Palaweño honor student Abdul Kabir Gonzales raises his diploma outside the International Islamic University Malaysia in Jalan Gombak, 53100 Kuala Lumpur.

A Palaweño, whose life goal is to serve the Muslim community given the “heartbreaking reality” that they require assistance locally and internationally, is being lauded in an international university in Malaysia for completing his Bachelor of Human Sciences-Political Science degree with the highest academic honor.

Abdul Kabir Gonzales, who completed elementary and high school in Tiniguiban Elementary School and in Sta. Monica High School, graduated with a first-class degree on December 5, 2022, at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) in Jalan Gombak, 53100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Upon graduation, students with a cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of 3.50 or higher are eligible for the Rector’s List at IIUM, one of the most prestigious public universities in Kuala Lumpur. A first-class degree is equivalent to the Latin honor summa cum laude.

“Masaya ako, kasi I was really aiming for this academic achievement kasi many scholarship opportunities na mabubuksan if you want to pursue graduate school,” Abdul said.

Abdul walks the stage after receiving his diploma and academic award at the International Islamic University Malaysia on December 5, 2022.

In fact, his scholarship provided him with a postgraduate opportunity (Master’s Degree in Human Sciences in Political Science) immediately after he completed his bachelor’s degree. “May good privileges na makukuha such as the Foreign School Honor Graduate Eligibility eligibility or equivalency.”

The son of Rose and Silverio Gonzales, who grew up with seven siblings, Abdul told Palawan News that he spent his childhood playing with friends and watching cartoons and anime, which is why he was not a consistent honor student in elementary school.

It was the Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education, or ALIVE (madrasah) program of the Department of Education (DepEd) that he enjoyed in the years that followed, and for which he received numerous awards and medals.

“In high school, I was a consistent top 1 and graduated valedictorian,” he said.

IIUM scholarship
Abdul received his scholarship after finishing his Islamic Law and Jurisprudence course in Baguio. The director of the Human Development Foundation sent him an invitation, informing him that Malaysia is looking for a student with a strong educational background in English and Arabic.

He seized the opportunity and then participated in a series of interviews and examinations in order to gain acceptance to the IIUM and become a scholar there.

“During the first phase of my journey, my target course was International Law—unfortunately, the degree wasn’t offered to international students, so I went to Political Science, which is known to be relatively connected to law—even considered a pre-law course in the Philippines,” he said.

Abdul didn’t have to work additional jobs like many in Malaysia do in order to main a comfortable standard of living in the country because the scholarship covered all of his expenses, including tuition, food, housing, and a stipend.

However, his participation in volunteer work enabled him to earn enough for extras.

Education in Malaysia
Many students from other countries decide to pursue their higher education in Malaysian colleges and universities because of the country’s reputation for providing a high-quality education as well as the wide variety of academic and professional study programs it offers.

Abdul stated that the Malaysian government is not stingy when it comes to learning and academic achievement, as its goal is to establish the nation as a leading education hub in Southeast Asia and the world.

According to him, in the latest QS Asia University Rankings 2023, six of the top 10 universities in Southeast Asia are from Malaysia.

“You will be shocked and surprised during the initial study stage since they are following the U.K. educational system. Malaysians and other international students are friendly. Professors are well accomplished and have high profiles. I was astonished when I tried to background-check my professors because most of them finished their postgraduate education in the West and at top universities such as Oxford University, the University of Cambridge, and the National University of Singapore. It shows the quality of education the Malaysian institutions offer,” he said.

Dreams to become a diplomat
He explained that graduating from a Malaysian university such as IIUM instilled confidence in the future of someone like him, who aspires to become a diplomat to serve his underrepresented and unfortunate kababayans, especially the Palaweños, and later join the academic community.

“Diplomacy is a great medium and a powerful way to serve the underrepresented and unfortunate kababayans, which serves as one of my primary motivations for pursuing the path of becoming a diplomat,” he said.

“However, in the near future, I want to be in academia, which is a powerful channel to create awareness and share the knowledge and experiences I learned from my long and diverse educational background,” he added.

Encourages Palaweños to study abroad
Studying abroad is a great opportunity for Palaweños, Abdul said.

The only thing that needs to be done is to have the confidence to look for the scholarship that will match what their life goals are, and to look for it.

Habang bata pa, explore your personality, know your passion, develop and examine your skills. All those combined ay makatutulong para malaman mo kung ano ba talaga ang pangarap mo, kung saan ka mas magiging productive, and mag eenjoy. In addition, your skills and wide range of experiences will open up many academic and professional opportunities for you, locally or abroad,” he added.

Abdul has recommendations for those wishing to study abroad: Set goals in life, plan, and execute; have your families and friends as support systems; set sustainable motivations; and have confidence and be consistent.

He said challenges like stress, pressure, anxiety, tension, failure, and others are necessary ingredients in the recipe that makes one stronger and more superior.

Abdul is thankful to his parents for their support in his life goals. “Lastly, I believe that whatever I have achieved and will be achieving is nothing without the help of Allah (God). Therefore, I always seek guidance and comfort from Him. I also want to express my gratitude for the exceptional love and support of my family, especially my parents, who are always by my side. Do your best to realize your dreams. Success is waiting for you.”

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.