IGNITE recently interviewed Marwa Abbas, the Student Association International Officer for the 2016/17 term. She reminisces her time as part of the SA Exec team and explains the trials she had to face as well as the important lessons she has learned.
How was your past year as the International Officer?
I would say I learned a lot of things, especially how to balance my time between work and studies. It was great, although a little tiring; but manageable.
What were the main challenges you faced?
One of the challenges I faced in the beginning when I first started, was balancing studies with work. I had to attend classes, and then attend meetings. At the same time I had to do my work and my assignments. Now I know how to do it, so it is fine. Another challenge was dealing with people from different backgrounds and a lot of people have different opinions; how do you come up with one decision that would suit everyone? The second thing is managing people in terms of making sure they’re doing their tasks properly and its hard especially if you have a big team. For instance, I have 26 people in my team and they’re from different backgrounds – and it’s hard for me to ensure they’re all working and convinced of what we are doing.
How was it like, working with the other SA Executives?
It’s good. It’s important and helpful for the future because when you enter the workplace, you’ll always have people from different nationalities, especially if it’s an international company. You will understand how people from different countries think, and how people work differently – even the way they get things done. It’s really helpful to get input from them. We’re collaborative – it’s nice, especially when someone helps you in your event so you don’t feel like you are alone. It’s like everyone is in this. I enjoyed working with them and I have a couple of close friends among the executives now.
Were there any plans of yours that were not materialized?
Actually I have done everything I have promised, except for one thing; I really want to highlight this. As I mentioned in my Hustings, I wanted to come up with a booklet – a guide for students on everything. I wanted to bring all the information from different departments to make this booklet; how to use the printer here, what Visa documents you would need, etc. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out because now we don’t have time to do this anymore.
I have suggested this to the new batch of candidates running for International Officer, in case they are able to do it. It is a good thing but it requires one year to make it happen. But in my year, I had to help with Freshers, Nations Cup, and then International Cultural Night came along. Even now, I need to move to my academics. I considered having someone else be the Organizing Chair for this project but I was worried it would not be done well. Now, I do have a bit of time left but it probably won’t be done properly. Moreover, I don’t want to do something that is not good or not helpful, so there is no point.
The other thing is the Carnival. I wanted to do a cultural carnival, “The Massive International Carnival”. But early on, I decided against it because as other carnivals were already being organized on campus.
Previously, in your Manifesto , you talked about pushing for equality and respect through collaborations with the Home Officer, and to bring Malaysians and international students together – was this achieved?
Yes. For instance, we did the colors of UNMC during the Freshers Week where we grouped internationals with Malaysians to play cultural games and exchange languages.
Another note in your Manifesto – on marketing the available platform for international students to raise their matters in different aspects, was this achieved?
The main platform was the ambassadors. So, ambassadors would pass all the complaints they received from their country’s students to me. I have added all the committee pictures in the website individually, so students would know their country ambassador. However no promotional video was done for this. This is because the number of students checking SA website increased dramatically, which was indicated by the communication network.
In your past interview you mentioned the Token of Happiness, and in your Hustings as well. What is it all about? And has it been achieved?
The Token of Happiness idea is under bringing Malaysians and Internationals together. It is a simple idea, whereby Internationals give Malaysians sweet messages, and vise versa. However, since the main aim is to bring Internationals and Malaysians together, the colors of UNMC was a good enough try to achieve this goal. The Token of Happiness may be implemented in April’s Freshers. As such methods is more effective for events like Freshers.
What are you most proud of achieving throughout your time as International Officer?
I think you should ask me after the cultural night (ICN) because I worked really, really hard on it. I put all my energy in this, and I feel like it is going to be really amazing. Another thing would be the language exchange program. I believe about 350 people applied for it. It was tough to match those people up, and at one point I thought it was impossible. But then I managed to do it, with the help of my deputy. She almost matched everything. And it is still ongoing – we will have our closing ceremony very soon.
What has this experience taught you?
Well, to add on to the other things I mentioned, how to manage different aspects in one event. Previously, I was in different committees, but in those positions, I would do something specific – I just focus on one thing. But if you organize an event, you have to look at the whole picture; it’s different. You have to take care of everything. You have to take care of performances, design, and the finances. So, looking at the whole picture and being able to manage everything at once, it’s really different. I know how to do it now. The moment you figure out the ways on how you manage those different things, it will be easier when you want to organize an event in the future.
How do you feel as you step down as International Officer?
I feel really good. Mainly because this position has taught me a lot of things. So, I feel like I am a different person now. Moreover, I feel good because I did something for students on campus. And it’s time to give a chance to someone else to take over. I feel happy that I got this position and yet, I also feel bad because I am leaving this position. But it’s fine, I need to move on and learn from other things as well. I would like to thank everyone who believed in me and voted for me. I hope they believe I did something before I leave. Thank you UNMC for giving me this chance.
What advice would you give the next International Officer?
I would say they should be sure they aren’t running for the sake of getting the title. They have to be responsible and able to commit. The thing is that even if you have many people working, it is impossible to get them to do all the work. At the end of the day you are the main person and they are just your committee. So if you cannot commit, then this is not the right thing for you. You studies and other activities cannot be an excuse for not working. You need to make sure you are willing to give up on things like meeting your friends daily. It becomes a triangle – you work, study, meet your friends. You have to give up on something.
Especially in this position, you don’t just have your own events. You have to help of other events and other executives as well. For example, in the Nations Cup, you would have to be the co-chair as well, and co-chair the welfare network. Then there is also Freshers, which involves everyone. You need to help everyone while doing your own tasks; it is not an easy thing to do. So if they run for just getting the title, and they think its something amazing without working then its not a good idea; if they’re not willing to work, then they’re not doing the right thing. They will realize this when they start working; its real work, its something actual.
You can’t think “Oh it’s just SA in UNMC, I can just go to the office for one hour today” – it won’t work this way. You need to ensure you have the willingness to give up something and to work really hard. If you get the position, that means people trust you – so you need to make sure you do what you have promised to do. You need to make sure money is not the motivation.
Written by Kaveeta Nair.