Student Spotlight - Irah Amiruddin
Written by: Rodvie Barnachea
Photographed by: Dylan Wee
As seen in the November issue of Lazy Faire magazine
Irah Amiruddin is a second-year business student who has recently called Canada home. From her life in Malaysia and battles with depression, to her extracurricular activities pertaining to her interests, Irah discusses how all of these instances shaped her overall perspective on the world. Lazy Faire Magazine had the opportunity to interview Irah to receive insight on her experiences, and to get a glimpse of what’s next.
You’re an international student. How has it been different living here in Canada?
I really do feel like coming here gives me new opportunities. Back home, I don’t really get the chance to be who I am because it is dependent on the mentality in Malaysia. Here, it's more open; I’m more free to be myself, and say what I think, instead of keeping quiet for whatever I feel.
In Malaysia, to speak English, they view me as being too proud, with not speaking the native tongue. That’s difficult for me, since English is the language I best express myself in. I can’t express myself fully if I can’t use the language I’m most comfortable with.
What are the barriers in Malaysia that don’t allow you to be who you are?
The age barrier is definitely a big thing. I can’t just go up to my uncle and say I don’t like the things that he likes. He can take offense and say, “I’m older. I’m right. You have to respect me.” But here, if I’m just talking to a lecturer and I don’t agree with what they’re saying, I can just tell them, and that’s it. Then bigger conversations come from it.
Talking about the organizations you’ve dealt with (e.g. Multiplying Equality, UNICEF, and NEW), why do you do them?
I’m at that point where I want to do different things. For Multiplying Equality, it’s about the social issues I’m interested in — with homelessness, for example. It’s something that I’ve been interested in since I volunteered at a soup kitchen. I thought, “how can somebody be living without a house, since it’s been a luxury my whole life?” So I just feel like if somebody doesn’t have something I have, then it’s my responsibility to share it. Even to just help, you get to the point where you’re comfortable with it. For UNICEF, it’s more broad. When I was a part of it, it was about working with children, and I wanted to transfer what I knew to them. NEW is about female empowerment, and I feel like that’s something I’m interested in. In Malaysia, female empowerment isn’t a thing. To get married you have to learn how to clean and cook. Here it’s more open.
When you’re interested in something, why do you always go for it?
Most of the time, I force myself. It’s comfortable to sit at home and do nothing, to think “my voice is not going to be heard”, or “equality is never going to happen”. But, by doing that, I’m admitting that I’m losing. I don’t ever want to admit defeat. I do this because I want to see a difference. I want to be a part of that difference. This isn’t someone’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem.
I’ve been thinking about jobs recently. I’m an Entrepreneurship Major and I’ve been thinking about doing something non-profit. I want to open up a business someday that can benefit the homeless community or benefit the environment somehow. It’s an option for me, but it’s not set yet.
Out of all the experiences you’ve had, which has changed you the most?
When I was in Malaysia, I was battling depression in high school. After I recovered, I knew I developed myself. “I know I’m not the only person in the world.” “I’m not the only person with problems, since everybody does.” Going through that experience, I knew that I didn’t want other people going through what I felt. I thought, “I need to help people.” I was at that phase where I was stable and I could actually help people. From then on, I knew I wanted to help people. By coming here, I’ve developed myself in the sense that I won’t shut myself down if someone rejects me. I’ll try harder. Now I’m voicing my opinions more.