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The Cultural Experience of Being A Student in Malaysia

May 29, 2024


Culture experience in Malaysia

Being a student in Malaysia offers you cultural experiences and enriches your journey with diverse traditions which will make your time memorable and meaningful. 

Malaysia is known for its diverse mix of people, including Malays, Chinese, Indians, and indigenous communities, who live together peacefully. 

This multicultural environment will influence every aspect of your student life, from your studies to your social activities and participation in exciting festivals. 

Embracing this diversity will not only help you connect with people from different backgrounds but also broaden your perspective on a global scale. 

In this article, we will explore the cultural experiences that you can expect as a student in Malaysia, which will contribute greatly to your personal development and educational journey.

How is the student lifestyle in Malaysia?

1. Cultural diversity in campus 

Malaysia's universities offer an enriching educational environment for both local and international students. 

You will experience a mix of traditions, languages, and customs that celebrate Malaysia's diverse culture.

For instance, Malaysian university students who are studying in their own country have the opportunity to explore and appreciate their rich cultural heritage. 

They can deepen their understanding of their own traditions and also interact with students from different cultures.

On the other hand, international students who choose to study in Malaysia get to immerse themselves in a new cultural blend. They can learn about Malaysian customs, make friends with local students, and experience the country's multiculturalism firsthand. 

Interacting with Malaysian students and participating in cultural activities on campus helps international students broaden their knowledge and make friends from different backgrounds.Both local and international students are encouraged to embrace the diverse cultures on campus, creating an inclusive learning environment. 

Everyone has the opportunity to celebrate their own cultural heritage and share it with others, making the campus community vibrant and lively.

Moreover, the celebration of diversity also prepares both local and international students for a globalized world. 

By interacting with different cultures, you develop cultural understanding and gain skills to thrive in diverse environments. This global perspective helps you communicate and collaborate effectively across cultures.

In addition, there are also social events and activities where both local and international students can participate. 

Cultural clubs, like the Chinese Cultural Club create a welcoming environment where students from different backgrounds feel accepted and valued. 

Getting involved in these activities helps build a sense of community and unity on campus, regardless of where you come from.

2. Traditional festivals in universities

cultural experience in Malaysia

In Malaysian universities, traditional festivals play an important role in connecting both local and international students, creating a strong sense of community and unity. 

Festivals like Hari Raya, Deepavali, and Chinese New Year give you a special chance to gather, appreciate different cultures, and enjoy the happiness of cultural celebrations.

You find these festivals meaningful as they mark the end of Ramadan, bring the festival of lights, or symbolize new beginnings.

Students from various backgrounds actively join in the celebrations, sharing traditional clothes, happy greetings, and tasty traditional food. Malaysian universities become a melting pot where different cultures mix, creating a joyful celebration.

Additionally, international students also get to experience Malaysian traditions. You can join in the festive atmosphere, learn about the importance of each festival, and make lasting connections with local students. 

This cultural exchange helps you understand, respect, and appreciate the diverse society of Malaysia.

Other than that, universities in Malaysia also organize special events that reflect multiculturalism in the country. These events, arranged by students and the university, provide you with opportunities for cultural exchange and celebration.

For example, they can showcase traditional dances, music performances, and art exhibitions that represent the various cultures on campus.

You can actively participate in these events, sharing your cultural heritage with others and creating a lively environment where everyone can enjoy and celebrate different cultures.

Another exciting event is the International Food Fest, where you prepare and share traditional dishes from your home countries. 

This food journey becomes a fun exploration of flavors and culinary traditions from around the world, promoting understanding between different cultures through the language of food.

These unique university festivals allow you to express your cultural identity and foster collaboration and friendship. 

Both local and international students actively participate in organizing and attending these events, contributing to a campus environment that values and celebrates diversity.

3. Malaysian etiquette in everyday living

In Malaysia, there are various aspects of cultural etiquette that you can observe in class behavior, dress code, and dining etiquette. Let's explore these details:

a) Classroom Etiquette

In Malaysian classrooms, there is a strong emphasis on showing respect to educators. It is customary to address them with appropriate titles like "Dr." or "Professor". 

When lecturers are teaching, students typically listen attentively before raising their hands to ask questions. 

They prefer to let the lecturer finish the lecture before participating in class discussions, as a sign of respect.

Alternatively, students may choose to consult with the lecturer after the class has ended. This allows for more in-depth discussions about the topic or assignments. 

If you notice that the lecturer is in a hurry, it is advisable to request a specific time for a consultation. 

You can mutually agree on a day and time that suits both parties, demonstrating consideration for the lecturer's availability. 

Before the consultation, it is recommended to bring along your assignment draft or prepare questions. This shows that you are well-prepared and genuinely committed to the discussion.

b) Dress Code

When it comes to dress code, Malaysia adheres to a modest approach. While Malaysian university campuses generally embrace diversity and inclusivity, it is important to dress modestly, especially when attending formal events, lectures, or consulting with educators.

c) Dining Etiquette

Malaysian dining etiquette is deeply rooted in cultural traditions. You may notice that during shared meals, it is customary to wait for the oldest person to begin eating before you start your meal. This is a gesture of respect.

Another aspect of dining etiquette in Malaysia is to wash hands before the meal and the use of the right hand for eating. It emphasizes politeness and hygiene. 

4. Food culture on campus 

cultural experience in Malaysia

Malaysian universities represent the nation's diverse cultural heritage by offering a variety of delicious foods at affordable prices. 

On campus, there are various dining options that cater to the diverse preferences of Malaysian and international students.

These campus eateries offer a wide selection of dishes; for instance, popular Malaysian foods include nasi lemak, char kuetiau, roti canai, and chicken rice.

Apart from Malaysian cuisine, universities in Malaysia also provide a variety of international food options. 

Arabic, Western, and Indonesian food establishments are scattered throughout the campuses, giving students the chance to explore global flavors without leaving the university premises. 

These culinary choices showcase the diverse range of flavors found on Malaysian campuses, combining local favorites with global influences that celebrate the diverse experiences of students.

Additionally, mamak stalls have become both eateries and social hubs where most Malaysians gather to eat and spend time together. 

Most mamak stalls open until 2-3 in the early morning, making them the most favored place among Malaysians to meet or watch live football sessions. 

Moreover, with its affordable and delicious food and drinks, this place is perfect for casual get-togethers among students from different backgrounds.

5. Entertainment 

Entertainment in Malaysian universities is designed to be inclusive, creating a friendly environment that celebrates diversity and encourages cultural sharing for both local and international students.

So, you are  encouraged to get involved in traditional and modern art activities. You can learn traditional dances, go to music festivals, or join theater productions. 

The goal is to include everyone and let all students contribute to the lively artistic community on campus.

This inclusivity allows for the sharing of cultural expressions from different backgrounds, creating a mix of artistic exploration and understanding.

Moreover, Malaysian universities recognize and embrace the presence of both local and international students by offering various performances and activities. 

Cultural festivals showcase not only Malaysian traditions but also performances from different cultures. This gives all students a chance to share their own cultural heritage through music, dance, or other art forms.

The focus on inclusivity promotes understanding between different cultures and provides a platform for students to showcase their talents and build connections with their peers.

6. Language and communication

In the vibrant setting of Malaysian universities, the embrace of Bahasa Melayu and Manglish (Malaysian English) adds an enriching experience to your educational journey.

What is the significance of Bahasa Melayu and Manglish? Let's take a look at the details below: 

a) The significance of using Bahasa Melayu

Bahasa Melayu is crucial for daily communication in Malaysian universities. It brings students together, regardless of their culture. 

You can easily have conversations, attend lectures, and participate in discussions using Bahasa Melayu. It also plays a significant role in academic writing, allowing students to express their ideas effectively.

For international students, learning and using Bahasa Melayu is a valuable part of cultural immersion. 

Many Malaysian universities offer language programs to help international students learn the basics of Bahasa Melayu. 

This not only improves communication but also helps you connect with local students and enhances your overall university experience.

b) The significance of using Manglish

Manglish is a colloquial fusion of Malaysian English. Some common phrases in 'Manglish' make conversations more friendly and familiar. 

For example, you might hear people say "lah," "lah wei," or "can lah" in everyday talk. These phrases are informal but help everyone understand each other, regardless of your background.

As an international student, learning 'Manglish' lets you connect with Malaysian culture. It not only helps you communicate better but also makes you feel closer to your local classmates.

How can you learn cross-cultural in Malaysia?

In Malaysia, it's important for both university students- local and international - to learn about different cultures. 

This helps you grow personally and academically. The diverse environment in Malaysia makes your university experience more exciting and also teaches you important skills for life.

Understanding and appreciating different cultures is key to creating a friendly and inclusive community. This applies not only to university but also to society as a whole. 

When you learn about different cultures in Malaysia, it helps you communicate better, adapt to different situations, and work well with people from different backgrounds.

Now, let's see how you can learn cross-cultural skills effectively in Malaysia and why it's so important.

1. Participating in cultural events and festivals

Embracing diversity through participation in cultural events and festivals is a vibrant avenue for you to enrich your university experience and foster cross-cultural understanding. 

Moreover, actively engaging in community activities and celebrations provides you with a direct pathway to immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Malaysian culture. 

Whether you join traditional celebrations like Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, or Deepavali, participate in cultural exhibitions, or contribute to community service, you can witness cultural traditions firsthand and foster mutual respect and appreciation among diverse backgrounds.

In addition to community-based activities, educational institutions in Malaysia actively promote cultural exchange programs to facilitate a deeper understanding of diverse backgrounds. 

As a result, you can benefit from these initiatives, which include student exchange programs, language exchange programs, and international-themed events. 

By participating in student exchange programs, you spend a semester by studying at a partner institution and interacting with peers from different cultural backgrounds. 

Language exchange programs are also valuable. They promote cultural understanding while improving your language proficiency, enabling you to learn more about customs, traditions, and everyday life.

Ultimately, this comprehensive approach transforms your university experience into a vibrant and inclusive journey.

2. Building interpersonal relationships

cultural experience in Malaysia

Establishing interpersonal relationships is an important part of your university experience in Malaysia, whether you're a local or international student. 

It's crucial for you to connect with people from diverse cultural backgrounds, as it creates a supportive community that can enhance your personal growth and enrich your entire university journey.

One of the most rewarding aspects of university life in Malaysia is the opportunity for you to form friendships with individuals from various cultural backgrounds. 

For instance, joining clubs and organizations that align with your interests becomes a natural way for you to meet people who share similar passions, creating a dynamic environment for friendship. 

Moreover, attending social events like cultural festivals and club gatherings provides casual settings where you can interact with peers from different cultures.

Building relationships across cultural boundaries requires an open-minded approach, encouraging you to embrace the opportunity to learn about different customs, traditions, and perspectives.

3. Exploring local cuisine and customs

Exploring the local food and customs in Malaysia is a wonderful part of your university experience.

In Malaysia, there are many events where you can try different kinds of local food. You can go to food festivals and street markets. These events let you experience the country's diverse food culture. 

You can try a wide variety of dishes that reflect Malaysia's multicultural heritage, and it's a great opportunity to socialize and learn about different cultures.

The best part of your exploration is discovering the different dishes. Malaysia has iconic foods like nasi lemak, char kuey teow, and rendang. You can taste these foods to satisfy your taste buds. 

If you go to the local restaurants, you will get to experience authentic Malaysian cuisine and appreciate the taste of each dish.

Furthermore, understanding the customs and etiquette of dining adds to your culinary journey. 

In Malaysia, people often share meals together, and it's common to share dishes. Learning about how to eat certain traditional foods or using your hands, helps you immerse yourself in the culture and respect local customs.

4. Traveling within Malaysia

Exploring different parts of Malaysia is a great adventure for university students like you. Each place you visit in Malaysia offers unique experiences that let you discover the country's rich cultural heritage.

For example, you can go to Cameron Highlands, where you'll find lush greenery and pleasant weather that's not too hot or cold. 

Cameron Highlands is a popular tourist spot because of its tea plantations and you can also enjoy leisure activities like visiting a mini petting zoo. If you're interested in trying local dishes, you can travel to Penang, which is known for its amazing food.

Another way to learn about Malaysia's history and culture is by visiting heritage sites and museums. You can go to the National Museum in Kuala Lumpur or travel to Melaka, which is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

Additionally, you can visit the Islamic Arts Museum to admire the beautiful artwork of Islamic culture. 

These cultural trips give you a glimpse into Malaysia's past and help you understand its diverse identity better.

5. Join volunteering program in university

cultural experience in Malaysia

If you want to learn about different cultures in Malaysia, consider joining volunteering programs during your university years. 

These programs not only benefit communities but also offer opportunities for personal growth and learning about diverse cultures.

Participating in volunteer projects with fellow students, whether local or international, fosters a shared sense of purpose and friendship. 

It naturally breaks down cultural barriers, allowing you to connect on a personal level.

These connections extend beyond the volunteering project itself. Collaborating towards a common goal encourages open communication and support, resulting in lasting friendships.

The shared experiences and challenges during volunteering activities create bonds that transcend cultural differences, fostering an inclusive university community.

Moreover, the friendships formed through volunteering enrich the cultural diversity of the university. 

Interacting with people from different backgrounds provides you with the opportunity to understand various cultures and broadens your horizons by exposing you to different ways of thinking.

Building connections through volunteering becomes a two-way exchange of ideas, creating an environment where diversity is not only recognized but celebrated.

In conclusion, the cultural experience of being a student in Malaysia is a remarkable journey filled with diverse traditions that make your time both memorable and meaningful. 

Malaysia, known for its harmonious coexistence of Malays, Chinese, Indians, and indigenous communities,influences every aspect of your student life. 

This environment impacts your studies, social engagements, and involvement in lively celebrations, allowing you to interact with individuals from diverse backgrounds and develop a global perspective.

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