My PhD student is a Syrian. He worked in Saudi Arabia before coming to Malaysia. His PhD supervisor was someone else a year before he finally became my student and since had submitted the thesis for examination.
Starting from the time I knew him until today (almost three years had passed), only God knows of how many bad incidences that took place in his life. He is a husband and a father of 4 children, and all of them are here with him. His country is at war and his hometown was at wrecked that he can't go back there. During those 3 years, he had once broken his right hand for landed on the floor after trying to change lamp bulb. Being a dentist who basically worked with right hand, that period of time say a lot about his future. Thank God, the hand can be fixed. Apart from that, he still have elderly parents at home, who are now shifted to Jordan. That was after so much of demanding from him.
His elder brother passed away last two years ago due to cancer, leaving behind a wife and children. The brother was a surgeon.
My student, ASA, was here while these occurred.
ASA is not a man without an opinion. He has a lot to say, but probably because these things keep happening one after another, he gets used to it and rarely mentioned about this.
Once a while, I would ask about his family back home and he would eventually leave my room with red eyes. Me, I would be dumbfounded by him handling all these and not showing any sign of depression or lack of willingness to go on fighting the world. I then, would be thinking about our own Malaysians who would kill themselves on the road for the sake of having fun or would end up at the Pusat Serenti.
Being opinionated and coming from different fields of study, we used to lock horns over many things, especially regarding his thesis writing. It is hard if he too has to work with an opinionated supervisor. For me, this was a process of teaching and "agree to disagree", which I do not welcome much but I appreciated it a lot.
I am telling this story not to degrade him what-so-ever. It is just a story sharing to let others know that we can be the best in the worst condition. It is the matter of choosing.
He is teaching me as much as I think I had taught him.