Learning in the time of the MCO

In addition to working remotely or bonding with family members, some Malaysians are making the most out of the Movement Control Order period to take up a new skill and work on self-improvement. DATA science is something MBA student Khadijah Shamsul has always been interested in but lacked time to pursue. Until now. Stuck at home under the Movement Control Order (MCO), the 30-year-old is making the most of her extra time by taking an online course on data science programming. She is not alone. Many Malaysians are making the most out of this stay-at-home period to take up a new skill or work on self-improvement. Khadijah sees it as an opportunity to fill a knowledge gap before moving into her career area of interest: human capital development and strategy. “It is amazing what you can do with data, and I want to do more of that – and no other perfect time to do it than when you’re stuck at home and not able to go anywhere. I also feel that with so many conversations around big data, I should know how to do more of it as I move into my career, ” says Khadijah, who is spending the MCO period in her home in Klang. In addition to programming, Khadijah is also taking up yoga for health and stress relief. “I have always wanted to create more routine around my health but never got around to it until now. I would like to use yoga as a method to remove noise once I go back to work and when things get overwhelming, ” she tells Sunday Star via WhatsApp. The idea of constantly being at home and not being able to be productive can really get to you, Khadijah says. “Especially with social media updates, WhatsApp groups and everything else on Covid-19, it does bring out a lot of anxiety. Also, you tend to obsess over the small stuff when you have more time, ” she explains. “It is also really about creating routine – what do you replace your usual ‘routine hours’ with now that the MCO is in place, ” she says. The MCO, enforced from March 18 to April 14, introduces a complete ban on all movements and large gatherings including religious activities, sports, social and cultural events. It also restricts all overseas travels by Malaysians, tourists and foreigners entering the country. Childcare centres, schools and tertiary institutions, and all government and private premises except those involved in providing essential services have been ordered to temporarily close. Due to this, a large number of Malaysians will be working remotely from home if they haven’t already started. Teacher Farah Iylia Fauzi, 34, from Kota Baru is getting in touch with her inner artist by brushing up on her painting skills. “I took up art in school and I was good at it. So I thought I would give it another go, ” says the art enthusiast. When everyone was panic-shopping for groceries the day before the MCO started, Farah instead bought canvas and art supplies – “in case inspiration hit me, and it did”. “I have made great improvement since I started painting again. I think I just painted a masterpiece, ” she says with a laugh. “Painting helps with my creativity and it will be my great stress reliever. If I am lucky maybe I can make money out of this, ” she adds. Farah is currently waiting for her teacher posting, and says that she will volunteer to paint a mural if her new school is in need of one. Meanwhile, Dexter Yin, 30, is at home in Kuala Lumpur throughout the MCO period and learning Korean. “Korean is a language that I didn’t focus on much before this. Since I can speak fluently in English, Mandarin, Bahasa Malaysia and Japanese, I thought why not give Korean a try, ” the regional director of a media analytics startup told Sunday Star over Facebook Messenger. Yin decided to pursue Korean after finding some free time after completing his daily work. “I own a startup now and we have offices in Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. We have plans to expand to Korea in the future. Therefore this will help when the time comes, ” says Yin, who is learning Korean from free online courses and by watching K-dramas. Product manager Divan Vasudevan, 33, from Seremban, is spending more time in the kitchen over the MCO period learning how to cook. “I didn’t start off intentionally looking to pick up a skill, it was more because I was at home and I thought I’d help my mum out with dinner preparation. I kind of fell into it by chance, ” he tells Sunday Star over Facebook Messenger. Before, Divan used to commute almost two hours a day to and from work; now, due to the MCO, he has more free time to help around the house. “Not only is it cheaper to eat at home, but when you cook at home, you know exactly the type and quality of ingredients that go into the meal and you’ll be sure that you’re eating only wholesome, nutritious food, ” says Divan, who gets cooking advice from his mother and sources recipes online. To date, Divan has tried his hand at baking salmon and chicken, stir frying vegetables, and making a few types of pasta dishes. “I think my mum’s enjoyed the meals – some perhaps a bit more than the others! And while it’s still a bit rough, she’s been very supportive and encouraging, ” he says. Student Muhammad Amir Danial Amir Rastam, 22, is also taking up cooking while staying at home with his family in Puncak Alam, Selangor. “I really love to cook even though I am not very good at it, ” he says. Amir Danial was unable to cook much before this because he was staying on campus at a university in Gombak, Selangor, and rarely returned home. “Cooking is a skill for survival because it teaches me to be independent, and it’s a good way to save money instead of eating out – and also a good resume for marriage, ” he adds candidly. To date, Amir Danial has learned to cook sambal ikan bilis, kari ayam, kurma kentang, nasi goreng and ayam kunyit among others. “My family still have their fair criticisms of my cooking, but I am still learning, ” he says, adding that they sometimes joke about his skills in the kitchen.

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