Corina Robert Mangharam is a final-year student who will soon graduate from the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya (UM) in October 2020. She is adorably known to many as Corina for her constant involvement and presence in Faculty activities. In four years of her time as a UM law student, she managed to endeavour in projects within and beyond the Faculty—which in return, cultivated her impressive string of leadership positions. Corina is an inspiring figure amongst the student body and is much admired by her peers. However, her achievements had never diminished her gentle and compassionate personality. Known for her resolute mindset even in the face of adversity, Corina is now undergoing her pupillage at Messrs Fahri & Co.
Corina with her loving family
Corina is a Sabahan with an intriguing mix of Chinese, Sino-Kadazan Dusun, Northern Indian and Thai genetics in her blood. She is the eldest amongst four siblings in her family of six. Ever since childhood, Corina is accustomed to the hustle and bustle of city life, and the relaxation that comes with a small town. She was constantly moving between states during her primary school years before finally settling down in her hometown Tuaran, Sabah. Later, she started to explore new interests during school breaks to keep her probing nature satisfied. The fruits of her curiosity led her upon a spectacular learning adventure on sign language, art, music and bullet journaling.
Writing is one of her favourite pastimes; it naturally developed upon her love of reading. Hailing from a family of avid readers, Corina practically spent her life surrounded by books. She vividly recounts memories of her mother giving her younger self a children’s storybook titled ‘The Magic Clock’ by Enid Blyton. The book captivated her and prompted her to scour for other titles from the same collection in bookstores. Her meaningful bookstore trips often served as a bonding session for her family. Corina fondly relishes these precious memories that kickstarted her reading journey. From then on, she attempted novel writing and short story writing. Though they were admittedly not up to par, Corina found her niche in poetry. She started off composing lines about her personal life, and poetry quickly became her most frequent creative output. Despite having no prior knowledge of poetry, Corina was able to self-publish her own poetry book, ‘Midnight Muses’, after finishing her Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM). These days, she writes to express her thoughts about life in general and comments on social issues. She found growth and maturity in her writing which transcended from musings on her personal life.
Corina during the launching event of ‘Midnight Muses’
Corina initially aspired to be a full-time writer. However, the unwanted stress she would have on her hobby led her to pursue a different career path—law. She credited her father’s informative storytelling as an inspiration for her decision. Mr Robert George Mangharam is a police officer who loves to share his knowledge on criminal law with his family. The fascinating exposures Corina gained through her father’s narratives prompted her interest in the field of criminal law since the tender age of twelve. She later found her passion in becoming a Deputy Public Prosecutor, a decision her family encourages.
‘It was difficult because I was from a Chinese independent school, and at that time, not many people knew that we could take STPM, foundation or matriculation. My parents were the ones who told me that I could actually sit for STPM to get into UM. I never wanted to study overseas either. I only wanted UM Law. I had a one-track mind, and I wouldn’t have accepted anything else because it wouldn’t have made me as happy.’
Like many others, Corina’s law journey began with an offer letter to UM Law. She was ecstatic to take on the world as an ambitious first-year law student and prepared to leave her mark on the Faculty. Always a fervent opportunist, she was determined to make the most out of her university life by participating in any opportunity that comes her way, be it Faculty activities, residential college projects, emceeing or other programmes that caught her interest. Notably, she unearthed fervour in the Orientation Week Programme—a compulsory initiation programme aimed to assimilate freshmen into the Law Faculty. Although many students dreaded the unnerving experience, Corina utilised the avenue to vocalise her opinions. The difficult, yet fun times staying up late with her fellow Atkin groupmates to prepare for presentations were thoroughly pleasurable. It further heightened the budding interest she had for the law.
‘I enjoyed my Orientation Week. People always say that it was scary, but to me, it just interested me further and invoked me to be more involved. I want those after me to feel the same way; to feel like they want to do better and perform.’
Out of her love for the programme, it was not surprising that Corina became a member of the Orientation Week Committee (JKO) for three consecutive years, especially after the programme was revamped into Lex Ordinem. As a JKO, Corina was both compassionate and strict. She fondly recalls sharing her love of OneNote with the members of the Faculty through the OneNote Workshop. Although Corina was not the first student to utilise the application, she was among the first to advocate its resourcefulness in taking down lecture notes. Students who attended her workshop managed to pick up another note-taking option to cater to their needs. Besides conducting the OneNote Workshop, her primary purpose was to ensure that the freshmen have the same encouraging experience she had in her days. Corina tried her best to fulfil that objective in her capacity as a JKO, and she fervently hopes that it was achieved.
Corina in her final year with the JKOs of Lex Ordinem 2019/2020
Indubitably, Orientation Week and Lex Ordinem were mere glimpses into Corina’s adventurous university life. After involving herself in residential college activities during her first year, she was later on regularly scouted to emcee academic events like the 11th Tun Suffian Memorial Lecture: Pushing the Boundaries 2019 and the forum on Definitive Challenges for Indigenous Peoples 2019. In her third year, she, along with Ms Nurul Syuhada, Mr Neoh Kai Sheng, Ms Jessica Lim and Ms Angeline Seow, presented on LGBT rights in Malaysia for the Symposium: Law and Behaviour in Fukuoka, Japan. She thanks the Faculty for the opportunity and support, for during the seven days she interacted with individuals from different countries and regained her sense of purpose. Notably, Corina also worked as the Executive Secretary for Pertubuhan Alumni Rumpun Fakulti Undang-Undang Universiti Malaya (PARFUM) in her final year.
Corina and her colleagues, accompanied by the Deputy Dean of the Law Faculty, Associate Professor Norbani binti Mohamed Nazeri, representing the University of Malaya in Symposium: Law and Behaviour 2018/2019 in Fukuoka, Japan
One of her most recognised affiliations with the Faculty is her involvement in the University of Malaya Law Review (UMLR). Corina’s decision to join the Editorial Board was driven by the request of Mr Leeroy Ting, the founder of UMLR who approached her to apply for a position in the Executive Board of 2017/2018. Her fearlessness in pursuing opportunities was not in vain, as she was entrusted the position of the Head of Online Editorial.
Without any prior experience in editing, Corina had to overcome a steep learning curve. As the Head of Online Editorial, she was responsible for managing the website and generating good publicity for the Board in addition to her duties as a UMLR editor. The overarching goal of her tenure as the Head of Online Editorial was to promote a stronger online presence. In hopes of realising her visions, she established the practice of posting fresh legal news on social media, which proved to be significantly successful. This practice is retained up until the present. The consistent traction gained from these news postings was one of her proud contributions to UMLR. Besides, the Lex Omnibus segment was also established during her time, which rose to popularity for its laymen-friendly structure. As of today, Lex Omnibus serves as one of the more popular platforms, especially for aspiring first-year writers of the UM Law Faculty to submit their works. She is grateful to Mr Leeroy Ting, the Editorial Advisor, as well as Ms Hanan Khaleeda, the Editor-in-Chief, who were there to guide her with her duties. Their faith in her capabilities as an editor and the Head of Online Editorial empowered her to believe that she could lead UMLR.
In the following year, Corina was appointed as the Editor-in-Chief (EIC) of the UMLR Editorial Board 2018/2019. With more responsibilities loaded on her plate, she was going through life by the hour with limited time to spare. Apart from the monstrous workload editing articles and managing the Board, Corina personally supervised the editing process of the Academic Law Journal, University of Malaya Law Review Volume 3. She diligently reviewed and edited the journal articles together with the journal editors weekly. It was an arduous but much-needed process to ensure the quality of its publication. Evidently, Corina was devoted to nurturing UMLR and did so at every possible turn. She tried relentlessly to live up to the high expectations that the Faculty placed on her as the EIC.
‘During my second and third year in the Faculty, I gave UMLR my all. It has every essence of me that I can give to make it better, from being the Head of Online Editorial to the Editor-in-Chief. I have always feared that it may not have been enough, but my love for UMLR shows.’
Corina with the Dean of the Law Faculty, Dato’ Associate Professor Dr Johan Shamsuddin bin Hj Sabaruddin and the Editorial Board of UMLR 2018/2019
The heart and effort she poured into UMLR defined a major chapter of her life, not to mention the educational experience she attained. As a writer who initially knew little about legal writing, being an editor made her more meticulous. It taught her how to proofread and improve academic articles. She had also successfully written academic works of her own such as ‘The Kaleidoscope on Fast Fashion Pollution’ in 2019 and ‘As the Dust Settled: the Development of the Standard of Proof in Civil Fraud’ in 2020, both published on UMLR’s Lex Omnibus and Lex; in Breve segments respectively. Most importantly, editing legal compositions trained her mind to comprehend complex concepts with ease. Occasionally, she found herself reading extra materials to fully grasp the author’s intention on foreign topics.
‘When you put effort into something, you will be able to learn something from it, and you will be able to take something away for yourself. I always say this to my editors, which is that when we are presented with a piece of work by an author, what we’re supposed to do is to make it into the best version of that work. You polish it; you refine it. It’s like a present for the world that the author entrusted to you, and your job is to make the wrapping prettier.’
After years spent at UMLR, Corina accumulated skills that are useful in coping with the weight of being a law student. When asked about her approach for students to develop their skillsets, Corina emphasised the importance of knowing the worth of each ability. She states, ‘What makes one particular skill different from others is the value that you see in it, and how it can help you grow as a person.’ Her philosophy is first to have interest because mere practice will not be of useful aid in genuinely embracing the skill.
Furthermore, Corina is eminent within the Law Faculty for her leadership skills. Her flair for managing and uniting people under a common cause is an ability she acquired since her STPM days. Her aptitude in leadership amplified in the four years commanding multiple projects, organisations and bureaus across the Faculty and university. Aside from her stint as the Editor-in-Chief of UMLR, she was the Head of Publicity Bureau for LawNite 2017/2018 and Managing Director of Academics for Ecolawgy UM 2019/2020. Corina firmly believes that the ability to lead can be cultivated as long as a person rises to the occasion.
‘You are not born a leader. You have to train to be one. I feel that the best way to be a leader is to accept an offer to be one or to volunteer. If you shy away from these opportunities, you’re never going to grow.’
For instance, Corina’s burgeoning leadership skills were put to the test when she was elected as the Director of A Day of Light (ADOL) and Community Awareness Week (CAW) during her first year. At that point in time, the small-scale projects posed a challenge to Corina as she was inexperienced in planning and administrating events. Fortunately, her Vice Director, Mr Muhaimin Rosli assisted the structure and handled the intricate details of the projects so that Corina can focus on the big picture. She reminisces the most fulfilling moment during a trip to an animal shelter, where she saw students overcome their phobia of dogs to help clean the cages. ADOL and CAW hold special spots in her heart as they represented her first solo attempt in directing projects.
Corina with her committee for ADOL and CAW 2016/2017
While accepting too many offers can sometimes act to her detriment, Corina is never deterred from such opportunities. She trusts that a silver lining awaits in the form of the hard-earned lessons that would contribute to her growth. She is also thankful to the people she worked with, who gave her the encouragement she needed to press forward in her hectic life. ‘Everywhere, every project that I have been on, it was my group members’ passion for the cause that gave me the motivation to carry on.’
Corina’s competence extends beyond leading societies. In her final year, she was one of the co-founders of Ecolawgy UM, a grassroots project dedicated to advocating environmental issues. She played a supporting role in assisting her close friend, Mr Zarif Khairuddin, and started the club alongside several others. What began as a spontaneous initiative among a group of friends slowly grew into a tight-knit family connected by their mutual passion for saving the environment.
‘One of the things that Zarif stressed was the fact that you don’t have to be one hundred percent an environmental activist. You can just decide once to learn about how to live sustainably and reduce waste. It is the little things that could translate into a large impact.’
This humble mindset attracted her to join the cause. Corina was not as environmentally oriented as the others, but she believes in their purpose and strives to be more involved. The small activities they did, such as going on outings, mini sales and thrifting challenges were a happy and relaxing balance to the overwhelming workload of final-year students. The activities provided the escapism that Corina deeply craved.
Corina during an excursion organised by Ecolawgy UM
Corina’s interest in social projects did not stop at Ecolawgy UM. At the height of her final year, Professor Gurdial Singh Nijar invited her and another close friend, Mr Iqbal Harith Liang to the Annual General Meeting of the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM). Professor Gurdial expressed his aspirations for the establishment of the youth wing of HAKAM devoted to the showcase of youth power and thus, HAKAM Youth was born. Corina was one of the Founding Conveners of the organisation with a team of individuals passionate in advocating human rights. For now, she anticipates the growth of HAKAM Youth to fulfil its potential as a platform for the youth.
‘I want it to be a good voice for youth when it comes to human rights issues. I want us to be able to do more than what we were doing in our first year. We have been recruiting new members, and I have quite high hopes because I can see their energy. I want that kind of energy to continue so that hopefully HAKAM Youth will be a voice that is just as good as any other established NGOs in Malaysia.’
Corina believes in HAKAM Youth’s potential. Here is Corina with the Founding Conveners of HAKAM Youth
Aside from that, Corina is also working on an independent podcast named ‘Tuang the Teh’. Ms Shafiqah Amira initially introduced it as a safe space for law students to converse about current issues and showcase their art. ‘I love seeing people being interested in things, so I try my best to help out with what I can.’ Corina acts as the co-host for the podcast, recording thought-provoking content for interested listeners to tune in. It is a wholesome initiative for her, and she hopes that people will appreciate the podcast once it is out.
Corina with the members of Tuang the Teh
Corina loves participating in socially conscious projects. They remind her of purposefulness in life which motivates her to expend effort for the sake of affected communities. We can expect more wondrous ventures from Corina in the future.
Her life was never stagnant. Currently, she stepped foot into the daunting working world. Compared to the demands Corina had to endure during law school, her internship at the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) in Sabah was a relatively pleasant experience. ‘I finally have work-life balance,’ she said, relieved that she no longer has to survive on a hectic schedule. During her internship, Corina had the privilege to study files in the investigative paper room, interact with the kind and trusty Deputy Public Prosecutors and conduct research for cases. Her supervisor, Puan Nartiah, was a nurturing woman who gave support and tasks amidst busy schedules. The short experience further affirmed Corina’s ambition to become a Deputy Public Prosecutor.
Corina with her internship colleagues at the AGC in Sabah
Her overall takeaway from this internship is to always exercise a cognisant effort in carrying out the duties of a Deputy Public Prosecutor because it primarily affects other people’s lives. She noted the importance of neither being complacent with the process nor putting too much heart into it, lest her passion dwindles into the mere mechanics of getting the job done.
‘In the future, if I were able to, I want to be able to feel like I have a purpose, not just merely going to work just to fill in forms, look up cases, write submissions and speak in court. I want to be able to have that sense of purpose like I have now.’
Corina yearns to strike a balance between working just for the sake of it and working for a significant purpose. For now, her pupillage journey has just begun at Messrs Fahri & Co., and everything seems to be going very well so far. She praises its nurturing environment which gives her the room she needs to make mistakes and learn from them.
As much as Corina’s broad resume indicates a relentless student in pursuit of triumphs, oftentimes, her mental health had to be sacrificed to bear the heavy weight on her shoulders. Just like anyone else, she also struggles to overcome the hardships in life. To recover from these bouts of stress, Corina employs several methods to help her relax. She has three useful relaxation techniques: First, when she is on the verge of a breakdown, she would just let herself go, ‘because if I keep it pent up, I cannot be as productive. I think it’s important for your mental health.’ The second is that if she wants to be alone, she will take strolls around the campus to empty her mind. At times, she prefers to walk around the Faculty or sit on the bench in front of the library, striking up a conversation with anyone who has time to spare. Her third method is bullet journaling.
‘During my course in law school, whenever I have a thought, I would write it down. Sometimes it’s just one line, sometimes it’s pages, because your bullet journal is like your diary. So, you can do anything with it. When I do weekly spreads, instead of just writing the bare minimum, I would decorate it. It’s like art, but you do it to organise your life.’
The practice was therapeutic for Corina as it helped coordinate her jumbled thoughts. Corina is also grateful for her closest group of friends—Iqbal, Zarif and Muhaimin—who held her up when she was down and supported her every step of the way. However, her support system extends beyond her closest friends—to good friends and loving family members who cared for and encouraged her from afar.
‘There are so many people I want to thank—my buddies, my closest friends, my family in Sabah and my sister who lives with me, friends and teachers who would check up on me from time to time… These were the people who had to deal with my bad days and were there to celebrate my good days. I have been blessed with good people around me throughout my law school experience.’
Corina with her law school support system
Surrounded by love, Corina has no reason to be anyone but herself and focuses on spreading positivity to the people around her. Her advice to juniors is to remember the reason that brought you to UM Law. Whenever you lose sight of that reason, look back and recapture your passion.
‘Some people have severe imposter syndrome, where we feel like we are not good enough, but we are. You just have to remember that you are in UM Faculty of Law for a reason. You have to believe that before you can move forward.’
Corina with Batch 45 of UM Law
Her assurance is reflective of her giving tendencies. The students who struggle to find their place may find comfort in Corina’s words. She reminds everyone to pace themselves and try not to live with any regrets. Life is never a bed of roses, anyone who tells you that it can be is probably trying to sell you something. However, if you can step away from the situation for a little while and look at it from a different angle, there is always a side that is a little brighter. When you are feeling overwhelmed, ‘treat gently, speak kindly. There lies a strength in your fragility.’
Written by Azra Athirah.