Browsing articles in "University Life"
Sep 5, 2011

Life in the USA

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!

Move your mouse to point on the picture :)

Jul 16, 2011

17 lessons I learnt – being a local university student in USM for 2 years

So, the UPU result is finally out.

Congratulation to those who have been awarded your 1st choice, your many years of hard work is paid off and here comes a new beginning; if you don’t,  do not worry as God will not shut one door without opening another, the best is always yet to come. 

Local university students in Malaysia are often regarded as 2nd class as compared to private and overseas undergraduates.

One of the main reasons is public does not have confidence in Malaysia’s education system – many people have the perception that the  lectures are not conducted in English and the quality of  lecturers and students likewise are far from excellence.

It is true that the standard of our public institutions are still lagging behind to many world renowned universities – but it is more than adequate to prepare you to be a better individual and propel you forward with the unique experiences provided by local universities.

My two years local university’s life has taught me something. Yes, students who study overseas have some advantages and competitive edges. However it is only limited to those who cherish the opportunities and make the most abroad.  In this era of social media, it doesn’t really matter anymore on where you study but how great do you let your dreams soar and how wild do you let your imagination run? 

There are so many successful local undergraduates in the corporate or public services. And we certainly can be like them. 

There are many ups, downs, bittersweet and sour which have shaped my 2-year journey to be a fruitful one. I experienced many ‘first’ in my life in this short span of time: chaired a press conference, mentored by the Prime Minister in a closed-door session, featured on the front page of newspaper, initiated a few social and business projects, co-curated an international conference for the first time in Penang, and the list goes on.

Above all, it is friends and people from all walks of life I have come across who made my life more colorful.  All of these might not happen if I were not a student in Universiti Sains Malaysia.

I’m writing this post to share some humble experiences over the past two years.

17 lessons learnt in USM 

1. Forget about your SPM/STPM/Matriculation result. 

When you step into university, you are on a new playing field. Everyone starts equally. You and course mates have made it to the same faculty, sharing the same opportunities. Do not rest upon laurel of what you have achieved previously.

2. Make friends, as many as possible. And keep a few close ones. 

在家靠父母,出外靠朋友+ (靠自己) – 四海之内皆兄弟 – The chinese proverbs can’t be wrong. Don’t be shy to make new friends. You’ll never know perhaps one day, they might be your boss or biggest client!

Go to travel across Malaysia or fly Air Asia during your semester break, see the world and foster meaningful friendship.

But please, do not expect everyone will like you just as you can’t please everyone, too.

3. Study hard, play harder 

Don’t keep yourself busy studying. Don’t make your dorm the only place you ever explore.

Many people say that college is the best time of your life – quite true, as you don’t have too much responsibilities, yet.

So, go out to explore the unlimited possibilities of what life can offer, go to see the city, and have some fun.

4. Join different societies, but focus in 1 or 2 after some time. 

There are more than 100 societies/clubs in USM, to name a few MPP, MPD, Management Society, Tiong Hwa Society, AIESEC, PUCS, The Wanderers, Kung Fu Club…the list goes on! But I’m not telling you which one is the best here.

Go to explore yourself. Choose the one which you are really interested and helps in your future career.

5. Mix with friends from other races and make friends with international students. 

Embrace the “true” 1 Malaysia in your campus. Sometimes you’ll find friends from other races are more helpful.

You will also discover that we are all the same.

Hang out with friends from China. They are good people. At the beginning, some of them might need help in English and Malay languages. Do them a favor and they will always remember you.

Don’t ever judge a person by appearance. 

6. Love your course – be proud of what you study

Choose the course you like, like the course you choose.

Be proud of what you are studying – regardless of what courses you will play an indispensable role in the nation building.

7. Don’t complain too much, find solutions. 

Most of you will get frustrated with bureaucracy. It happens anyway. Problematic course registration, ineffective communication between lecturer and student, PTPTN arrangement, hostel management and a few more cause headaches.

Seek solutions, take immediate actions and solve the problems – complain doesn’t help anything. 

8. Don’t be shy to Ask. 

If you don’t know, then ask until you are clear.

Build a good relationships with your school lecturers, staffs, HEP and hostel officer. They are kind if you do the same way.

9. Fall in Love. 

Yes they are couples who maintain over the course from high schools until marriage, but its possibility is like 2 out of 10.

Falling in love in university is more realistic. Find your soul mate during this period, if you think he/she is the one.

Did you know our Vice Chancellor meet his wife when he studied in USM too?

And, separation is a lesson too. If both of you are not meant to be together, move on. Life is a journey.

10. Take a foreign language – yes for free! 

There are a number of foreign language courses available in the School of Languages. Do check them out.

11. Be a follower, be a leader. 

University is the best place to practice leaderships. Before you can lead well, be a good follower.

Take up leaderships posts, it’s a good training. At least it’s not the real world when you get fired directly of wrong deed.

12. Help your friend – sharing is caring. 

Share necessary info with your course mates. Jangan kedekut ilmu! 

13. Always know where are you from, but don’t be constrained of it. 

Live at present and hope for tomorrow, don’t live for the past!

14. Start something

Start any projects that you’re fully passionate about. Make a point to gain support from the university. USM advocates ideas which are aligned with its mission and beneficial to the society.

Start a business if you embrace entrepreneurship. Facebook was started in a dorm as well.

In case if anyone didn’t know that it’s my room in Tekun – yeah the best hostel in USM! 

15. Don’t make your family worry. 

Take care of yourself well. It’s still ok if you don’t send money back for now, but don’t ever bring them worries.

One of the tips is to report only good news! If they can’t help on bad news, there is no point burdening them.

Distance does magnify worries.

16. Don’t limit yourself in USM, Go Beyond. 

Join national and international conferences. Challenge yourself to take part in competitions!

Meet with different people – get inspired, set your benchmark high and network in the right way.

A mentor once told me:

” If you’re top in USM, don’t be too proud of yourself. There is a Penang state. If you’re top in Penang, there’s Malaysia which is made of bigger states. Even you’re the best in Malaysia, but compared to China’s market you’re still a small fish. Don’t ever put a limit and you can grow further.”

17. Think of what you want to achieve at the end. 

What Dexter said during Youth Nation Summit was so true – Life is all about 4L – and it applies to university life too!

To Live

To Learn

To Love

and To leave a Legacy behind

Who you want to be 3, 4, 5 years from now? How you want friends to remember you as? What do you want to remember – when you look back to your university life? 

It’s all up to you.

Welcome to USM – one of the most beautiful campuses in Malaysia. 

Have fun – and make the most of it. ; )

Welcome to this simple yet awesome blog.



Cities I visited