Wednesday, August 24, 2011

First Month in a Nutshell

Wow, I can't believe I have already been in Malaysia a month!  I know I haven't been putting pictures in my posts, so I promise a lot this time!

First off from one of my previous posts I wrote about an article on Malaysian driving that didn't go through, so here is that article:
I would like to say that this article is completely accurate, and that driving (along with almost everything else in Malaysia) seems to have no structure whatsoever.  I am not sure why the government even pays for road signs, or bothers to paint lines on the road.  No one seems to feel any obligation to abide by them.

Even after a month, I am still waiting to see what the 'normal' Malaysian life style is like.  Because we have been celebrating Ramadan for the last three weeks, I have been living out of the norm.  Like I said in my last post, the month of Ramadan mostly consists of sleeping and lounging around.  I have fallen into a pattern, just like how I had a pattern in the US, but I know it is going to change once again. 

My current pattern consists of waking up for school, going to school, coming home from school, taking a nap, watching tv, eating dinner, more tv, and then going to sleep.  I may get to go to the grocery store, or something similar, during one of the watching tv sessions however.  While this may sound extremely boring/lazy, I have found that this is normal for Malaysia!  I think that this is because it is too hot to do anything outside (sports, going to the park, etc) unless it is dark outside, and then it is too dangerous to do anything outside, especially if you are a girl.

The school system is drastically different from the US school system.  I have always heard that school was very challenging and serious in Asian countries, but that does not seem to be the case for Malaysians schools.  It is not uncommon for teachers or students to not show up to class, and there may be long periods of up to 40 minutes where the students are just sitting in the class.  Homework is extremely rare, and I find it is even more rare for students to do the homework if they do get any.  Furthermore, the grading system is a lot different from ours, and I think that an 85% is an A, compared to the 93% in US schools.  When students get a test back with a 40% or 50%, they are happy with their score.  I can't even imagine when my mom would do if I came home with a 40% on a test, haha!  Because of the unstructured school system it is common for exchange students (especially those who have already graduated) to not take the school too seriously.  My school, for instance, does not give me any books, assignments, nor expects me to pay attention during lectures (most of them are taught it Malay).  I am currently using the days that I do go to school to re-read the Harry Potter series.  (I highly recommend the books to anyone who has not read them, or read them several years ago, because they are incredible).  I found that a lot of the other change students are having similar-ish school experiences.  Another exchange student in my area tells me he only goes to school once a month! 

Honestly it has been harder for me to adapt here than I originally anticipated.  I think this is due to the fact that Malaysia is opposite from the USA in almost every way possible, and there are a lot of unforeseen obstacles.  Of course, this is what teaches us, but it is also what makes it challenging.  One of these challenges include the racial segregation I have noticed between the different races in Malaysia.  I have noticed that in general, people only hang out with people of their same race (i.e. Indians with Indians, Malays with Malays, and Chinese with Chinese), and I have even heard some racist comments about other racial groups.  This is upsetting for me because one of the reasons I came to Malaysia was for the common union of all the different races.  A second unforeseen challenge was the amount of gossip and lack of personal privacy.  More common than not the first question I get asked is what my religion is, then followed by the amount of money my family makes, their jobs, types of cars, etc.  (I find it best not to answer any of these questions).  Also if I receive a note from a fellow classmate, all of the other girls in my class make sure that they read it before I do, and determine if it is okay for me to read.  The gossip has also caused a great deal of problems for me and my family, usually among adults.  Somehow, before I even arrived, all my teachers and my host mom's co-workers knew about my religious affiliation (or lack there of) and weren't too happy about it.  My host mom's co-workers have been giving her a really hard time for letter a 'free thinker' in her house, and you can tell from the unfriendly facial expressions that they give me that I am not very popular.  I don't let it get to me too much however, because that is the reason that programs like these exist.

I have heard from many people that Malaysia is considered a very hard country to be an exchange student in because of the religion (very conservative) and amount of rules (girls aren't usually allowed to leave the house).  From what I have heard there have already been instances of host family changes and students returning to their home country.  However, I know it is our duty to look at all of these challenges as learning opportunities and remember the cliche, 'its not bad, it's not good, it's just different'.


The Americans going to Malaysia.


The exchange students and staff in my state.

Host Family

Host Grandma cooking delicious coconut rice/bamboo things

Host sister and I on the world's longest rope bridge

Malaysian street/scenery

 Hindu temple in my city.


  1. Love the pictures Sara! Sounds like you're having a lot of new experiences. I like your attitude--that things are just different & not letting the gossipy people get to you--good job! You'll be a stronger person from all of these experiences. Keep it up. Kay Lynn

  2. You have a great attitude, Sarah!

  3. That's right...not bad, not good...

    P.S. Let's not find out about the 40%.