Travelling to a country more than 10 hours away from Malaysia for studies is not easy. One has to leave behind not only the comforts of home but also close family members and friends, while at the same time, dealing with the fear of being alone in a foreign place.
The Malaysian student associations in all of New Zealand’s universities understand what it is like having to be away from home. With this, members of these associations aim to make new international students from Malaysia feel at home with the different social activities and events organised.
Otago Malaysian Student Association (OMSA) Welcoming gathering for new Malaysian students
According to Clarissa Robert Jeyakumar, the Vice President of the Canterbury Malaysian Students Association (CMSA) at the University of Canterbury (UC), helping new students integrate into the university’s community is important to make them feel at home. Therefore, the association makes sure its members go all out to welcome new Malaysian students.
“We recognise that coming from Malaysia to a foreign country can be very difficult. As such, we make it a point to welcome new Malaysian students at the airport when they first arrive in New Zealand – there is nothing more comforting than a friendly face greeting you at the airport, especially someone who speaks the same accent as you.
“We also help the new students settle in by taking them to the mall to get their groceries, making sure they get a New Zealand SIM card and taking them to the bank to set up their bank accounts. Generally, we try to make sure that we help these new students get used to life away from home.
“Other than that, we also organise tramping trips once or twice a year for our members. This is a wonderful opportunity to expose our members, especially those new to New Zealand, to the New Zealand outdoors. Many of our members then go on to do other tramps on their own after attending one of ours,” said Clarissa, who is currently taking her Bachelor’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology in UC.
Meanwhile at the University of Otago, Malaysian student Ethan Lim speaks fondly of how the Otago Malaysian Student Association (OMSA) is dedicated to ensuring that Malaysian students at the university are well taken care of.
The OMSA really goes out of their way to make new students feel at home here in Dunedin. The amount of dedication and time they put in order to ensure the Malaysian students get to enjoy the events they organise is phenomenal. They put in a lot effort for the events – from ‘Freshie’ Gatherings where freshmen students can meet seniors and make friends, the makan sessions during which our appetite for Malaysian food will be sated to the free tutoring groups by experienced senior students.
Canterbury Malaysian Students Association's (CMSA)Welcome BBQ for new Malaysian students
“Such events and activities have all contributed to the sense of family here, where the different Malaysian students will look out for each other. There is always someone who will have your back,” Ethan shared.
Associations such as the CMSA and OMSA often work closely with the university, education agents and other clubs and societies in the university to organise events for Malaysian students so as to help them fit in and have an overall wonderful student experience.
At the same time, the events organised also reach out to other students in the university, with the OMSA even making front-page headlines last year for their annual ‘Malam Malaysia’ which showcased the Malaysian culture to the wider community at the university through a full theatre production.
Mr Marcel Fletcher, the Regional Marketing Manager for the Middle East and South East Asia at the Auckland University of Technology’s (AUT) International Centre, said that the Malaysian student association (MaSA) at AUT is a good initiative as it helps the Malaysian students feel more at home, despite being in another country.
“It is fantastic that AUT has its own Malaysian student association. The association brings the Malaysian students together through the different events and friendship-building activities they organise. This provides a supportive environment for the students as they adapt to a life overseas far from home.
“The association also helps foster a sense of community not only among the international Malaysian students but also among the other students at AUT. In many ways, the activities planned and organised by the Malaysian students promote the Malaysian culture to the local AUT student body.
CMSA Tramping trip
“For example, at the ‘Market Day’ in our university, where students can sell things to other students, the association will sell local Malaysian sweet treats – or kuih-muih. This is attractive to a number of other students to the booth and from there, they have a chance to learn more about the food culture in Malaysia too,” said Mr Fletcher.
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