Sunday September 9, 2012
Being thankful, when our dreams take flight
SUNDAY STARTER BY SOO EWE JIN
I was at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport last week to send off my niece who was heading to Ireland to begin her medical studies.
They were all dressed up smartly, these young men and women who have yet to reach voting age, and the JPA officials were on hand to give them last-minute instructions.
The group of 30 were government scholars who had spent a good part of the last two years together in Shah Alam doing the A-levels.
Families were out in full force, and it was heartwarming to see everyone intermingling and chatting with one another.
A makcik came by to hug my niece. Another Indian lady chatted happily with a student from Sarawak.
Meanwhile, my nieceís friend from Sabah required two witnesses to sign a form at the last minute, and my wife and I were happy to oblige. Her family had returned to Kota Kinabalu before the flight took off, and she was temporarily without family support at KLIA.
There was a strong spirit of camaraderie built up over the past two years which extended beyond their common academic pursuit.
Because the students came from all over the country, and with differing backgrounds, they learnt more about the country from each other than what they were taught back in school.
There is generally a spirit of thankfulness. After all, a medical scholarship is not cheap and I was glad to discover, as I casually chatted with some of the students, that many of them see being a doctor as a calling, and looked forward to serving in all parts of the country.
I can well imagine the many milestones these young students have crossed so far, and have yet to traverse.
They are most likely the top students in their respective schools, with a strong record of extra-curricular activities, and many achievements chalked up along the way.
Colin Powell once said, ďA dream doesnít become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.Ē
Now they are about to become strangers in an unfamiliar land. There will be much to see, to explore, to appreciate, in the years to come, even as they plunge themselves into their studies.
For some of them, this would be the first time they are away from home and family for such a prolonged period.
This is also probably when their character will be fully forged and much will depend on how they build up relationships with people without the guidance of their parents.
A funny moment happened at the check-in counter when one student was trying to reduce his baggage weight. When he opened his bag, we could see that it was packed to the brim with instant noodles and packets of Milo. He had no choice but to remove most of them, for his mother to take home.
I am sure there must be a lot of sambal and other Malaysian delicacies tucked into the bags of the others.
This is part of life. No matter where we go, or how far we go, we want to take something from where we are along with us.
Over the next few weeks, similar scenes will be played out as other students head out to foreign lands to pursue their studies. They are indeed a fortunate lot.
As I have written previously in this column, my prayer for these young people is that they will enjoy the journey, and not focus only on the destination. Then they will discover what life is all about.
> Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin celebrates today, Sept 9, as it marks a full year since his medical treatment was completed. He wonders if a cure for cancer will be found in his lifetime.