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Zulhaqem bin Zulkifli

Our Institute Gives Us Strength

I am actually very proud to be a Millennian. It is a cliché, but I really am. For starters MI gives us time to develop ourselves, and I am not just referring to the preparations for the A level examinations, but also about individual character development. The diverse social and educational backdrop in MI and indeed, it emphasises on equal opportunity to shine for all, creates an organic environment where meaningful educational and social exchanges can be facilitated. This in turn, contributes to the shaping of a holistic experience for Millennians.

The journey in MI is certainly also fraught with uncertainty and difficulty. It is uncertain because many of us find ourselves unwillingly here because of many reasons and it is certainly so for myself. I was admitted on a conditional basis because I had failed my GCE ‘O’ Level Mathematics. I also was not able to go to the Junior Colleges or Polytechnics, and while the ITEs were an option available for me, I felt that I wanted to take a stab at being something more, something different. Perhaps some may be able to relate to this feeling; of the lack of confidence in identity, and perhaps also the feeling of being a failure. On hindsight, I realised that I did have an identity, and that identity was in Millennia – a crossroads where those who are different and do not conventionally ‘fit’, find a common ground, and who are just as equally intelligent, resourceful, and compassionate as their peers elsewhere. And perhaps even more so now that they are going through the Millennian path. Perhaps it may be difficult to believe now, and some of you reading this might be reading it with a kind of skepticism, but, there will come a time in the future when you realise that being at MI constitutes one of the most important formative periods of your life.

Another thing that makes MI special, is the amount of dedicated teachers here. Here, the teachers are of a different league. No one who wishes to have an ‘easy’ life as an educator would come to teach at MI. Do not get me wrong – I was definitely not a “goody-two-shoes” student and often found myself being addressed for disciplinary issues. But even so, my teachers have gone the extra mile in not just giving me educational support, but also emotional encouragement. Over time I became touched by the efforts they were willing to invest in me and I thought that I would give myself a chance as well. And all of it starts from cultivating discipline. This was a difficult thing for me because I was at a rather rebellious stage of my life. Personally, I do not think you should expect to accomplish huge life-changing routines; rather, try starting small. For me, it meant taking notes in class, or even just listening to the teacher, because usually I did not and would get into trouble. The second part of this is to be continually upgrading. So from whatever little acts of discipline you started with, try to seek ways you can push it just a little bit further. For example, now that I have taken down notes, I make it a point to read them when I am free. And so on. As you realise, it really is a lifestyle, and a gradual one at that, rather than being a momentous upheaval of your life. The next important thing to have is resilience.

I remember a phrase from a Dylan Thomas poem I used to study as a Literature student in MI, – “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Even if you feel like you are surrounded by the darkness of failure, do not go gently; in other words – do not limply give up. Transform your negative emotions into constructive ones. Give it your all, until all is expended.

To end this, I think I will just go back to that image of the crossroads – yes it may be uncertain because the many different paths presented (or not presented) to you, but that does not mean that you be daunted, rather, the possibilities are endless and at least for this short stage of your life, to echo the words of the institute song, indeed, our institute gives us strength.