Sep 2, 2011

Journey from Penang to USA

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.

Had great gatherings with friends. This is one of the experiences must go through huh? Haha

And also Thank You to everyone who wished me through phone call, sms and facebook message. I received your warm regards :)

Here started my journey to the USA!

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.

I took Sky Train from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3.

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.

What else can you ask for?

Boeing 777

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.

Narita Airport at Tokyo.

The transit 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…

Aug 27, 2011

Study in the USA? Apply Global Undergraduate Exchange Program

Do you have a dream?

Martin Luther had one.

I have mine too. One of my dreams is to study abroad.

When I entered Universiti Sains Malaysia, I’ve been looking for studying abroad opportunities everywhere.

Thanks to Chong Zhi Lin and Dato Anwar Fazal, I got to know Global Undergraduate Exchange Program.

And here I am – Marymount University, a private catholic university at beautiful city of Arlington, Virginia.

Washington DC is just few metro station stops away and I can take a bus to New York City in 4 hours time.

I will write more about US life in coming posts. But now, I want to focus in Global Undergraduate Exchange Program.

Global Undergraduate Exchange Program, or Global UGRAD is funded by US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It offers emerging student leaders from East Asia, the Pacific and Western Hemisphere full scholarships to attend US universities for 1 semester or 2 semester academic studies.

Global UGRAD is a substantive program exchange program designed to expose students in US education system, society and culture. UGRADers stay in campus dorms and have to participate in community services and internships related to their major. J-1 VISA is issued and we have to return to home country to complete degree.

The best thing is you are in the networks together with US government sponsored scholars such as Fulbrighters, professors and researchers. Your resume looks good too as a US government sponsored scholar.

So, how to apply?

You can apply through US Embassy or Fulbright Commission in your respective country. In Malaysia, you need to apply through MACEE (Malaysian American Commission on Educational Exchange), which is a Fulbright Commission.

You need to be currently enrolled in a local institutions (local private colleges/universities ok too!) for at least 1 year, and should be 24 years or younger when you apply.

The application normally opens in November. You can get the application form at MACEE Website.

Be alert on the application deadline as the entire process is quite rush.


1. Download Global UGRAD Program Application form at MACEE Website

2. Write a personal statement (500 – 600 words)

3. Get 2 lecturers and 1 high school teacher to write 3 letter of recommendations

4. If you succeed in 1st round selection, you will be called for interview. Be ready for that. 

5. If you passed interview, congratulations! But this doesn’t guarantee you will get this program 100%. It depends on US side to approve it. 100% passed through though every year. (DECEMBER)

6. MACEE will arrange you for a TOEFL test. (JANUARY)

7. You get to know official result from US! (April)

8. You will know your host institution (May)

8. Get your VISA ready (July)

8. Orientation (August) and ready to go! 

Last year in 2010, there were around 100 Malaysians applied for this program. 8 were selected. So the success rate is about 10%, which is quite high.

So, if you want to study in the USA for free! Do check out MACEE website, Global UGRAD Malaysia Facebook Page or Global UGRAD Malaysia Official Website!

Always have a dream, take actions and believe it can come true!

Life is all about fulfilling your dreams.

Aug 16, 2011

Pre-Departure Orientation to US and Debriefing at MACEE

On 8th August, the 5 UGRADers who are going in Fall semester had a Pre-Departure Orientation at MACEE (Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange).

We are going under Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD Program) which is sponsored by US Department of States. Every year, 9 Malaysians will be chosen to study, involve in community service and internships in US for 1 sem or 2 sem. This year, due to budget constrain, only 8 Malaysians are selected.

UGRADers will have the chance to join the global elite networks with other US scholars from different countries and background.

How to apply? I will write more in the next post.

MACEE was founded in 1963 as a binational commission for Malaysia and United States to promote educational exchange between the 2 countries. One of the most popular programs is Fulbright which Marina Mahathir was one of the scholars too.

Welcome to MACEE! The top floor at Bangunan Yayasan Tun Razak.

The board room which we had our interview! But this time, the feeling was completely different.

Ms Kalis, Fulbright Program officer, perhaps is the most helpful and friendly staff in MACEE. She is the one who communicates with us from the beginning till the day we return to Malaysia.

We were briefed on the info like do’s and don’ts, what to expect and what not.

Souvenirs! All the way from Kuching (Thanks Nasha) and some Penang foods brochures, TimeOut Magazine, DVDs which I got from Penang tourism.

Pizza for lunch! The beginning of many many pizzas to come?

Dr. James Coffman, Executive Director of MACEE; also an alumni from Stanford University who is very humorous! He has the best tipping tips. LOL

From left, Wei Jiet from UM, Christine from Uniten, Amy & Nasha from UM too. We are the 4th batch of Malaysian UGRADers! There’re another 3 UGRADers who go in Spring semester.

5 of us will be going to different universities and also different departure dates! Means we will be flying alone, to a place which we know no one. Exciting?

Amy – is already at St Cloud State University, Minnesota. She is looking for her CaptainS of America there! =P

Christine – has also reached University of Missouri – Columbia. She lost her luggage but got back the next day.

Nasha – is reaching University of Gulf Coast Florida soon! Say Hi to Disney World & NASA (Kennedy Space Center).

Wei Jiet – is going to Augustana College, a private college at South Dakota.

Kimberly – She will be leaving at Spring semester to Minnesota State University.

Amirul – Univeristy of Minnesota at Twin City – Why everyone is going to Minnesota? Haha

Kong Lee Lian – University of Evansville, Indiana.

While I’m going to Marymount University, a private university at Arlington, Virginia state which is like few minutes away from Washington DC. It’s a small Catholic university with a student population of less than 5,000.


Christine shouted out loud:” Mum I’m on TV!” LOL

MACEE new library. A good place to chill… and online!

Pretty nice skyline view from MACEE.

2 days later on Wednesday, we had a Debriefing session – where all the returned scholars shared their experiences.

UGRADers 2010/2011 in action! Congratulations to them! You may check out their info at MACEE website.

US Ambassador Paul Jones with few of the Fulbright scholars.

Ambassador Paul Jones is very friendly, fast-thinking and a technology savvy! Tweet him @AmbassadorJones

Raymond Weng, Fulbright Malaysian Graduate student who graduated at Cornell University and had internships at United Nation HQ.

The Malaysia’s Global UGRADers family! Each of everyone of the seniors is back as a changed, better person!

If you are between 18 – 24, currently studying in Malaysia’s universities or private colleges, and want to study in the USA for free -

Come to join us at

It’s all about… having a dream, and make it happens.

Welcome to this simple yet awesome blog.



Cities I visited