Saturday, March 25, 2017

From Kompang to UKEC

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

I have been making a lot of reflections lately, about the big decisions I made for the past few years; sacrificing my trip to Bath just so I could run for events coordinator of Malaysian Students' Society of Manchester (MSSM), sacrificing my plan to start a toastmasters club for university just to run for president of the Malaysian Society, and last November, taking the big step of running for Deputy Chairperson of United Kingdom & Eire Council of Malaysian Students (UKEC) when I was in the midst of starting a new society for engineering students in the UK.

To be very honest, I had a very ambitious goal before I entered university. My original plan was to apply as an executive (Catalyst office) for my first year, and then run for chairman for 2 terms. But obviously that never happened because I missed the deadline for the application. Ever since then, I gave up my ambition of joining UKEC and set my focus on improving the state of MSSM, especially since we were on £2,000 deficit back then.
Engagement session with Rafizi Ramli, Wong Chen and Nik Nazmi by Malaysian Progressive United Kingdom (MPUK).

Nevertheless, I still cross path with UKEC during my tenure as MSSM President. I started to learn more about UKEC's history when Rafizi Ramli, Vice-President of Parti Keadilan Rakyat came to Manchester for an engagement session hosted by Malaysian Progressives United Kingdom (MPUK). While I was accompanying him to perform ablution before Maghrib prayers, he told me about his mentor and also UKEC's founder, the late Adlan Benan Omar on how he started a society that built upon the idealism of changing the landscape of Malaysian student activism in the UK; from one that was partisan and a mere vehicle of the political masters in Malaysia (e.g. Kelab UMNO, Kelab MIC, Hizbi) – to one that promoted intellectualism, openness and the spirit of volunteerism. Coincidentally, a week later, I learned more about UKEC's history when I went to Cardiff to borrow a few kompangs.

Traditionally, MSSM President have to choreograph Dikir Barat for Malaysian Night. Apparently, we never really bothered to invest in a few kompangs. That meant that I had to borrow them from other Malaysian societies, and I decided to go for Cardiff Malaysian Night just to borrow their kompang. I honestly hated myself because I thought I was going to waste my weekend. Little that I know that it would be the turning point of my life.

In Cardiff, I bumped into some of the current and past UKEC committee members (Josh, Ryan and Syafiq). We decided to have dinner after the MNight and we had a very long conversation from 10pm until 5am while playing politiko. I still vividly remember our conversation where our topics ranged from Malaysian politics, to UKEC's past and aspiration. I got to understand more about the organisation that I wanted to join for a long time. At the end of our long conversation, Josh teased me about succeeding him as Deputy Chairperson  but I never took him seriously and didn't really think about joining the organisation back then.

Fast forward to April, I started to venture on starting a new society for engineering students. It started when I received a phone call from Mona, who's one of the person in charge of the HR department for UEM. UEM wanted to organise an engagement session with Manchester students over Easter break. However, I told her not to come to Manchester because nobody will be around and they may find themselves disappointed. But we didn't stop the call there and one of the questions that was raised was why aren't the engineering students as organised as KPUM which eventually led to the idea of starting Young Malaysian Engineers-UK (YME-UK).

Establishment of YME-UK at Taylors University after Malaysian Students' Technology Conference.

Group photo with YME committee and speakers for our first event.

With Marcus Lee whom trusted our vision to empower engineering students in the UK; the very person I trust and stepped up to take the role of President of YME-UK when I moved to UKEC.

As I was about to retire from MSSM, I started to shift my full attention on YME-UK and personal development such as going to the gym and refining my public speaking through toastmasters. I was finally back for toastmasters after a year away due to my commitment for MSSM. Upon my return for the weekly sessions, I received a very warm welcome by familiar faces in toastmasters when they greeted me by announcing "Welcome back to our Malaysian friend and his Malaysian jokes, Faizul Zuraimi!!".

On that same night, I received a call from Josh who convinced me to run for UKEC Deputy Chairperson. I never came back for toastmasters ever since (so much for the warm welcome). After the phone call, I sent in my nomination at 11:53pm. (could have been more dramatic if I sent my application at 11:59pm but oh well)

With my predecessor, one of the most convincing person I've ever met.

This year had been the craziest year for me because I had to juggle between UKEC, YME (I dropped in meetings every week last term), and my 3rd year engineering. It was much tougher compared to last year when I only had to balance between my role as the president for Malaysian society and my studies. Some of us including myself ended up doing more work in UKEC due to extra challenges that we faced internally. And there were times I felt I was burning out. But I never regretted a single moment.

These are the moments that I feel I could only have while I'm still a student. Online meetings until 4am, staying up all night to prepare for the political session with YB Mukhriz, getting involved with real politics and student activism, and meeting amazing like-minded individuals as I travelled for almost every weekend to support different events- these are the memories that I will always cherish for the rest of my life.

Joining UKEC is one of the best decisions I have ever made. As one of the American founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin once said,
"All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move."

Be the ones who move, and send in your application for UKEC today! :)