Browsing articles tagged with " Global UGRAD"
Feb 16, 2012

Winter Break 1: South Dakota – Sioux Falls the Wild Wild West

“Wilson, how did you go to so many places in the US?” 

“How much is the entire cost?”

“Any traveling tips to share?”

Many friends have asked me the above questions since I started new semester in Marymount University. The coming few posts will be dedicated to the awesome cross-country winter break trip in the US of A.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” – Helen Keller

My time in the US is limited – this is why I always feel a strong urgency to explore a little more, challenge myself a little more. After all, there is nothing to lose.

The 30-day journey started on Dec 17, 2011. It was a chilly winter morning when I took off from Ronald Reagen Washington Airport in a Boeing 737, United jet plane. The aerial view of Washington D.C. was a spectacular sight.

Transiting at Chicago O’Hare International Airport

Took the smallest plane ever from Chicago to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It was a United Express (Embraer ERJ-145, 50 seats only). I was praying so hard to land safe. LOL

Malaysian UGRADers Christine, Nasha and I reunited at Wei Jiet’s campus – Augustana College.

Library in Augustana College.

Art district in Sioux Falls downtown.

The Fall @ Sioux Falls Park. Now you know why it’s called Sioux Falls.

Lovely sunset setting.

Had a good chat with Professor Mike – Wei Jiet’s professor in Augustana as well as his host family.

Had Middle-Eastern foods with a bunch of great international community from Augustana College.

Traveled 500 miles all the way from Sioux Falls to Rapid City, which is located at the another end in South Dakota.

The journey is on a straight expressway and you see nothing but black cows at the vast farm land.

On the way.

I call it transformer.


Badlands National Park

Breathtaking rocky mountains with some snow on top!

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. -Albert Einstein

Jalur Gemilang at Badlands National Park.

Wall Drug Store @ cowboy town.  It is a shop consisting of a drug store, gift shops, restaurants and various other stores.

The New York Times described Wall Drug as “a sprawling tourist attraction of international renown [that] takes in more than $10 million a year and draws some two million annual visitors to a remote town”.

Totem pole reminds me of good old scouting days. #highschoolfun

#Cute #PersonalityDevelopment

People dress quite differently here at Rapid City.

On the way to Mt Rushmore.

See the stark contrast? The green forest and the desert.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture of 4 U.S. Presidents carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore. Can you tell who are they?

#JalurGemilang at Mount Rushmore.

@Nasha @WeiJiet @Christine @Wilson

People either told me:” it’s very cold, good luck to you” or “it’s in the middle of no where“  when I told them I’m going to South Dakota.

After spending 4 days here in Sioux Falls, the largest city in South Dakota; I think it’s a very unique and interesting place. Do come here if you want a Wild Wild West experience. It is just not your typical East or West Coast experience.

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 :)

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.

Welcome to this simple yet awesome blog.



Cities I visited