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.

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


Phew! Tiring. 24 events. Many, many heats. Jeannie and I got back from the Sports Excel Milo Junior Swimming Championship. It was a two day event held over the weekend (June 25 & 26, 2022) at the Selangor Aquatic Centre, Shah Alam. (1)

Laura, in her early days of competitive swimming. This was when she was In Girls, Group 4 (10 years and under) age group.
Laura, Girls, Group 4 (10 years and under) age group.

At the Registration room just before a race. Each swimmer has to present his or herself for registration before every race. If a swimmer fails to register during the “Calling time” before each race; that swimmer will be classified as “DNS” (Did Not Swim) and not allowed to swim for that race. The referee of the day can rule / bar that swimmer from swimming the rest of the events for that day.

Training, usually is between 5 to 8 times a week; depending on which level of competitive swimming a swimmer is at.

Laura, at her school track and field competition.
Laura, receiving a medal for one of the races she won at her school’s sports.
A common sight on most swimmers’ hands – “Tattooed hand” for the day with event numbers, what heats and which lane for each heat: Laura on one of the competitive swimming competition days.

In one of her early competitions when she was about 10 or 11 years old. Here, she warms up before the competition starts.

On one of those typical competition days. While waiting for her next event, Laura keeps herself occupied. Looking on is Mr. Foong, Elaine’s father. Elaine was in the same girls’ age group as Laura. A typical competition day can be from 6.00am in the morning until 10.30pm. The venue this competitive swimming competition was held in is the Malacca Aquatic Stadium at its sports complex.

A “must do” at any of the swimming competitions. Rush to first of all find the notice board where the official race results will be posted after the competition.

Laura, last swam in Malaysia in August, 2019. So, why are Jeannie and I still at it? Still at the swimming pool at competitions? The answer is simple. For one, the picture below says it all. Look at the smile on her face💖

Future World Champion. This was taken when Laura was around 10 years old.

Another reason is to give back to the sport in a way we can, when we can; for all that it has done for Laura in terms of being a part of her life-moulding process. The many people that have been a part of this process:
Coach Mark Chua, Coach Marilyn Chua, Coach Ong Jin Kooi, Coach Dr Molly Duesterhaus (Millikin University), Coach Mokhtar,
Parents: Richard Kok, Alan Teh, & Siew Toe, Peter & Ivy Chan, Connie & Ravi, Hannifah Yoong Yin Fah
Swimmers: Maryann Kok, Shaun Yap and all her teammates and swimmers from competitive teams, too; over the years in sport.
Squash G.O.A.T. : Datuk Nicol David, who took time to give Laura a pep talk on being champion when Laura was about 11 years old.

The list is non-exhaustive as there are many, many more people who have always been incredibly supportive over the years. We encourage this to carry on in the generations to come.

So, yeah. I guess it can be said that we can’t get enough.

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1. Shah Alam is in the state of Selangor, Malaysia.

Michael Jackson: Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough


Was it like a week ago that it was last year? Why is that word “like” in there? It is a good sentence on its own without the need to use that overused, meaninglessly used word most times. It sounds good or “hip”. Anyway, we can go over the cliff talking about the use of this four-letter “L” word; so, let’s not….go over the cliff.

The whirr, whirr, whirring sound of the ceiling fan, the meaningless planking and plonking of a piano with a clarinet blaring (or is it blurting?) out some musical notes; filling the void spaces of the piano’s planking and plonking of musical notes, creating lounge jazz; being played out from Google Home Mini, with its volume set at 2. After a while, you tend not to follow or try to follow the music, just accepting that it is meant to fil the sound of silence.

The main LED light on the wall with the filler LED table lamp provides illuminance.

It has been a slow start to 2022; well at least for my new year’s resolutions. Let’s review them:

Writing my book. My first attempt. It has not moved much over the last two weeks. A bit worrisome to think that two weeks have gone by and I have not made much head way.

I know the gist of what I want to write. It is tending to be more on the science fiction story line. Will it give Elon Musk a run for his money? We will just have to wait and see. Nothing has firmed up yet.

Next item on the list is to be financially free. It may be too early to gauge any meaningful results, but so far it looks like it is heading in the right direction.

Weight watching. My weight is now fluctuating in a slightly lower band range, just below 74kg. This is good.

Though there has been some improvement in all three of the resolutions, I hope to speed them up.

I helped out as an official for the Selangor Age Group last weekend (Jan 7th to 9th). Jeannie helped out on Saturday and Sunday. It was awesome to see many new faces, most of them from the Groups 3 and 4 age groups. These kids just got onto the starting blocks and did their stuff. They raced and they gave more than their best.

Among them could rise state, national and possible world champions. These kids are the future of tomorrow. Sports (I am more qualified to talk about swimming, even with my limited knowledge on the subject) requires discipline in training to bear champion results.

Watching these children as they warmed up, prepared and raced; and then warmed down gave us a sense of nostalgia when we used to watch Laura (our daughter) do the same, from when she was 9 years old right up to the time she left for her tertiary education in the U.S. Great memories.

Met a parent, Adele; a pint-size, sweet, gentle lady; whose 16-year old son, competed in the SAG. Like many other people have told me many times before; she said, “I know you because of your, ‘Go Laura Go’ cheer at all the swimming championships that Laura competed in. We know that Laura would be racing at that time. The competitions are not the same without your ‘Go Laura Go’ cheer.”

Met many old friends there, parents whose children have grown up, some studying abroad, some already working. Among them were Susan, Harry, Kamarol, June, Mandy, Alan Teh, Daphne, Bani and Peter Chan.

Bani, Peter and I reminisced the time when we went to Singapore to cheer our children on as they took part in the Singapore Open.

Jeannie and I at the OCBC Aquatic Centre in Kallang, Singapore at the Singapore Open 2017

Laura preparing for her race at the Singapore Open 2017

We parents made the most of our “free” time gallivanting Singapore in search of good hawker food and shopping. We had an amazing time at Gardens by the Bay.

This was at a “famous” cafe in Johor, recommended by Trip Advisor.
The cafe served a good variety of Malay, Chinese, Indian and western cakes. Jeannie and me

At the Gardens By The Bay in Singapore. Left to Right: Ivy Kwan, Bani, Aya, myself and Peter Chan

Picture taken from the Gardens By The Bay, Singapore.
Resting by the beautiful flowers at the Gardens By The Bay, Singapore.

The Marina Sands Hotel, Singapore; behind Jeannie and Peter.

The beautiful Gardens By The Bay, Singapore.

Jeannie preparing Aya for the photoshoot at the Gardens By the Bay, Singapore

Jeannie, Ivy Kwan and Aya. Photoshoot in session, Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

Jeannie, Ivy Kwan and Aya. Photoshoot in session, Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

We also caught up with Laura’s former coaches, Mark & Marilyn Chua and Mr Ong Jin Kooi. We also met with Helen Chang (Mark’s & Marilyn’s mother) who like her children, encourage all parents to send their children abroad to the U.S. to further their tertiary education. “Let them learn the world from a different perspective”.

The SAG was a good meet. It is a good time as any for parents of young children to get them involved in sports. It requires commitment and dedication by parents for their child to succeed in a sport they get involved in. One good example is Victoria Boudeville. She travels from Seremban 5 times a week to & from Kuala Lumpur, sending her daughter for soccer training. That is around an hour’s drive each way when the highway does not have much traffic.

As we are heading into the fifth hour of the eleventh day of the new year; let’s keep our new year’s resolutions and goals in front of us to inspire us to get a move on. We can accomplish them. Most of all, have fun while doing so.


The swim race season takes off from the starting blocks again this weekend. Jeannie and I, having spectators’ front row seats in front of our big computer screens, watching Laura (1) and Millikin university swimming team race; will be upping the ante in our “Go Laura GO!” cheering campaign this year.

Watching a sport live on a big tv screen is nothing new. In 1999; we were at the Sepang Petronas Formula 1 race. In that race, we got to see Michael Schumacher (2), Mika Hakkinen, Eddie Irvine and Rubens Barichello race.

That whole weekend was an enormous fanfare of excitement. Jeannie and I pitched our place on the small hillside at the last few corners of the racetrack at the back of the grandstand. We laid out a mat and used two large umbrellas to shield us from the blazing sun. We enjoyed the aerial display of the Malaysian air force’s F-18 Hornets, Mikoyan Mig-29s and Sukhoi SU-30s. Simply outstanding. There was a race of wannabe racers in Proton Satrias. Then, followed a motor parade of the Formula 1 drivers taken around in vintage cars for a lap round the track.

Malaysia’s hosting of the first Formula 1 race took place after that. It started with the formation lap where all the cars did a lap around the track with the safety car leading in front. Then, they took position on the grid. The 5 starter lights went out and the race began.

Soon the cars made way around the track and came up to our section where we were sitting. We knew they were coming because their engines were so loud that they muted the sound of thunder. They were gone like a flash in the pan, all in a brief few seconds. Then, we had to watch the rest of the lap on big monitor screens until the cars came up in front of us the next lap and all the following laps until the end of the race.

It was a 56 lap race. So, if the cars were in front of us for about 5 seconds, it would have meant that we got to see the cars live in action for 5 seconds x 56 laps = 280 seconds or 4 minutes 40 seconds only. That was the last time we watched the race at the track. Needless to say, the 4 hour traffic jam getting out of there, helped cement our decision.

The weather which threatened with rain clouds to wet the whole of Petaling Jaya in the morning, looked like it was clearing up quickly as we started our journey south of the border (♪♪South of the border, down Mexico way♪♪ – remember that old song?) of Selangor to Malacca.

The drive on the highway was smooth, despite fairly heavy traffic. Our ride was in our friend’s Porsche Macan. The car was powerful, fast but the ride was very firm, so much so that the step count on my Samsung Watch 4 Classic read every tiny bump as a step walked. The firmness is expected of this sports car.

Porsche Macan facelift launched in Malaysia as base 2.0 litre model – 252 PS, 370 Nm; prices from RM455k Image #975386
Porsche Macan facelift launched in Malaysia as base 2.0 litre model – 252 PS, 370 Nm; prices from RM455k Image #975396

Porsche Macan facelift launched in Malaysia as base 2.0 litre model – 252 PS, 370 Nm; prices from RM455k Image #975408
Interior of the Porsche Macan. Honda Jazz style steering wheel. Buttons, buttons and more buttons everywhere. The chrome bits meant to give contrast to an otherwise all black interior, looks like it was penciled in the design as an afterthought.

We entered Malacca through Alor Gajah and was in the city centre in no time. We came to Malacca to have authentic Portuguese food. So, where do we get authentic Portuguese food? Why, the Portuguese Settlement, also known as St John’s village; of course. The Portuguese Settlement is home to the “Kristang” people, more popularly know as the Malacca Eurasians. We made our way there in no time at all.

A huge disappointment. At 1.30pm, all the restaurants were closed; the earliest was only going to open at 4.00pm. It might have been their “siesta” time. We wondered if they followed the habits / traditions of Portugal and Spain. (3).

We asked a lady who was outside her house just next to the “Portuguese Square” where we could find authentic Portuguese food for lunch. The Portuguese Square is a building in the Portuguese Settlement. This “square”, houses shops all round the square perimeter of the building; the centre of it is where cultural shows are performed, with patrons of these restaurants and shops sitting at tables there to watch these shows.

We were famished as we had worked up an appetite all the way down to Malacca. The lady whose name was Ann, directed us to go to the end of a road, two roads behind where we were now. “You go to the last house at the end of the road and say Ann sent you”. We asked if it was far from where we were now. She said the exercise will do us good, that we can’t drive there as the roads were too narrow.

So, off we went, in the hot, blazing Malacca sun. It was not that far, we reached there in about ten minutes.

Tommy Savage (that is his real name) and his sister, Jenny (4); greeted us when they saw us and invited us in their home. In typical Kristang / Malaccan Portuguese Eurasian fashion; they went into overdrive with excitement and friendliness. They were in the business of selling pickles. They brought out mango, fish and fish roe pickles; all going for RM15 per bottle, cinchalok (5) and home made wine.

Mango pickle by Jenny Savage and family

Jeannie and our friend sampled the fish roe pickles and before I could say anything, Tommy poured a glass of the homemade wine for me to try. I tried to say “no” but the glass was shoved in my hand and he said, You must try”. I drank it. It was fruity with some amount of alcohol. Jeannie tried some, too. Made from “pulut hitam” or black glutinous rice. The taste was quite nice and light. They did not have any of the wine to sell as the stock they had was being shipped to Johor (the southern most state of Peninsula Malaysia).

Inside the Savage family home. No, I was not waving to anybody. I was trying to get the Samsung smartphone to take a picture by just closing my hand . This gesture works at times and at times, it catches you off guard like now. It is not supposed to take the shot with my hand still in the air.😆

Tommy and his family were very gracious. They even took us of a short tour of their long house, which seemed to be 2 or 3 houses joined together. They had many dogs all around the house. Tommy said it was a necessary security as theirs was the last house before some open land filled with tall grass and then the sea. Their family have owned that land for hundreds of years.

We bought some bottles of pickles and a bottle of cincalok, then, made our way back to the SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle).

By now, we had given up on the idea of Portuguese food and decided on some nyonya food. Jeannie knew of a restaurant that served some of the best nyonya food in Malacca. Opposite the entrance into the Portuguese Settlement, is a little shack-like restaurant that is rumoured to serve the best nasi lemak in Malacca. But it opens only from 4pm – 7pm, daily. We’ve been there once before with Laura, when she was in Malacca to compete in one of the national swimming championships.

We headed to “Nancy’s Kitchen” – the restaurant which was just a few kilometers away. When we arrived there, the restaurant had a long waiting queue. We were not going to wait and started walking to other restaurants around the area.

Nancy’s Kitchen, Taman Kota Laksamana, Malacca

We came to this restaurant called “Face to Face Noodle House” (6), that served freshly made Sarawak conlo mee. Simply delicious. This restaurant is a few doors away from Nancy’s Kitchen.

The spicy dried onions (I think) stuff on the right of the picture (near the facemasks) and in the container (at the top centre of the picture) is potently delicious. It is a condiment but we found ourselves adding it to every mouthful of this delicious mee we had.

Every ingredient in the meals served, seemed to be well balanced. We enjoyed lunch. It was worth the trip to Malacca.

Dried spicy onions condiment.

After lunch, we went back to Nancy’s Kitchen to buy nyonya cookies.

These pineapple jam tarts are yum! If you’re hoping to sample taste one, they are about all gone 😋
In the famous nyonya restaurant, Nancy’s Kitchen.

Then, we did a short “ronda-ronda” of the famous Jonker Street (Malaysians like to go to all those famous famous places and restaurants. Don’t know how they became famous but if someone said so, then must be true “lah” (7) ). We visited all the surrounding attraction sites, stopping by at several more shops along the way to buy more cookies and snacks.

Local cookies and snacks

We started our journey back home at nearly 4.00pm, feeling satisfied that we got some good food. The irony of going to Malacca and having Sarawak food. Malacca is an interesting place for great food, a good getaway for relaxation and lots of sight-seeing activities.

As for The Porsche Macan, priced above the budget of most. Should you get one if you had the money? If you want brand, then yes. Porsche is race bred. Explains the very firm ride. If you are a young family, you may look at other options with a more comfortable ride.

This Saturday morning (today), Jeannie and I will be going up North-West to a town for an often talked-about, famous (that “famous” word again) curry laksa. Stay tuned for a write up on it.


  1. Laura Kristen Atkinson, a state swimmer for Selangor, Malaysia before relocating abroad for her tertiary education.
  2. Michael Shumacher did not win that race. He won his 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th world titles from the following year onwards.
  3. Paolo Pinto, Few people in Portugal actually take a «sesta» (siesta is a spanish word). When they do, it’s after lunch, some time between 1 and 3 pm. Unlike Spain, where shops and businesses usually close in the early afternoon, in Portugal lunchtime is short and there is no time for a nap, even in the hottest months. April 12th, Quora
  4. Jenny Savage, Tel: +60142651989; Portuguese Settlement, Malacca, Malaysia
  5. Cincalok or “cencaluk” is a Malay dish that originated in MalaccaMalaysia, consumed by MalayPeranakan and Kristang. It can trace it origin during Portuguese occupation of Malacca. In Malacca, the shrimp is called udang geragau. This dish made up of fermented small shrimps or krill. It is usually served as a condiment together with chillisshallots and lime juice. The shrimp in the pinkish coloured cincalok are readily identifiable and the taste is salty. 
  6. Face to Face Noodle House, No. 26, Jalan Kota Laksamana 3/7, Section 3, Taman Kota Laksamana, 72500 Malacca
  7. “Lah” Truly Malaysian.

“South of the Border” by Chris Isaak. Soothing and gentle…sets the mood. YouTube