I feel very tempted to write a response to the article entitled “Brit student in Johor offers to chug vodka, eat fish heads for airfare home” published on The Malay Mail on 18th of April (https://www.malaymail.com/s/1621579/brit-student-in-johor-offers-to-chug-vodka-eat-fish-heads-for-airfare-home) for a few reasons.
Firstly, as a medical student studying abroad, I very much can understand the differences that Charlotte encounter compared to her home country. She made it quite clear that she is an avid drinker, therefore no matter how good it gets, Malaysia is not a match for Britain (thank God for that).
So, there goes a British girl feeling out of touch with her inner self.
Now, try picturing a Malaysian girl, also a medical student studying in a country where pubs are everywhere and Friday nights used to be so scary to go out. Yes, that’s what I used to live with for a decade of my life! Australians are also well known for their drinking habits. Our halls of residence used to smell heavily of alcohol and vomit on weekends. During our rural rotations, my colleagues used to head to the local pub at night after clinical attachments during the day since shopping malls are miles away. Pubs themselves can be the best attractions.
That’s how important alcohol can be in some culture. I remembered once when I am about to board a bus home, when a man dressed in black coat came up to me and said “Would you marry me tonight?” I was extremely puzzled as to what I have done to him when I realized that he was drunk!
So, I became lost too, in a total cultural gap that took time to sink in.
Being a medical student is a stressor by itself, and being ‘casted’ away from home definitely is challenging but what we did to overcome these was nowhere near eating fish heads or chugging vodka from a sock!
Of course we had to raise funds for airfare tickets home but we did it in a much dignified way. Some sell off Malaysian dishes to local students whilst others worked hard climbing ladders and trimming off branches from cherry trees under hot sun. Other group of friends worked in local restaurants or joined the cleaning services.
Well, you might say that we were more ‘decent’ due to the Eastern culture but I’m proud to mention that we adhered to the ethics and professionalism of the medical profession long before becoming doctors.
The medical profession is one of the highly trusted profession and we were not only taught the bread and butter of medicine but also the ethics, personal and professional development.
No matter how smart someone can be, sad to say it takes more than brains to become a doctor. It takes the right attitude, judgement and self value. It takes sensitivity and selfless devotion. The medical field is certainly not glamorous as portrayed by some drama series but it is definitely hard work right from the start until the very end.
I can never put it in a softer way. We all need wise doctors to take care of us and the charisma of one starts from medical school. We don’t change after wearing the graduation robe and holding the scroll. We don’t change after being called ‘doc’ for the first time. The right attitude has to be nurtured from day one. As we grow from seeds into trees, we don’t just grow on the outside but from the insides as well.
Dr Nur Farrah Nadia Bt Najib
i-Medik Johor Bahru