By Mariam Mokhtar

She is headstrong, opinionated and makes heads turn, but Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud is just another Ipohite, a familiar face, for the Malaysian expats, in London.

To some people she is the 28-year-old Malay, from Ipoh, who ran as the DAP candidate in the Teluk Intan by-election, on May 31, 2014. She lost, by a narrow margin, to her political opponent, the veteran politician, and president of Gerakan, Mah Siew Keong, but the campaigning was marred by smears, on her character.

It is alleged that when some young Malay men were asked, for whom they would vote, many claimed, "Dyana of course! She is pretty. That is a good enough reason." So much for the political maturity of some young adults.

To others, Dyana is a Universiti Technology Mara law graduate who ran her own law firm in Cyberjaya, before she was sucked into politics and became DAP leader, Lim Kit Siang's political secretary.

On her Facebook page, Marina Mahathir complimented the young Dyana and said that she was “a smart girl who can think. She can articulate. She can write,” before she made the withering remark, “That's three-up over most politicians already.”

When a veteran Wanita Umno-Baru politician called Dyana a traitor, she shot back and said,"...I strongly believe in the ideals of justice, equal opportunity and good governance.

"I owe who I am today to my family and to my mother, to hard work and to the personal decisions which I have made along my life!"

Former New Straits Times Group Editor, A. Kadir Jasin said, “The fact that she is a young Malay woman representing a Chinese-dominated opposition party is, to me, the real fascination."

Dyana's family, most of whom are members of Umno-Baru, the ruling party, reside in Ipoh. As one of the young stars in the Opposition DAP, it makes one wonder if the conversations over dinner, are more lively, than those, in other families. Or has Dyana's mother, enforced a strict ruling, that no one may discuss politics, at the dining table?

Ipoh Echo first caught up with Dyana, on a cold and wet autumn day in London. She said that one of her haunts, is a small place in Westminster, close to the Houses of Parliament, which serves the best fish and chips, and where one can see well known British politicians, having a brief respite.

She said that she would be in London, studying 'International Studies and Diplomacy' at The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), for the next year.

A month later, Ipoh Echo contacted Dyana to talk about her move, to London. She said, "I chose London, because SOAS is unique. Its speciality is in Asian, African and Middle Eastern studies. SOAS is part of London University and its expertise in this field, is world renowned."

Dyana's enthusiasm showed, "SOAS is vibrant and exciting. I have already learnt so much, after just one month.

"The academics encourage engagement. The student union is very active. The people are friendly and broad minded."

Asked about the differences between student life in London and Malaysia, she said, "I don’t think it is fair to make a comparison, but here, the students are encouraged to think and form their own opinions. There are no right or wrong answers, as long as they support their arguments well.”

"Over here, everyone is expected to participate and speak out. Back home, most students don’t really say anything in class. They only comment when it is their turn to speak at a presentation.”

"This is something we could probably look into. Instead of telling our students to keep quiet all the time, we should encourage them to speak."

With the drop in value of the ringgit, and the terrible burden placed on parents, with children studying overseas, she said, "Living in London is expensive! The exchange rate is causing us a lot of hardship."

Despite the financial burden affecting many Malaysian students, she was glad that London had much to offer and said, "London is an interesting city. There are parts of London which are ancient and there’s an interest for everyone. The city has much to offer historically, and culturally.

"London  is a great place to maximise my educational experience, although I do miss home," she added, saying that her parents had supported her move, to London.

Asked how she could benefit her party, on her return, she said, "I hope to return, with a better outlook, understanding and worldview, on various issues. I hope that I will be better prepared, and will have improved, in many ways, such as in my writing, being articulate and in people skills."

Her move has not affected her interest in issues in Malaysia, and she claimed that she is still in touch with party politics. She has a special message for Ipohites; "To Ipohites, please wish me the best and pray for my success.

"Although I cannot get Funny Mountain tau foo fa soy bean drink or Nasi Vanggey here, my heart is always at home."