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Saturday, 18 June 2011

Life’s an ocean of possibilities

WHEN I was young, I had always thought that everything was possible. Perhaps, many may feel that such (blind) optimism is a characteristic of a child, and come adulthood we grow out of it after experiencing first hand many downfalls.

I am an adult now, and although I may not agree that everything is possible (I can’t possibly grow wings now and fly to the moon, right?), I do still very much believe that many great things are definitely possible.

Born to a father who was a factory worker, with a Form 5 education and a housewife mother, whose highest education was Form 3, perhaps not much would have been expected of the child.

Living and growing up with two other siblings in Kampung Ujung Batu in Butterworth, a kampong now notorious for gangsterism and illegal drug activities, what could society expect of its residents?

Against all these odds, for inexplicable reasons and turn of circumstances, after performing well in my primary school studies, I ended up in a premier school, St. George’s Girls’ School (SGGS).

Travelling daily to school on board the ferry and taking the bus for the first two years, and then carpooling for the subsequent years was nothing less than a great learning curve as well as wholesome fun.

SGGS taught me the importance of wholesome education by providing not only academic pursuits, but also character and moral formation, teaching me respect for individuals irrespective of race or creed.

At this stage, my father had already stopped working due to a defective heart valve and a major open heart surgery that sapped his strength and affected his performance.

Mother now took up a job in a sardine factory to help contribute to the monthly income of the family.
Our family of five survived comfortably on RM1,600 a month.

Never did I feel the pinch of not having enough. Perhaps, my parents never allowed us to feel that way.

Much to the surprise of my parents and some of my teachers, I did well in the SPM and, eventually, STPM, which led me to the University of Malaya to pursue a degree in Biomedical Science.

There, again to my surprise, I graduated with a distinction, and won the award for best oral presenter for my final year research project.

That was two years ago. Right now, I am a tutor in my faculty and have been working on research projects.

Graduating with a CGPA of 3.77 provided me with the opportunity to pursue my PhD directly without having to complete my Masters.

I was blessed with the opportunity to pursue my PhD and work with a world-reknown researcher in the University of Sydney, Prof Dr Nicholas Hunt, whose research work is in the field of malaria, and who is also credited with the groundbreaking find of a new human enzyme.

It’s been two years since I started applying for scholarships. I’ve been to a number of interviews that puzzlingly found me and my research project not worth funding.

Yet, I believe that great things are still possible. Not because of who I am but because of who God is in our midst. After almost two years, various applications and countless email, I was finally offered a scholarship by the University of Malaya to pursue my PhD last March.

Has the journey been smooth since then? Don’t even think about it. My approval is still stuck with the Ministry of Higher Education, although I am supposed to report in Sydney in July.

Have I given up? Of course not. Do I feel like giving up? Sometimes, but rarely so. Will I have to rush through my preparations? Without a doubt. Do I wish that the system was more efficient and assisted the students better? Of course.

But none of this stops me from trying every day to move forward to the things I dream for.
Opportunities come, but never easily or smoothly. Good things worth fighting for, are worth waiting for. I see where I come from and I see where I am today.

In all of it, I see a never-ending string of surprises intricately entwined in the journey of my life. Where we come from does not determine where we will go. What we don’t have does not decide what we will end up with.

Life is an ocean of possibilities. It moves forward with the vehicle of faith.