Third year into my pursuit of seeking after a doctorate degree in immunology and epidemiology. I was halfway towards graduation, research was running great, and I went back home for a brief of time to meet family and friends. Before I landed in KLIA, I had few offers coming through email and phone, asking me to consider a short 1 to 2 hours session with students. Mostly for high school students.
I thought this would be nice to, you know, share my experience studying abroad since undergraduate. What is better than having audience to share my life experience with? And to motivate them to study harder, so that they could take a chance to follow my footsteps. It would be cool, right?
I sorted pictures from galleries into nice 42 slides PowerPoint presentation, mostly on my daily encounter with people, what they think about me and what I think about them, the struggle to practicing my faith, and the challenge living on a foreign land.
And here it came, the day I would be standing in front of my audience. I first came up with a nice photo of the historical building at my university covered in thick snow, wearing snowcap, smiling from like banana, from ear to ear, and friends throwing me snowball from behind right shoulder. It was about sharing my life experience, right? I mean, in the middle of exam week, there must be some sort of amusement I could partake in. And I had the students beaming their eyes, the glint of excitement.
Not long before the session took direction into discussing “guys, study hard, get scholarship, study abroad, and you will be entitled all I’ve shown here.”
When I was delivering speech to motivate my audience, I lost myself in my own words. I fought against an existential crisis. Why I came here? On what ground I was motivating the students? That studying abroad was the next cool thing worth aiming for? What “life experience” sharing I was doing right now? Was it not my life similar to any student, any where? What should I be offering to the students for them to be inspired?
I was sinking and drowning into the spiraling whirlpool. I tried to get a hold of myself. And apparently the only way to recover from such critical crisis was to come up with a question. Question on what the audience should hear. And ideally, that question should address where we are supposedly heading, and what endpoint would that be.
I would take pride in if, with my own money and time allocated amidst busy schedule, I had stint developing biology education modules for a friend currently teaching Syrian refugees in Jordan. Or getting involved into volunteer program at hospital, having myself to assist nurses and doctors handling emergency cases at hospital, building empathy towards people at their lowest point in their life. Or launching my own (micro)scholarship for people with opportunities out of their reach to enjoy better education, as brag-worthy it would be, not for telling others how awesome I am, but to encourage culture of giving out of goodwill.
Don’t you think “life sharing” session would pack more humanity aspect that way, to which we talk about how do we care and feel responsible towards people surrounding us? For my friends, the young scholars studying abroad under scholarship, I think we would be better off if we have our time invested with side projects, crafted to cater society. Best if we would be able to talk about our contribution to other people, rather than to share when was the last time we got stuck at airport during a vacation. Don’t you think the impact would be more beneficial?
I should rewrite my lecture modules if I have to motivate students. With emphasis on our responsibility towards others.