We often hear young adults yearning to travel the world or become billionaires. But that was not the case for Suhanraj Rajasegaran who joins our 14th #GreatHeights series. At 20, he made the headlines when he was selected to receive a scholarship to study at West Point, the top United States Military Academy (USMA) with a 12% acceptance rate.
West Point’s Military Programme is one of the most elite and prestigious military academies in the world where its entrance is rigorously assessed over academic qualifications as well as fitness levels. Their training consists of high intensity physical training paired with learning military standards and courtesies. Throughout its more than 200-year history, it has a huge number of notable alumni including astronaut Buzz Aldrin, former US president Dwight D. Eisenhower, US Army officer during the American Civil War George Armstrong Custer and the first female Brigade Commander in U.S. Corps of Cadets Kristin Baker.
The current Senior Instructor is now serving his country in the Young Officers Tactics Wing in the Malaysian Army Combat Training Center. He talks to us about weathering expectations, ambition, character development and all things in between.
The Late Bloomer
“I was not like any of my classmates in KYS- they had their lives sorted out really quick.”
Originally from Melaka, Suhanraj grew up in a military environment, with his father, Rajasegaran Muniandy, having served the country as Warrant Officer 1 (Regiment Sergeant Major). Although his passion was neither inherent nor instinctive, being exposed to military life certainly sparked an interest to emulate his father’s footsteps.
After a series of egg-dropping and rocket-building challenges during the Residence-Based Selection programme, he was offered to study at Kolej Yayasan Saad in 2005. In school, Suhanraj claims that he was an average student who endeavoured to remain active in an attempt to make the most out of his school life. He recalled having to break sweat for the mentally challenging MENSA test while his friends played rugby every day.
However, he certainly switched roles in Melaka High School as a Form Six student where he brilliantly secured the rank as the top student in his batch. When it came to dealing with academic stress, basketball and rugby became his coping mechanism. Later on, these newfound hobbies morphed into a co-curricular activity in which he represented at the state level.
Additionally, to keep him on his toes, Suhanraj also involved himself in public speaking and without fail, he managed to juggle his academics and co-curricular activities throughout his pre-university life. Over time, he found military schools to be intriguing which was partly attributed to his increased confidence in his physical and mental strength as well as his increasing familiarity with military life.
Having a Warrior Mindset
Suhanraj furthered his studies in Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia, UPNM where he ventured into the engineering course. By no means an easy feat, his hectic schedule did not stop him from performing well during his training sessions which were back-to-back to his lectures. He pointed out that the fast-paced experience during the military exercises had toughened him up. From then on, he made a mental note of how demanding his field was.
“Before going to classes, we had to wear uniforms which does not sound so bad now but was something really heavy to do because we had to change right after that.“
As a highly competitive person, he was determined to outrank his peers intellectually and physically. This became a reality after he obtained the highest score in all of his classes and was acknowledged for having an outstanding attitude throughout his training. Furthermore, the well-rounded cadet busied himself with debate, debat and pidato to strengthen his confidence.
At this time, he was still unfamiliar with West Point and only came to know of it after fatefully spotting his name among the 50 cadets to be shortlisted to go. Rather naive to the trials to come, the pressure began to build after they announced that only one of them would be able to submit their application and compete between 100 countries to fill in 15 international cadet spots.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the article