After more than 28 hours of cramped jet cabins, incessant transitions at the most modern airports in the world and facing an amazingly friendly first point of entry at Denver, I finally got to set my feet on the USA.
No, I did not lose my bags to United Airlines. Yes, I fumbled with something as simple as a cash transactions to buy a banana smoothie at Seattle. And yes, I did stupid stuff like crossing through the Singaporean immigration when I WASN'T SUPPOSED TO, causing myself to wander around the T2 Terminal like a zombie when I could be in slumber heaven at the T3 Transit Hotel.
I expected to face such stuff but hey, making mistakes is part of this awesome journey too! Where was I? Oh, yeah, back to America. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to be exact. It's a lovely city which, in my opinion, portrays the 'real' America: small cosy individual houses with big lawns, great church communities, friendly people walking their dogs and not a sight of towering infrastructures; accommodated by the beautiful parks, lush greenery, beautiful rivers and big blue skies. (I plan to have a separate blog post on this, just be patient! ^^)
And here is my host institution, Augustana College! It's one of the best private colleges in the MidWest. And it employs a liberal arts education system, which is something I have deeply wished to experience myself all along. The best part is, this year, it had a record high number of international students enrolled!
A tour along the Augie campus: The statue in the middle is Ole the Viking, our mascot. The first picture is the Center of Western Studies, which is uniquely shaped like a Native Indian teepee. The library has top-notch facilities. It is also supposedly guarded by Moses.(which really looks like Hellboy carved into a statue to me)One feature of this campus is that it is dotted by many pieces of art and architecture, reflecting the vibrant appreciation of aesthetic values by the community. The main area on the ground floor of the library is my favourite spot. It has an amazing collection of encyclopedias and magazines of just about anything: Lutheran, Time, Academe, etc.
I witnessed my first ever live American football game! It was the Augustana Vikings against Minnesota-Duluth (which are the national champions) I find that football games are an important family affair: scores of kids throwing football around the field and hordes of old people seating below tents munching on free burgers. Everyone was proud to display their team jersey. It was a nerve-wrecking game! Especially when Augie performed well in the first two halves. I thought we were going to win! A few mistakes were costly and the opposing team successfully gained ground. It was an interesting event, with the occasional explanation by friends on the rules of the game. (Anyway, I still think soccer is a better sport to watch)
The opening convocation at the Elmen Center where all professors came with their fancy academic robes. Me with college President Rob Oliver.
One very poignant moment occurred to me last weekend. It was when all Americans stood up to sing their national anthem before the football match. Lead by a local singer, (who, interestingly, belted out the lyrics in her own style like an American Idol rendition) it was a truly fascinating moment.
2 sentences strike my chord the most. The portrayal of USA as the "land of the free" and "home of the brave". I find it extremely true in this great country. True, we will inevitably say racism still exists and the economy is in bad shape... But through my very own eyes, I see how the Blacks, Latinos and Whites happily joke around while preparing our meals. Through the papers and news, I see from afar how brave American civilians and soldiers went through 9/11, as the 10th anniversary of that unfortunate day is arriving.
It touched me to a certain extent. Why? Maybe because it reminds me of the things back in Malaysia. Can the Malays, Chinese and Indians genuinely embrace each other one day? No stereotypes, no awkwardness, without the ghost of racial policies haunting above? When can we truly accept one another as equal human beings with equal rights and with equal chance to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Because that's what I learned when I had the chance to interact with so many international students all across the globe. There was only one race (like what my friend, Wilson mentioned): the human race. If only we treat each other as that, then world peace is very much attainable.
Sorry for the idealistic talk. It's just me. I'm excited of many more encounters, experiences and people I will meet in shaping my opinion about America and the world. Until then, bye! And the best wishes to Malaysia come Malaysia Day on September 16.
By: Lim Wei Jiet (UGRAD 2011-2012)
Wei Jiet can't wait for the 3 day Black Hills trip next weekend! He's even more elated to know that Global UGrad will have a Fall Pre-Departure Orientation at Washington DC on November 16. Lots of travelling and exploring to do!
“I hate having to use the first person. Nearly everything I’ve done in my life has been accomplished with other people. Yet when when you write a post like this, you’re forced to use the narrative “I” when it’s really the “we” that counts”
– Jack Welch, CEO of GE 1981 – 2001.
I bought Jack’s 2nd hand, well maintained hardcover biography at Unique Store at $1.5 (RM4.50) few hours ago. The above sentence is written at the prologue. I can’t agree more with Jack – who hailed as the greatest business leader in century by Fortune.
I am very grateful to be able to come to US and experience a taste of different cultures under Global Undergraduate Exchange Program. But I can never make it without the support and help from seniors, lecturers, friends and family. I remember and thankful for that.
Global Undergraduate Exchange Program is a program funded by US Department of States. More than 100 students across the globe were chosen to study for 1 or 2 semesters in different universities in US.
This program has been running in Malaysia since 2008 and I’m the 4th batch of Global UGRADers Malaysia with another 7 bright student leaders.
Global UGRAD Program is administered by World Learning – which works directly with the State Department. In Malaysia, MACEE (Malaysian American Commission on Educational Exchange) is fully responsible for the interview and selection process.
So here I’m am – Arlington, Virginia state!
Virginia is often nicknamed as “Mother of Presidents” after 8 US Presidents born here. Arlington where I live is a county with a population of 200,000.
Arlington is ranked among the top counties with highest median household incomes and CNN Money ranked it 7th in US in its listing of “Best Places for the Riches and Single”. The smart urban growth concept has been proven successful in Arlington.
Due to its close proximity to Washington DC, Arlington is headquarters to many departments and agencies including The Pentagon, the Department of Defence, Drug Enforcement Agency, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and etc.
Arlington is like Petaling Jaya while Washington DC is Kuala Lumpur. Arlington is in Washington Metropolitan Area (the concept is like Klang Valley or Greater KL) which has a population of 5.6 millions together with Maryland and few other principle cities.
Washington Metropolitan Area is the 7th largest metropolitan area in US. As a national’s capital, it is the most educated and by some measures the most affluent metropolitan area in US.
I always have a passion in urban planning and cities. It is so great to be in the location where I can go anywhere in the area by subway.
The Metro Subway started operating since 1976 so some of the stations are very old. It is the 2nd busiest subway after New York City. Due to its efficiency and good connection, I can easily go to DC core zone with a few stops. The university shuttle runs every 20 minute from main campus to Ballston MU Station the orange line.
My host university is Marmount Univeristy – a private, catholic university with about 5,000 students. The campus is not big but it has almost everything. Basically you can explore the entire campus by not more than 20 minutes walk. Because it is small, everyone knows everyone in the campus – applies to senior year (final year) students!
I’m the 1st Malaysian student to study here! In fact, I have not met any Malaysian after spending more than 2 weeks in DC areas. International Student Service officer Aline promised to connect me with Malaysia Embassy. According to her, Malaysia Embassy is very active in events.
Only at here I can truly understand the meaning of being independent. Besides, this experience opens up my mind broadly – the world is so large so don’t keep yourself in just one circle. Our skin colors might be different, white black or yellow; but to me there is only one race in this world: The Human Race.
I stayed on Global Thinker Residential Community at Gerard Hall. I share a room with my lovely roommate, Vincent who is from Pennsylvania.
I can safely say that this floors houses some of the most interesting characters from all around the world; from US, South America, Africa, Middle East and also few from Asia. All are very friendly, helpful and nice!
President of Marymount University, Dr. Matthew Shank is also a very friendly and down to earth leader. He just arrived to this campus few months and I believe MU can achieve greater heights under his leaderships.
He welcomed Tran (Global UGRADer from Hanoi) and me to join this community!
One thing I really like about this campus is its cafeteria. It’s just like a restaurant with nice music in the air! This dining hall is actually run by Sodexo, one of the largest food services in the world which based in France. It’s like hotel buffet style. You can take whatever you like if you have a full meal plan: from sushi, pizza, pasta, chicken, beef, salad, fruits, sandwiches to desserts! The main dish changes every day and so far I have not finished trying the foods! Coffee, chocolate or coke? Which C you want?
This is Marymount Univeristy Business School at Ballston the city area. I have to take a shuttle which runs every 20 min to here. My Investment, International Finance and Financial Management classes are conducted here.
Ballston area at Arlington, view outside from my business school.
I have gone to 3 malls so far – Ballston Mall, Pentagon City Mall and Tysons Corner. The later is the best but the bad thing metro line doesn’t reach there. Stuffs in US are really cheap if you work and earn here. If you convert to Ringgit everything is still expensive unless during big sales!
If you ask me how’s life in US? I will say it’s great. I love Washington DC this city so much – a young city yet so rich in history, cultures and politics. People here are very friendly and helpful. Ask if you don’t know and they will help.
Classes here are really different as in USM. We might use the same textbooks but the teaching method here focuses more in critical thinking than memorizing. Lecturers distribute latest news from Yahoo Finance and encouraged us to discuss and analyze. And, there is no bureaucracy. My class registration was done in few minutes and no flaws. Student emails and online portal are utilized effectively.
However, the more I find out the better sides of US, the more I think Malaysia very blessed. For example, we don't have Hurricane Irene. At the time I'm writing this, my Facebook wall is full with Indonesia's earthquake tremors in Penang - but we are still very safe. Malaysia has so much opportunities and if we can do it right, it can be one of the greatest nation too.
Phases of cultural adaption – seriously I don’t know which phase I’m in – it’s like a mixture of honeymoon, cultural shock and adjustment. I do miss Malaysia a lot. But hey, people around me are warm, this city is so exciting and I only have 8 months plus here! This is a lifetime opportunity and I gonna learn the mot of it… with an open heart =)
Just like what Khai Shing the senior UGRADer said:” Hope you all can stay in the honeymoon period for all the days in US!” So I will try to stay in the honeymoon period like the new married couples! Haha!
By: Wilson Beh (UGRAD 2011-2012)
After months of anticipation, all 5 Malaysian UGRADers who are starting their UGRAD journey this Fall have arrived safely in the United States. They've attended orientation in their respective universities, made new friends, and started classes for the Fall semester. Seems like they have been adapting well to the new environment and handling culture shock very well. Here are some updates of their new beginnings and we hope to hear more from them soon! Stay tuned! P.S. Thanks to Amy, YuPing, Nasha, Wilson, and WeiJiet for sharing their updates on Facebook and their blogs! :)
St. Cloud State Uni.,
Amy started her UGRAD journey in SCSU with fellow UGRADers from other countries who are also hosted in SCSU. Despite the cold summer, she is having a great time meeting new friends and experiencing new things. She has attended the Minnesota State Fair and the Minnesota Renaissance Festival with other international students.
"Everything is perfectly fine in SCSU!! Beautiful university with awesome facilities & great people. "
Uni. of Missouri,
Yu Ping (Christine) arrived Columbia on Aug 14 and met fellow exchange students in her university. Classes have started and she is enjoying her campus life, especially the rec centre. :p
"Got to roughly understand how American football works, had my all-time since young favorite activity - cycling. I love my campus. Blessed!"
Florida Gulf Coast University.
Nasha arrived Fort Myers on Aug 17. She's adapting well to the new life in FGCU and has made friends with people from all over the world. Being in the state that is known for its beautiful beaches, Nasha also had the opportunity to visit Fort Myers beach!
"I love the fact that I can say good night to the people I love and they reply in a few seconds from halfway across the globe. Technology is pretty amazing. :)"
Marymount Uni. at Arlington,
Wilson arrived Virginia on Aug 24 right after the earthquake that struck the East Coast. His arrival was also welcomed by Hurricane Irene, indeed an interesting start. Being located in close proximity to Washington DC, he had visited several attractions in DC. Melissa, Jodie, and Jessica from World Learning also made a visit to the UGRADers in MU. He has been sharing his latest updates actively via the use of social media.
"I come with an open heart & open mind to accept differences, learn & share from everyone and make good use of it."
"Washington DC is a beautiful place. US is a great country. People there are very friendly and helpful. But Malaysia is not ad too - though there are some problems but every country has their own. We are blessed and can be a great nation too by working hard and coming together as one."
"My International Finance Professor has been to Penang and said that it's a lovely place, and told the class we can find Made in Malaysia in most electronic gadgets. He also wrote & explained chinese character "危机- crisis" on the white board, but want us to focus on "机- opportunities". I think this is pretty cool!!
Wei Jiet arrived Sioux Falls on Aug 31 and was welcomed by the beautiful weather and landscapes.
"Is constantly amazed at the hospitality and friendliness of the staff here at Augustana. It's really unique to experience college life as an international student."
I’ve been MIA for a while in the bloggersphere – busying settling down and classes are starting. Finally, now I got some spare time to blog!
Coming to USA is my childhood dream. I feel grateful as at the age of 21, I have a chance to realize it.
Thank you US Department of States, World Learning and MACEE.
A lot of things had to be done before the departure. I went to USM many times to settle on Credit Transfer, PTPTN, Hostel issues; US Embassy for VISA interview and several trips to KL for orientation and briefing.
And also Thank You to everyone who wished me through phone call, sms and facebook message. I received your warm regards.
Flying alone made the journey even more exciting.
It’s my 1st time to fly across the Pacific Ocean. Taiwan was the farthest place I went.
Penang -> Singapore (Stayed one night) -> Tokyo (Transit) -> Washington Dulles
I took MAS from Penang and transited at Changi Airport, Singapore. It’s my 3rd time to this airport and it never fail to amaze me. Undeniably the best airport in the world – yes Asia has a number of the best airports. Terminal 3 @ Changi Airport. It is just like a city in a city. You can find almost anything here, from Butterfly Farm, Swimming Pool, Massage, Cinema, Cafe and etc. Free wifi is everywhere. You can ask for the wireless password for your laptop too.
I reached Singapore at 6pm, but my next flight was at 710am the next morning. What’s better staying at Transit Hotel at $58 per night? The travel agent booked me a Single Occupancy Room but the hotel staff checked me into this room. Changi Airport Terminal 3 was my most pleasant experience throughout the entire flight journey.
It took 6.5 hours to reach Narita Airport, Tokyo from Singapore. The flight was smooth and I got to know a US Navy who sat next to me. He used to work at The Pentagon but now posting at Singapore. The transit at Narita Airport was fast. I spent less than 40 minutes in the airport. All the passengers passed through scanning again and boarded the same flight to Washington DC. This time it was a 12 hours flight. I was very alert and couldn’t sleep at all throughout the journey. I completed reading 2 books, 2 movies and had a nice chat with a Hong Kong middle age woman, who graduated from London School of Economics but settling down at Houston, Texas now. United Airline is not bad. But it will be perfect if they can have more young flight stewardesses! Haha!
I touched down on the land of America at 255pm while my biological clock was at 255am! Yeah the time difference is exactly 12 hours. Malaysia is 12 hours ahead of Washington DC. As a student and with all the documents well prepared, I passed the US Customs in a few minutes. It was just hours after the century earthquake at central Virginia. I was struck in the heavy traffic while going to Marymount University on the cute Super Shuttle from airport.
On a land I knew no one, here started my U.S. 9 months life…
By: Wilson Beh (UGRAD 2011-2012)