Kok Jit Weng’s goal in attending Queen’s University Belfast to earn a BA in Political Science and Government was to influence positive change in Malaysian politics.
An extremely contentious national election took place in 2013. Hundreds of thousands of people showed up at rallies, all with the same goal: to oust a corrupt prime minister and his cronies.
The man known as Jit felt something. His family had always encouraged him to go into law, and he had considered doing so himself, but he couldn’t deny the national mood: a nation troubled by systemic injustice.
Instead of going into the military, he was forced into politics. “It was just election fever,” he says.
For what reasons did Jit decide to enrol at Queen’s University, Belfast?
Given Ireland’s political heritage, Jit was interested in learning more about the country’s methods for resolving internal strife.
Asking himself, “What can I learn there that I can apply back home?” His coursework included study of electoral tactics, government structure, and policy analysis.
With our location in Belfast, we were able to immerse ourselves in the study of local politics. Jit explains, “I was drawn to Belfast in part because its history is so similar to Malaysia’s in terms of internal conflict.
However, he realised that the skills he had acquired were not the ones he wanted to hone.
He switched gears from politics to coffee when he returned to Malaysia to assist his brother with the launch of his cafe rather than take up the internship that had been offered to him.
Since he was already a coffee connoisseur before joining the family business, his interest and enthusiasm for the subject only grew.
Once Jit returned to Ireland, he didn’t stop pursuing his interest. He chose to write his senior thesis on the topic of coffee’s supply chain politics and environmental sustainability.
Dr. John Barry, a lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast who is also a member of the Green Party and an advocate for environmentally responsible and socially just consumption, served as the paper’s faculty advisor.
After moving back to Malaysia to take over the family cafe, Jit shifted his attention from farm-to-farmer sustainability to industry sustainability.
In the beginning, his job was to alter people’s perceptions of coffee.
If the industry itself isn’t sustainable, how can the farms be? Then we can move on to developing environmentally friendly farm methods. This is what I can do right now to make a difference, says the recent graduate of Queen’s University Belfast, acknowledging that ultimately everything needs to be tackled collectively.
After learning the ropes the hard way, Jit is now able to offer individualised consultation on everything from bean roasting to equipment selection and barista training.
If there was one thing he could go back in time and teach himself, it would be how to manage people, manage money, and exercise power while keeping one’s sego to a minimum.
Jit has three pieces of advice for those who want to study abroad: “Don’t panic; your results, your degree, and your university are not a measure of your self-worth.”
Finally, have faith in yourself and never settle for less than you deserve.