Intan has used her knowledge gained in Cardiff Law School to deal with important international conventions and diplomatic treaties in her professional career as a diplomat.
Student name: Intan Dollah
Course: LLB, Law
Year of graduation: 2000
Current employer: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia
She shares with us an inspirational account of her time here and gives Malaysian students important advice on how to capitalise on the opportunity to study in Cardiff.
How did your degree prepare you for your current job. Did you get lots of practical training?
Before I was attached to the Malaysian embassy in the Philippines, I was working with the Multilateral Department at the Ministry’s headquarters in Putrajaya.
I found that my understanding of the legal tenets and the international law aspect helped me a lot in the many negotiations and meetings on international treaties which I had to attend. In these types of negotiations, you have to be really patient and analytical in order to ensure Malaysia’s interests are well represented and protected.
I have to thank my International Law professor, Dr. Robin Churchill, for being such a great mentor in giving me the preliminary insight on the fascinating world of International Law.
Tell me about your post as First Secretary at the Embassy of Malaysia in the Philippines. What did your job entail?
To give a brief description, I was one of the officers attached at the embassy to assist in bridging the diplomatic relation between Malaysia and the Republic of the Philippines. Malaysia and the Philippines enjoy great bilateral interaction and this had ensured robust cooperation between the two countries.
There are many misconceptions that diplomatic work revolves around wining and dining, of this I have to disagree. As a diplomat you bear great responsibility in trying to ensure your country’s policies and interests are represented effectively and are accepted by the host country. This can be very tricky especially if it involves sensitive matters.
This of course was only part of the job that I did. I am also responsible for promoting Malaysia and this means that I have to work hard at organising various events which help achieve this objective. The work at the embassy requires you to be ready 24/7 to serve your country’s interests be it in the form of helping Malaysians in need or writing urgent reports to the headquarters in the early hours of the morning.
What would you say are the biggest risks and biggest benefits about your job?
I must say that the biggest risks would be security issues. The biggest benefit would be peace and knowing that you have contributed to improving inter-country cooperation, understanding and relations.
What important lessons, academic other otherwise did you carry with you till today?
When I was in Cardiff I was exposed to various cultural, religious and racial backgrounds. This early important exposures had helped me in my career, especially in understanding the different paradigms on various issues. Apart from that, the most important thing that Cardiff has given me is the gift of confidence – especially the confidence in myself, in who I am and what I am.
Being a Muslim in the western world post 9/11 was quite difficult. Even before the tragedy I had friends coming up to me and asking, “Don’t you feel restricted in some way? You can’t drink alcohol, can’t eat pork, etc". I explained to them that I do not feel even remotely restricted because as a practising Muslim I understand the reason for the so-called “restrictions”.
Regardless of our differences – we are all human beings. Our differences are the things which make the world a beautiful place to be in. The differences should make us feel special and we shouldn’t let it be an obstacle to enjoy life. This is what Cardiff taught me.
If you were to meet a prospective student who was thinking about coming to Cardiff what would you tell them?
I would say if you have a chance to go to Cardiff – just grab it. It’s a very nice place to study. You have a lot of people who will help you to achieve your dreams. Regardless of which school you’re going to chose to study – all these people in Cardiff are working very hard to help you. You should take that opportunity and embrace it.
What would you say to someone who is ethnically different and has reservations about going abroad to study?
I say don’t have them. In order to be a successful person you need to be outside your comfort zone enjoying different aspects of what life has in store for you. Cardiff is a great place for you to start your life’s adventure. Once you are in Cardiff, you should take the opportunity to enjoy it. Go see the sites, talk to people, enjoy people; simply seize the day. If you are adventurous in your life, you’ll be able to do a lot of things you never dreamt of before.
Dream more, gain more and achieve more. Don’t feel frightened or intimidated because of the fact that you’re a different and think, ‘Will these people look at me differently?’ If you think negatively, negative things will come to you. Think: ‘Okay, this is a new thing and I’m going to enjoy this. If they ask me about my religion and culture, I will answer and help them to understand it.'
Spoken like a true diplomat.
You should not spend your life in isolation – it’s about meeting other people – understanding other cultures and enriching yourself. You should be able to look at it and say 'I did this' and 'I have friends from different countries' and 'I’ve been to this place'. Life should be like a book that you want to read again and again and again. That’s the life you should lead.