"It started back in high school when I was called up by the government to join the National Service program once I graduate.
L-R; Amirul, me, Fareed from Bahrain, and Hafiz on the first day of Eid. We were allowed to go back to our countries to celebrate with our families but decided to stay & celebrate in the Philippines instead.
I was disappointed at first because it means I will have to sacrifice my freedom and live my life being disciplined like an army. But since it is not something that I can change according to my will, I changed my mindset.
From being dejected, I told myself that this is an opportunity to learn something new while getting money (although not much) from our monthly allowance. I started praying to God, hoping I will be assigned to a camp far away from home - so I can meet new people, make new friends, learn a new culture.
By the end of the year, I was already on an airplane on my way to Bintulu, Sarawak. The four flights that took me from the old Low-Cost Carrier (LCC) Terminal in Kuala Lumpur to Bintulu via Kuching and vice versa were my first few times ever on an airplane. I remember smiling while looking out the window after every take off knowing how beautiful the skies are.
Back at home after spending my full three-month stint at the camp, my parents asked me about my plans: what do I want to study? How do I see myself in the future? Seeing my friends getting their university application results, I remembered, I have only filled out my forms but never submitted any applications before I left for Sarawak. I was left completely clueless of own life.
My dad found a newspaper advertisement on pilot training in the Philippines while I was away at the camp and he suggested I give it a try. If it doesn't suit me, I can do other things I want after completing the pilot training. After a week of thinking, I finally said yes. The next question he asked me was whether I want to do it in the Philippines or do it in one of the flying academies here in Malaysia. I still had the same mindset that I want to go to new places, learn new things, have new experiences. So, to the Philippines I go.
Prior to this, I never wanted to become a pilot and I still have not changed my mind. That is until I took off my own airplane with my own hands during the training. I was a nervous wreck at first, but it grew into me that flying is what I want to do with my life.
Pilot training took me two years. Spent few more going back and forth between Kuala Lumpur and Manila trying to establish my career there. I gave up and decided to kickstart my career here instead. But in order to do that, due to the differences in the syllabuses and the air laws between countries, I have to be partially re-trained. So, here I am today at Malaysian Flying Academy in Malacca, around a month away from finally being done with my license conversion.
On Studying Abroad
Some of the international students we had; Malaysians, Indians, Nepalese, & Burmese all in one photo.
The best thing about studying abroad is exactly what I wanted when I decided to go abroad (new connections and culture). I have not only made friends with the local Filipinos but also fellow international students from India, Nepal, Myanmar, and some Middle Eastern and African countries among others.
But, in order to do this, I really have to open my mind so that I will be less prejudiced and judgmental towards everything around me. I learned why some people react differently towards certain things compared to the kind of reactions I am used to back at home; or why some people seem rude or unfriendly when they are actually not (or the other way around). I learned different kinds of human interactions and it helps me to understand everything around me better.
Being in a small community of multi-racial Malaysians, surrounded by people of other nationalities made me realize how much we needed each other being far away from our families since we're the closest to being each other's family. Like in any other normal family, we fight, we brawl but we will come back together especially in needy times when a helping hand is more than welcomed. So it taught me to look beyond not only our own races but other labels we have on our heads for the sake of unity.
I would totally recommend anyone who aspires to seek new life experiences by studying, working, living or traveling abroad or locally by moving to other states or cities. Because the boundary that you need to get out of is not necessarily the boundary of your country but the boundary of your own comfort zone. Never stop exploring.
Explore the places, the people, the culture. Exposing yourself towards inferior situations will only make you a better person thanks to the experience you gain from it. The more you expand the boundary of your comfort zone, the more you learn. Also, due to it requiring you to invest financially, it will also teach you on how to do financial planning.
All these things I learned through the good and the bad times are what makes it unforgettable. These experiences are meaningful for me and made me treasure those people who were there with me throughout the journey even more. They are the people who made homesickness bearable. Since the home is where the heart is, they are the ones who provide me home away from home.
Some of the Malaysian students; L-R, CY, me, Syukur, Amirul, Faris, & Hafiz.
And finally, for anyone who decides to go into aviation, my advice is to plan their career path carefully. Aviation is a world of its own with so many differing career paths. We have pilots, cabin crews, technicians, engineers, air traffic controllers, airport crews and managers and a lot more. I have had students asking me about the engineering side of aviation when I clearly don't know much about it since I am a pilot. Clearly for me they were not very clear with their own future yet (I've been there before). Asking the right question is not enough. The question should also be addressed to the right person and at the right time.
I would like to pay a tribute to a good friend of mine, Santosh Rana Magar from Nepal, who died earlier this year alongside his captain while flying for Air Kasthamandap, after having to crash land their airplane due to a malfunction, saving the lives of all their passengers.
Since we take care of thousands of lives every day in aviation and the interest in aviation is never low, perseverance is key in establishing yourself in your career. Competition is high. While only the best survives, having the best attitude is the best way to go. Never give up. People depend on you."
Cover Photo: My instructor congratulating me after my first ever solo flight.
*As Told to EasyUni