How I Went From A Drop Out To Working With Shila Amzah And K-pop Idol Group SNSD

"...there is more to this life and you can turn it into something great if you know where to start and aren't afraid to do so."

Cover image via Aishah

Aishah Azham is only 21 years old this year but this young lady has achieved so many things thanks to her language skills

Image via Aishah

The bubbly young lady is a huge language enthusiast who can speak several languages including Malay, English, Korean, Japanese and Mandarin, and she's learning at least three other languages namely Arabic, Farsi and Turkish.

What's even more amazing is the fact that she actually learns all these languages on her own and she only started three years ago!

"I don't have enough money to go for classes so I usually use books and websites," Aishah said.

"Sometimes I go around the neighbourhood to look for people, who can speak Mandarin, like a neighbour of mine. I find it easy to converse with her once I know Mandarin."

Her passion for language has opened up so many opportunities, including the chance to establish a connection with popular South Korean girls group Girls' Generation (SNSD)

Girls’ Generation's Sooyoung signing a pouch to be auctioned online to help raise donation for KFB.

Image via Aishah

Last November, Aishah organised a local fundraising programme to support Korea's Fighting Blindness (KFB) Organisation, a foundation founded and operated by Jonathan Choi, Sooyoung's father. Sooyoung is one of the eight members in SNSD.

It was a long and difficult process to get things done but the youngest child in the family managed to pull through because of her proficiency in Korean.

"It started rough. It was so difficult to get in touch with Sooyoung's father. We don’t want to be seen as using Girls' Generation's name. I’m not doing this because I like SNSD or because I want to ride on their popularity," Aishah said.

Using her skills, Aishah designed T-shirts to reward supporters who pledged to donate. Every supporter and a patient diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in South Korea received a complimentary T-shirt each for a certain amount of donation.

Within a few weeks, Aishah managed to raise about RM3,000 to fund and support the research into causes, treatment and cures for degenerative retinal diseases.

Aishah (right) receiving the cheque for the RM3,000 raised that will go to Korea Fighting Blindness Org. (KFB) funding.

Image via Aishah

When we asked she was so supportive of this "foreign initiative", Aishah said that she sees this as a way to bridge the gap between Malaysia and an international organisation that funds such researches

"South Koreans don’t really have the access to the communities outside because they do not like English language and they refused to speak English. Some do, but they are afraid of foreigners. Those are some of the cultures that I have learned from them when I did business with them," said Aishah, who is from Subang Jaya, Selangor.

"They were so afraid of me speaking English, which was why I had to approach them in Korean. They were so afraid of what I could possibly do outside of their knowledge and fear that they wouldn’t know due to their limited English proficiency. But thankfully, they trusted me."

“Maybe it’s because I took the initiative to learn a little bit about their language and culture, like how they value hierarchy in such a way that they affect friendship and family ties."

"Learning languages will make it easier for us to make friends. We would be able to see beyond colour, race and religion," she added.

Like many successful people out there, Aishah had to go through failures first. She struggled through a rough period after her SPM examinations.

Image via Aishah

She had thought of pursuing culinary arts but the offer letter never came from any of the colleges that she had applied to, much to her disappointment. Then, she enrolled herself for Form 6 studies, but she dropped out of school after just one week.

With no other backup plans in mind, the clueless Aishah decided to learn how to use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator on her old, dying laptop by herself. With her new skills, she started a part-time business and started designing shirts for clients.

However, it was a struggle to get people to buy her designs since she did not have much experience and only had very limited contacts.

Eventually, her breakthrough came when an uncle called her up for a potential collaboration with popular local artist, Shila Amzah

Aishah (second from right) and her family meeting with Shila Amzah (third from right) and her father, ND Lala (left) for the first time to discuss about their future plans together.

Image via Aishah

Aishah was constantly promoting her work to her family and friends but she did not get any good response for almost a year.

At that time, she began to doubt herself and thought that perhaps she could be better off doing something else after seeing that her friends seemed to be doing very well in college.

It was then that she got a call from an uncle who was impressed with her work. Eventually, this uncle linked Aishah up with Shila Amzah, a popular and well-respected figure not just in Malaysia but in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan amongst others.

Since then, Aishah has the opportunity to work with Shila on certain projects.

Today, while Aishah has achieved many things, she continues to face many challenges including the difficulty to sustain her declining business because she has chosen to dedicate herself to mastering the Korean language

Aishah’s “Korean grandmother” whom she be-friended in 2014 after they found a common language. Also in the photo are her son, Mr Lee, and her two grandchildren, Si On and Ji On.

Image via Aishah

While her parents are extremely supportive of her life choices, Aishah has learnt to be independent by earning her own money over the last few years. She has been giving tuitions to children and teenagers to earn some income while she pursues her passion in learning more foreign languages.

As for her future plans, Aishah is preparing herself for the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) examinations, a step that she is taking to further her studies in languages.

Given her passion for language, it's no surprise that she aspires to teach English in Korea or teach Korean in Malaysia in the near future.

"I would like to let struggling young Malaysians know that there is more to this life and you can turn it into something great if you know where to start and aren't afraid to do so."

Living in the city ain’t a piece of cake but it could also be exciting and adventurous. How are you coping? How are you making the best out of things? Do you have a story or experience to share?

SUBMIT YOUR STORY NOW, or work on it and send it soon. Share a personal experience, your story as an urban city-dweller in Malaysia, whether it’s yours or from someone you know, email [email protected] or FB message us.

We’ll get in touch with you for your story to be featured on SAYS!

Stay tuned for the next episode!

Previously on Malaysian City Life #37, Chew Jian Li shared his experience of being blackmailed on the road for the first time:

You may be interested in: