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An IMU Chinese Medicine Student’s Journey From Home To IMU – A Tenacious Demonstration of IMU Core Values

10 Nov 2020

COVID-19 has brought disruptions to our everyday life. Navigating during the uncertain times requires innovation and tenacity to overcome the challenges faced in order to achieve a desired outcome. An IMU student who underwent such challenges is Adil Vasi. While trying to fulfil his responsibility as a son and his studies, Adil Vasi has demonstrated these great values for which IMU aims to nurture and prepare our students with their future endeavour. Here is his story of what happened to him. My name is Adil Vasi. I am a Singaporean currently studying Chinese Medicine at IMU. So, why did I choose IMU and Malaysia to study Chinese Medicine? It is because I have been living and running my business here, in Malaysia with my family for the past 18 years. It is also because IMU Chinese Medicine programme is taught in English. It is very rare to find this elsewhere. On 15 April 2020, my mum passed away. Even though Malaysia and Singapore were under COVID-19 lockdown, I left Kuala Lumpur  the very next day and returned to Singapore with the help of my family and friends.

I then ended up taking my classes and examination for Semester 1 in Singapore – just like what all my classmates were doing in Malaysia. Online learning can be tough on students who are used to the conventional classroom settings. As a mature student who had left classroom 28 years ago, I think of it as a different teaching approach. The way we study now – online synchronous and asynchronous is not really an issue. This will be the new normal for the foreseeable future.

My challenges are:
Unable to find links: I am worried that I cannot find the Microsoft Teams or Zoom link for online synchronous sessions because I might forget the correct sequence and panic. This issue can be resolved by first entering the meeting. Hence for me, getting in early means I am relaxed during the lecture.
Remembering: As I have not done many of these subjects for long time, I have forgotten even the basic things. I need to work twice as hard to remember what I had learned then and how that information changes with what I am learning now. I focus on the lecture, write copious notes, then read the textbook when I can and compare and combine those notes into a new set of notes for me to memorise. It is not easy, but so far it works.

I do think that IMU has done an outstanding job in reaching out to students in this trying time. 28 years ago, I was not as connected to my university lecturers as I now am during these past 8 months. I genuinely feel their warmth and their care and concern for my well-being. Really an outstanding job. Kudos to all!

In July 2020, good news came that the border between Singapore and Malaysia was going to be opened. To my horror, I found out that I could only return via the Causeway instead of flight for I had not completed the conversion of my student visa. To make matters worse, there was no transport of any kind – no taxi, no bus, nothing. I had to either walk across with my 50kg bag or drive across. To avoid doing this, I decided to buy a second-hand car in Singapore for the purpose of returning to Kuala Lumpur for my studies. Then I realised the car had a lot of problems. What started as a simple headlight replacement became changing all kinds of things for a few days. The total cost of owning this car, including acquiring it, getting insurance, paying road tax and ordering repairs, eventually was about S$10,000 or RM30,000+ equivalent! Although it sounds expensive, I think it was the right decision to buy the car in my case because it ensured that I could return to Malaysia for my Chinese Medicine studies. As a first-year student, I need to do practical, take exams and meet my fellow classmates and lecturers. Not everything can be done online meaningfully!

Having a car will mean that I need not walk across the 1.4km Causeway with a 50kg bag. This is equivalent to walking up a hill that has no footpath and no shelter from direct sunlight so exposure to the elements are throughout. In addition to the documentation required for customs, timing is also important because the Causeway opens from 7am to 7pm only. If planning is not been properly done, I would be stranded in no man’s land for the entire night. Finally, I made my return journey on 30 August 2020. With such meticulous and proper planning, I managed to pass the Causeway and border checks without any issue. I did my 14-day quarantine in a designated hotel in Johor Bahru and then stayed for a further 3 days in a different hotel to complete my end-of-semester examinations. What a relief!

On 16 September 2020, I reached my home in Kuala Lumpur – exactly 5 months to the day I left KL.

Adil has successfully completed his Semester 1 and is now currently in Semester 2 of his studies. Reading this, some may ask why did I give up my work life and take up Chinese Medicine? The decision is actually multi-faceted.

Why did I give up my jet-setting work life and take up Chinese Medicine at IMU?
To push myself to learn new things. It makes me feel good to know that I am practicing lifelong learning.
 To understand about a philosophy that I am fascinated about.
To keep my mind nimble so I don’t get Alzheimer’s disease.
To be an inspiration to others that if I can do it, so can they. Age should not be an issue.
I have a steady pool of patients waiting for me to graduate. At last count, it exceeded 400!
Healthcare costs will keep going up. It is just a matter of time. It is thus a good idea to know what to do to protect oneself from illnesses. Western medicine is about popping pills and surgery. Chinese Medicine is about changing one’s lifestyle and using natural products to heal.
I hope to use the knowledge I gained in Chinese Medicine to go into research and find innovative solutions to old medical problems.
I hope to study even more disparate fields in the future. But the bedrock for it will be Chinese Medicine. Using that as the base, I aim to marry them and create new solutions.
China is on the way to being the next world superpower. Better to be on their good side.

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