Happy Independence Day, Malaysia. A place with so much to offer. A melting pot of cultures , races and religion. A place with so much natural beauty and resources that will never be fully appreciated. Where the food is just irreplaceable.
A place I call home. I think it's when you go away from home that you realize how much that place really means to you. Being in the US has made me realize that the while the US is indeed very developed, Malaysia has so many things to be proud of too. One thing for sure is that it is a safe country . With hardly any terrorist attacks, natural disasters and political instability, one can live with the peace of mind knowing that for the most part, you'll be safe. Sure we might have disagreements once in awhile and bad weather occasionally (HOT ! ) , but compare it with the devastating 9/11 attack and the losses that Hurricane Katrina and now, hurricane Irene caused ,as well as all the earthquakes, tsunamis and cyclones that strike all over the world, we are indeed blessed.
Malaysians always talk about studying or working outside Malaysia because they think that it's not as developed as they would like it to be. They think that the education in Malaysia is bad, that the health care is not as good as it is in Australia or Singapore, that the job prospects in Malaysia are limited and you get paid much less than if you were to work overseas.
These may be true, but I always feel like if you have the potential to be someone, if you think that you have the knowledge and expertise to contribute towards a good cause, you should always at least consider the country in which you were born and raised. Don't go criticizing when you haven't done your bit to help. Change starts from you, not from waiting for someone to step up and make it.
My wish for this Merdeka day is for all Malaysians to start appreciating what we have , because truly , we have so much that other countries can only dream of having. Be proud to be a Malaysian and hold up high that imaginary Jalur Gemilang in your hearts.
I know that a lot of what I am today, my values and morals, is what Malaysia has made of me.
Hoping that one day I might serve you fully, Malaysia.
Selamat Hari Merdeka, with love.
By: Nasha Lee (UGRAD 2011-2012)
Like Wilson said, this is gonna be my last weekend in Malaysia before I depart to the States.
Packing is not exactly a favourite activity of mine. But with such a long hiatus and being an 'ambassador' of Malaysia, I guess the urge to NOT drag extra gargantuan suitcases along to the airport is a luxury I cannot enjoy.
Immigration documents? Check.
Souveniers and baju melayu? (siap dengan samping lagi!) Check. Instantly realising that I would miss out on Hari Raya....bummer. ==
The flight route to there is going to be a complicated one. From KLIA to a night's stay at Terminal 3 in Singapore, then an exhausting 7 hour flight to Tokyo, another extra exhausting 11 hour flight to Denver...and just when you thought you have escaped the clutches of the daunting airplane cabin, another hour's flight to Sioux Falls, where my college is located. The Ugrad guide book advised us to bring along 'reading materials' throughout the journey. Therefore, I plan to bring together with me...
The World if Flat by Thomas L. Friedman. I know, I'm THAT nerdy. But after reading the super-awesome super-funny SUPERFREAKONOMICS, I'm so freakisly into these globalisation-statistics-bamm!!! stuff.
A few mini resolutions during my stay at the US:
1) Immerse myself as much as I can into American culture, lifestyle and interests.
This means shaking off my long-time addiction towards The Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini and other news portals. Honestly, I do get tired of the endless politicking ala Malaysian "don't question my rights - Anwar is a sex maniac - stupid ministerial statements" scenario. I think right now, it is better for me to focus more on the international arena and US administration, for once. Of course, this doesn't mean I have lost faith towards Malaysia. (Shhh...I will peek on Loyarburok, once in a while)
2) I know it's contradicting with my first point, but still....pay attention to the 13th General Election
Election is going to be held very soon. Best to be updated. We may never know if another political tsunami will sweep the dirty Malaysian political scene. Hey, I'm not 21 yet, so I won't exactly escape my 'civic duty' of voting, right?
3) Learn another language
I desperately want to learn Spanish. Or French, if I can't choose Spanish. Hell, I would even learn Elementary Greek!
4) Visit a UM lecturer at Duke University
It's a long time since I've met the swashbuckling UM academic, Miss Dian "Justin Bieber" Shah who is currently doing her PhD (actually, a SJD) at Duke. Promised you would take me around North Carolina, and you WILL hold your word! Muahahaha....
5) Travel to Washington, DC!
It's my ultimate dream destination in the US. The center of American government, it is brimming with my favourite hotspots such as the Smithsonian Museums, The Capitol, US Supreme Courts, Washington Monument, Lincoln's Memorial and so many more bustling destinations! Gonna do back-to-back visits if I have to!
There are so many more stuffs I wanna do, but I'm just gonna state down this 5 here. Who knows, maybe the foster family have some other plans for me. It's gonna be a bash, and I can't wait for it!
By: Lim Wei Jiet (UGRAD 2011-2012)
Wei Jiet realises that when everyone is cheering "Merdeka!" back home on 31st August, he will be at a foreign land half the globe away. (Or worse, still on a plane when the clock strikes midnight!) He's not really a nostalgic person, but he will miss the rendang, char keuy teow and mamak roti canai back home.
There was once a girl who had big dreams. Not big enough to conquer the world, but dreams big enough to get her somewhere. This little girl grew up wanting to learn things she never knew existed, to explore parts of the world that she had never seen before and that chance finally came.
I grew up always wanting to study abroad, not because I thought that Malaysia wasn't good enough for me, but because I felt like the many years of education in Malaysia was confining me and I needed a change of perspective. But I decided to stay back and study in Malaysia , and good thing I did because I would never have made so many great friends and I would not have had the chance to participate in as many programs as I did back at home. However, part of me always questioned what it would be like to study overseas. I always wanted the chance to experience the American style of teaching and somehow I knew that studying abroad was something I wasn't quite ready to give up on just yet.
The chance to study in the U.S. came at a critical moment of my life. I was facing one of my hardest moments emotionally and I knew that I had to take this opportunity to show myself that life wasn't as cloudy as I was feeling at that moment, that there was still so much to look forward too. The program , called the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program is an exchange program fully sponsored by the US Department of State for university students in Malaysia to study in an assigned university in the US.It took me two weeks to get all my recommendation letters from my lecturers (they were sooo slow) and to complete all the forms . I remember not writing my personal statement till the day before the deadline and my mind was all over the place but I took about an hour to write it. It was about my dreams of becoming an environmental engineer and contributing to Malaysia. Apparently, they liked it and I had to fly back to Kuala Lumpur the following week for an interview. Kinda froze when I walked in the room to see so many people looking at me but I took my place at the table and answered the questions with as much confidence as I could muster.
The call came a week later saying that I have been nominated for the one year program (3 students got the one year program, 5 the one semester ) and after much waiting I was finally informed that I was selected to represent Malaysia in the UGRAD program. I was going to study at Florida Gulf Coast university at Fort Myers, Florida and was going to leave from KL on the 15th of August.
I was super excited to go, but left my packing to the last minute as usual (you know me) . Thankfully , I had help .And did I mention great friends?
Anyway I left to the airport at 10pm on Monday, 15th of August, said goodbye to some people who became so important to me the past year (thank you) and boarded the plane to Singapore. Spent the night at the transit hotel then left at 6 am for transit at Japan, Houston and finally , Fort Myers. The whole journey was about 36 hours and I slept through the most part of the 3 plane rides. Yup, I'm good like that.
Arrived at Fort Myers at 10.30 pm on Tuesday night and saw Timothy Gjini from the International Services office holding a sign that said "Welcome, Nasha" . So great to have someone to welcome you at the airport after a long journey. Met Hun Whee from South Korea, the other person from the UGRAD program and we made our way to Florida Gulf Coast University.
So far it's been a good couple of days. It's really beautiful over here and it's hard not to fall in love with Florida. It's really been a dream come true for me to finally be here. I know now that if you work hard enough and trust in God with your whole heart, He'll reward you with so many blessings.
Fort Myers beach at sunset
Thank you God, for giving me what I need and for making my dreams possible. I'm so glad I trusted you when things were tough .
You give and take away. But when You give, You give so much that I can only wonder what did I do to deserve all these blessings.
Enjoying every minute of my time here in sunny Florida.
And thank you for the going away presents everyone ! My lovely korean family for the cards with all the photos , Jerusha for the card and the bookmark and for your company , Sun for the card that made me miss you so much, Yin Leng for the slideshow CD of photos of our course mates (that was seriously touching la when I saw the slideshow I really felt like I have the best course mates in the world ), Fit for the Jewellery box ( its on my table right now) , and Ben for the photos and the letters and the camera (coming soon! )
And also to all my course mates who gave me the really cool bottle that changes colour and the pillow cases.
Sending you all my love from the US !
By: Nasha Lee (UGRAD 2011-2012)
Fulbright & UGRAD Program 2011 Debriefing Session on Malaysiakini & Komunitikini.
Congratulations and well done to all 2010/2011 Malaysian UGRAD returnees!!
Are you passionate?
Do you have the drive?
Do you have a vision?
Capitalize on your potential, experience cultural exchange, make it your mission!
Apply for 2012-2013 Fulbright and Global UGRAD Program!!
I never believed this moment will ever come. At least, not at this particular juncture of life. What timing! It seems so weird. Yet, it's indescribably satisfying.
A distant dream packaged in a 5 copy thick envelope, chillingly congratulative phone calls by the ever elegant Ms.Kalis, swooshed through an interview by a bunch of smart-looking Caucasian executives and baam!...the dreams became reality and off you go for an adventure of a lifetime, all expenses paid.
Yes, I am flying to the United States of America! *Coca-Cola Cheers, Ronald McDonald high-fives, Lady Gaga hits on the background!*
So what if it's for one semester only? It's a golden chance to get a taste of the much-hyped American Dream. The baseball-burgers-Greek party culture! Seriously, America didn't came on top of my list after high school. Simply because the top 2 choices of my profession were coincidentally law and medicine; both which are post-graduate studies there. As I finally narrowed down to law, only British castles and sunny Australia beaches cropped across my mind.
I definitely felt relieved after making a decision to accept the offer. It wasn't exactly an easy choice to make. Yes, it's extremely tempting but I guess the things which are pulling me back are the plans, hopes and promises which I vowed to pursue during my 2nd year at the university. There were just so many things which I have promised to do: getting down and dirty in civil society campaigns, being committed to the ALSA organizing commitee, a few tournaments here and there, the much-anticipated faculty orientation....
But I'm glad those nasty clouds of confusion are over. I'm amazed at the level of support and encouragement I receive from lecturers, friends and coursemates alike. Rest assured, I'll make the very best of my 4 months at the other half of the world. Many discoveries await and I'll keep y'all on constant annoying update!
We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls.
~Robert J. McCracken
This might sounds overly dramatic, but the sentiments of immigrants who set sail from all across the world to bask at the symbolic Statue of Liberty are somewhat similar to mine now. Beyond the culture, cuisine and places I intend to travel, what I wanted to discover most in the "Land of the Free" are the values which Americans uphold so proudly: Jeffersonian democracy. True freedom of religion. Active freedom of expression. Equality of opportunities. Most of which are entombed in the famous US Bill of Rights.
However, I think we all know that things aren't as optimistic as it looks at the world's superpower. As Uncle Sam faces the dangerous economic turmoil it has gotten itself into, a deadlock of political will between the Democrats and Republicans at Congress and an unprecedented waning of global influence due to China's rise, it is indeed a very interesting time to learn first hand on how Americans whip the old man in shape in light of these 21st century challenges.
And if I'm lucky enough, maybe the "law student" in me will find the time to read and discuss upon several famous American court cases that shaped the nation. Switching the dynamic Lord Denning for an equally controversial Antonin Scalia! Yipee!
Maybe I should stop now. Wouldn't want to get my hopes so high and all, right? I'll just go with the flow. But I'm sure an extremely new world awaits me. Excitement is in the air.
A few shots (thanks to Wilson's camera) at the Malaysian American Centre of Educational Exchange (MACEE), the nexus of our exchange program management.
Global Ugrad grantees and future scholars! I am very thankful for the seniors who shared their amazing experiences at the US. You guys have inspired me and the others so much, especially with all the great adventures you have captured on camera. I wish I could have a blast there too!
Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American. America is the only idealistic nation in the world. ~Woodrow Wilson
For the first few weeks upon hearing that I am awarded this wonderful opportunity, it really meant a lot to me. For all the past scars that remind me very much about how brutally realistic and dirty both people as well as the nation can go in awarding opportunities to its young talent, I am thankful that there are people who still cherish everything an idealistic (possibly naive?) boy stands for: honesty, integrity and sincerity.
Therefore, a big thank you to MACEE, the US Department of State, University of Malaya, the law faculty, Ugrad seniors, friends and families.
Now, it's time to *Partaaay in the USA!*
By: Lim Wei Jiet (UGRAD 2011-2012)
Wei Jiet is humbled to be a Global Undergraduate Exchange Program scholar under the United States Department of State. He will be spending a semester at the United States to study International Relations/Political Science at a private liberal arts college at South Dakota. The West Coast, Washington DC and Florida are on his travel plans already!
8 Aug 2011: UGRAD 2011/2012 Pre-departure Orientation
5 Malaysian UGRADers who are embarking on their Global UGRAD journey this Fall attended a Pre-Departure Orientation at Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange (MACEE). This orientation was hosted by Dr James Coffman (Executive Director) and Ms Kaliswary (Fulbright Program Officer) to provide helpful information on preparing to leave Malaysia, arrival in the U.S. and adjusting to life on a U.S. college campus before they board the flight to the United States of America!
Attending U.S. universities, participating in community service and internships, living with scholars from different parts of the world, traveling and so much more, the Global UGRAD Exchange Program will surely be a life-changing experience. They will get to realize their American dreams by spending 1-year or 1-semester in America.
These 5 UGRADers will be traveling all alone to their respective universities this August. Let's meet our 2011/2012 Malaysian UGRADers:
1. Amy - Arrived safely at St Cloud State University, Minnesota. She is looking for her CaptainS of America! =P
2. YuPing - Also arrived safely at the University of Missouri - Columbia. She lost her luggage but got back the next day.
3. Nasha - Arrived safely at the University of Gulf Coast Florida. Say 'hi' to Disney World & beautiful beaches!
4. WeiJiet - Is going to Augustana College, a private college at South Dakota.
5. Wilson - Is going to Marymount University, a private university at Arlington, Virginia state which is just few minutes away from Washington DC.
6. Kimberly - She will be leaving in Spring semester to Minnesota State University.
7. Amirul - He is going to Univeristy of Minnesota, Twin Cities next Spring. Seems like everyone is going to Minnesota!
8. LeeLian - She is going to University of Evansville, Indiana next Spring.
10 Aug 2011: UGRAD 2010/2011 Debriefing Session
The third batch of Malaysians UGRADers who have successfully completed their UGRAD journey gathered at the Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange (MACEE) to receive their certificates from Dr. James Coffman, MACEE Executive Director. Guest of honor, U.S. Ambassador Paul Jones was also present at the event to welcome back UGRAD, ILEP, and Fulbright Grantees.
UGRAD returnees also spent some time presenting about their fabulous experiences in the States that build ties and knowledge. They also expressed their gratitude to the US Department of States, MACEE, World Learning and the Global UGRAD program for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"To many of us, we've never imagined that we would ever have the opportunity to study abroad, especially in the US; but the Global UGRAD program had made this far away dream come true!!"
"Even though our journey had ended, I'm sure we'll always carry all these amazing experiences that we've had throughout this journey for the rest of our lives!"
Credits to Wilson Beh for the pictures.
I reached Eau Claire, Wisconsin, on 19 August, 2010 and there I started my magnificent exchange experience abroad at the United States of America. I was placed at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, majoring in Bachelor of Business Administration – Management Entrepreneurship. Back in Malaysia, I pursued Bachelor of Science - Actuarial Science. Thus, studying business was a complete novel field for me. However, I was very excited because business was what I was always passionate about learning. Throughout the academic year, I took 22 credits of business related studies and 3 credits of American study, which was U.S. Culture and Institution. I joined several college clubs like University Activities Commissions, International Student Association, and Malaysian Abroad Diversified.
I encountered numerous culture shocks when I first mingled in the American community. Nevertheless, I found it very thrilling because that was what I have always anticipated to experience. A new life; a new culture. I enjoyed participating in various cultural events. One of the examples was our college “International Folk Fair”. I, along with other Malaysians, represented Malaysia in the fair to promote Malaysia and our culture such as food and costumes. Besides that, I also took part in our college’s Homecoming, Halloween celebration at Madison, Thanksgiving, and Native American’s Pow Wow Party of the Ojibwe’s tribe.
In social aspect, I tried for my first time salsa dancing, two-to-tango, and Waltz in our annual Viennese Ball. Dancing is really fun! Although Wisconsin had the most severe underage drinking issue, I did not drink and party that much. For sports, I jogged, swam, and played basketball, badminton, ping pong, and volleyball. I also enjoyed watching American Football on ESPN. Most important, the very sports that I enjoyed the most were downhill skiing and cross country skiing. That was what I did not get to do in Malaysia because we do not have snow. As Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland, I even had the chance to go down to my American friend’s farm to milk cows!
Volunteered at International Fall Festival
In addition, I was actively involved in community service. In the Fall Semester, I volunteered to help out at the International Fall Festival, organized by Downtown Eau Claire, Inc. My roles included being a volunteer coordinator, floater, working at the information center, as well as helping to tear down. In spring, I helped to sort out and categorize some international stuff and document of a high school in Washington D.C.
Sales Team of 44th Eau Claire Jazz Festival
I completed my internship by working as a Merchandise Sales Manager for Eau Claire Jazz, Inc. It was my first time to get involved in the music industry. I got to learn jazz so much and I found that I really enjoy jazz. Some of my roles were to find the merchandise to sell, negotiated the price, determine the price for sale, manage the inventory control, manage merchandise logistic, and do sales reconciliation work.
With my host family - Ruth Anne &John at their cabin.
In addition to campus life, I also had a nice host family that hosted me for the first few days I arrived and brought me out periodically during my academic year.
Introducing our traditional costumes
In March, together with three other Malaysian UGRADers, we represented Malaysia in Re-Entry Workshop that took place in Washington D.C., organized by World Learning. We were so delightful to meet all the wonderful UGRADers from the other 19 countries. Wearing Malaysian traditional costumes, we performed a Malay song- “Rasa Sayang” at the Cultural Night.
Apart from academic, social, and cultural involvement, I also took every opportunity I had to travel all around the U.S. From the nine months period, I visited several major cities – Madison, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Washington D.C., New York, Boston, Milwaukee, etc. I really enjoyed travelling in the U.S.
All in all, this exchange experience has shaped my life as a better individual. I returned to Malaysia with a mix of American and Malaysian values. It turned out that choosing to apply for Global UGRAD Exchange scholarship one of the best decisions in my life. Thank you MACEE! Thank you Global UGRAD! Thank you World Learning! Most importantly, I want to express my profuse gratitude to all Americans! Without them, I would not have gone to America. Thank you!
By: Choo Choon Sian, University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire (UGRAD 2010-2011)