Z was my research methodology class student. From day one, I could sense that this guy is different. After having a bad experience with “Minah t test tak tahu” in the previous semester, I was a bit high strung and guarded with students. I cannot let myself to be bullied twice. I had enough.
I told myself to be careful, no matter what. Don’t be such a fool to treat students naively. I can be nice to them but there would be a limit. There would always be a boundary that I have to safeguard no matter what.
He got good results for the class. Later on, he requested to have me as his supervisor even though the programme coordinator wanted him as her supervisee. He went to see the programme coordinator to ask for a change of supervisor. It baffled the programme coordinator after all, there are no students ever requested me as their supervisor. This is the first time (but not the last. There was another female student who also did the same who personally requested that I would be her supervisor after taking my research methodology class – I will tell about her in Part 2).
I was a tough task-master. I pushed them to do the best. In their first semester of doing RS1 with me, I asked them if they want to present in a conference. One of them was not keen with the idea of presenting in a conference because she was taking care of her mom. Weekends are spent on taking care of her mom in Kuching, Sarawak. But, Z took up the challenge to present in the conference. In order to make sure that he would not back off from presenting in the conference, I paid the conference fees once he submitted the abstract. Yup. I would not let him came out with financial issue as an excuse. He was shocked that I used my money to pay for the conference fees which cost more than RM500. Well, my policy is if any student is worth my time, they are worth my money too. I believe that as their supervisor, I am together with them in their journey of becoming future researchers. So, I will make sure that they would get the best support from me as their supervisor. [Pssstt… but not all students are worth my time and money though if they are lazy, highly dependent on me to even find references for them. Capisc?]
Alhamdulillah both of them finished their masters degree with flying colors. They were awarded with Best Student Award (of course, I would never attend such award ceremony because I feel that that is their day. Not mine).
Time passes by so quickly. After graduating, there are only a handful of students who will keep in touch with me on regular basis. Most of them vanished into thin air. But he is not the typical student I ever have. He starts to let me into his life. He starts to treat me like his big sister.
When he lost his dad in December 2018, he let me know about it. When his mom got stroke, he messaged me to break the news. When he started to make plan to do PhD, he emailed me to ask for tips and guidance even though I am no longer his supervisor. When he got an interview for a scholarship to study abroad which is sponsored by the Ministry of Education, he asked me to help him prepare a short proposal of a certain topic which was given by the Ministry of Education. Due to the short period of time left to prepare the proposal, we brainstormed together about the possible issues relating to the given topic. He was grateful that I am willing to help him with the proposal.
Well, to tell the truth, when he was preparing the proposal, I was preparing a proposal too which happened to be of a similar topic. I gave list of references that he can use for his proposal. In addition, he also starts to email various potential supervisor at various UK universities including my former supervisor [I emailed my former supervisor, Steve Higgins of Durham University and let him know about my student who inspires to be his supervisee too. Unfortunately, Steve declined to be his supervisor because currently he has more than 12 graduate students. That’s a lot as compared to when he was supervising me.]
I had a conversation with one of my colleagues today. We talked about students and how can we make difference in their life. I told her that when I was at school, since we have one whole year to get to know each other better, I don’t have much trouble to get to know the students at personal level. We have ample time for that. At university, unless the students are your supervisee or students who take many classes with you, it is quite difficult to even remember their names. Sometimes, they even act like they don’t even know you when you bump into each other at a corridor even though I will always look at them intensely with a thought “I have seen him/her/them somewhere but where?” Some of the students would give salam or smile. The friendlier type will ask about my well-being (Apa khabar, Dr?) and also will tease me by saying “Dr, you don’t remember me, right? I am with this so-and-so in your class but you only remember her/him, but not me” [“Dr, mesti tak ingat saya kan? Saya satu kelas dengan si polan tapi Dr ingat dia je, tak ingat pun saya“. Of course, I could not deny the fact that I would remember the class rep better than the rest of them 😀
I wish that I could have long lasting relationship with my students yet, I do have to admit that nothing last forever. But I pray that no matter what or where my students are, May Allah Bless me with students who make difference in other people’s life.
P.S: To this student, I wish you all the best! Thanks for believing in me as your mentor.