~ It was homecoming, but my friends came home to my heart. ~

Two weeks ago, I hosted our Faculty of Engineering, Technology and Built Environment’s third Alumni Homecoming Ceremony and I couldn’t be prouder of my friends who showed up dressed to the nines to receive their Dean’s List certificates. As I called on their names loud and clear and watched them strut to the stage to receive their awards, I thought to myself, “We’ve come a long way together haven’t we?”  

I’ve had my best friends with me ever since I started my academic journey here in UCSI University. Being studious and reserved all throughout high school, I had no idea what true friendship felt like until I met the dynamic duo Mohsen and Karam. It was through their trust, kindness and love that I was able to meet, open up and love each and every one of the best friends I have today.

Karam was the first person to receive his certificate of outstanding academic performance. I had purposely given my partner emcee the task of handing over the certificates to the Head of Civil Engineering Department just so I could call out, “Karam Yahya Abu Osba!” loud enough for the two-hundred-plus students to hear. And I did just the same for Mohsen and Noman when their turns came. I found sheer enjoyment in celebrating my friends’ success and I considered it an honour to be the sole person announcing their names.

But somehow when I saw that my name was next on the list, I skipped over it. If you had asked me why, I probably wouldn’t have given you an answer because I’m not sure why I did that either. Even though hosting events had become second nature to me, I couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to leave as soon as time allowed me to. It felt as if I was only there to support my friends; I was unable to feel any excitement or a sense of accomplishment with myself for making it on the Dean’s List. Though the certificates were proof that all the time, energy and hard work I’ve invested into my studies had paid off, I remember feeling like it was something that any student could do. I’m not being ungrateful; I’m blessed by Allah to receive this award. However, looking back, I think I was locked in a dark state of mind which made it seem like I didn’t deserve to celebrate my success or the spotlight and attention I was receiving at that time.

My friends were just as puzzled as I was. My best friend Noman came up to me and asked, “Where’s your name, Ko Ko?” To ease his mind, I had told him I’d call mine last which indeed was not true because I had no intention of doing that. But my friends were too clever to accept any of my foolishness. When I refused to call out my name towards the end of the ceremony, my friends had a fit and demanded that I did. If my friend Muhammad Tri Perdana Zamzami hadn’t seized my microphone and said, “Let’s hear it for Ko Ko!”, I wouldn’t have witnessed the uproarious cheer and praise for my success. As we smiled and posed for the group picture for all the Dean’s List recipients from the Chemical Engineering Department, I recall feeling exceptionally stupid and sad: I have all these friends who loved me and yet I couldn’t love myself enough for all the things I do. It’s true that my mind is often cruel to me, but my friends weren’t going to let any darkness of that sort ruin my moment. The amount of love and support I felt that day was so overwhelming that for the first time my best friend Amro was able to capture a picture of me grinning with teeth as I stood next to the greatest people in my life.

I had informed my friends earlier to look their best because I planned on taking a group picture that day. Content creation is my main task under UCSI University’s Trust Scholarship Program. I’m a writer and I want to use my articles as a platform to raise awareness on a striking issue or give a voice to the people. I also had this terrific idea that I was going to use my articles to express and broadcast the love I harboured for my best friends to the immediate community I was living in. I felt like the students in UCSI University deserved to know what amazing people my friends are and I’m hoping that I could one day make the world recognize it too.

When my best friend Abdullah Mahjoob arrived looking sharp in his jeans and black shades, we were all set to capture the moment. We gathered under a ray of sunlight on the terraced steps at the entrance of UCSI University’s newest block (Block G) and requested my partner emcee, Mohammed Khair, to work magic on Amro’s camera. I had hoped that all my best friends could be here to celebrate the day with me, but Mohammed Usama had chosen to stay home to recover from a tiring week and Asad Saeed had relocated to Brooklyn, New York. But nevertheless, we were joined by other brilliant souls whom I’ve started to connect with over the past couple of semesters: Asseel Esam, Shuayb Omar, Khaled Al-Naqeb and Abdullah Alalimi.

Before posting this article on UCSI University’s Student Ambassador’s page, I spent an entire evening picking out the best pictures while munching on a sugar doughnut in Starbucks. I was surprised to see the picture of me grinning and I texted Amro to thank him for his candid in-between shots. As I scrolled through the photo reel, I couldn’t help but laugh at some of our awkward pictures and poses. I recognized that perhaps there’s no perfect picture to utterly capture a moment and I settled on a couple of pictures that felt true to me: one where I was smiling with my teeth and two where I looked so happy and comfortable with my best friends right by my side.

Writing this article has helped me appreciate all the things we’ve been through as friends since day one and all the challenges we’ve faced and how we overcame them together. If you questioned me on what my fears are, I’d say losing the people I love is on the top of my list. I am very involved in my friends’ lives and I’d go to lengths to make them feel appreciated and loved. Because if you’re someone like me who constantly feels like he’s running out of time, you’d want to show how much the people you care about mean the world to you. You’ve got time. Please use it. Show your family and friends how much you love them. Whatever you do in favour of that will always be worth it – no matter how simple or difficult the act may be.

In conclusion, Alumni Homecoming was indeed a successful event, one where every deserving student was recognized for their efforts. And I’d like to wholeheartedly thank my best friends – Mohsen, Noman, Karam, Mahjoob, Amro, Mohammed Usama and Asad – for not only making my days, but my university life, extraordinary in every way. It was homecoming, but I’m grateful that all of you came home to my heart.

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