For our 12th interview in the series, we have a chat with Reem M. Abdul Satar, a final semester engineering student from Iraq. Aside from a love for reading, drawing and solving problems, she loves to run and one day hopes to learn the violin. A humanitarian with a positive outlook in life who loves to help people, she one day hopes to use her knowledge for a better tomorrow. Having been in Malaysia for the past 6 years, she shares with us a few stories about her time in Malaysia as an engineering student.
It’s great to have you on the blog! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am Reem M. Abdul Satar. From Iraq, Baghdad to be specific. I was lived and raised there where till the age of 16. I am the elder sister for two brothers and a younger sister.
I’m sure most of the readers haven’t been to Iraq before. Can you tell us a bit about your state? What are some interesting places you would suggest a traveler to visit there?
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq and it’s one of the largest cities in Iraq in fact it is second largest city in the Arab world after Cairo “Egypt”. It is located along the Tigris River and it is the location where Tigris and Euphrates rivers get nearer to each other. The city was founded in 8th century “762 AD” the time of Abbasid Caliphate and Baghdad evolved into a significant cultural, commercial, and intellectual center for the Islamic World at that time it and was called “House of Wisdom” where it garnered the city a worldwide reputation as the “Center of Learning”. And that tragically destroyed at the hands of many enemies’ attacks starting with Mongol Empire in 1258 and followed by many attacks from the Persian, British, and American resulting in a decline that would linger through many centuries due to frequent plagues and multiple successive empires.
Can you share your experience coming to Malaysia for the first time?
When I first came to Malaysia, it was like a dream I never thought will become a reality; I always heard about Malaysia through the media alone. I was so excited until three days before my flight to Jordan, as transit station before coming to Malaysia. My father passed away after being shot as a result of the escalating violence which was reaching its peak at that time of the year. The day became without light, dark as night; we almost lost our dreams and hopes.
Anyway, the time passed so fast after 10 days since that horrific incident. Suddenly, I found myself standing in KL Airport on 26/11/2006. Yet my fear did not go away! I did not know how to express my thoughts when I first saw Malaysia. It just occurred to me that the future will be better, I just knew it was for the better. I remember the next day which was Monday, I got ready for school and that was the day I started preparing for my O Levels at my new high school.
I was quiet surprised by the humid weather when I got out of the airport, but soon enough I got used to it. I have not yet gone on a tour around beautiful Malaysia till this very moment. That might seem a bit surprising for many people but that’s the truth, my family does not have the time to go around or even spend more than five hours away from home, due to my grandpa’s illness. In general I liked the weather here when there is no seasons. Neither hot nor cold, but moderately warm along the year.
What do you like most about living in Malaysia? What was the hardest thing for you to adjust to in the beginning?
It was a little bit difficult for me to get used to Malaysian food at first, because I was not used to eating spicy food back in my homeland. With time I got used to it, liked it, liked the variety of it and now I am totally addicted to it. I like all kind of dishes here except tom yam which I heard is too hot; that’s why I have not tried it yet.
I didn’t find any difficulties to communicate with Malaysians at all. At the begging I depended on my mother for everything and that time I was busy with school and I never thought of going out to explore the area. I started communication with other people when I started applying for universities after I finished my high-school. Ever since, I started to practice speaking English. I don’t mind if the local people speak Malay when I am around as long as I do understand a bit of Malay language and as always the body language is enough for me to understand what is going on around me.
What is the most interesting trip you have ever taken? What made it so memorable?
The most interesting trip I made was with my family after I graduated from my primary school. We traveled to the northern part of Iraq. My family and I had a quality time on the mountains. We drank the cold, pure water from the waterfalls. What made this trip remarkable, entertaining and the most amazing happy memory I have ever had, is the gathering of my family far away from the noise of the city, in addition to the beautiful weather.
Have you ever been to any other countries? What is the country you’d most like to visit?
I have not been in any country other than Malaysia. Except Jordan and that one lasted for a week only and I couldn’t explore the place well. I like to go to a place to get two things: A country that has beautiful weather and nature where someone can be away from the stress that the cities cause. Or a country where I can receive good knowledge so I can improve myself, to serve the society in the right way. I prefer the second kind of country more than the first, although the first requires sometimes to enhance the ability to be in a good mental and physical shape.
I mentioned earlier about Malaysian food, while about my country food mostly it is based on bread in the breakfast as well in supper, and rice for lunch. The most famous dishes are dolma as shown in the picture, charcoal-grilled fish and many more.
In Iraq we are famous in dessert we have many kinds; they are mostly so sweet, full of fat and some have nuts with incredible taste like it is shown in the picture below.
What are some of your hobbies and interests?
My hobbies are reading, sports like (skating, running, badminton), drawing and sometimes cooking. If I had the chance and time, I would consider learning how to play violin.
Running a marathon is one of those things on people’s list of things to do in life. Can you share your marathon experience? Are you planning to take part in any future marathons?
I started running not long before I joined UNISEL as a bachelor student. I was quite desperate to get any offer letter from any university in Malaysia, because I did not know how to apply in the first place since Malaysia has a different system from my country. In addition to that the change in environment from school to university in a new country while my mother was so busy working to support us made me seek running as a way to relieve stress.
Anyhow I was relieved whenever I ran and started to see hope and a reason for everything happening around me, so I started running for a few kilometers only. I didn’t exceed 4 km till the day I joined UNISEL marathon “1.5Km”. I started to think why not go for farther distances so I started going with my brother to the park near to my house in KL. Each of us would support one another until we got the other joggers/runners’ attention; so I started to make friends who encouraged me to keep going.
One day one of my friends who got an injury which prevented her from participating in a KL half marathon (21 km) offered me her bib. At first I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it, but my inner voice kept pushing me on to take the challenge. Then one day I found myself standing at the start line and was so happy with myself when I finished in two hours.
After that experience I started practicing long distance running and learned a lot. I learned how to be patient and stand the pain I had through this journey. Running became the only cure to the difficulties I went through in this life from stress and depression.
My second marathon was Adidas Malaysia 10KM which I joined for fun to test my ability after not running for some time. My third marathon was Newton 2012 which was 25 km and went when my friend offered me her bib when she couldn’t take part in the marathon.
The bib for KL marathon with my friend’s name tagged on it and my finisher medal. Next to it is the bib for Newton 25Km marathon and my finisher medal.
Getting into marathons was a really nice experience I had. I don’t know if I can participate in future marathons, because it is really hard to get my mother to let me be a part of a marathon.
I tried getting friends to join me but sadly found out that most of students have a problem with getting up early in morning to train. However, in my last marathon I accidentally met two of UNISEL’s engineering lecturers.
Name five people you would most like to meet.
The people I would like to meet:
- Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH), A great man throughout the ages.
- My dad. He was a wise man. He had a good and long experience in life.
- My great grandpa, because he was well known for his good deeds. I would love to get to know him better.
- Any religious or influential personality. Like Dr. Omar Abdul-Kafi or Dr. Adnan Ibrahim, because I admire the way they comprehend religion. They are quite unique.
I like to be around people who are really positive, willing and have faith of a better tomorrow.
What are your 3 favorite books of all time?
I read inspirational, scientific and religious books. I also read novels and thriller stories. My favorite writer is Agatha Christie. Books that attracted my attention the most:
- Don’t be sad by “Aa’ed Al-Qarani”
- The geology of earth.
- The final cup or in other book named as the final crime by Agatha Christie.
What is your major and when do you expect to graduate?
I am a Mechatronics engineering student. This semester is going to be my final semester, which means this year will be the year of my graduation.
What attracted you to purse your studies in engineering?
I decided to choose this specific major after I thought about it for a long time. I applied for Mechatronics as soon as I realized that I will not be able to study Medicine or anything related to it. Studying fees for medicine were really high. I just could not afford it. I had a good set of math skills and I liked math and physics more than any other subject since I was in school. I faced a problem because I had to select the division after I chose to be an engineer. Since school days, I found out that it was a lot of fun to read about electrical and electronics stuff. I liked to solve questions related to mechanics more. In addition to that, I heard that Mechatronics is related to both. I believe that building a robot is seemingly cool. That is why I didn’t go with another course.
What was your dream job growing as a kid?
My dream job was to be a doctor; to help people. After I couldn’t get the major which can help me to be what I wanted, I decided to keep learning to help people in some other method. There are many ways to help the society after all. I will try my best to be productive. I don’t know when I can make this dream come true but as long I keep this dream alive surely I can make it become a reality one day.
What are your most memorable experiences so far as a student?
Unfortunately, there are not so many memorable classes which has real joy of knowledge and good comprehension for the past four years of studying in UNISEL. I only enjoyed few classes like Signal and Systems, Control System, Statics, Dynamics, Analog System Analysis, Circuit Theory I and Microprocessor. The lecturers of these subjects are good and I found them quite interesting. I acquired a new set of skills because of these subjects. While subjects like Strength of Materials, Power Electronics and its lab were interesting as a syllabus.
You completed your internship during the last short semester. Tell us about where you worked and share with us the overall experience.
I’ve done my training in Innopeak in Damansara. Innopeak is a small, private company. The work there is based on using CNC machines and helping the undergrad and graduate students do their projects so both students and the company can mutually benefit from each other. I worked in the R&D department, where I was working on designing the light system for a vehicle called Suka. This vehicle has been designed and implemented by the company itself.
Have you joined any clubs/societies or participated in any events?
I joined the Mechatronic Club. I was a small member where there was not much task needed of me. The club was active we have done a few activates like holding a few seminars from Sony and PETRONAS, and also conducted Matlab workshops to introduce students to the basic use of the software.
There is always room for improvement, so in what ways do you think UNISEL can improve its engineering program?
The improvement should start with management where they should draw more attention to the students through arranging the right activities to introduce and improve the real talents for the students. To improve the engineering program, the lecturer should focus more to do tutorial regarding using software and compare the results with the real projects or the subjects which are related.
How is life living in your new location compared to the hostel in campus?
Life is good in my new place; I got new local roommate/housemates who are very friendly. I am enjoying staying with them, we are as a family, although I miss the hostel and my old housemate.
The hostel was better when it comes to internet service and being close to my faculty compared to my current place which is Taman Ilmu. In the hostel, I didn’t need to use a bus to get to class. In addition to the time I now waste waiting for the bus to take me to UNISEL and back to my place, the earliest bus to UNISEL is the 8 o’clock bus, which takes 10 mins. It is difficult to know the timing of the bus nowadays, because it is changing from time to time.
What is your favorite thing about UNISEL?
The strategic location of UNISEL in a middle of nowhere made it a good place where students can find comfort to study and join any activities the might wish to. However, it is hard to find the right club that suits the student’s interest especially as an engineer student.
If there was one thing you could change about UNISEL, what would that be?
As I mentioned earlier changing the management would be the one thing.
Finally, any words of wisdom for a student wishing to study engineering?
Engineering course seems tough for many students, but nothing seems impossible whenever there is an interest in the course and surrounding oneself with the right friends who are ready to raise us up whenever we feel down. Always keep in mind there is no gain without pain and there is nothing called wasting time or efforts where everything is counted.