.
“I am currently doing a project at UNISSA and work as a research assistant for the project.
“Maybe after the completion of this project then I will return to my home country,” he said.
Meanwhile, Amal Amiratun Nazihah binti Mohamad Shahrin, a graduate in Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Syari’ah Law, Faculty of Syariah and Law, shared that it took her five years to complete her double degree.
“Indeed, as a student, I faced several challenges to complete the five-year double degree programme. One of the hardest obstacles was the outbreak of the pandemic,” she said.
“Why it is difficult? Because first of all, we mainly do our research in the library. However due to the pandemic we were not allowed to visit any library for reference resources.
“We need to refer a lot for our studies, especially for Syariah law. At the same time, it is quite challenging to find references online.
“It was a different learning environment – studying at home – compared to attending physical classes.”
Amal Amiratun Nazihah also joined the Asian Law Students’ Association (ALSA), a non-profit and non-political organisation that aims to connect law students in Asia.
She also joined ALSA International and ALSA Brunei in her fourth year studying at UNISSA.
“It is quite challenging when there is a need to maintain grades while also participating in the society.
“One needs to be good at time management to succeed. Do not forget to always perform Sunnat Hajat prayers, not only during examinations, but regularly for success in studies.”
Nur Hazirah binti Zulkafli, a graduate in Islamic finance, shared that the course she took provided her a wide perspective of Islamic Finance, not only in the Sultanate but also abroad.
“The challenging part was that I had no background in accounting and economy. However, Alhamdulillah with the support and assistance from my friends and lecturers, I was able to understanding the course.
“During my studies, I had the opportunity to visit several places prior the outbreak, such as to studying at University of Sharjah in Dubai, where I got to to learn new subjects not offered under my faculty,” she added.