A New Zealand experience

The annual New Zealand Asean Scholarship (NZAS) was initiated in 2012. Eighteen Malaysians have benefited from it. Managed by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), Malaysia is allocated two scholarships each year. This year, Ahmad Sufi Mokhtar and Wan Atikah Wan Azalah made the cut.

Funded by the New Zealand Programme, under the New Zealand government's international aid and development register, the scholarship is open to those interested in pursuing either a Postgraduate Certificate (six months), Postgraduate Diploma (one year), Masters Degree (one or two years), or PhD (up to 3.5 years).

"MFAT offers scholarships to those who are interested in studying subjects that can improve the social aspect and economy of their country. The ministry determines the priority sectors that support this development. Applicants who can demonstrate that their proposed study is connected to any of these priority sectors are more likely to be selected," said New Zealand High Commissioner to Malaysia Dr John Subritzky.

"There were five priority sectors for Malaysia last year – agriculture development, renewable energy, disaster risk management, public sector management or governance, and private sector development," he said.

A total of 262 applications were received in 2017 of which Ahmad and Wan Atikah were selected. Both have been given the opportunity to pursue their Masters in Engineering Project Management and Master of Energy respectively. In this article, Ahmad shares his reason to study in New Zealand and of his experiences.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Kuantan, Pahang, but my family has been residing in Gombak for quite some time. I graduated from the International Islamic University of Malaysia in 2009 with a Bachelor of Mechatronics Engineering (Hons). I have been working for eight years in manufacturing in the automotive and aerospace industries specifically.

Why New Zealand?
I have been working as an engineer dealing with mainly technical aspects in the field. As I moved up the seniority ladder, I felt it was necessary that I enhance my project manage-ment skills and knowledge, hence, the reason to pursue a formal education related to my field of work, to develop and improve myself.

Why I chose to study in New Zealand is because of its reputation as one of the best, as an education provider in the world, based on the recent QS ranking where all of its universities were listed in the top 3% in the world. Moreover, I was offered the scholarship.

How did you find out about the scholarship and what was the application process like?
I learnt of this scholarship through a link on Facebook. The application was convenient as everything was done online. It took about eight months to fulfil all the requirements and phases of the application.

Apart from meeting the qualifications and experience, MFAT was looking for a candidate wanting to pursue a subject of study related to the development needs of our country.

I was really surprised and grateful when I found out that I was selected as one of the preferred candidates. Part of the application process included convincing the interviewers that I would be able to make a positive difference by contributing to Malaysia after completing my course.

What made you want to pursue a Masters in Engineering Project Management?
It is described as a programme that develops the skills and knowledge of an engineer in terms of project management skills and knowledge. It is also tailored to enhance and further develop the career of an engineer to higher positions as in a project manager or other management roles. The programme also constitutes coursework subjects as well as a final project that requires detailed research. All these met my aspirations.

How do you see this programme specifically helping you move forward?
I look at it as a stepping stone in my career. It will help equip me with the right business know-how and project management skills for a 21st century modern-day engineering company besides helping expand my network as I meet and engage with students across various fields of engineering from other countries around the world.

What are your future plans, once you complete the programme?
In between exploring New Zealand while studying, I hope to make a positive difference and give back to society and Malaysia by deploying what I have learned while here. I can see myself sharing my knowledge on subjects related to my field of study, perhaps joining seminars or workshops where I can share my ideas, discoveries and realisations and contribute to the development of Malaysia in some way.