Dilemmas of a Malaysian Student

Running in the theme of #WhyMalaysia, LoyarBurok presents Aerie Rahman’s “Catcher in the Rye”.

On face value it would seem that I’m stuck in Malaysia for the rest of my life. As a law student in a local, affirmative action university, it would seem that my career options are limited to practising law in West Malaysia (I’m neither a Sabahan nor a Sarawakian). So, the question of “Why Malaysia?” would beget an answer that I’m living in Malaysia not out of choice, but because that is the only option available. I can’t practise law in Singapore as they don’t recognize my university’s law school.

I think you can already predict my career path. I’d graduate (hopefully), work in the public sector, maybe land a job in the Attorney-General’s Chambers as a Deputy Public Prosecutor, live on a meagre but stable salary, mix with bureaucrats and retire with a pension. Advise kids about the exciting life of a lawyer in court when all these kids want is to find a job which utilizes mathematics minimally. I’ll develop a penchant for a conservative worldview. I would also realize that the concept of justice is just an idealistic notion for hopefuls. That in reality, justice is merely a facade to forward self-interests. I don’t want to believe that…but reality will set in…eventually…

It isn’t fun being a student in a local university. I blame myself for not studying hard enough and getting an education in the West. You see, my family isn’t part of the bourgeoisie. We cannot afford a tertiary education in the UK. I felt like kicking myself when I flopped my SPM. SPM was a gateway to studying abroad. Obtain a scholarship and you’re on your way to a glittering student life. I was a fool back then, putting instant gratification such as fun and games over latent gratification like my studies. Results are everything, kids.

It’s hard, really. In the West, you enjoy more freedom and rights. Rankings would show that the West have universities which are way better than ours. You swell with pride telling others that you’re from Oxford, Harvard or Sydney. Better job opportunities for you. Hooray. You get to experience freedom, a liberal society and even winter. Study in those really ancient castle-like universities, where great men once trod. Seronok gile kan?

Ye, nampak seronok sangat. | Source: NYUs U-Hall blog

Ye, nampak seronok sangat. | Source: The Common Roon, NYU's U-Hall blog

Contrast that to us in local universities. To start off, there’s always a stigma. People always look down on us. Complain pasal kita tak pandai speaking London lah. That we’re a product of an education system which spoonfeeds and is heavily textbook-based. Conventional wisdom rules and to a certain extent dissent is discouraged. The detractors do have a point. And on the balance of probabilities, if you were to choose between a graduate from Bristol and a graduate from a local university, I bet your bottom dollar that you’d opt for the latter. People seem to look at where you come from instead of who you are nowadays.

It’s sickening, really. To live in a controlled environment. In a climate of fear. Fear of getting in the wrong side of the law. So to err on the side of caution, you don’t take risks or explore. Ridiculous laws and tatatertibs coerce your conformity and solicit your submission. Literally speaking, my university life is micromanaged. Thank God we have such a caring campus administration. What colour shirt should I wear tomorrow again? Black, right? Just checking.

Compound all that with the fact that I’m reading law in Malaysia. You not only have to compete with local graduates but also those from the UK who’ve just finished their Bar exams or CLP. More cut-throat competition. The production of law students by law faculties is intensifying. Have you been to my law faculty? It’s a Malthusian nightmare!

The International Islamic University (IIU) alone churns out 500 graduates per batch. Did I tell you that the legal profession is hierarchical in nature? Takes you quite a while to go up. And with all this talk about a Common Bar Exam which every law graduate would have to sit, in a nutshell, we’re screwed.

I sound pessimistic. (I wonder what pessimistic people think of heaven.) But I must admit that there are merits of being/staying in Malaysia which override all of the above.

You see, I view us local students as agents of change. Yes, change. I sense that the winds of change are coming. I sense that a new era is going to be ushered through. Generation Y youths are more vocal, inquisitive and bolder. Local students are planting our own flags and carving our own names in the Malaysian landscape.

No, not THAT kind of wind of change. | Source: rockandpop80s.com

No, not that kind of wind of change. | Source: rockandpop80s.com

We have been in a controlled environment and lived in limbo. We know what is needed and I think local students would be a catalyst for change. I don’t see things from an ivory tower like some, or dine on wine and cheese, but rather take the meagre bread and butter.

I understand the roles of a local student in Malaysia. The constant need to forever prove yourself. The stigma faced. I wanna shine. I wanna be looked up by others. So I work as hard as I can. So I do my best. So I read as much as possible… With the hope that one day we break the stigma placed on where we come from. Let’s work together and make our local university the best in the region. Instead of coming from somewhere prestigious, we make our place prestigious.

Challenge accepted!

I’ll never leave Malaysia. I’ll never migrate. I hope I won’t. I don’t want to forsake this land of mine, no matter how much it hurts. I’ll march on through, whatever the costs and whatever the consequences. And…in the fullness of time…I do hope we can make home, a better place.

Why Malaysia? Because I’m part of her.

Aerie Rahman is a law student. As a student he feels the pinch in the rising costs on water, housing, food and petrol. He is interested in restorative justice for juveniles and the concept of Truth & Reconciliation. He would like to pursue an internship at the Ayn Rand Institute in the USA and observe laissez-faire at work. Can you help? He can be contacted at Twitterjaya @aerierahman

Tags: , , , , ,

Posts by


Posted on 19 March 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

Read more articles posted by .

Read this first: LB Terms of Use