I am Salma Musallam Alhawiti who is the first Saudi woman to graduate with a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Chinese Medicine from the International Medical University Malaysia (IMU). My first inspiration in life who made me dream of being an alternative medicine practitioner was my mother, who has been practicing alternative medicine (Traditional Arabic medicine) for over 30 years. I was fascinated with her hard work, dedication and successful clinic operations every day of my whole life, which indeed made me fall deeply in love with this speciality. It was a huge turning point in my life that helped me realise I had to pursue the same but on an academic path.
In 2011, I began my journey to pursue my dream. I travelled from Saudi Arabia to Malaysia and studied various courses for seven years, but they were not related to alternative medicine. Despite all odds, I did not give up and one day discovered a Chinese Medicine course at IMU. And this is where my true journey to achieve my dream began.
Nearly everyone opposed my decision when I first wanted to pursue Chinese Medicine because they believed it was difficult and were concerned that the difference in culture, language, and philosophy would have an impact on my academic career. But in fact, the best decision I ever made was to study Chinese Medicine at IMU since the programme is well organised for both domestic and international students with professional and helpful lecturers.
IMU provided a conducive learning environment with the entire teaching and training sessions delivered in English. Also, modern medicine was taught alongside Chinese Medicine in the course, which helped us understand human health better. The study of Chinese Medicine also included acupuncture, cupping, massage, herbal treatments, food therapy, and physical exercise.
In addition, the mentor-mentee system has been very helpful to me because my mentor, Ms Sin Yen Suan, has always been emotionally and academically supportive to me. Moreover, students will receive extensive training while working as interns in various clinics during their final semester.
IMU’s Bachelor of Science degree in Chinese Medicine has allowed me to pursue my career goals and my lifelong dream of opening my own clinic in Saudi Arabia. I am thrilled about the fantastic opportunities that will arise for Saudi citizens to learn about and practise Chinese Medicine.
I was insistent on achieving my goals no matter what the cost is, and I believed in myself. I overcame my fears and weaknesses and patiently took small steps in the direction of my dream until, Alhamdulillah, I reached it, and now I am a Chinese Medicine practitioner.
Every student who has the desire to pursue a new career path should trust themselves and keep press on; everything you will need will come to you at the perfect time.