LAURA ATKINSON: In Search of the American Dream


For those of you who don’t know, I graduated from Millikin University with a degree in Entrepreneurship in December. I am an international student from Malaysia, on an OPT visa, available to start immediately, and will not require an H-1B visa sponsorship until next February. I have spent the last five months furiously applying for jobs in Illinois and so many other states in the US. Each week, I complete an average of 2 to 3 interviews for various positions. Despite graduating with a 3.84 GPA, being involved in student-run ventures, multiple organizations on campus, and being a collegiate athlete for Millikin, I have so far been denied for many positions and have yet to hear back from many positions that I have applied/interviewed for.

Most of the positions I have recently applied to are part-time and pay minimum wage. They do not require high school diplomas or skilled experience.

Just over 3 and a half years ago, I took the risk of flying to a different country, almost 10,000 miles away from my family, my friends, my home. I was raised hearing that America was the Land of Opportunity, that if I rollup up my sleeves and put my nose to the grindstone, I could find a job that I love and a place to call home. I came to find the American Dream but am still searching for it. I am putting myself out there and applying for hundreds of jobs. I want to be able to give back to this country by working here, and my parents who are back home in Malaysia.

All this is to say that

A) I am in immediate need of either remote work and am willing to relocate to any state and

B) Many fresh international graduates want to work.

We are applying tirelessly to work and are getting rejected because we would require a visa sponsorship in the future. Even with jobs that do sponsor a visa, they require 8-10 years of experience. If you or someone you know is in charge of hiring at a workplace right now, I encourage you to consider hiring a young international person. We work hard to achieve our goals and now want to get hired.

Hire me, you’ll thank me later.

NOTE: Please help make this viral.

REPUBLISHED: The Swim Athlete’s Future

Her swim career started round about this time😊

The article, “The Swim Athlete’s Future”, which was published here at on February 7th, 2023; was republished in Swimswam on February 10th.. I sent in the article to Swimswam to have them consider publishing as I believe that readers of this publication maybe able to resonate with these article.

There are three main groups who will be able to identify with this article:
1. The swim athletes: Through the various stages of their career; from beginner right up to world elite.
2. Parents. The sacrifices of their time, effort and money.
3. Non-swim fraternity. They may have a better insight of the life of a swim athlete.

Who is “SwimSwam”? SwimSwam news is a swimming news organization covering competitive swimming along with diving, water polo and synchronized swimming. SwimSwam launched as a website in March 2012 and quickly became the most-read swimming website in the world.

This may just be the sport parents are looking for their children. It encourages, discipline, competitiveness, fun and a sense of empowerment.

To the finish line…

The Swim Athlete’s Future

Lap after lap. 3, 4, 5 kilometers a day in the pool. Day after day…week after week…month after month.

At 9 years old, wanted to be world champion. Forgoing parties, events and other fun things.

In the water, lap after lap after lap. 20 meters…50 meter lengths.

School holidays and other holidays – the same.

Personal times for her 50 meter and 100 meter pet events kept dropping… So did the times of her other events. Kept on improving. Kept moving up the heats… From the 1st heat in the very beginning… Kept moving up the heat charts. When she reached the last 3 heats in her events at each championship race, the state athletes at that time started paying attention to her. A new kid on the block as competition.

13 years old. A big responsibility added on. Selected to represent the state team. Swim and training was now an average 9 times a week (twice each on Saturday and Sunday).

Kept on at it. Times kept improving. Was a contributor towards the team’s many championship wins. Within a short period of time, reached the top 3 in the country for her age group. Broke individual and relay records all along the way.

Graduated from high school. Went on to further her studies in the U.S.

Was on the university’s swimming team. Helped the university move up the swim charts. Set individual and relay records for the university.

There were many ups and downs, bumpy roads, disappointments, total excitement and joy throughout her swim athlete, school and university story. She held fast to her belief in herself and her goals. She had fun. It was not so much just about the “winning”. It was the “experiences” take away: winning yes, also teamwork, sharing and building relationships with various people along the way.

The role of parents? Support, love, care, support. Always be enthusiastic for your children. Driving them to 3-hour daily training and then back.

As parents, we have to continuously encourage them, even on the days they may be tempted by non-athletes to skip training. My wife and I use to tell our daughter, “your fiercest competitor will be training while you are thinking of missing it. The decision is yours. What is the end result you want?”

Be with them, cheering them on; even if it means spending 15 hours at a swim meet, each day on a three- or four-day championship.

Past and current swim athletes, when looking back; can relate to this “grueling lifestyle” during their swim career. When looking back they can smile, joke about the times their energy was completely spent and they still had 25 meters of the race to go, times when they lost and the many times when they won both in the pool and out of the pool. About the times they literally had fun.

Now, graduated – B. Sc. Entrepreneurship. Looking for a job in the U.S. With 16 years of swim athlete experience and an Entrepreneurship studies degree; she wants to share her experiences by applying them in the work that she will be doing.

Now, she takes with her a way of discipline in doing things, a “never give up” character and the bright side of things when she goes employment hunting.

~ Dedicated to Laura Atkinson

Christmas is Where Your Heart is

As Christmas is fast approaching us (5 days to go), it is kind of different how we, Jeannie and I; are approaching it this year. Wait a minute. Is this another Hallmark movie similarity?

Videos and pictures posted on the many social media platforms of the most beautiful Christmas decorations, lights, themes, live musicals and other performances and shows at shopping malls, and other public places – this has to be the best ever…until the next year.

These malls will be crowded with people. Everyone there, or mostly everyone; comes to these shopping centers to be in the “spirit of Christmas”. People shoot billions of pictures from their camera smartphones. Some may even venture to use real, full fledge cameras, you know the chunky over-sized, blob-shaped bodies (the cameras, not the owners…maybe the owners, too). Strapped, cross-strapped and tied to their torsos are camera lenses the size of bazookas and other accessories. The question is whether they will be able to get that rare million dollar shot? In the end, it does not really matter, they have the equipment, they might as well use it.

The food – yes, you can be forgiven if you go dizzy with choice. There are cakes, cookies (‘biscuits” aren’t as common these days), chocolates, sweets, savory and non-savory food; local, western, east-Asian; Malaysians love to eat.

Yes, I am talking about Christmas in Malaysia. Many Christians would be in church for days before and after Christmas, involved in mass and organized programs. There are also the little pre-Christmas and post-Christmas gatherings of friends and family members at each other’s homes.

So, it is not quite a Hallmark movie small town Christmas. So far, snow flurries only, no full-blown snowfall.

We are having a very cosy, meaningful Christmas with Laura and a few of her friends. It is our first Christmas with Laura since 2018. We are enjoying a non-commercialized Christmas.

Our Lady, Mother Mary; has always blessed, interceded and prayed for us, that all the we ask for, we will be blessed. This Christmas, we lift up all our greatest needs in health, and all that we ask for. We lift “K” in prayer, as would have underwent the procedure in hospital. She will be recovering in hospital over the next few days, until after Christmas.

Mother Mary has always been a guiding path in my life. Though there have been many instances where I veered off track for a bit… more than a bit, maybe. Mother Mary has always been with us and has never left us alone.

Why is Mother Mary so important in the lives of Catholics? She is the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Mother Mary has a great sense of humor. Where do you think her son got His great sense of humor from?

As we move towards the day of Christmas; we wish you and your loved ones, full of joy, peace, hope, enjoyment and laughter with family and friends.

I leave you all with “Hail, Holy Queen”, a Sister Act version. Enjoy.


Last Tuesday morning (yesterday to be more precise); I had a very dear friend to me and my family, Patrick Archibald; drop by my house for coffee.

In the midst of our conversation, the subject of Laura came up. She was doing well in college, coping with all her assignments, internship and what-have-you.

We reminisced how time has flown by so fast…

Jeannie and I decided to just leave Laura’s bedroom as how Laura left it so that whenever Laura comes back for the holidays, she can use her own room. All her posters that she stuck on the wall and her wardrobe are as they are. Then, she has loads of notes from friends and motivational phrases on almost all the walls in her room. Books, all neatly arranged and segmented as to how best she liked it. All that you see in the pictures below are is it as she left them.

Patrick thought that was a novel idea to be in the presence of Laura – a reminder of all the things she likes and loves; that whenever we walked in the room, the presence of Laura is vibrant. Not that we have to spend all our time in the room. We know it is there. That itself, brings joy – happy memories.

I really never thought of looking at it that way. But it is true. Whenever, we walk into Laura’s room, it brings a sense of joy.

It is for that reason, most of us carry a picture of our loved ones in our wallet. Nowadays, we have loads of pictures and videos stored on our smartphones – the “don’t leave home without it” (phrase sounds familiar…).

Patrick went on to say that this is the same with our relationship with God. We may have a crucifix or an altar in our homes and or workplace. We know that it is there and are comfortable knowing that we are in the presence of God and He with us.

So true. Over a cup of coffee, I got all these additional “goodies”.

Madina Cappuchino

The coffee I served Patrick was “Madina Cappuchino”. I am not sure if it is out in the market, yet. This cappucino is rich and frothy. I think it is well balanced, given that ” its limitation is supposed to be because it is in powdered form” and does not go through the usual “ritual” of preparing a Cappucino. If it is priced right, meaning reasonable, not leaning towards “expensive”, it should do well.

Who will this appeal to? First to a person who likes to have coffee on the go, but does not have the time to go through the rigmarole of preparing it. Next to the group of people who like milky coffee, yet want to hold the sugar. To the general public and guests that come over to our homes. We can offer them a choice from a variety of quick-make coffees that we often have, to choose from; without breaking the bank on those very sophisticated, state-of-the-art, time-consuming-to-prepare, barista type machines. Though, if someone else offered me barista style coffee, I would surely accept.

Caffe (Barista Chillout Compilation) [Music For a Cup of Coffee]


As the Selangor novice swimming championships in Shah Alam fast approaches (starts tomorrow October 15th, actually); there will be a build-up of excitement varying in degree from being nervous as a swimmer competing for the first time, or second time…maybe it is his (her) 5th or 6th competition. The other end of the degree of excitement is the swimmer that cannot wait to race even though it is his first time doing so.

While the athletes, their parents and coaches often take center stage in any sport and competition, a major component of any competition are the technical officials. These are the people that run the competition. In recent times, you would probably have heard of technical officials involved and mired in controversy with how they carry out their duties. That sport is Formula 1. Not in swimming or if a situation ever does arise; it is very rare.

I can give my views more on swimming due to my personal experiences. The technical officials involved on deck (at the swimming pool area) are the referees, race starters, judges and officials on both end of each of the 10 lanes of the swimming pool. Then, there are the marshals who register the swimmers before each race and get them ready in their respective lane positions before moving them to their lanes to ready for the race.

An integral part of the officials team are the officials in charge of hospitality. These are some ladies who ensure that food and drinks are ready lunch, morning and afternoon breaks. Experience from the Selangor run competitions is that they usually don’t stop for lunch breaks, more so when there are many heats in each event. The organizers know the athletes, their parents and coachers are usually at the pool as early as 6.30am and try to end the competition each day, as early as possible. The day can end at 7.00pm or 8.00pm if there are many heats in each event and if there are several major rest breaks.

There are also the announcers and IT people (ensuring the results are up on the notice board almost as soon as the race is over).

Being a technical official most definitely has its perks, the best of which is first hand experience and involvement in the championship itself. No duty is too small that it lacks merit. Every technical official has to play his or her role in order for the meet competition to be a success. Parents are encouraged to volunteer themselves for duty as technical officials. You can take up a Grade III Technical Officials’ course (as I did), if you intend to serve as an official, long term.

The swimmers – ultimately they are the stars of the “show”. Some start as early as 5 years old and work their way up. In their innocence, they are entertainers out of the water, as well. Some years ago; I had a young English girl who was probably around 7 or 8 years old, come up to me and started chatting. I was a marshal at that championship. She talked about her elder brother and pointed out where her mum was in the spectators’ stand. It was her way of overcoming her nervousness as it was her first race in her first championship that she was taking part in.

Laura, when she was a novice swimmer.

I had young children come up to me (and they still do), asking me to help show them which event, heat and lane there are racing in, or if they had missed it. Many come up to me after their race asking how they did. To me, they are all winners.

The highlight for these young athletes is before and after their races, in the secondary pool; where they get to play with their friends. Their laughter and smiles on their faces – epic!


A head full of dreams leaves no space for fears. (Atkinson)

A swimming race championship is coming up again at PADE, Shah Alam, this weekend. This time round, it is for the novice racers. While many people may see this as a “play-play” (a Malaysian version of “not serious”) competition; I assure you, it is far from that. The swimmers taking part – Yes, they are athletes.

“The seed that has been nurtured under the soil for weeks or months, began to break the surface of the soil and sprout shoots and leaves”. It is at a meet like this where children who have been going through the various stages in learning to swim, compete while having fun at the same time. It is also a time where state, national and possibly world champion athlete potentials are born.

Now, not too long ago, I knew of this 6 year old girl who started going for swimming lessons once a week. She absolutely hated water touching her face. She cried whenever she had to go for swimming lessons all the time. In fact, she wanted to stop lessons.

Her father made a deal with her: “You continue to go for swimming lessons. The moment you can swim better than me; you can stop going for lessons”. And the little girl agreed.

From going for lessons once a week; she got a lot better at swimming and was going for lessons 3 – 5 times a week not too long after the pact she made with her father. She could swim a lot better than him by then. In fact, she could swim all the four strokes of swimming, well. And she had no intentions to quit swimming.

At age 9, she said, “I want to become World Champion”. Her father said to her that she could become World Champion if she followed her heart and put in the effort.

As time, went on, she became a state swimmer, representing Selangor; and was amongst the top breaststroke racers for her age group in the country and region. When she was 18 years old, she left for the U.S. to further her tertiary education. There, she represented her university on their swim team; bringing many wins and successes for the team.

Now, she may not have become World Champion officially, but it helped her get to where she is.

But she has become “World Champion” to all those young children starting out in life, not being able to fully comprehend that they, too; can become what their hearts desire, if they follow it. An example of this that comes to mind was when she competed in an International Open meet in Kuching, Sarawak -Malaysia; in 2016. When she raced her races, there were a few young 8 or 9 year old “little league” swimmers who cheered her on top of their high pitch voices. She had become their idol.

It was not easy. as huge sacrifices were made along the way. The sport was top priority.

She never boasted about her successes and never let it get to her head. She uses her experience to help others, in any way; even if it was the littlest of ways. If there were adversities, she would find proper solutions to them.

That makes her World Champion.

To all swimmers at the Selangor meet this weekend: Wishing you a great future in this sport. Have fun!

Dedicated to the ones that make this happen:
Parents and siblings of the athlete of all sports. They are the ones who have to almost equally be with the athlete; make sacrifices with their time by sending and picking the child (children) up from training, making it a point that the athlete attends all practice, buy and invest in all apparel and necessary things for the sport.
Laura Kristen Atkinson
Coaches Soon, Wendy, Ben Lee of the Subang Jaya Community Centre Club – where it all began in 2007.
Coach Mark Chua, Coach Marilyn Chua, Coach Ong Jin Kooi, Coach Dr Molly Duesterhaus (Millikin University), Coach Mokhtar.

Alan Ian Atkinson, Writer, Author, Storyteller

The President’s Cup, Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu; Nov 11, 2012


A man’s home is his castle, his sanctuary, a place he can be himself. Here, when I say “man”; it applies to a woman or child, too. So, it is believed to be.

When he goes outside to do battle with the world which is his work (a person that come to mind is Hagar the Horrible [cartoon comic strip], a Viking, whose work is to go out and battle. He is both a fierce warrior and a family man—with the same problems as your average modern suburbanite.) and comes home after that, he would and should expect a sense of peace, of rest, of comfort.


A man’s home is where he leaves the outside world, outside, by turning off (easier said than done… I hear yer), his escape as you may.

If he is married and has children, they will bring him joy. His young kids may clamour all over him for his attention, wanting to share their joys of what they did in the day.

In my “hey” day, when my daughter Laura, was 3, 4, 5 years old; she would come and sit in my chair beside me in the living room, just to be with me. She would do the same with her mother, my wife Jeannie; too.

The recent Covid-19 pandemic over the last two years, saw an invasion of sorts by corporations, when employees, entertainers, even businessmen; had to work from home.

While working from home, the line separating work from after office hours becomes blurred.

It may have been seen as a novel idea to work from home at the beginning. Employees thought that by being closer to their children at home, they would have additional time with them. Employees were relieved that they did not have to travel to & fro their offices or workplaces, thus avoiding the usual traffic snarls that would greet them each day on the road, thus saving at least an hour, each way at the very least. It would mean they could sleep in just that little bit longer before getting ready from work and they would not come home fatigued by the traffic jams they would meet on their way home.

But then, people who live or co-shared their homes with employees working from home; could not really do the things they would normally do at home, when these employees were away, working in their offices and elsewhere. Employees were expected to have their homes “turned over to their companies”, during meetings like zoom and Skype meetings. This meant noise and distraction free from co-habitats and children.

Working from home also meant that there was no reason not to squeeze in additional online meetings by two or three hours. Which meant more internet data and electricity usage – the cost all to be borne by the employee. What more, if there were several people working from home at the same time? “Work from home” would spill outside in the porch and garden.

If only there was a balance?

When the shift was made for employees to work from office again signaling that the pandemic had become an endemic, there seemed to have been a sigh of relief from all round. Most employees were happy about getting back to the office, even bracing the long traffic jams to the office and back. Children and other members were happy to have their homes back to as it was.

All in all, there has to be a clear line drawn between work space and home space. The ideal is to get the best working environment for the employee which in turn improves productivity; and a home, where one gets to rejuvenate, and at the same time, be with the rest of the family, not just physically; but also to share their lives with them.


It was “business” as usual at the big pond, surrounded by lush greenery, a big oak tree providing some shade from the sunlight to a large part of the pond.

Some water lillies and other flowery plants were growing around the edges of the pond.

Fishes of many species were swimming swishing and swashing. Some were perfectly still until startled even by the littlest of change of the surrounding in the water; others rose to just below the surface of the water, while others dived to the bottom of the pond which was not very deep and then rushed up, almost vertically as though they were going to break the surface of the water.

The scene was serene.

Almost like clockwork, at 8.20am, punctual, as this was their time of arrival; a mother duck, together with her 5 ducklings would stroll by and waddle straight in the pond, the same spot everyday. It was like the mother duck was giving her ducklings some playtime. they would usually swim in the pond for two to three hours.

Also, like clockwork, at 9.17am, everyday; a squadron of birds would fly by, very high in the sky, near the edge of the sky. They would graciously glide in formation. At times, one or two of these majestic birds would break formation and dive with such ferocity towards the pond. By the angle of their dive, it would seem impossible to pull up.

Swoosh! They snatch fish from the pond with pinpoint accuracy, pull up and rejoin the formation of the other birds, up at the edge of the sky.

“Wow! Did you see that?”, asked Don duckling to the other ducklings?

“That was awesome!”, said Daffy duckling. The ducklings sure were impressed as they have always been, as this aerial display of swooping down and snatching swimming fish from the pond was an everyday affair.

Tom duckling said, “I wish I can do that. Fly high up at the edge of the sky, free and see the rest of the beautiful world from up there.” Then, Tom began to try to spread his wings to fly.

“Don’t even think of it!”, exclaimed Daisy duckling. “You’re a duckling just like us”.

“Yes. But you don’t look like us”, said Pee-kin duckling. “You are big and ugly. You can barely even swim, let alone swim gracefully like us!”

Tom duckling looked at the reflection of himself in the water. He thought he looked liked those birds high up in the sky and tried stretching out his wings and flap them.

All the other ducklings continued to make fun of him, at his ugliness because he did not look like any of them. And also, his dream to want to soar in the skies.


How many of us can relate to this story? You want to soar high up to the edge of the sky, freely, have a sense of pinpoint accuracy in all that you want to do?

Only to be told by others around you – your family, friends and work colleagues that you can’t. That is for the professionals.
“You’re one of us.
Don’t dream big.
You don’t want to have the headache of working to improve yourself everyday.
Life might seem glamourous, but it isn’t.”
“The grass may seem greener on the other side…til you get there.”

This was a motivational talk I used to give Laura ever so often during her swim career.
Dream big!
You can do anything you set your mind to.
The naysayers are those with no dreams, no goals, no ambitions and will always discaourage others. But encourage others to be the “no-ers”!

Laura would paste her goals all over the house at strategic places to remind herself. One special, prominent place was her wardrobe mirror. She would look in the mirror and at her written goals pasted at eye level and say, “You’ve got this!”



It was a lovely start to my 64th birthday, going on 65. Lots of “thank you(s)” are in order. Thank you all for sharing the beautiful music of LIFE, which God has blessed us with.

My wife, Jeannie and Laura; have always been my greatest support. Laura’s video call and message from the U.S. made it all the more special.

My dad and mum called. Uncle Gerald, mum’s brother; called too. At 87; ne never fails to call every year.

There were hundreds of messages from the many social media platforms: my siblings and their families; Uncle Ronnie & Aunty Maryjane, Aunty Yvonne and Aunty Val; both from Perth, Australia, all my cousins and friends from all parts of the world.

It did not stop at the end of yesterday. I had more wonderful messages come in today. I had a nice message chat with Judith Wong, my neighbour from the next street. We talked about making a difference and impact on peoples’ lives. She is a great encouragement towards my writings.

Then, there was Gordon Fernando – a fellow CHOICE (a Catholic programme for single adults. I am from the CHOICE 7 group of 1982). We are on a CHOICE Whatsapp group chat. He refreshed my memory that we met once or more before, near a friend – Maryann Sharma’s house in Malacca. I visited Maryann at her family home in Malacca several times in the mid-1980s. Gordon has been based in the U.S. for 20 years. He is in the aviation industry.

Our close friend, Richard Kok; came over to our house in mid-afternoon. He brought a lovely, delicious cake that his daughter, Maryann Kok; sent to me. Maryann was a highly medal and record decorated state swimmer, representing the state of Selangor. She was senior to Laura in the team by a few years. Thanks, Maryann. It was a wonderful surprise.

A couple of hours though my conversation with Richard and we were playing tag-team for dozing off, The afternoon was very hot. Though the aircon was on full blast; it didn’t stop us from nodding our heads and dozing off. I did my 10km walk just before Richard came. Do you think it is a good excuse for me?😁😉😂😅💤

I met Nash from 4C, on my walk; who stopped his car just to wish me. We had a couple of laughs. Messages continued coming in from Jane, Iqbal, Herman Danker, Nara, Nic, Daniel, Gina, Tony Albert, Soh Chin Teck from La Salle 1975, Klang, Angeline, Mel (Austalia) and Cecilia. I also want to give a shout out to Charles Rozario who tried calling me during the frenzy of all the messages that were coming in.

The celebrations continue tomorrow. I will be meeting with a dear friend, also from CHOICE – Sharon; whom I have not met for many, many years. Sharon flew in from Europe a few days ago.

A special “Thank You” to Liz, my Tudor neighbour of 4D. She has inspired me to see and live life with even greater fervor. My thoughts and prayers are with her always.

Thank you all, once again for giving me a wonderful start to this 65th year.

ABBA: Thank You For The Music