Assalamualaikum! Tell me more about yourself.
I am someone who loves to plan for events, especially those that are for families and friends. I love the smiles that are on them when they are enjoying themselves. I love spending time with my two-year-old girl, Nur Iman. She is my best friend now. She loves to talk, sing and dance to her favorite songs. Interacting with her is so amusing and entertaining. Any spare time that I have, I would just want to spend time with her. Cooking is also another favorite thing for me to do. My husband loves my cooking. So do my friends. Cooking for them is an honor, and surprising them with my specialties like black pepper mud crab is a sight to see. I have to say that I love entertaining people during my free time. I love spending time with close friends and family. I am not too great at first sight. I can be shy and quiet around new people. Totally different from my husband, who is outgoing and can be friends with any Tom, Dick or Harry by just borrowing someone’s lighter to light up his cigarette.
My family loves to watch movies. Even having a bub at hand didn’t stop us from going to the movies. In Melbourne, we have outdoor movies. We were in the comfort of our car if Iman cried when she was little, so we were not interrupting anyone who was watching the movie. We have this belief – a baby would not change our fun in enjoying life. Her first movie was when she was one week old. I have taken up Pilates. I was a couch bum ever since I left secondary school. It was quite hard to get out of that couch bum cycle. Then I found Pilates; it changed my life. I’m getting more toned now and trying to have a healthy lifestyle.
You got a PSLE score of 180. Now, you have a Masters in Health Science and an excellent job. Tell us more about your journey.
I have to say that I’m a late bloomer. I have two brothers, and I am the middle child. My elder brother is a go-getter kind of guy. He is a high achiever and very fast learner. He is the kind of guy who walks into a room, and everyone enjoys their time more with his presence. So I took the back seat and did my own thing… Or should I say, nothing? -laugh- I knew I could not be like him. He got an impressive PSLE score and went to a good secondary school, and then a good college. He runs marathons and was an officer in his NS days. I knew that he is someone who I could not catch up with. I took the longer route. I got 180 for PSLE, and went to a neighborhood school. I had to do N’ and O’ levels. Even so, I did not get a great score. I wanted to be an accountant, but I did not qualify for the course. Before the O’level results were released, my mum mentioned that she would want at least one of her children to be a doctor or a nurse. At first, I refused to listen. But my O’ level results only allowed me to enroll in the nursing course or another course that I was completely uninterested in. With a heavy heart, I enrolled in a nursing course, thinking that I would somehow enroll into an accounting course in the future. It all changed when I went to my first placement in Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). My passion for nursing grew. I developed empathy for the elderly. Gruesome wounds are my favorites to clean. Seeing the ones with children who do not visit really saddens me. I realized that this is my calling. Masya-Allah, the power of a mother’s prayers.
Subhanallah! How did people react to your career?
My friends did not say much about my journey as a nurse. Some of my uncles and aunties are definitely not a big fan of it. They think that nursing is a dirty job, and I couldn’t care less. My parents are the pillars of support for me. They provided for me every step of the way. It was my dad who encouraged me to further my studies. He told me that he did not mind paying, even if it was overseas. He refused for me to do a part-time degree. He knew I wouldn’t be able to cope with it, as my job involved morning, evening and night shifts with one day off a week. After working in TTSH for seven months, my dad sponsored my studies at La Trobe University. I graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing in 2008.
Alhamdulillah! How did you end up furthering your studies after that?
Living in Melbourne as a student was awesome. My dad asked me if I would want to work there as well. That was all the permission I needed. In September 2009, eight months after I graduated, I got a job at Royal Melbourne Hospital in a Neurology ward. 2 years into the job, I felt that my life was getting stagnant. I enrolled myself into Post Graduate Diploma in Neuroscience. In 2014, I went on to graduate with a Masters of Health Science.
That’s wonderful! What difficulties did you face?
I remember my post-graduate studies clearly. It was a trying time for me. That was when I met my husband. My parents were worried and uncomfortable with the idea that I was seeing someone, unsupervised, in Melbourne. We decided to start planning our wedding. It was stressful to juggle my studies, allay my parent’s fears and plan a wedding overseas. I cried, definitely. After we got married, my husband wasn’t allowed to come back to Melbourne with me. His student visa had ended, and we needed to apply for spouse visa. That took a couple of months. By then, I was pregnant. So, I was multi-tasking, Alia. I was studying and trying to complete essays for my Master, while I was pregnant and alone. My husband only managed to join me about two months before the birth. Oh, how I prayed and prayed to Allah to give me the strength and patience for these tests. I remember one of the essays was due on my delivery date. It was hilarious. I got an extension for that, of course. Alhamdulillah, I gave birth to Nur Iman on 14th May 2014. I found myself breastfeeding my 3-day-old girl with a laptop in front of me, trying to finish a 4000-word essay. Even so, I had another semester to complete. I could not defer my semester as they were changing the course structure. If I were to defer, it would have taken me four more years to get my Master of Health Science. I didn’t have the time or money for that. Alhamdulillah, I achieved Master of Health Science in late 2014. I have to say; these experiences were gruesome and stressful but achieving my goals was sweet. What pushed me to the end was my girl. I did it for her. I did not give up because of her.
What’s the most beautiful moment you’ve experienced in your life?
The birth of my child is one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced in my life. I don’t think I have any words to describe how I felt at that moment. The moment I laid my eyes on her was the most beautiful moment of my life. The overpowering feeling to protect her with every fiber in me has kept me going to give my best and everything for her.
Who inspires you the most? Why?
My parents inspire me to do the best at each step of the way. Especially my dad. He is not a high flyer. He comes from a big family. Being the oldest son in the family of 8 children, he had to work early in life and support them. He has so much wisdom in him, and gives his best for us. He provides all the moral support that we need to achieve what we want in life. My mother-in-law inspires me to continuously upgrade ourselves as we age. At her prime age, she has achieved so much for herself. I would want to be where she is right now when I am at her age.
What’s your favorite verse from the Quran and why?
Ash-Sharh 94:6 – “Indeed, with every hardship, there is ease.”It was certainly hard for me to go through hardship as describe above. However, when you are patient and believe in Allah’s work, there is ease with all your struggles.
What do you want to say to people who did not do well for their PSLE?
Do not feel despair. It can be your wake up call. It can be your push factor to break boundaries to achieve success. Do not let the failure of PSLE stop you from achieving the unthinkable.
What is your hope for your community?
I hope that we can help each other to achieve success.
Any last words?
Your questions have made me think more about who I am and what I have achieved so far. They made me think again about what I can or should be achieving in the next phase of my life. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to answer your questions.