Wednesday, July 9, 2008


So today I attended my first Abnormal Psychology class. A fellow classmate predicted that our lecturer would be short, fat and bald...but boy, he was totally the opposite of those! Dr. RK's tall, not-so-fat figure, greying hair and sense of humour gave me the impression of somebody's grandfather. Or the type of old-timers who like to spin yarns to the young tourists.

He is the first lecturer who did not brief us on course contents, etc for the first class. Instead, he proceeded to tell us his entire life story, starting when he was born in Thailand up till the moment he stood in our class. And I'm not kidding either. But of course, he did not simply tell his story to entertain us...there must be some value or moral in it. Relating his advices to his story, he told us that that there is no point in being angry with people to the extent of doing something you don't like. For example, my lecturer didn't like Agriculture; but he majored in it just to prove to certain people that he had it in him to excel in that field. And he did succeed, but then he found that he wasn't happy with what he was doing. Hence the second piece of advice - when doing something, make sure you do it for yourself. And you have to decide what it is that you want to do, because if you really do it, then the chances of succeeding is higher. And need I mention that he kept us laughing during the entire time?

I was waiting for him to ask if anybody wanted to ask him anything. This is because in his introductory slide, he wrote "Assoc. Prof & Clinical Psychologist" beneath his name (you may recall that clinical psychology is among the many careers I am thinking of). So as soon as he asked the customary "Any questions?", I immediately raised my hand and asked if he was a practicing clinical psychologist (to which he said was a very good question). He said yes, he has a practice in IIUM (and somewhere else which I can't remember). He is also a consultant for the National Heart Institute (Institut Jantung Negara, IJN) - they call him to do a psychological assessment on a patient before the patient is operated on. This really, really attracted me. I was so excited to get a practicing clinical psych to teach us, because he can share his experiences when teaching us in class. Plus, I can ask him anything should I want to pursue this career.

Alhamdulillah, I have been lucky to get great lecturers so far. However, there is one lecturer this semester who is, umm...rather slow in teaching. But never mind. Looks like we'll just have to adapt to her style. And try not to fall asleep at the same time.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

New Semester

It's that time of the year again for us university students - the beginning of the new semester. It might be a bit more exciting for the new students (new place, new friends, etc) or for the temporarily-separated lovers, but for most of us (old) students, its the same old, same old...the packing of bags and lugging them back to campus with heavy hearts, and wondering what exactly did I do during my holidays?? Other than the usual eating, sleeping, eating, surfing the Net, sleeping and eating of course. Although I admit I am one of the ones guilty for doing the mentioned activities, I did help my parents out with the house chores.

The first week of semester is a rush of adding/dropping subjects and making sure your class schedule is just perfect (seeing as you'll have to live with it for one whole sem) in between going to classes. And as is customary for the first week of the first semester, the first few classes are spent with the usual briefing of the course contents and course assessment by the lecturers.

This morning I attended my first Islam and Psychology class, taught by Dr. A who is more well-known for his strictness in marking. A friend had already warned me about him, saying that her CGPA dropped because of the low grade she achieved for that particular course. So I entered the class feeling a wee bit nervous and apprehensive of this really strict lecturer. But when he started briefing us, I found that he has a very good sense of humour (not to mention good English) and managed to turn a what should be boring task into something more interesting to listen to.

Of course, there were several values inserted amid his funny briefing. He was reminding us not to copy each other (in other words, DO NOT CHEAT!) during the mid-semester exam, and especially not to tell the other section the exam questions (since the other section will be sitting for their exam later than us) because life is all about tests. Even the Prophet Adam a.s. was tested by Allah, even though he is the first human being on this earth.

And he encouraged us to think critically in class, which is something that Malay schools in general don't really make students do. But the best part was when he encouraged us to not be shy if we want to ask questions or share our opinion in class. He said that that is the negative aspect of the Malay culture, where we are expected to be senyap and sopan (quiet and polite). So if that hinders us in speaking up, "just forget that you are a Malay and act more like an international student who is never shy to speak up". I was quite impressed by that line, actually. Although I was a bit embarrassed on behalf of the Malays, especially since a foreigner friend was sitting beside me. Nevertheless, I am more determined than ever to score his subject and prove my friend wrong (Amin).

My Research Methodology lecturer, Dr. S, advised us to come to class with an open mind and an open heart, because those are among the important factors which will help us learn and absorb new knowledge. It is also important to have a positive mindset (actually, this is also a psychological concept). I mean, if you come to class feeling that Oh God, this subject is so hard, I'm so gonna fail, it won't exactly help you pass that subject.

She also stressed on the importance of punctuality. According to her, "punctuality is critical because it shows the kind of person you are, what kind of person you'll become, and what kind of person you'll raise when you become parents". Ooppss. That statement kinda hit me because I've been late to class a couple of times (but then, who hasn't been late at least once in their life...right?). And the part about raising someone when you become parents is kinda freaky too. Erm...I don't think I'm gonna go into parenting right now.

So, all things said, here's to a fruitful semester to me and every university student out there!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Paradise City

I've just finished another favourite novel - Paradise City by Lorenzo Carcaterra.

This book is just so full of action, street shoot-outs and thick New York accents. Of course, it was written by another of New York Times' bestselling author, who was also the writer/producer of the TV series Law & Order. His other bestselling novel is Sleepers, which was then adapted into a movie.

Paradise City is about an Italian cop, Giancarlo Lo Manto whose father was shot to death by the Camorra, a gangster mob similar to the Mafia in Italy, when he was just 15 years old. His mother then moved him and his sister to Naples, Italy where he soon discovered that the Camorra was just as active as in Naples as they were in New York. He became a cop so that he could avenge his father's death by bringing down the Camorra.

Gian is not the average cop - when he was initially assigned to the street patrol unit, he made friends with the homeless, hookers and pickpockets. He bent the law to suit his needs and soon built a vast network of information. His street eyes would drop him info on the latest (drug) drop spot or any Camorra-related crime which he would then act upon, putting big dents and causing big losses to the Camorra organization.

The current Camorra don, Pete Rossi, is getting angrier and frustrated with Gian, so he hatches a plan to finish Gian off once and for all. When Gian's niece goes missing in New York City, Gian cancels a much-needed vacation in Capri and arranges for a temporary assignment with the New York Police Department. He is partnered with Jennifer Fabini, a gifted officer with her own personal problems. Although Gian isn't the type to work with partners, he soon develops a respect for Jennifer as she is fearless and knows how to use her cop instincts. Together, they find out that the disappearance of Gian's niece is actually a kidnap plan to use her as a bait to lure Gian back to New York - permanently. In the end, Gian will have to face up to his number one enemy...but there are many twists and surprises along the way, including a dash of romance.

I just love the way Gian goes about the New York streets to find out the latest happening or info from his insiders. He also utilizes his street sense and cop instincts, and is always on the alert whenever a couple of shooters are hiding out, waiting to shoot him down. The climax of this book is definitely the last shoot-out which takes place in the middle of the street in broad daylight, involving 4 top shooters, Gian, Jennifer, and the surprising appearance of Pete Rossi.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

On Psychos, Psychics and Psychologists

I am a psychology major at IIUM. Prior to this, I was a Sc. Math major since IIUM Matric until the 1st sem of my 1st year at the Gombak main campus. But then the Science Kulliyyah moved to the Kuantan campus, which is new, barren, has incomplete facilities, out-of-the-way, hard to go shopping or anywhere else due to the lack of public transport (unless, of course, you're one of those lucky students who have a car). In short, the Kuantan campus is just not my type of place because there are only three Kulliyyahs there (Medicine, Pharmacy and Science), so just imagine how BORING it will be meeting the same people everyday. Plus it's too quiet...I go crazy in quiet places. Ehh...I know quiet places are supposed to be good environments to study in, but each to his own I guess. Oh, and did I mention that it will be too far for me to go home?? Kuantan-Penang is like, 7 hours I think by bus. Shudder. Check out this picture below. That's IIUM Kuantan for you.

So that's why I decided to change courses. Haha...okay, I'm lying. I also changed courses because I can't stand Math anymore...which is kinda surprising considering the fact that my grandpa Wan is a great math teacher. Heh heh. High School math and Matric math are still tolerable...but majoring in math is insane! Unless you're a fan of math, I'm sure you'd agree. I mean, Algebra used to be a tiny chapter in the text book, but it's now a whole subject. Urgh.

So why change to Psychology?? To tell you the truth, I never knew much about Psychology, Sociology, Mass Comm...basically the arts sector. This is because Malaysians are quite narrow-minded when it comes to the career fields (another disadvantage of the Malaysian education system?). Here, the only "top" courses are Medic, Engineering, Law, and Economics. Try telling someone you take something other than those four courses, and they'll go "Ohh. I see.", like it's not really great and perhaps you're not really that clever to take those top courses. I know this because I was once in the Science field (and I got good results for my SPM), so once upon a time, I was one of those who looked down (just a bit, though) on these art courses. But since I'm now an art student, I've been trying to expose more of these courses to my juniors. And I have to say, their surprise and interest really encourage me.

In foreign countries such as the US, UK and Australia, the arts sector is well-established and is even considered as one of the "top" courses. In fact, the people there will probably say "Wow! I see!" (instead of the "Ohh. I see." you get here) if you tell them you're a psych major. And if I'm not mistaken, psychology is a science subject in certain countries. Among the courses offered in the arts sector other than Psychology are Mass Communication (my minor), Political Science, History, Sociology and Languages. Since I had to take an Introductory subject on each course (except the language), I have been more open-minded towards these courses because they are all useful in their own ways. I mean, if nobody took History, who'd be left to document the history in making?

But no offense to the doctors, engineers, lawyers and accountants out guys are still a big contribution to the world. Luckily though, my family has an interesting mixture of careers - my sister is a Dentistry student, my Ummi's a lecturer, and there are several engineers including my Ayah (I guess you have to have a few of those), a few uncles are in the Syari'ah field (and now have successful careers...not just becoming an ustaz), a pilot, a Cabinet Minister's assistant, and my youngest Aunt is now into Culinary Arts. That's really interesting. Perhaps we can leave the Raya cooking to her and she'll whip up a few gourmet dishes.

Actually, I'm going to talk mainly about Psychology. I chose it because its about the human behaviour, which is something we all do and observe other people doing - unconsciously. Before I go further, I'd like to point out the difference between a psychic and a psychologist as I've noticed that some people are confused between the two terms. A psychic is someone who uses extra-sensory perception (ESP) to perceive things which are hidden from the normal human senses (eg; predicting the future); whereas a psychologist tries to understand why a person acts the way they do and the role these actions play in a person's social behaviour.

Other than studying people's behaviour, psychologists also study a person's cognition (thinking), emotion, perception, personality and interpersonal relationships. Which is why I really like it, because i've always liked observing people (but then again, who doesn't?).

Learning about a person's personality is really cool because you learn about a person's traits & characteristics which make him unique.From there, you can describe a person, explain his behaviour and can even predict his future behaviour. Most companies nowadays rely on personality assessment tests to help them find a suitable candidate for their company. Crime detectives do a case study on their suspects in order to study their profile and behaviour, like the case study done on the serial killer Ted Bundy.

For those of you who are interested in just the human part of biology, but don't want to torture themselves by doing medic should go into Psychology (please click here to learn more about the daily tortures which medic students have to go through. I find this blog interesting, funny yet so true). The neuropsychology branch combines neuroscience and psychology and relates the brain to behaviours. I also had to take a Physiological Psychology subject, and when I compared it to the Physio that my medic friends were taking, they were basically the same stuff. Except the psych students' exams are easier than the medic atudents'. Heh heh. But you still need to memorize facts and theories for exams, so I think the Engineering and Math students are luckier in that aspect. All they have to do is know/understand the formula and just apply it.

Psychology has a very good career least in the US. Here, its just " you can be a counsellor!!" like its the most exciting thing to do in the world. Roll eyes. I just hate it when someone says that to me. C'mon la, there're many other careers like clinical psychologist, forensic psychologist, health psychologist, neuro psychologist, engineering psychologist, sports psychologist...please click here or here for more info. Or else, its "Haha...hope you don't become a psycho like your patients!" Argh...! For your info, people, its the psychiatrists who have a bigger chance of becoming psychos as they will be the ones who will actually treat the mental-disorder patients. Psychologists in the abnormal psychology area study the nature of psychopatholgy (the study of mental illness or mental distress) and its causes, which is then applied in clinical psychology to treat patients with psychological disorders. Examples of psychological disorders are anxiety disorders (eg; a specific phobia), psychotic disorders (eg; Schizophrenia) and even personality disorders (Please click here for more info).

In this ever-developing world, I would say that the demand for psychologists and psychiatrists are quite high seeing as the number of people who are on the verge of going crazy because of stress is always increasing.

As for me...I haven't exactly decided yet what I want to be. I'm thinking about child psychology, which deals with dyslexic kids, autistic kids and so on. It would be nice to make a difference in these kids' lives. If I wanted a career for the money, I'd be better off doing industrial/organizational psychology. But my parents always taught us that when we do something, make sure we do it for Islam...not just for the money or worldly status. You know what? I've got like, 2 more years to decide. Hopefully this coming new semester will help me choose the right career. If not, maybe next sem. Or the next sem after that.
“A good book is the best of friends, the same today and forever.”
- Martin Tupper