Appreciating Malaysia’s diversity

Multi-cultural Malaysia has given Safira a chance to get to know herself better, become independent and more tolerant towards other people. –
Multi-cultural Malaysia has given Safira a chance to get to know herself better, become independent and more tolerant towards other people. –

STUDYING abroad gives youths an opportunity to learn something new and broaden their knowledge.  By continuing their studies in another part of the world, they get international exposure too. Young people are always craving for new experiences and they can adapt easily to a new society and its cultures. 

I was lucky to have been able to get the chance to study abroad and I chose to pursue my higher studies in Malaysia, which is well-known for its twin towers (in Kuala Lumpur) and its multicultural society.

The Malays, Chinese and Indian communities practise their own religions and cultures and have their own cuisines, as well as arts and music scenes. This is what makes Malaysia such a diverse country and being exposed to the various cultures has given me a better insight into its multicultural society.

Most international students usually find language a major barrier to communicating with the locals. Fortunately, in Malaysia, many of the locals can speak and understand English even though they are not that fluent in the language. As for me, I didn't have a major problem due to the similarity between Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malaysia.

Living amidst people of different races enables foreign students to pick up additional languages such as Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin and Tamil. I have also noticed how Malaysians like to end their sentences with the word "lah", like “Don’t be like that lah!” The word "lah" can mean everything or nothing at all. 

As a student, I find living in Malaysia not that cheap and not that expensive, either.  I think it suits every student’s pocket.

Food-wise, we can choose to eat at the food stalls or the "kedai Mamak" that are so popular in Malaysia. Most of these restaurants are open  24 hours and they offer a combination of Malay, Indian and even Chinese food. For a reasonable price, one can eat "nasi lemak", fried rice, fried noodles, "tosai", "roti canai" and even toast at the "kedai Mamak". It is not just a place to eat as many enjoy hanging out with their friends at the "kedai Mamak" until midnight.

The "pasar malam" or night market held regularly at certain places are interesting. One can buy all kinds of snacks, beverages, fruits, vegetables and even clothes and shoes there. 

I, occasionally, visit the night market to get myself some chicken satay and chicken wings to eat or a coconut shake to drink.

I have noticed that Malaysians love to drink Milo, the chocolate and malt drink. They drink it in various forms – iced Milo, hot Milo, caked Milo and even "dinosaur" Milo, which is essentially iced Milo with a generous serving of Milo powder heaped on top of the drink.

I have also noticed that the Malays like to eat with their hand, even at restaurants. Back in Indonesia, most people eat with a fork and spoon. I believe that the Malays are following the practice of Prophet Muhammad SAW who used to eat his food with his right hand. 

Transportation-wise, the various modes of public transport make it easier and cheaper for students to go to any part of the city or country. Bus and taxi services are widely available to any part of the country from Kuala Lumpur. In the city itself, the light rail transit (LRT), monorail and ride-hailing services are very convenient for members of the public, including the student community.

Foreign students depend on public transport to travel and discover places in Malaysia. The student card for public transportation provided by the government to both local and international students enables us to use public transport at lower rates.

At some tourist attractions, students can get can discounts on the entry tickets if they show their student card.   

Having lived in Malaysia for the last four years, Malaysia has become a second home for me. There have been ups and downs for me but I have grown to like the food and the environment and the friendly people.

My life in Malaysia as a student will always be unforgettable. This country gave me a chance to get to know myself better and to become independent and more tolerant towards other people. It also taught me to truly appreciate the diversity of Malaysia. - Bernama

* Safira Pratiwi Satriyandinar, who is from Jakarta, Indonesia, and currently pursuing a degree in communications at the International Islamic University Malaysia, gives her take on what Malaysia is like to a foreign student.