Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Jaguh Kampung and Boring Students

I came across this column in the NST by Zainah Anwar today and I thought that I should reproduce it for our readers to read now (and also for later when the NST link expires, hope I won't be sued for this).

I'll just make a few points of my own in reponses to some of her comments:

Firstly, I think that she's spot on in regards to the Malay 'kampungs' that sprout up not only in the Midwest universities (I'm thinking Purdue, Indiana, Illinois at UC, Wisconsin) but also any large state university in the US which has a sizable Malaysian population (USC in California comes to mind). I can probably think of universities in the UK which are like that - Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Warwick, Nottingham, Sheffield and most London universities come to mind. But it's not just Malay 'kampungs' but also Malaysian 'kampungs' especially in the universities where there is a sizable population of non-government sponsored(read: non-Malay) Malaysian students.

But I don't think that these 'kampungs' are necessarily bad. It's much easier to interact with fellow Malaysians in a foreign country than a foreigner. It's also much easier to ask for help, stay or room with, makan with, travel with, a Malaysian than a foreigner. And, for the more diverse universities, it's probably one of the few times when students of different races can unite behind a Malaysian 'identity' since the issues of racial differences seem to be less pronounced abroad compared to at home. I remember how showcasing various aspects of Malaysian culture during a Malaysian 'nite' at the LSE gave me a sense of pride in regards to being Malaysian.

Where I think these 'kampungs' can have a detrimental effect is when it prevents us from interacting with non-Malaysians and getting to know the culture and the people of the country which one is studying in. This effect is particularly detrimental at the PhD level when interacting with colleagues in the field, regardless of nationality, becomes very important in developing one's ideas and for future research collaboration. It would not surprise me if a Malaysian PhD student who goes to Liverpool with his family (wife and two kids let's say) can settle in very comfortably in one of these 'kampungs', have minimal interaction with non-Malaysians including one's fellow PhD students and professors in the university, come back home to Malaysia after three years with a PhD but still has a poor command of English, have not had any research collaborations with other non-Malaysian colleagues in the university, have not travelled anywhere outside the UK, have not eaten in an English pub, and so on. To me, this really defeats the purpose of going to a university abroad.

While my experience in the UK and here in the US wasn't necessarily an exemplar of 'internationality' (if there's such a word), I did make it a point to get to know non-Malaysians. I was in the Christian Union at the LSE and went to a very diverse church in the middle of London and got to know many Brits and other internationals through these settings. I got to know quite a few British Muslims who were of South Asian descent as many of them were actuarists and one of my Malaysian roomates was an actuarist. I would go down to Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park occasionally to listen to the diverse array of speakers there. I travelled as far east as Turkey and as far north as Iceland.

Here in the US, I've spent time hanging out with my fellow PhD students, some of whom are American, others who are not. I don't really have the option of being in a Malaysian 'kampung' here at Duke given that there are only 2 other Malaysian graduate students and something like 10 undergrads, who are spread over different parts of the campus and who do their own thing. I've been to my fair share of Duke basketball games, watched the Superbowl on TV, watched a couple of NBA games live (I'm a sports junkie), travelled to the US heartland (anyone been to Tusla, Oklahoma?), been to DC tons of times to do work with a research collaborator there, and so on.

This certainly has made my life 'richer' and allowed me to learn more about different cultures and different ways of thinking and of doing research.

But are there any policy 'prescriptions' which can try to correct this mentality? I think there are.

Zainah correctly points out that the culture of 'surveillance' among these kampungs are detrimental for encouraging people to think beyond critically. I've also heard that there are 'indoctrination' programs for JPA scholars before they go aroad to inculcate the feeling of 'loyalty' to tribe and country. Instead of running these kinds of programs, why not try to instill the sense of 'adventure' and 'interaction' for these scholars? Or at least not try to indoctinate them into thinking that there is only one way for them to think and act.

For PhD students, instead of requiring them to come home immediately after they complete their studies, why not allow them to take a few years of no pay leave to do postdoctoral work in the countries where they obtained their PhDs? This way, they can be encouraged to build research networks and benefit from an overseas research culture before they come home (assuming that they do want to come home after experiencing academic and research life in an overseas institution).

I'm sure there are others but I'll stop here for now. Enjoy Zainah's column below:

Zainah Anwar on Friday: Don't curb students' enthusiasm
09 Feb 2007

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OUR students in the UK are, oh, so shy, so unassertive, they keep to themselves, they don’t mix? I am surprised that the Minister of Higher Education is surprised. This is not a new problem.

When I was studying in the US in the 1970s and 1980s, there were "kampung Melayus" sprouting on campuses in several universities in the Midwest. Friends complained of surveillance, peer pressure and anonymous letters slipped under their doors or sent home to the Public Service Department by fellow students if they were seen to be too close to too many Americans.

Even in Indonesia, our students don’t mix. A friend teaching at the Islamic University in Jogjakarta says the Malaysian students on her campus are so totally unassertive and disinterested and pursue the easiest of courses taught by the easiest of lecturers.

They avoid the many discussion groups that flourish on and off campus which bring together students and activists to discuss the latest books, ideas and debate on current issues. They would not take part in the many training sessions on human rights, democracy and women’s rights.

Actually, we the taxpayers are not getting value for the millions of our tax money spent on scholarship for these students who might as well remain in Malaysia if they only want to be "jaguh kampung".

Our young adults are losing out in a competitive world that is hungry for talent. In the end, it is Malaysia that will lose out.

In 1980, I wrote about racial polarisation on our university campuses and how some of the bright and articulate students I interviewed at the University of Malaya called it the Pantai Valley High School.

It was not the exciting, enriching university life they envisaged, but a life restricted and regulated by the Universities and University Colleges Act. In school, they had freedom to write letters to whomever they pleased, be it to make a school visit to a factory or a palace museum.

Imagine their shock when they found out that at university, all letters needed to go through the Dean of Student Affairs. And they were often reminded lest they were hatching rebellions, any unauthorised gathering of more than five constituted an offence. How to be assertive?

And the racial polarisation; everywhere on campus Malay students were with Malays, Chinese with Chinese and Indians with Indians — be it at the canteen, at the library, walking the streets from class to hostel and back.

The students spoke of how they were corralled into racial blocs by their seniors the moment they stepped into campus.

Woe betide those who stepped out of the box. An anonymous letter would be slipped under their door "condemning" them to hellfire and damnation.

My editor was so shocked by my findings that he decided not to publish the story. It does look that after 26 years, nothing much has changed.

When I recently told this story to a professor at the University of Malaya, she said she would be so lucky today to find a student astute enough to even make a remark about a campus life that is more akin to secondary school.

Most days, she says, she feels like pulling up her students by their collars to breathe life into them.

So dear minister, they are, oh, so shy, so unassertive, so not mixing with others on home ground as well. And it’s been going on for over two decades.

There is obvious awareness and concern by the country’s leadership that much has gone wrong with our education system, our socialisation and politicisation that have produced these unassertive, inarticulate, intellectually and socially disengaged, racially segregated and unemployable graduates.

Much hope is placed on the recently launched National Education Blueprint and its many promises, including the promise to produce well rounded students who will think out of the box.

A friend runs a programme that exposes students to literature, music, art, critical thinking and public speaking before they spend more of their parents’ hard-earned money to study abroad.

These are straight A students, whose parents woke up one day to realise that darling Johan and Janine who scored 11 A1s in SPM actually lack the cultural literacy necessary to succeed and get the best out of university education in the West.

My friend and her team of trainers were stunned that these students did not know a single fairy tale. An exercise to rewrite Hansel and Gretel from the witch’s point of view drew a blank; when asked if they knew other fairy tales, they did not. They had not heard of Winston Churchill even though they all got A1 for history.

They had never seen nor met a person in a wheelchair; they had never been to an art gallery or a museum, in spite of living in Kuala Lumpur and enjoying annual holidays abroad. One boy was passionate about studying aviation engineering and wanted to own an airline, but had never heard of Tony Fernandes.

Life for these kids revolved around school, tuition, shopping malls and computer games. What they did not know, they felt they didn’t need to know.

And yet, they wanted to go to Cambridge or Stanford and wanted to do well in their interviews and essays; but they had nothing much to say about themselves and their interests beyond the string of A1s for which they were rewarded and their parents applauded. Eleven A1s and not an ounce of zest to spare does not a successful life make.

At the other end of the scale, I do meet students and young people who are far from shy and disengaged. They have friends from different races and different countries, they read voraciously, they go to museums, concerts, plays, they backpack to the islands off Malaysia and Thailand and through God-forsaken countries of the world, they listen to world music, they speak their minds.

I meet young university students who dare to organise events outside the campuses, campaigning against the UUCA and dirty student elections, giving free tuition to squatter kids, cooking free food for the homeless, hanging out with non-governmental organisation activists and theatre practitioners.

These young people live their lives to the full, ever teetering on a fine balance between family, friends, fun and studies or a budding career of their choice.

What makes them different? For some, it might be class, but for most others, it is exposure.

Whether growing up in a family that eats, reads and talks together, or getting exposed to the works of Alice Walker and Maya Angelou in English class, or having a lecturer who loves the theatre and drags his students to all the plays in KL, or meeting an inspiring aging ex-student leader who wanted to join the university social club but ended up in the socialist club.

By design or by accident, it is exposure to adults who opened up their minds to other possibilities in life that made a difference to the lives of these effervescent young people.

A friend’s 15-year-old daughter complained how the teachers at school (a premier school, mind you) say no to everything suggested by the students — be it to organise a talentime (what would parents say if you kids wear sexy clothes), a Halloween party with the neighbourhood children (oh no, it’s Western culture), dance and music classes (cannot, must "jaga diri"), regular field trips to museums, orphanages, school for the blind (too many permissions to ask, forms to fill and transport to organise).

That many of the shy, unassertive students and young graduates have potential is without doubt.

The tragedy is we adults have failed them as we pour cold water over their ideas or just remain indifferent to their natural instinct to explore, discover, innovate, take risks, be different. It is our fault because we shut the doors and windows on them.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

I observe this is just human nature in action. When one is only used to the company of others of the same background, then it is not surprising to find them sticking to their own people. So for a Malay growing up and attending a predominantly Malay school, or a Chinese or British or French or Singaporean or whatever citizen under the same conditions, we will have the same behaviour. Then it is also the law of averages. I would hypothesise that this is what the 'average' person would do since it is the route of least resistance, but there would be a certain small percent who would relish the opportunity to seek new experiences.

~

Anonymous said...

i agree totally with the above posting. suma pun serupa.

when i was living across from middlesex u, i used to watch the malaysians mostly chinese students trudge up the hill in fair and foul weather, always huddled together, never walking with/talking to the other students.

the malays are just as bad, moving in convoys comprising their own race.

im just wondering how our dear bloggers got around this problem (am assuming they did, of course)

Charis Quay said...

Kian Ming,

I saw this article and have heard about this phenomenon though not seen it. Though the question by anonymous wasn't directed at me, I got around this problem' inadvertently by going to places that had/have very few Malaysians. It's not just numbers though. Malaysians at the same university who are not in the same course or under the same scholarship programme may not find each other for some time. One possible 'solution' is for JPA, MARA etc. to try to distribute scholars more thinly at universities abroad. But of course this doesn't solve the local problem that Zainah Anwar also mentions.

More food for thought (though I don't agree with everything in this article): http://opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110009657

Though Zainah Anwar's article doesn't mention it, I think the opposite problem (total lack of cohesion among Malaysian students at any given university) is also not something to be desired. There has to be some sort of balance.

Anonymous said...

For your information, the 'indoctrination' programs for JPA scholars is called, "Kenegaraan Luar Negara" or "BTN Master/Ph.D.". I just went to such camp recently. As expected some people are being made the punching bag in order to motivate the Malays. The Latihan Dinamik Kumpulan (LDK) session which runs for two days is really a brain wash program guided by two facilitators. Most of the scholars prefer keeping silence than being blacliksted, or worse, being rejected from any sponsorship.

ulu sepri said...

Yeah, i went to such camp before. It is at Ulu Sepri, Rembau, Negeri Sembilan. The program is 5 days. Two days of lectures followed by two days of LDK in a group of 8-10 scholars. Last day is for written test and jungle trekking. During my time, out of 120+ scholars, less than 15 were non-Malays. Surprisingly, there were almost equal number of men and ladies, considering the fact that the current undergrad population is dominated by the ladies up to 65%. Do expect more lemons among the men then.

Anonymous said...

Malay students in Cardiff Wales, have their very own "kampung" at Riverside near Taff river which they refer as Kg Gombak. He He!

Alvin Tan said...

don't think there's such a word as actuarist; you're probably looking for the word actuary in your context

Sally said...

Well, being a product of the Malaysian education system, I have to say I am not at all surprised by straight A students not knowing about Winston Churchill, Hansel and Gretel, etc. I think there's a troubling protectionist stance taken by Malaysian educators. So, for example, we shall not learn about Churchill since he is British, or Hansel and Gretel because it's a Western fairy tale. Our education is Malaysian centric, not that there's anything wrong with that, you don't find Americans learning about Parameswara. Nevertheless, more emphasis should be put on learning about classics like Hans Anderson tales and general historical facts like the Holocaust.

And I definitely agree that Malaysian students are not pushed to engage in theatre, arts, etc. To educators, unfortunately, these are the soft /easy disciplines and they want all smart students to be science majors. Unfortunate because they fail to realize that you can like science and still enjoy photography and theatre. Also, our science textbooks are behind the times. Science should be exciting, instead in Malaysian schools, science is just a list of facts to be memorized.

Also, parents have to take some of the blame. Their star children are not allowed to toil in the sun helping others build houses, or volunteer in a dirty hospital (where maybe you'll be infected by some horrible disease!) I think children should be encouraged to take risks. How do you think entrepreneurs are made? I think what the government can do is to give heavy weightage to extracurriculars when considering giving scholarships, university spots, awards, etc. If you shift the incentives, the masses will follow.

orapho21 said...

It is a fact that most students from Malaysia are not expose to Western fairy tales, Winston Churchill, etc. But, what is more embarassing is when some students do not even know the name of the current Prime Minister of Malaysia and even the names of our forefathers.

This shows that they are not even exposed to their own Malaysian culture. They are not aware of current issues and simply do not care. Some say ignorance is bliss, but ignorance would not get you anywhere.

Our students should get their heads out of the sand and be more conscious of their surroundings.

Full Time Mom said...

I think there are a couple of issues here.

Firstly, I agree with Sally. Parents have to shoulder at least part of the blame. How we talk about other people/ races leaves a very big impression on children - they're like recoders after all. Also, we should be encouraging them to mix around more, taking an interest in more than TV and computer games. Super-geniuses who are academically years ahead of their peers should be exposed to various activities - music, sports, art, drama, journalism, environmental issues, community associations - to fully tap their potential. (Non-geniuses should also be encouraged to participate, but you may want to limit the number and type of activites.)

Secondly, it should be compulsory for our university students abroad to stay in dorms for at least half, if not two thirds of their time there. And definitely don't allow Malaysians to room together in the dorm. This will force them to mingle a bit.

As for our university students here in Malaysia, I don't know what the solution is. The problem starts at kindergarten level!

Anonymous said...

suddenly, at u level and overseas at that, we become concern abt mixing with others.

all along in msia, people are sending their children to schools where the racial composition is almost uniracial. where more than half their waking day is spent interacting with same race children.

why is it important then to mix with the gen population in "host" country? how abt mixing at home first, then got skills to mix with others elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I am not saying there is anything wrong with the observation of Zainah Anwar but it may be just simplistic to argue that its a cultural/racist thing.

I believe one key issue is just plain confidence. The writer observed that even the scholars are not well-rounded. Its likely their confidence level is low and hence largely introverted. My bet is that if somehow a detailed look is made the best students are likely to have more interaction outside their community and open up to new experiences.

Secondly, it should observe religious practises of the students. I would also venture that the more religious a student is, the less likely he is to interact with others too.

The problems should not be that different as the problem here in Malaysia - meritocracy and role of religion in public life.

student said...

I've been able to observe our students abroad, and I am afraid Zainah Anwar is spot on. Obviously there are students who aren't part of this norm though.

I suspect part of this is the inculturation at school level where we are taught that 'budaya Barat' is bad. For example, in BM essays, if asked to give your 'views' on topics like TV, the Net, globalisation etc. always include some Barat-bashing! It's not hard to see where this 'education' leads when we actually have to live among the orang putihs - we then shy away from them for fear of being 'contaminated' by their values! Obviously for the urban, more Westernised, English-speaking lot this is less of a problem, but unfortunately the bulk of our sponsored students come from the residential schools and MARA colleges, where among other things the 'faithful vs. infidel' mentality is also encourgaed.

As for general knowledge - don't even get me started. The syllabus is so Malaysia and Islam-centric there are pupils who don't have the foggiest idea about the Holocaust, Hinduism, haikus or Hansel and Gretel. But they can tell you a lot about Melaka and Madinah (which is great, if rather narrow, except that it's all forgotten after the exams so they are no better 'educated' after they leave school). Can't do much about the confidence thing though, as that would mean trading in our 'Asian' values for the individuality and outspokennes of the West, and we surely can't have that can we? But this is a cultural thing, seen also in mainland Chinese and Indians, something we can at least take less blame for.

The thing about the JPA/MARA pre-departure camps is also true. I have it from a reliable source that there was even a bit of Jew-bashing going on in one place, apart from the general discrediting of the West (to where the audience was heading in a few weeks' time). Scarily, there were some people who were nodding in agreement rather than applying some critical thinking.

So, perhaps not surprising then that kampungs spring up where large concentrations of our scholars are. It's only to be expected (probably makes surveillance by the Students Departments easier too)!

Ryan said...

Its pretty interesting to note that we have been talking/discussing about this issue since the beginning of time. I do agree with some of the opinion over here that our national schools (mixture of races) are good training ground to instill self esteem and provide the opportunity for different races to interact and mix. What you see in schools and public/private universities will be reflected everywhere. But this will not improve if there is no concerted effort by all parties. I am sure we can recall the good old days where malaysians do not have any ill feeling or biasness towards people of different cultural or religious background. Of course these are just my thoughts, feel free to comment on them.

Tiara said...

Wow. That's one part disturbing (surveillance and anonymous letters??) and one part spot on. Especially about cultural literacy and the whole Barat-bashing thing ("budaya kuning"!! who else got that in school?). It's crazy how little Malaysian students know about the rest of the world sometimes.

Anonymous said...

I mix around with many nationalities from Asia and Europe and I insist that the behaviour described is universal and not unique to Malaysians alone. The more crucial question is, do we expect this behaviour from our so-called 'scholars'? As long as we fill quotas based on race/religion instead of merit, we should not be surprised if many aren't exemplary in their studies or in their character.

~

freelunch2020 said...

i graduated from warwick in 2000 and was there since 1997.

as u mentioned, warwick has a huge Malaysian student population, close to 300 over at that time.

and rightly, they all live in their kampungs and hardly mix with others.

personally, i took my experience in the UK as a chance to see the world, experience other cultures, meet new friends + open my mind. My motto was: "If i wanted to mix with msians, i would have STAYED in msia."

i strongly believe that the ppl u mix with has a strong influence on your personally development and growth.

hence, to grow or develop the 'success' culture, one has to immerse himself in such a culture.

like finding out why Brits think and act a certain way result in certain achievements. eg a focus on research results in technological advancements, which later translates into economic gains.

so while it's ok to feel homey with ppl from your country, we must also be confident to mix with others to learn more from others. if not, why go to the UK at all?

cheers.

:D

Anonymous said...

great post but i think the word you're looking for is actuary not actuarist

:)

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a fear in the Malaysian students of exploring - just stay within the confinement & 'security' of Sumbangan Kerajaan. These students are all under the sponsorship of the G, hence they have to toe the line, or either, they were not even qualified to study overseas (part of our quota issue). Some can't even read a proper essay, lest, write one. So, HOW???? Don't see this problem among my friends who have to pay their own way for eduction.

Anonymous said...

end of '99, i chose to do my phd in France because i did not want to be around many malaysian students while studying. i did not want to be distracted. so i ended up being the only malaysian phd student at that time doing research in science there. nowhere near paris, and nowhere near other malaysian students doing language courses in france, i was studying way down south. i think the idea of going abroad for studies is for you to learn new things and experience new things. i don't think that can happen if you stick to your own crowd, which you can do easily if you just stay in malaysia to further your studies. language was a barrier but it is not difficult to learn if nobody wanted to speak english/malay to you. so i managed to speak french and later present seminars, write reports etc in french.
phd fees in france is bloody cheap. 600 euros/year. and this is for foreign students, doing phd by research! students (including foreigners) do not have to pay anything for medical treatment (including for your dentist), pay only 25% of whatever your house rent is, discounts for all tickets to travel (including overseas trips), for skiing in the mountains during winter, watching opera, cinemas, etc etc.
so the students in france actually "enjoy" being a student. they are given ways and means to be able to do and see things apart from their notes.
final year medical students at the hospital doing extra hours (on call) are paid really good money for their effort.
i have decided not to go back to malaysia, simply because malaysia does not have the facilities to do the research which i am doing now. but i am paying back my study loan...i am paying it for future students who would one day decide to further their studies abroad, and would learn new things and enjoy it as much as i did.

redseed said...

One thing that leads to Malaysian kampungs in the USA is the JPA's rule that only want students to apply for the top 100 universities in the USA. Only a handful will get into the ivy leagues, but many others will end up at Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

BTW, if I'm not mistaken, JPA is not sending students to Minnesota & Wisconsin anymore.

Mar Shmar said...

As a scholar who is going to leave for the US this year, reading Zainah's article perturbed me. But that is the reality.

I was brought up in a liberal household and I have lived all my life in an English speaking multiracial suburb. I faced the shock of my life when I entered a preparatory program for scholars to go abroad as I faced first hand the herd mentality. It worries me when a girl said to me that she would never go to a university her friends have decided not to go. She and her friend even joked about how they would just end up in the 'kampung melayu' and not have 'mat salleh' friends at all. They are both bound to Australia/New Zealand.

About the camps, if I am not mistaken, almost all scholars (regardless of sponsors) bound overseas are made to attend.

Anonymous said...

Well, I am one of the many Malaysian who study abroad and couldn't agree more with the article above. But now I am facing a different problem, I don't want to be too close with my fellow Malaysian because to be honest i just hate the fact that we are obviously separated from the others. During lectures for example, one can see pretty obviously that Malaysian tends to sit with fellow Malaysian, resulting in 1 group of people wearing scarves sit together and of course that is so obvious! I try to break free from this environment and sadly it resulted in me being falsely considered 'antisocial' by some. For me, it is quite hard to mix with people from other countries because of the different lifestyle, cultures and preferences. And of course these people from different countries prefer to mix with their own, whom they can relate to. Can you imagine a typical Malay girl, who wears scarf hanging out with her Irish friends in pub drinking and watching football? Well, I've tried that once, although of course I don't drink, I just left being puzzled what the hell was I doing there. There is no other way I can think of socializing with them unless of course go to pub and get drunk. Clubs? No way. Too busy. All the invitations that I got to 'hang out' so far is going to parties with loads of alcohol. At last, I'm left being solitary, sometimes I'm perfectly fine with it but at times like this I wonder what had gone wrong. The point is; it is important to get to know people from different countries when you have the chance, but in order to know them you have loads of other things to consider, for me it is the religion I have to put first above all others. If you, who happened to read my comments right now is a quite-religious-Muslim-but-open-minded, you'll hopefully understand the dilemma I'm going through.

Sláinte!

Anonymous said...

Been to Ulu Sepri too last Sept. I was one of those who kept my mouth shut due to similar reasons.

It is a mixed of feelings. We are expected to voice out our opinions as they regard us as future leaders but when we do so, we will be branded as "lupa diri", "perasan pandai" and such (this is what they said to me and my fellow group members).

Since I obtained my first and second degrees from a university which is quite famous and almost synonymous with one of the opposition party and formerly outcasted TPM, I found that others who have obtained their degrees from the same university would be grouped together and together we have to suffer and mentally tortured to reveal our political inclination. This is just not fair!

As a result, to keep one's mouth shut is the best thing to do and I couldn't agree more with others who do and did the same.

semuaboleh said...

My best friend has always been non-Malay (I am a Malay, obviously). Although,I have been warned left and right (by my fellow Malay colleagues and relatives) for having a non-Malay friend as my best friend, I still feel that I can communicate better and wiser with them. I even chose to live next to a non-Malay neighbor where I can "talk" with them compared to my same "race" neighbors. I tried to instill the same to my kids, but unfortunately we live in a Malay dominated school and they go to a sek kebangsaan which makes it a little difficult to mix with other than our own. Although we travel a bit to places out of the country, it is not enough. And for someone who has lived abroad for years, I did not associate much with my own race my overseas time as I want to experience the culture as well as well as their lifestyle. If I want to mix with my own, I can always balik kampong. I believe, being multi racial should start from HOME! Hey! That's my 2 sen.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I graduated from Purdue a couple years back.

I chose NOT to reschedule to be in any of my friends' classes since Day 1. If I couldn't be in the same class with any Malaysians, at least I knew I'd make a couple more new friends. I got different people to get together for study groups every semester and as far as I can remember, none of them were Malaysians.

I spent Ramadhan and Eid with the Muslim and Malaysian community - they were a great source of comfort to overcome extreme homesickness during those times, and you can depend on the fact that your fellow Malaysians are the ones who will be there for you when something unexpected happens - death, accident, sickness, they are your immediate family, at the same time I also received Xmas gifts from my American friends every year.

Any PUMSAN would agree that if there is one thing that can get everybody excited it's Malaysian FOOD! So we had DeepaRaya, KongsiRaya, Merdeka celebrations which were massive events we looked forward to every year and enjoyed each other's great company while eating wonderful food we all cooked for each other - Chinese, Malays, Indians, Kadazan!. We were by far the most active student community, and spent a lot of time together but that didn't stop me from taking Philosopy class for fun, picking up the Tao Te Ching and thinking it's a masterpiece, reading works of Matsuo Basho and Kahlil Gibran, keep attending a CS class instructed by a Jewish prof who stared at my veil a bit too hard in the first few classes. It definitely did not stop me from having an American as my best friend, watching football games with a bunch of Americans and making what they thought to be delicious karipap and rendang, despite my very limited skills in the kitchen.

All my days at Purdue were spent with all the wonderful people who were there for me - Malaysians, Americans and the rest of the Purdue community!

You don't need to choose to be a part of this or that group of people. They are not mutually exclusive. Just stay true to who you are and make as many connections to the rest of the world while you have the chance to :)

Go Boilermakers!

vandy said...

I'm studying in Vanderbilt University in the states.

Yes I saw how the kampung take form and all that but it is a sense of community because we all get homesick from time to time.

It depends on that person solely what to with her life. Does she want to be a better person or stay in a rut forever?I don't want to and that why I love taking all those discussion class where yes I actually have to speak in class where most msian is afraid to express their opinion. I wouldn't blame them at all because that is the way they have grown up which is not to express their opinion.

The way I grow up is vastly different where opinions is appreciated and eloquent speech is to be proud of and I went to this multi-racial school. I am lucky to grow up in this kind of environment.When I went to boarding school I was in a shock because I see people who never went to a school that has chinese in it.All that we pursue was getting A's. Even getting into college in here I see my friends that are not well read,that are not aware what's happening in the world or even in malaysia and has zere idea on everything.

Anyway all I'm saying is that how the students become like this is not their fault.It's the system. Yeap I know blame the system. The one that is saved is because they have great parents and environment that teach them to be out there.