An optimist. A nature lover. A thrill seeker. These are just some of the ways to describe Lee Qai Qet. His grounded and kind disposition has earned him much affection both within and beyond the Faculty. Although a city boy at heart, he gravitates towards much more invigorating passions such as the environment and sports.
Attributing most of his interests and values to his teenage days as an active member of the Scouts Association of Malaysia, Qai Qet recalls being inculcated with the spirit of altruism and generosity. He learned to build relationships and developed new skills by participating in a myriad of camping and volunteering activities. Furthermore, senior members would often return to guide junior members in said scouting activities, cultivating a culture of brotherhood.
Nurtured by these practices, he grew up to be the kind and warm person he is today: ever ready to lend a helping hand to those in need. 17-year-old Qai Qet was even awarded the prestigious King’s Scout Award — uniquely endorsed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and nine Sultans of Malaysia — as a testament to his dedication as a Scout. His determination and commitment in his scouting endeavours have since bled into other aspects of his life, including his journey into law school.
Gleaming with pride from being awarded the King’s Scout Award — an emblem for his spirit of altruism
Now in his final year of university, he recounts how his life has always been surrounded by law. With a lawyer for a father, he is no stranger to the parental expectation of studying more traditionally white-collar fields such as law, medicine, and accounting. Since his older brother went to medical school, Qai Qet decided to try his hand at law. This choice did not come without its own set of challenges. Choosing law meant saying goodbye to some of his favourite subjects, such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology. Regardless, he took a leap of faith and opted for social science subjects in his Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (‘STPM’).
Qai Qet’s dream university remained constant despite the uncertainty faced in determining his academic pathway.
‘Entering University Malaya (‘UM’) started off as a joke between me and my mum. I would also joke around about it with my friends. Eventually, it became a dream of mine to be a student here.’
As he longed to be accepted into the prestigious institution’s Faculty of Law, he went to great lengths to ensure he satisfied all the entry requirements to a tee. He even retook the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (‘SPM’) Bahasa Melayu paper to obtain the best grade possible!
Upon entering the Faculty, Qai Qet — like many of his peers — was greeted with a sea of student body activities. Though many had opted for the conventional path of mooting and debating, he instead was swept away by the currents of environmental activism. Funnily enough, he identifies as a born and raised city boy seeing as he calls the bustling town of Petaling Jaya home. Nonetheless, nature and the environment have always been a passionate calling for this big-city dweller. Serene images from National Geographic documentaries would transport him to the wonderful natural world. A young Qai Qet developed a strong empathy for all living things and started advising others on leading a more sustainable lifestyle. However, with very few peers sharing the same passion as him, he often felt alienated by his interests.
‘Sometimes I would advise others to turn off their air conditioners as it is harmful to the ozone layer. Since I could not find anyone else with the same passion, I always felt like the odd one out.’
That was until he crossed paths with Roots & Shoots Malaysia back in 2019. Being able to meet fellow volunteers as well as senior researchers who shared the same enthusiasm and awareness made Qai Qet feel less alone in his environmental pursuits. At Roots & Shoots Malaysia, one will receive a list of relevant environmental non-governmental organisations (‘NGOs’) that volunteers may work with for a span of four months. With the organisation acting as a bridge between youths and NGOs, Qai Qet managed to collaborate with other bodies and bring his conservation journey to greater heights.
Qai Qet and the wonderful Langkawi Dolphin Research team
Qai Qet’s volunteering experience is embedded with unforgettable moments. He vividly recollects the first time he ever laid eyes on wildlife in their natural habitat, no longer confined to just his television screen. With an opportunity to patrol a beach with the Perhentian Turtle Project (‘the Project’), Qai Qet got to witness the magical scene of sea turtles coming to shore in order to lay their eggs. The image of these beautiful creatures, accompanied by the tranquil moonlight and the peaceful sound of the waves, will forever be ingrained in his memory. He even managed to get a closer look at these sea turtles when he completed a freediving course with the Project to take pictures of them. The pictures aimed to record and track the movements of different turtles. Here, he learned that each turtle has a unique scale pattern as its own sign of individuality.
On the other hand, it was a whole different experience volunteering in the Langkawi Dolphin Research, conducted by the majority women-led Marine Mammal Research & Conservation (‘MareCet’). His responsibility as a surveyor required him to observe the vast azure seas for hours to catch any signs of life. With the help of skippers, researchers, and a bit of luck, Qai Qet bore witness to one of nature’s most powerful swimmers as they breached gracefully across the picturesque ocean.
‘There were dolphins jumping up and down from both sides of the boat. Suddenly, another one was doing the high jump a few metres in front of us. It felt like a painting we used to see as kids, and it was magical.’
Despite the rocky road, it was all worthwhile to witness nature’s majestical creatures
On his journey, Qai Qet had to sit on a rocky boat at the mercy of unforgiving waves for up to eight hours. This was proven to be quite the challenge for his motion sickness — an unfortunate trait to have for such an adventurous spirit. His team spent days surveying the ocean, sometimes encountering moody storms with waves growing harsher and higher by the second. He recalled how they were drenched from head to toe by showers from both the sea and sky.
‘It was thrilling because the waves were as high as the boat itself! The person in charge, Dr Louisa, was very calm about it as if this was a daily thing. I am truly impressed by her strength and bravery.’
Qai Qet is grateful to The Reef Spawn Project and MareCet for the opportunity of a lifetime
Another one of his volunteering highlights would be the time he joined a beach clean-up in Pantai Pasir Panjang, Perak. He was shocked at the monstrous amount of plastic and polystyrene that littered nearly the whole beach, making it inaccessible. During his first visit, the organiser brought two buses of volunteers and managed to collect 500 kilograms of weather-bitten waste in just two hours. His second visit saw a higher number of volunteers that cleaned up over 600 kilograms of rubbish. This journey led Qai Qet to reflect upon humankind’s damaging impact on the ocean and environment. He has since tried his best to avoid using plastic products as a small contribution towards the fight against climate change.
The kind-hearted team behind a successful beach clean-up
Undoubtedly, the most challenging aspect of managing national and marine parks would be the separation of legislative powers for land and sea resources, as per the Ninth Schedule.
Participating in The Reef Spawn Project gifted a chance to see how the Department of Fisheries face their daily challenges
Evidently, environmental conservation involves an ecosystem of various parties that work in tandem with one another. Enacting change is often easier said than done. Upon learning of these intricacies first-hand, Qai Qet strongly believes that there is an urgent need to strike a balance between all parties to allow environmental activism to truly flourish.
Qai Qet’s enthusiasm towards green volunteerism is truly admirable. He would often pursue his passions during the semester breaks, going against the grain of taking up internships or mooting as most law students would. The nagging need to follow the same pursuits as his peers is a familiar feeling to him. He even recalls feeling pressured to moot in his first year, seeing that all his peers seemed to be entering the mooting scene. While these activities are undeniably beneficial, Qai Qet would rather spend his time doing the things that bring him the most joy. There is no time like the present and being young comes with the convenient perk of having fewer commitments. Knowing there will be less free time after graduation, he is keen on following his heart and doing what he does best: helping the environment with his persistent dedication and effortless charm.
The icy weather did not stop him from solo backpacking in Poland
‘I would not say this applies to everyone, but the age of 20 to 30 years old is the time when there is nothing to lose. You should be doing what is most fulfilling to you, which will make you happier in the future.’
Apart from noble intentions to keep the Earth green, Qai Qet has a personal investment in the beauty of nature. He often partakes in sports such as badminton, rock climbing, and the occasional marathon. Besides, he is a known thalassophile and often finds peace in his love for swimming and surfing.
His lack of experience in competitive swimming did not stop him from representing the 12th Residential College in the Sukan Mahasiswa Universiti Malaya (‘SUKMUM’). Armed with intensive training from his coach and tips he picked up from YouTube, he successfully finished the 50-metre track in a whopping 25 seconds. While competitive swimming had its difficulties, he enjoyed every second spent in the water.
Two medals won will forever hold a great memory for his experience in competitive swimming
Qai Qet’s passion for surfing, on the other hand, began in the sparkling waters of Gold Coast, Australia. He has since surfed the waves of Phuket and Cherating. Always keeping an eye out for new adventures, Qai Qet is never afraid of navigating uncharted waters — be it literal or metaphorical.
His dauntlessness is also seen in his venture into entrepreneurship with ‘Paperthingz’ — an online convenience store on the e-commerce site, Shopee. The name was derived from one of his long-time dreams to sell stationery, inspired by the charming printing shops surrounding his home. Despite lacking the necessary experience and skills to start, he was determined to reach out and pick the right suppliers to realise this dream of his. The Movement Control Order turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the rise of online shopping boosted his sales and allowed him to surpass the 9,000 followers milestone.
Qai Qet’s responsibilities as the founder of ‘Paperthingz’ requires him to handle every matter of business, from maintaining inventory to replying customers’ enquiries. Additionally, he is also in charge of packing and shipping out the orders. It seems like a Herculean task for one person, but thankfully, he has his business partner to assist him. The work is undeniably taxing for anyone, let alone a student. Knowing to prioritise his academic work, he always tries to manage his schedule by adhering to pressing deadlines and never missing tutorials. He also leans on his support system and asks for help when he feels overwhelmed.
He has a few generous tips for those looking to venture into a side business. Firstly, one must be bold in taking that leap of faith. Every business has its risks. It definitely requires courage to take the first step. Qai Qet strongly advises potential entrepreneurs to consider all possibilities before investing in order to mitigate any losses. Keeping his business small allows for a more manageable risk factor. By carefully considering his choices, Qai Qet made the smart decision to utilise Shopee which allows sellers to alter their businesses according to their needs. It also does not require maintaining a physical shop or hiring many employees.
Secondly, one must differentiate between advice to follow and advice to leave behind. Qai Qet admits that starting something new may attract an overwhelming amount of new information and input — some of which may not be useful to every situation. Be wary of the advice you receive and learn to pick what is best for you.
Thirdly, resilience and adaptability are always a must in any competitive field. Shopee can be a cutthroat environment for any new business, as there are hordes of competitors joining the platform every day. There is always a possibility to hit a fall in sales. For him, it is important to know how to adapt and offer the best prices to attract customers. Thus, one must persist despite the obstacles to succeed.
The future is looking bright for him, but it is his past and present that sets the stage for his imminent success. His excellent support system, in his opinion, is one of the biggest reasons behind his achievements. With that, Qai Qet would like to thank his parents for their constant love and kindness. Their unwavering support for all his passions — including allowing him to transform one of the rooms at home into a storage space for his Shopee business — has only propelled him forward.
‘I am so lucky to have them because they are not like typical Asian parents and are always supportive of my interests, no matter how extreme said interests may be.’
‘CP Canything’ — his strongest support system ever since his days in secondary school
Lastly, he also extends his gratitude to his invaluable circle of friends, ‘Pxxxluc’, comprising Luc Choong, Kelvin Chew, Edward Lee, Ignatius Joel Nathan, Matthew Ooi, and Farhan Hadeed. A special thank you is dedicated to June Ong as well for all the support given throughout their friendship.
He is glad to have met Dr Louisa Ponnampalam from MareCet, who has generously granted him the opportunity to expand his horizons in the area of environmental conservation.
The good memories made in law school are radiated with ‘Pxxxluc’ by his side — literally
All in all, Qai Qet has weathered the stormy seas of law school and environmental activism thanks to his fearlessly ambitious and persistent spirit. His courage to pursue his passions — no matter how varied or peculiar they may be — is truly admirable. Not afraid of standing out, Qai Qet serves as an inspiration to many as he is a shining example that being comfortable with oneself is the key to flourishing in one’s own path.
Written by Siti Nur Radhwa.
Reviewed by Chrystal Foo, Pravena Sreetharan, and Ee Jie.