Note: this is the 3rd and final part of our Skolafunded feature on Luqman Alhakim, the Jedi Doctor. If you haven’t read the other articles, you are welcome to do so here (part 1) and here (part 2).
30 days had flown by like a whirlwind. Before his Skolafund campaign, all Luqman had was 2 things: an offer letter from IFMSA to go on exchange to Mexico, and pure passion – a sincere belief that this was an opportunity too good to pass up on, and the willingness to try everything he could to afford it.
By the end, everything had changed. There were tough times, but the people had spoken and they were cheering for Luqman. He had raised more than RM1,000 above his initial crowdfunding target of RM7,800. He had received incredible messages of support and love.
All thanks to the help of strangers who believed in him, Luqman would be flying to Monterrey, Mexico!
Described by Lonely Planet as a city with “strong entrepreneurial ethos, humming cultural scene (and) vibrant universities,” Luqman would be spending 4 weeks in Monterrey with 40 of his fellow medical students, coming from 17 different countries. (Italy, Romania, Kuwait, Tunisia and Taiwan just to name a few!)
It was an exciting opportunity for sure, but Luqman had two things on his mind.
Fears and Doubts
The first was the huge responsibility on his shoulders.
“When I was already in Mexico, doing my exchange period, I kept reminding myself that every cent of this is people’s money – it’s people’s trust in me.”
The second was a question he had begun asking himself weeks ago: how can I adapt as quickly as possible?
Luqman didn’t want to feel isolated – he knew he wanted to absorb as much as possible about the culture, from the hospital visits with doctors and Mexican patients, and from his international crew of exchange students. He knew he would have to learn a bit of Spanish.
But he also knew that Mexico would be different from either Malaysia or Egypt.
Luqman found out that there were only 200 Muslims in the entire city of Monterrey. He was the only Malaysian in the entire batch of exchange students and during his time in Mexico, he also learnt that halal meat was almost impossible to find, and Mexicans loved to drink.
Luqman felt an enormous difference from the environment in Al-Azhar University, what more back home in Shah Alam. He didn’t want to be isolated, but he tells us that he didn’t want to lose his identity either.
The Jedi Doctor Experiences Mexico
True to his promise to everyone who put their faith in him, Luqman made every moment of his exchange trip count.
He went rappelling with his new buddies at the breathtaking Matacanes Canyon, making a 12 metre jump into the rushing waters.
He walked the streets of rich historical sites like the much-loved San Miguel de Allende, a vibrant colonial-era city known for its architecture.
He was even invited to a family BBQ every weekend – Luqman recalls that the locals were so willing to include him in their gatherings, there were times when 3 different families invited him on the same weekend!
Of course, he usually couldn’t eat most of his kind hosts’ food. So everywhere he went, Luqman was always served potatoes and coke – coke being the “heaviest” drink he could take.
“I have five words to describe every Mexican I met over there: Polite. Helpful. Passionate. Hardworking. And, with their huge family BBQ gatherings every other weekend, extremely family-oriented.
Every time I watched them eat, I would always have a crazy craving for halal meat!”
But besides all of these happy memories, Luqman spent the bulk of the time at the hospital on campus. In the morning, he attended lectures. In the afternoons, he would go for private sessions, tagging along with doctors from hospitals and clinics as they conducted procedures and met with patients.
He even treated some of them, with his efforts at speaking Spanish coming in useful.
Experiences that, Luqman reminded himself, would never have been possible without the overwhelming support for his crowdfunding campaign.
A Little Taste of Home, 16,000 km Away
But how did Luqman help himself adapt?
One way was by flying to Mexico a few days in advance, and staying with the kind people at the Malaysian Embassy in Mexico City – the capital of Mexico. His host family, Auntie Norlaila and Uncle Anuar, warmly welcomed him into their home and gave him the first glimpse of Mexico life.
Another way Luqman kept rooted to his identity was to visit mosques regularly for Friday prayers and at other times, if he was able to make it. It was during one of this visits to the local mosque where Luqman, by absolute chance, got another delicious (literally!) taste of home:
“There was one time when I just happened to meet 7 Malaysians at the mosque, on their own trip around Mexico! They were members of Jemaah Tabligh moving from mosque to mosque just to teach Islam – I even got to witness one local’s conversion after listening to their sharing.
But besides being able to meet fellow Malays and Muslims, I also was finally able to eat something other than potatoes and coke! White rice and asam pedas never tasted so good.”
“You have to know who you really are, and then strike a balance.”
Today, Luqman is back in Malaysia. After his exchange ended, he returned to Cairo for his final exams, aced them and came back home – officially a graduate with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBCh).
Right now, while waiting to be called up for an interview with the Health Ministry, he’s exploring yet another new world: the world of Marketing. As part of the sales department in local startup Speedrent, Luqman has had to adapt and learn the subtle art of pitching to customers.
But that’s what Luqman does best. When he chose to study Medicine in Al-Azhar out of respect for his parents’ wishes. When he took the chance, and started a campaign on Skolafund for his exchange to Mexico. When he spent 4 weeks in Mexico eating potatoes and drinking Coke (mostly).
We’ll let the Doctor himself say it (he’s talking about his Mexican experience here, but we feel it applies to so much more):
If there’s one thing I learnt, it’s to strike a balance between finding communities that suit you and adapting.
You can’t stay in your comfort zone forever, pointing fingers at others. Why not just try it? But at the same time, just remember who you are. Always keep an open mind. Try to adapt, and preserve who you are.
Loosen up and go exploring, but don’t ever lose yourself.
None of this would have been possible without every single one of you who took the time to share Luqman’s campaign, or to contribute whatever amount you could, Some days, Luqman opens up the Skolafund website, reads some stories and remembers his own adventure.
He’ll put in some money. Share the campaigns. Say some words of support.
He’ll pay it forward, because he was once on the other side, and Luqman knows more than anyone else the power of the people.
We believe that crowdfunding changes lives. #skolafunded is a feature on the Skolafund Blog that aims to cover stories of those whose lives have been changed after crowdfunding on Skolafund.com.
Sharing Luqman’s story helps more people know about the power of crowdfunding, which means more people like Luqman can benefit or sponsor other campaigns. You can share this post on social media using the icons on the bar!
Read the other parts of Luqman’s #skolafunded story here:
- “Crowdfunding was not just about raising funds – I also received a lot of love.”
- Bring A Goat To Exams, You Must! 3 Study Tips From A Jedi Doctor
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