Oftentimes, Malaysians are expected to stick with the educational course they chose at a young age. However, that is not always the case as we are rarely in full control of our future. The same happened to Afiq Ramizi, Kolej Yayasan Saad’s (KYS) Headboy of 2014 who changed his course of study from pure science to business stream, eventually becoming an analyst for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Australia.
Coming from parents who are both doctors, Afiq was always expected to achieve great things. At 12 years old, he secured offers from both Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) and Kolej Yayasan Saad Melaka (KYS) due to his stellar academic results and athletic prowess, not to mention having good faith from MCKK as his father is an Old Boy. The big deciding factor which made him choose KYS was the intrigue he had about the holistic development and all-rounder mindset KYS cultivated amongst its students.
Even before choosing his elective subjects in form 4, he developed an interest in the commercial aspect of science when he represented KYS in the Mighty Minds Challenge. During the competition, they had to present a redesigned children’s toy to judges.
“I love the commercial aspect of things. I love the commercialisation of products and how to bring products into the market”.
Equipped with his outstanding academic track record, various leadership roles and extensive involvement in sports, Afiq and a handful of his batchmates managed to secure a scholarship by Yayasan Khazanah even before the SPM results were announced. Being among the first in his batch to fly overseas, even greater expectations were put on his shoulders – all eyes were on him. Yayasan Khazanah had sponsored his education at the United World College (USA) to undertake the International Baccalaureate programme.
Academically gifted Malaysians are always expected to continue their higher education overseas. However, moving to the US was never in Afiq’s plan but he did enjoy the experience and was grateful for the opportunity. He described it as a Narnia-like situation.
“Going to the US felt like going through a Narnia situation, I went through the door and came out a whole different person. Never even heard of some of the countries my peers came from.”
Studying there, he developed an interest in the performing arts by joining theatre. The activities carried and the friends he made helped bolster his communication skills. By joining such an extroverted society, theatre had helped him power through his biggest challenge being an 18-year old away from home – finding his own voice and meaning in life. Seeing as the students there were a variety of different nationalities, ethnicities and religions, it had sparked his interest in International Relations.
Taking a step back
Unfortunately, even though he met the requirements of universities, he did not meet the standards of Yayasan Khazanah. At 20 years old, his life came to a standstill. From being the first to fly overseas to becoming the last to enter university. He looked on the bright side and saw this as a moment of clarity and self-evaluation. Realising that many Malaysians overrate scholarships, making scholarships define their success.
”You are not defined solely on a scholarships only, but that scholarship should be an encouragement that you are destined for great things in life”.
Afiq however did not stop his pursuit for world-class education. He continued on to apply to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia where he completed his Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Finance with Distinction. Looking back on his days at UWC (USA) where he had developed an interest in International Relations, Afiq and a group of peers noticed the lack of ASEAN representation and thus founded the UNSW ASEAN Conference. Afiq led the team by upholding the position of co-founder and CEO, he went on to be the Vice President and finally the President of the society.
The Conference gave a platform for Australian and international youths students to discuss issues, policies and resolutions in the region. When asked where he got this push, he credited his time as Headboy for KYS when tasked to provide manifestos to improve the school. One manifesto that came into fruition was weekly batch assemblies to strengthen the bond among the batch.
“This was to make school a safe space for students and not only a place to learn but a place to live”.
With that experience, he knew that pushback by the university would be inevitable. In preparation, he convinced five consulate generals from ASEAN to write their approval and support. To date, the Conference has proudly headlined former Prime Ministers, Presidents and government officials from Australia and ASEAN.
It was there that he developed his negotiating and communication skills with different levels of stakeholders, from the highest members of government to directing caterers during events. His biggest personal growth was developing an appreciation towards diversity since he was working with 10 ASEAN countries and Australia. He saw that Australia’s work culture celebrates foreign cultures and different opinions. He concluded that the biggest takeaway is that networking is key in running any project smoothly.
Afiq also credits his twin sister, Afiqah, not only being his best friend but also his biggest supporter in life.
“Having a best friend from day one and that friend being your biggest supporter and biggest competitor really drives you to be better”.
Like many pioneers, Afiq did not have it easy in landing a job at first. Even the founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, got rejected from Harvard 10 times. Afiq on the other hand was rejected 50 times before landing his first full-time role as a revenue clerk for NSW Ambulance.
He applied for the job out of curiosity. Curiosity killed the cat, but for Afiq Ramizi, curiosity seemed to be the spark he needed to explore new ventures.
After 5 months of working in roles that are deemed unconventional for fresh graduates, Afiq was finally offered a job at PwC as a consultant. From day one he set out a goal that this would be a golden opportunity in building strong connections that would later develop into a mentorship. As part of the team at Emerging Company Services, Afiq currently works with the brightest Australian startup and scaleup founders on growth strategy, capital raising and financial due diligence.
Still, with all his prospects in Australia, one cannot help but wonder if Afiq, like many other Malaysians, is planning to return home or spend their lives in a foreign country. Afiq’s parents insisted on him staying in Australia by reminding him that he always wanted to explore as many options as possible. He said that his race or nationality should not be a defining factor in where his career goes or the amount of success he will achieve.
In recent years there has been a surge of Malaysians just like Afiq who have careers overseas. Afiq gave us advice on being an immigrant worker. He mentioned the importance of appreciating the culture and how to implement the positives from their work culture to your own. It is also important to know why you are doing it. Being far from loved ones while being out of your comfort zone is a challenging experience, therefore, being closely knit with the Malaysian community there would be a great boost because being homesick is inevitable.
Advice for KYS Students
One piece of advice he would give to the present KYS students would be to obtain global exposure in any way possible, not necessarily just by studying abroad, and to never settle for something you are comfortable with. One cannot develop as a person living in a stagnant environment which does not push your limits and boundaries. Only by going out of your comfort zone will you truly appreciate the things you have been taught.
He also mentioned that life will always hit you with uncertainties. Sometimes, we will not get everything we want or deserve. When things get tough, it is important to take a step back and reflect on your journey. He believes that a fulfilling life is one who continuously reflects on what he wishes in life, why he wants it and persistently figuring out how to get it.
“It is important to know what we want in life, why we want it and how to get it.”