The First Time (Again)

Obviously lockdown was awful but one thing I’m grateful for is the beauty and thrill of experiencing things for the first time again.

First time ordering a latte in a cafe. First time catching up with friends at a fancy restaurant. First time praying in a tranquil mosque. First time looking out the window on a train, zooming past the fields. First time seeing the trees and cars shrink as you fly into the clouds on a plane.

First time entering a lecture hall and catching up with course mates. First time scanning your staff card at the office. First time trying newly-released clothes in fitting rooms. First time eating popcorn in the cinema before the movie starts. First time being part of a standing ovation at the end of a brilliant theatre show. First time experiencing the thrill of a theme park ride. First time eating fresh hot street food at the local market. First time pinching the cheeks of a friend’s new baby.

First time queueing up at the buffet for traditional food at a festive celebration. First time donning graduation robes and receiving applause as you walk across the stage. First time dressing up for a wedding and an aunty tries to set you up with some guy at the event. First time cheering excitedly in a football stadium when your team scores a goal. First time feeling the delight of booking an exciting holiday. First time hugging a loved one closely. First time seeing your parents again. First time coming home.

With that said, my heart goes out to the businesses that shut down. To the flights that never departed. To the jobs made redundant. To the damaged global economy. And most importantly, to all the people we lost along the way, and the people who miss them dearly.

I hope the pandemic has taught (and is still teaching) us all to appreciate the little things, and to not take them for granted.

Graduation, Work, and Adulting

Once again I must woefully admit that I haven’t updated this blog for an embarrassingly long time (5 months). But I truly intend to write more regularly – this time I’m serious!!! It’s not that I don’t write – I do, but my writings are scattered all over the place (Insta Stories, Insta posts, Linkedin posts, tweets…).

But Alhamdulillah, I am grateful to have recently graduated with an MSc Marketing (Distinction) from the University of Edinburgh! And more importantly, I successfully landed a full-time digital marketing role in higher education after completing my internship. Officially a “Malaysian working abroad” now.

I was two weeks into the role when I was walking on Princes Street, on my way to watch the Beauty and the Beast musical (my first theatre experience since COVID and it was truly spectacular!) when a female solo traveller from India asked if I could take her photo. I did, of course, and very happily talked to her to some must-see landmarks. Then we had an exchange that I’ll always remember, since it was my first time introducing myself to a stranger as a working professional in this city.

Her: Are you studying here in Edinburgh?

Me: Oh no, I work here.

Me (internally): !!!!!!!!!!! OH MY GOD !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, that conversation was exciting. Less exciting is being denied student discounts that I used to get. And most crucially, having to pay awfully expensive council tax since I no longer get student exemption 😦

Continue reading Graduation, Work, and Adulting

End of Spring + Semester 2 of my Masters Degree

Remember when I said I’d try to update my blog every week in 2021? Well that’s embarrassing, because I haven’t updated for two months. But I will write something, just for the sake of documenting my recent updates.

Firstly, spring had sprung! Spring is absolutely gorgeous in Edinburgh, and I particularly loved the abundance of cherry blossoms / sakura, my favourite flower. It’s almost over though, and summer is coming. Although by the state of the weather you’d think it’s late September, honestly. Scotland truly is something else.

I’m also officially done with Semester 2 of my masters degree where I took subjects I genuinely enjoyed such as Marketing in a Digital World, Understanding Brands, Marketing Communications and Marketing Applications. Some of my assignments included: an analysis of functional and symbolic branding (I chose Adobe Photoshop and Disney respectively), a creative brief for a campaign targeting the French market to visit Scotland, a viral video concept for the charity Age UK, and a marketing plan for the Edinburgh Science Festival. We sometimes got to work with real clients this semester and it was challenging but also rewarding. Now, I’m beginning to work on my research dissertation. Wow, I really decided to do a masters degree, as if my undergraduate dissertation wasn’t torturous enough! 😛 Today marks the first anniversary of me submitting my research investigating social media engagements with Avengers: Endgame – read about it here.

Next, I …kind of… got my first promotion ever. I’ve been working part-time in digital marketing since October, 7 hours a week. Unfortunately someone in my team is leaving. But now my hours are being increased to 17.5 hours a week! Alhamdulillah, for everything. I have more time to work now since I don’t have classes anymore, just my dissertation. So I’ll have to practice effective time management. I also hope to spend some time traveling around the UK where I can.

Continue reading End of Spring + Semester 2 of my Masters Degree

Thriving in Solitude and Singledom

In the UK I can sit in the middle of a park alone, listening to chill music while reading a book. I can go for a hike alone on the small hill near my house. I can take a long walk by the beach alone. And nobody would bat an eye. I can do things alone without worrying that people will think I’m weird.

In Malaysia, I still think there’s a huge stigma against enjoying your own “me time”. When sitting at a cafe / restaurant alone there’s still that fear of being judged or pitied sometimes. Some people have major anxiety even walking on their university campus alone, for fear that they will seem weird or that they don’t have any friends. Solo travel is definitely not a huge thing for Malaysians – especially not within the country itself. I sincerely hope this will change.

Continue reading Thriving in Solitude and Singledom

#InternationalWomensDay: Choosing to Challenge Representation

Growing up as a female, I notice that a lot of people look up to white men from the West as role models, particularly within business. As a marketer and media practitioner I #ChooseToChallenge the norm by advocating for better representation of women within various fields, highlighting and celebrating the achievements of women – particularly those who even more marginalized by being women of colour, differently abled, from “developing” countries, wearing religious / cultural garments, etc.

I’m happy to have played a small part in two #InternationalWomensDay campaigns for this year – one for the University of Edinburgh Online Learning and the other for National Aspiration & Leadership Summit (NALS Malaysia)! 🌸

Defining Happiness As A Young Adult

When you’re a young adult it’s really easy to get caught up in other people’s definitions of happiness, when you see what other people are doing in their lives.

As a marketer, I’ve learnt so much about how businesses sell you insecurity, telling you that you NEED to have X and Y and Z to feel complete. That’s how they make money.

If you’re satisfied freelancing doing what you love instead of getting a higher salary in a Fortune 500 company, carry on.

If you want to be the first in your small hometown to get into an Ivy League university even though everyone discourages you, go chase your dreams.

If your life ambition is to get married early and have 8 kids you will love unconditionally, go for it lol.

If you’re delightfully living your best life single travelling the world with good friends, ignore the peer pressure to find love.

If you’re happy driving an Axia or using an Android or renting a house when everyone else is telling you that you’re missing out by not owning a BMW or an iPhone or buying a house, you do you.

You are being told every day that This and This and This is important… stand your ground and say, “No, THIS is what’s important”. Remind yourself constantly to define happiness by your own terms (as long as you’re a responsible and decent human being of course), not by other people’s definitions of it.

Canva: A Dream for Marketers

Salam and hello!

I used to look down on Canva and deem it to be for amateurs. Thought that no self-respecting designer would use such a program. Now I realize how “sombong lagi angkuh” (arrogant) I was being.

Now, I rely on it so much. After all, I’m more of a marketer than a designer – I’m a masters student juggling a part-time digital marketing job at the University of Edinburgh Information Services Group. I need to create visually stunning designs quickly and efficiently.

Over the past few years Canva has added so many beautiful designs, made the interface super intuitive and user-friendly, and are constantly innovating to keep up with current trends (animations, GIFs, etc)!

Continue reading Canva: A Dream for Marketers

Guide to Studying Abroad in the UK, Scholarship Resources, and FAQ

Assalamualaikum wbt.

So, you’re dreaming of studying abroad like Teme Abdullah or Cupcake Aisyah. Or maybe you just read too many Hlovate novels as a teen. But you don’t know where to start.

I regularly get questions about studying abroad from fellow Malaysians, so after 2 and a half years of great demand, I have tried my best to summarize things I’m usually asked about into a single blog post.

First of all, here’s a very brief history about my tertiary education:

I’m Arifah. I did a Diploma in Media and Communication at UiTM. I got a nice CGPA and extracurriculars, and although it wasn’t easy, managed to secure a convertible scholarship to do a BA Media, Communication and Cultural Studies at Newcastle University, UK. I am now doing a MSc Marketing a the University of Edinburgh, UK, also on a convertible scholarship.

What this blog post covers:

  • A) Useful resources for those wanting to study abroad
  • B) Scholarship listings / alternative ways to get funding
  • C) FAQ about university / scholarship applications
  • D) FAQ about life as a student in the UK

Disclaimer: This blog post is not really intended for post-SPM students, although some resources may be of use. My intended audience is more to students who have finished Pre-U/diploma/matriculation/STPM, OR aspiring postgraduate students. If you’re looking for post-SPM tips I suggest these resources: (1) (2)

But before that, I believe that doors will open much more easily for you to study abroad you if you have good intentions. Ask yourself, why do you want to fly overseas?

Hopefully, to:

  • pursue knowledge with a sincere heart
  • contribute to the society and the world
  • make your parents and family proud
  • if you are a Muslim, to increase your faith by seeing the world
Continue reading Guide to Studying Abroad in the UK, Scholarship Resources, and FAQ

TikTok: An Unlikely Source of Study Motivation

Assalamualaikum wbt.

TikTok is always associated with dancing videos, humour and overplayed songs – but did you know you can tailor your feed to your interests? It has a really clever algorithm that quickly learns what kind of things you like and creates a personalized “For You” page. From my experience, their algorithm is way more accurate and addictive than other social media platforms. So if you’re into quick recipes or cleaning or resin art or Islamic reminders… TikTok has it all!

As nerdy as it sounds, I have carefully tailored my TikTok feed so that it is full of study motivation, productivity tips, marketing hacks, and business advice.

I’m not an model student who just wakes up every day with a burning desire to go to Zoom class and study… I need motivation. Before the pandemic, I did watch motivational YouTube videos occasionally, but I could also get motivated from socializing with my course mates and seeing people study in the library. Now, Scotland’s under lockdown… so… yeah…………..

Continue reading TikTok: An Unlikely Source of Study Motivation

3 Business Lessons From The K-Drama “Start-Up”

Assalamualaikum wbt.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been rather obsessed lately with this one K-drama called Start-Up. I have never bought K-drama merch before, but now I have a Team Ji-Pyeong sticker on my laptop. The drama is about young millennials trying to succeed in the fast-paced business world through a start-up incubator called Sandbox – competing to become the next Apple or Amazon or Google.

[Warning: Spoilers ahead]

I wouldn’t say it’s the best K-drama ever, especially as I wasn’t too happy with the direction of the plot during the second half, especially as they focused too much on a messy love triangle (petition for a spin-off about Ji-Pyeong!!!). However, I have never been more emotionally invested in a K-drama and enjoyed theorizing with the rest of the fandom.

From the business side of things, there is definitely so much to learn. Watching this drama motivates me WAY more to succeed in the business world than reading academic journals, haha.

Here are some lessons to take in from the show:

Continue reading 3 Business Lessons From The K-Drama “Start-Up”