London — The spring term has just ended, exams are over, and now students of London’s Imperial College have cause for celebration. A whole month of spring holidays is theirs enjoy before summer term starts.
What no one would have expected would be bleakness; the mysterious death of a promising Malaysian student of one of the world’s top universities and on the cusp of a bright career.
Police discovered the body of Muhammad Hafiz Zainal floating in The Serpentine, Hyde Park, in the early morning of Mar 25, after having received a phone call alerting them of a person in the lake waters. Paramedics attempted to revive Muhammad Hafiz but it was too late.
The 24-year-old had been an aspiring chemist on Malaysia’s highly-coveted Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam (JPA or Public Service Department) sponsorship. The JPA’s prestigious scholarship program, the Program Penajaan Nasional, is only granted to students who have gained entry into the UK’s or US’ top 20 universities based on the QS World University Rankings.
He had been studying chemistry in Imperial College London since 2015.
Muhammad Hafiz was the youngest of three children and the son of associate editor, and political writer Zainal Epi of the Malaysian English-language daily Malay Mail.
Authorities refuse to provide additional information about his cause of death since investigations are ongoing.
The youth’s family, with assistance from the Malaysian Embassy in London, are en route to London for the final arrangements. A bereaved Zainal Epi mentioned that he had visited his son just last Sept.
For many, Muhammad Hafiz’s tragic death is a stark reminder of how life as a student overseas can be a huge challenge, even as spring holidays roll around. International students often have to manage physical safety risks in unfamiliar places and face a culture shock plus homesickness. There also exists the never-ending pressure to perform well in academics — to meet and exceed expectations of family, friends, and mentors — as well as the reality of bullying, and racial micro-aggression.
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