05 Jan The Life Lessons of An International Student
It takes mustering a huge amount of courage to decide on working or studying in a different country. The new people, the cultural differences and even the foreign language – these will easily make you think twice in actually doing it. But, new things come with excitement and adventure. Take Govind’s story. Originally from India, he grew up and studied in Dubai and then decided to go to a university in Malaysia. Find out how his life changed for the better when he took the step to study abroad.
With globalization and the growth of multicultural societies, today’s generation of youth interests in leaving the comfort of their home and foray into various countries to pursue their undergraduate studies. Deciding to study abroad was a big step in shaping my perspectives in life. Here are life lessons I learned from the four years I spent in Kuching, Malaysia.
I was very adamant about wanting to do my undergraduate studies away from home. The excitement that came with living alone and managing your life on your own appealed to me. When you live with your parents, you don’t realize how difficult being on your own can be. Every aspect of your life is usually taken care of and your parents are always looking out for you.
Deciding to study abroad was mainly about survival during the initial few months. As a student, you need to balance studies with other additional responsibilities. From paying bills to taking yourself to the doctor when ill, these responsibilities test your mental and physical strength.
After a while, everything becomes a routine. You attend classes without compromising house chores, you manage your meals without compromising health, you pay your rent and bills on time and still have enough to spare for a social life.
It’s not easy and it doesn’t happen quickly, but it does happen and when it does, you can look back at the transformation you went through. You came to a strange land as a kid, and now, you leave as an adult, bidding adieu to a very familiar place.
Studying overseas gave me the opportunity to understand myself better. You realize your strengths and weaknesses and your ability to adapt to people and situations.
Many a time, you will find yourself head to head with some kind of a dilemma. As challenging as they might seem, overcoming the problem will leave you with pride and a sense of accomplishment.
Choosing Malaysia gave me the freedom to travel. With destinations like Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Philippines all nearby, as a student it was easier to travel. With cheap flights during semester breaks to student discounts throughout the year, travelling is easier when you are on your own. Live in a student bunker or crash with an ‘airbnb’ family – there are plenty of options when you are a solo traveller. If you prefer to travel in a group, you can backpack with a group of friends and that’s an incredible experience as well.
Moving to Kuching gave me a break from the glass and metal jungle of Dubai. I had the opportunity to trek the lush green rain forests of Borneo. These are very different from the activities that you can do in Dubai.
The weather was also a welcome change. Given the eight month of hot, hot, summer in Dubai, the tropical climate was a blessing. Imagine thunderstorms every day from noon till evening! However, I must admit, after a while the daily thunderstorms were frustrating. It did however make the pleasant winters of Dubai a perfect getaway during my university break.
The value of ‘Home’
The feeling of coming back home after studying abroad is something that cannot be explained easily.
You get to spend time with family and friends you might not have seen for a long period of time. You get to eat some fresh home cooked meals after half a year of frozen food or take away meals from restaurants.
After a week or two, you will find yourself getting bored simply because you no longer live the fast paced life and myriad of small life tasks that you had when abroad. As fun as it is to come back home, you now enjoy the chores and other responsibilities you have while studying abroad.
New culture, new language
Every time I visited a country for a holiday as a kid, I always found my stay to be too short. I used to question my parents about paying so much and experiencing so little. Towards the end of high school, I realized that studying abroad might be an ideal way to experience a country, and its culture and people for a longer period.
You learn to appreciate and respect a culture only when you immerse yourself in it. You can even learn a language much more quickly if you surround yourself with people who speak it as their common tongue.’
Clearly, Govind improved his overall well being when he studied and lived in a foreign country. This has gained him a lot of experience and adventure while learning about people and cultures.
Languages spoken in Malaysia:
The official language of Malaysia is Malay, one of the easiest East Asian languages to learn. English is widely spoken, as is Chinese, thanks to the city’s second largest population being made up of the Han Chinese. Although almost everyone speaks English in the major cities, if you are a true culture vulture and want to explore further, then make sure you know some Malay words to impress the locals.