Khatijah Rahmat, 36, has just entered the second year of her PhD in Geography studies, which would typically be the year dedicated to fieldwork.
But with the current movement control order (MCO) that takes effect from Jan 13-26 in five states and three federal territories, traipsing around in the jungle to conduct ethnographic research is obviously out of the question.
“I am anxious to begin fieldwork, but the lockdown is likely to delay this and I will have no choice but to wait out the MCO and any other restrictions in general.
"However, I consider myself lucky that I am still able to do some research and writing at home, and I am always connected online with my university and academic circle. I am very lucky to be doing what I do and for me, staying home is my small contribution to the pandemic struggle, ” she says.
Last year, Khatijah was still in Britain pursuing her PhD at Oxford University when news of the pandemic started making headlines.
In the midst of many uncertainties, she had to decide whether to stay on or return to Malaysia.
“I chose to come back because I believe in our healthcare system. Having to relocate in the blink of an eye was a sudden change that took a bit of getting used to.
"But I am very fortunate to be studying in the Internet age where many things are still able to progress as long as one is connected online, ” says Khatijah.
The recent surge in cases, she adds, is a cause for concern and strict measures are necessary in an effort to curb the Covid-19 outbreak.
“The numbers speak for themselves. It is inevitable, however, that it will take an economic toll on the country like it continues to do so for many other countries.
"If these new strict measures are prolonged, I hope the government will think of the livelihoods that are strained under these measures and offer some policy innovations that can help those who struggle the most, ” she says.
If travel is possible and convenient by the time her fourth (and final) year rolls around, Khatijah might just consider spending it in Britain and writing her dissertation there.
But for now, she is happy to stay put in Malaysia and keep in touch with people at her university and academic circle, even if they are scattered around the world.
Did you find this article insightful?