Saturday, June 23, 2018

Auscultating : Sakura Viewing in Hokkaido

Probably a way overdue post, with my current procrastination rate as well as addiction to Mobile Legends, I barely have any motivation to continue my blog posts.

So fans of  Japan always have a must-do in their bucket list, which is Hanami aka Flower Viewing during the full bloom seasons of sakura aka cherry blossom.

While the main island aka Honshu blooms relative early each year, mostly around April for most of the area, Hokkaido or the northern islands bloom much later, for this year the full bloom was on the last week of April. I was extremely excited to experience my first Hanami, simply because all the past visits of mine to Japan were any time BUT April. No thanks to my academic calendar, and all the mid term tests scheduled on the same period for the past 6 years. To those who are interested you can always check here for the forecast.

I'm pretty lucky I would say because Hokkaido University aka Hokudai is an agricultural based university where landscaping plays an important role in the grand design of the campus. In Sapporo campus, almost all faculties have at least one cherry blossom tree grown around the yard. After a stroll around the campus, I came to a conclusion that my faculty, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Hokudai instead has the most beautiful sakura tree in the whole campus. I definitely do recommend people to drop by to have a great shot here because the view is simply amazing.
In our teaching hospital, it was customary to hold a Hanami Gingpa (short term for Gengkhin Khan Party, or basically barbecue) when it comes to the season of spring. The 5th years will be in charge in organizing everything where the 6 years and PhD students will try to help as much as we can to make the party a success.
This was the view before the full bloom

This was the view on the full bloom of the tree in our faculty, arguable the best!

Apart from the party we had in our faculty, I also went to an area north-east to Sapporo for another sakura viewing with my Japanese friend and fellow Hokudai MEXT scholar Thari.

This was in Shizunai (静内), where there's a passage of sakura up to 2km, but due to the rainy season some parts were sealed off for safety purposes. 

Shizunai is well known for its stud farms, where some deceased horses even has a sakura tree grown over their bodies as memorials

To my surprise my professor was also there with his family, and he was the one who noticed me when I was strolling my way past the streets of the vendors. I should have taken a photo with him, maybe I should be more proactive around him in the future.

Later on, we went up further to Urakawa (浦河) for another site of sakura viewing, only to be disappointed with the constant drizzling, where we ended up having the picnic in our rented car instead. Nevertheless, we managed to nab one picture before we left thanks to the kind photo enthusiast who saw me struggling with the self timer. 

Our day ended with an awesome seafood feast near the town of Tomakomai (苫小牧) where the place is extremely famous for their affordable fresh seafood. We spent about 4000yen per person but the food was famishing good, which I think the money was well spent. I don't remember each dish's name but I'm definitely going there again.

Despite spending my first month in Hokkaido, I actually managed to go around quite a lot. I'll try to motivate myself to post more from now on, so my blog will come alive again.

Honestly, I really wish my English wouldn't go down the drain after all these years of cultivation. 

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Auscultating : Japanlore, Finally

Well, I'm not too sure if the blogosphere mates were all friends of mine in the social media (SNS is what they call in Japan, the short form of Social Networking Sites), but I just wanna announce that I'm finally in Japan!

From previous posts you probably have known that I'm enrolled in a doctorate program for Veterinary Internal Medicine, and I'm currently enrolled in the Graduate School of Veterinary Medicine in Hokkaido University.

The place is situated in the city center, Sapporo, so I still get to enjoy the vast vibrant city life.

Spring comes late in Hokkaido, so the cherry blossom viewing has just began this week. But as late as the spring comes, cherry blossom in Hokkaido withers fast too due to the rainy season.

I'll try to update as frequent as possible, for some reasons my momentum to blog withered over the years.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Auscultating : MEXT Scholarship Application Part 2 : Interview and Second Application

Once you've passed the writing test, you will be notified that you have passed via standard mail and also email. I've gotten the news from email first, with standard mail following after a couple of days.

So what does it mean when you have gotten into the interviewing stage? There's a lot to go about! However, don't fret because there is a check list for you to remind yourself on all the forms required.

3) Interviewing Preparation

There are a lot of matters for you to prepare

a) Application form: 

Basically its similar to your first application form; with extra information on your language abilities including JLPT, IELTS or TOEFL. I took all three, so I managed to fill up most of the information required. 

b) Placement Preference Form

This is very important and crucial. There are certain strategies to go about passing the interview with the appropriate placement universities. You need to understand that the MEXT scholarship is under the Japanese Government, hence National Universities will definitely be a better choice when selection takes place. You may include up to 3 preferred universities in the list, but I personally only included one because I have contacted my supervisor in Hokkaido University way before MEXT application started. There a few set of rules saying that you aren't allowed to contact the universities' professors before you pass this interview, but some rules don't apply when you have gotten your contacts and networking paved before hand.

c) Field of Study and Study Program

This form will be relatively easy if you have had a title of post-graduate studies from your prospective supervisors; but extremely frustrating if you start from zero. Hence, I do strongly advocate contacting your potential supervisors to obtain the possible titles for your programs. Start contacting like months before the application so you have ample time to read up on articles and journals which help you in formulating this part. 

i) your current field of study

I'm sure most undergraduate programs require the submission of a Final Year Project thesis; so the abstract of your FYP would be going here

ii)Your research topic in Japan: Describe articulately the research you wish to carry out in Japan.

When you have received a title, you should know what your title is all about. Basically start of with an introduction on what your title is about, a little bit of background information, past research on the topic, why would your topic be valuable to the progress of your field. Include the reference in the bottom will deem your read up less plagiarizing.

iii) Study program in Japan: (Describe in detail and with specifics — particularly concerning the ultimate goal(s) of your research in Japan)

This part takes a lot of your elaboration skills. You will need to know what your research will be about, especially with a timeline to show how you would be planning your studies. I started out with the listing of my primary goals of the PhD program; where the goals will actually be your objectives. As you go with your objectives, describe on how you will be achieving those objectives, how and why your research will be attaining those objectives, and eventually how would your research be benefiting to the field. If you were to be interested in knowing how I've managed to formulate this part, please feel free to email me at

d) and e) is basically your academic transcript each semester and the final graduation transcript from your university if you have them

f) Recommendation letter from dean/etc

While they asked for dean, I personally think your FYP supervisor will be the best person to gauge you. They have spent 1 semester working with you to know your attitude towards work, aptitude towards your field as well as your working abilities with your fellow team members etc. I was lucky enough to find my supervisor, who turned out to be a MEXT scholar as well, making my recommendation extra stronger in my opinion.

g) Medical certificate

There is a specific format you need to follow so just bring it to your GP so that they can check it up. University students should make full use of your Pusat Kesihatan Universiti so you pay less.

h) Abstract of thesis.

Once you have prepared all these, get ready for the interview! Try to be earlier because punctuality speaks out more than you think, especially to Japanese. There are few rounds of interviews with few different fields; which are 1) Natural Sciences; 2) Health Sciences; 3) Engineering and 4) Humanities and Social Sciences.

I don't think coat is necessary but its good to have them around.

When I stepped into the room, I was greeted by 5 interviewers;
1) Panel of health sciences who was an ex- MEXT scholar
2) Ambassador of Japan in Malaysia
3) Panel from JPA
4) Panel from Ministry of Education of Malaysia
5) Panel from Japan Information Service.

At least these are the people I thought they were. The questions were basic in the beginning like introduction of yourself, how would Malaysia benefit from your studies in Japan, why is your research important, how was your background in academics etc. I had quite a heated session with one of the panel because of our differences in looking at my title.

a) The panel commented on how ultrasound is not valuable in making diagnosis, where my FYP was on ultrasound. I argued on ultrasound may not be the gold standard, but it gives a good, non-invasive diagnosis on what is going on in the body where patients may benefit much better in a clinical setting. Gold standards are usually very invasive and costly

b) The panel said that the inflammatory mechanism progression into neoplasia have been described in human and also in lab rats, so it is the same with dogs. I refuted that while human and rats have been proven, it hasn't been done in dogs. Research is all about proving something that hasn't been proven, and to make a sweeping statement that human and lab rats' mechanism will be the same as dog is wrong, at least what my university years have taught me.

However, I had a great time with the ambassador; simply because he was impressed with my achievements. He was surprised I scored in my JLPT N2, which wasn't easy for a non-native Japanese speaker. He was also surprised my TOEFL and IELTS scores were very high, showing my aptitude for languages is as strong as to my veterinary studies. Little do I know, the ambassador turned out to be my lecturer's father!

The session ended about 15 to 20 minutes, and I went home. The Interview was conducted in early July; and the result was out in late July. So until that happens, you will need to wait for the email from the embassy.

That's all for part 2, part 3 will be on the submission for Letter of Provisional Acceptance.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Auscultating : MEXT Scholarship 2018 Part 1- Application and Selection Examination

Dear MEXT candidates,

Search engines probably would have brought you here for this little experience that I had in applying for the MEXT scholarship for POSTGRADUATE studies in Japan. In my case, I applied through the Malaysia's Japanese Embassy, under Japan Information Services (JIS)

It was a long process, but the hardship and stumbles along the way worth every sweat and blood you shed throughout the timeline.

1) Application

I don't think I would need to elaborate much on this part. The application period is usually between March and April each fiscal year, in 2017 they were a little later than 2018 for an unknown reason. So look out and keep refreshing the website along those lines of period. I wanted to apply in 2016, but my Final Year Project supervisor, who turned out to be a MEXT scholar herself previous suggested to do it on 2017 because I had more time to spent with her for her to assess me as a student personally, at the same time allow her to have some space to talk to her supervisor in Japan. Hence, connection is extremely important too to pave your way into a successful MEXT application.

Application basically means following every single instruction stated in the application form, without missing any changes that the embassy would apply on every single year. They can be very subtle and insidious, so you might want to be extra careful.

There are usually 2 ways of filling up the form, I usually choose the typing and printing ones because it is much neater and easier as compared to filling up by hand. Plus, there is always a soft copy available online in their website. Make sure you get the forms ready way before the deadline hits because they can be extremely picky on punctuality. You have had ample time to get ready so don't screw it up. And always get a huge envelope and label your information correctly. Where the "MEXT POST GRADUAT 20XX" should be placed is also very important. You can always choose to leave your envelope on the guardhouse to the guards to be sent to the office because they are pretty efficient and trustworthy, at least in Malaysia.

So basically there were No. 1 to 8 on the application form, where only no. 6 and 7 were the ones I had troubles with. No. 1-5 and 8 were all about your details. However, no. 6 was about your past research, and no. 7 will be the research theme you are proposing to be done in Japan. The embassy stated specifically that no guides will be given in preparing these two parts of the application, which made it a huge problem for veterinary students like me as we had little to no research background apart from our FYP because our program geared us towards being a clinician as compared to Japanese vet schools where research remained as their base for the last 3 years in vet school.

For no. 6, it was basically a summary from my previous research. We had to write and abstract for all the thesis we prepared for the FYP, so I modified my abstract and used it for no.6.

As for No. 7, there were 3 parts; a) the current research, b) the theme for the research in Japan and c) the research proposal in Japan.

a) was basically my modified abstract again
b) would be the title of the research in Japan
c) would be the detailed proposal, from the introduction, why is there a need of the research, the objectives and the outcome; and don't forget your references.

Where did I get all my inspirations? To be honest, I've already managed to secure my prospective supervisor way before I applied for MEXT, thanks to my FYP supervisor who used to work under my new supervisor. Hence, you might want to start looking out for potential supervisors and contact them, propose to them your interest in continuing education in their lab or institution with the support of MEXT, then get a title from them to use it as your resources in applying for MEXT.

Once you've gotten all this done, send your application away.

2) Selection Examination

The letter is usually sent to you around May or June if you were successfully selected for the selection examination. For postgraduates, there are 2 main papers to be taken which are the English paper and the Japanese paper.

You might be thinking that Japanese's level of English may not be as hard as you think; this is when you need to think twice. The English can be easy, but tricky. You need to be as obnoxious, as OCD, as detailed and as grammar Nazi-mode as you can get during the whole examination. I would strongly suggest you to attempt the past year examinations to gauge your level. For a person like me who have gotten Band 5 in MUET, 108/120 in TOEFL and Band 8.0/9.0 in IELTS, it was still a little tough.

Japanese paper was divided into 3 levels, basic, intermediate and advanced; I tried all 3 but I would say it was still extremely hardcore for a non-native speaker, despite my JLPT at level N2. Don't worry if your Japanese is elementary or close to zero because the only gauge for post grad is actually the English test. If you feel like you don't wish to waste time or stress yourself attempting the Japanese paper on the exam day, you may leave after writing your name.

For the test, be punctual and make sure you have your stationery prepared. They are using 2B pencils still, so its pretty much the same as other tests you have been taking. Make sure you do not stop checking your English paper answers over and over again even after you have completed. Check and check all the grammars, all the possible permutations and read if the sentence actually made sense. These helped me pass the test.

So this is basically the first round. Part 2 will be on the interview and second application instead.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Auscultating : Ending 2017

I pretty much feel like the blogosphere is dead, but who cares right?

2017 was quite an eventful year. Plenty have happened throughout the whole journey, and probably the chronology of pictures would speak more for themselves!

Apart from finals, January was basically filled with a massive load of work on my final year project. My first taste of research started here, along with my passion for diagnostic imaging in veterinary medicine. I was very lucky to be able to work under and with one of the best sonographist in our country, my supervisor who thought me the fundamentals of ultrasonography, the meaning of persistence as well as the spirit of excellence. Our topic was on the different layers of ultrasound in cats, hence we got a lot of hands on experience on both ultrasonography and histology (the study of cells).

After 5 weeks of strenuous sample collection, processing, data collection and analysis, the ultimatum was to produce the thesis as well as the presentation to the panels 2 weeks after the semester began. The level of stress, precision and in-depth knowledge on each aspects of our topic were just overwhelming. With luck and immense amount of diligence, we all managed to leap through the hurdles and produced our work. The late nights looking at histology slides with my 24" monitor were quite lonely and tiring, but I am quite glad I managed to complete this saga.

March was nuts, but it was great. My supervisor finally joined the married status bandwagon and tied the know with the love of her life! I was thrilled and happy for her, and myself because I was basically the only DVM student invited to her wedding! At the same time, I also got to meet with the Japanese veterinarians who were going to be my colleagues if I were to fly to Japan for my postgraduate studies. My supervisor does seemed to be the word hard and play hard type, I'm sure all the students will be stunned with the reactions and gestures my supervisor did during the wedding night!


After all the fiasco back two months to complete our FYP and Clinical Conference write up and presentations, the remaining months were left to complete our clinical rotations as well as preparations for the upcoming comprehensive examination in June. April was basically the time for me to complete my remaining experiences with livestock animals, because I knew I wouldn't be practicing in livestock much in the future. Wearing the coveralls, going into farms and getting dirty with the cows, pigs and chickens; its something I would miss a lot but not able to live with in the future.

May was all about wrapping up our last bits and pieces of memories, activities and involvements in the faculty. Like every April or May in the previous years, our faculty held the Majlis Silaturahim to cherish the fact that vet students do not just rock in our studies, but on stage performances as well. The theme this year was Korean Wave, but the four of us here got stuck doing the girly dance to woo our Oppa. It was fun, the choreography was crazy and we had 1 long night to practice. But it was fun.

June was probably the climax of the evens in 2017: our comprehensive examination. 5 years of knowledge, blood and sweat (no kidding, we lost a lot of blood from bites, scratches and cuts) are all tested in the 3 long weeks. 6 essay questions on pre-clinical, para-clinical and clinical veterinary science; 150 MCQs on 3 clinical parts and 20 minutes worth of oral examination on all 3 clinical parts as well. Long afternoons of group studying, long nights of insomnia, long hours of procrastination; but we all passed, so every moment of hard time was worth the pain. 

After our battle with the final boss in our veterinary student lives, it was time for a good catch up before our departure in our future lives. It was a relief that this bunch of beautiful people accepted me into their group despite the fact that I was from another batch. It was also a relief that we all had the same ideology and aims to strive for the benefits of animals and humanity. We may only have had 5 years to know each other on daily basis, but our friendship will persist till we become old.

August was a lot about releasing stress and meeting new people. And as vet students, a very great way in knowing more people from the inside and outside of the country would be joining international conferences such as IVSA Congresses. Malaysia became the host this year, and I joined as a participant instead of a committee to meet old and new friends from abroad. I have to say our bunch is pretty Asian-centered, probably because a lot of the Europeans couldn't cope with our games, and we couldn't cope with theirs either. Nevertheless, these people were one of the coolest ones around during the whole Congress! #Asianpartyrocks

I finally joined an employment workforce in September, as a full time vet with a full time job! I was, and still am very lucky to be able to join a modest companion animal practice with a passionate and great boss and veterinary team. Trying to pick up clinical skills with ample eloquence to deal with clients and patients was not easy after 2 months of slothing, but my boss is always there to my rescue. 

Plenty has happened in October, the good and bad in 2017. The good thing was, our buddy from our vet buddy line got married with his high school sweetheart! The whole wedding was simple but extremely down to earth and cozy to all who attended. The videos were really sweet, the band wasn't too loud and the food was just amazing. I guess I'm the next male Buddy scheduled to get married, but probably the guy buddy after me would go first haha. And the bad was I got into a huge accident, where I am safe but my car needed to be sent to the factory for a major makeover. Our insurance covered it but my parents weren't too happy about it.

November was quaint but exciting because it was the time for our graduation ceremony! Receiving the certificate of registration as a veterinarian in the Registrar of Veterinary Medicine of Malaysia was exhilarating, because it means that I'm no longer an apprentice or student, I'm a full-fledged veterinarian in Malaysia now. Adding bonus to my academic years, I managed to receive two faculty awards with my name listed on the Hall of Fame in our faculty foyer!

After 6 length months of waiting, December marked as the best time of 2017. Santa came late this year, but he brought an amazing gift, a fully-covered ticket to Japan for the next 5 years. I've managed to secure the Japan Government MEXT scholarship to pursue my postgraduate studies in Hokkaido University, with tremendous amount of help from my FYP supervisor and support from the people I know. This also market my last few months in Malaysia, as I will be embarking my next phase of life in Hokkaido, Japan.

2017 was a great year, I managed to learn a lot in my field, marked multiple achievements I never imagined I would, and accomplished my dream of living in Japan after 10 years of prepping myself for the country's system. The best thing about it is that I get to live there and also do what I love most, working with animals. 2018 surely would be awesome, and life as of now is extremely beautiful.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Auscultating : Graduation

November became quite an eventful month for me this year.

Well, last year it was eventful thanks to the Fukuoka trip. This year, it became eventful because of my graduation.

Yes, I've finally graduated from vet school! Thanks to all readers who have stuck to thick and thin me with throughout the 6 long years, though I'm sure multiple of them have vanished from the blog-o-sphere.

Anyways, time for pictures!

Basically for vet students, our main event for graduation wasn't the scroll retrieval from the Selangor Sultan (yes, we get our scrolls from His Royal Highness); but the Oath Recital Ceremony in the faculty in front of the registrar of Malaysian Veterinary Council.

Similar but different medical graduates taking their Hippocratic Oath, we take our veterinarian oath with main objectives to alleviate pain of our patients, reduce suffering at all times, provide sufficient safe protein source to the country, and protect the safety and health of the general public.

Most people still thinks MD protects the health of the public, but little do they know, veterinarians are also protecting the health of the public, just in different and indirect ways than MD would.

Apart from the oath taking ceremony, our faculty also boasts as the faculty with the most faculty awards to be won. Most faculties hit about 20 prizes max in UPM, but our faculty hits up to 50 faculty prizes to be won by the students from DVM 2 up to post graduates for their hard work in studies.

I was lucky enough to win only 2 out of 5 prizes in the awards offered, for my Avian Clinical Conference presentation as well as Swine Clinical Rotation.

At least, I left my name on the boards around the faculty foyer. Did I not mention we literally had something like a Hall of Fame in the foyer? Basically award winners each year have their names listed on the boards for each prize won, sponsored by the industry player of the veterinary field in Malaysia.
Well, the path as an undergraduate in UPM has finally ended. I'm glad I made the wise decision in taking the road unwanted by my parents and ended up in my current life. I couldn't be more happier with my life right now, just that relationship is probably not what I can juggle currently. Heck I can't even get in shape, let alone trying to attract a mate. Maybe some light fun along the way, but probably hasn't reach the point to meet the One.

Until the next post, I will be flying to Bali tomorrow for another workshop on ultrasound. Eventful November it is!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Auscultating : Stark Difference

Most people probably would say, "It's because your parents know you are independent enough,".

Well, being a child one would still expect some, attention.

Or my middle syndrome still kicks in all the time.

5 years in my veterinary school, I had little to no help to get to place; except for my poultry practical where my mom knows the boss from high school. The boss owns the company which is on Bursa Malaysia so its probably the biggest deal I had.

Apart from that, I lived the DVM life probably with minimal support from the family.

However, other siblings probably have even more help from the family in their career development.

Going all out to get the best coach, the best shoes, the best racquet and all the contacts in the world to get the sister into the national team; and still going all out.

Sending in name cards, getting companies, fixing appointments in and out of the country to get the brother into a good internship program; all in the family Whatsapp group.

And I basically, update about how busy my working hours are and not expecting anyone to actually appreciate nor understand what I go through. Sometimes I do wonder if I should be bothering to update anyone about anything at work.

Not that I'm complaining about my work because everything is great. 
I'd probably wish someone is there to listen. 

I'm probably asking for a lot, while the family is busy with everything else my new niece, my sister's badminton career and my brother's credit to graduate.

Maybe I'm too independent, to cause the start difference.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Auscultating : Working, now, week 1

I has been 1 week since I started working, and it have been crazy, literally.

The first day of work I started with my first spay in a 1.5 years hiatus from surgery, with the diagnosis from A-Z including blood smears, ultrasound, IV ports, blood works and towards the spay.

The spay was, eventful seeing how things have happened.

Nevertheless, my boss saved my ass, and the patient is now on 4 paws after 5 days of great care thank to the team.

Working have been, interesting.

I began to get used to people calling me a Dr, although I seldom introduce myself as one. I just don't think it's really right to use the title on demand; it should be from an earned title when people see what you can do to help their companions.

Handling the clinic was not easy at all. Despite most warded cases and stable under my boss's care, the outpatients can be quite a handful.

I am just extremely lucky my boss is a very open vet, who is constantly willing to listen and answer to my pleas and confusions as a budding vet. No questions are stupid, and every little bits are actually a chance to learn.

Overtime is still a very normal thing to happen on daily basis, but I should strive to hit the car by the right time soon so both me and my boss wouldn't get a burnout.

As for personal life, I knew that after the beginning of work, I will lack the time and space to handle it; even more when I should be learning all the appropriate ropes as a young vet. Maybe I should just not bother about any stuffs, at least not until I am on my feet and ready to actually commit time for something as delicate and another special person in life.

On the other hand, my boss gave me a challenge to hit my DVM 1 look by the time I leave the clinic in January. I took up the challenge, but I should stop eating like a king for dinner...

Until the next post then!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Auscultating : Work

Finally, I'm employed and I will be starting the job tomorrow.

After a 3 good months of not doing anything.

I'm quite excited, yet nervous. But it will only be wards duties tomorrow so I guess its still okay.

The real deal will start on the day after, when consultations officially start holly molly.

Wish me luck people.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Auscultating : Ending DVM

Hello people, finally I'm back for good after a long hiatus in my clinical years.

Guess what? I'm finally done with vet school.

6 long years, ups and downs, but I have to admit I enjoyed every bits of it.
The great people, the high school drama, and definitely the chance to learn with my fellow animals.

People still think we only see companion animals, like cats and dogs; but really we see so much more including birds, horses, cows, goats, sheep, pigs, reptiles, and heck even fishes.
At this point I'm pretty much in a limbo, basically because I'm still waiting for a final call.

Nevertheless, I'm sure things will turn out fine. Until then, I should be honing my skills as a private practitioner in a companion animal clinic.
Where will I be? Well, that's for me to know and for you to find out! *if you were to be interested anyways*