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I Studied Overseas and It Made Me Realise How Much I Love Malaysia

by Melissa Kartini. |

Ah, studying overseas. For many Malaysians, it really is the dream, isn’t it? To be able to live and study in a foreign country is a desire that a growing number of Malaysians harbour. But is it really all that cracked up to be?

Image: @melissakartini

Now, it is all well and good to study abroad—not so much when it is done with nothing but contempt for your home country, however.

Which is the view I stand by even now as I go through my second experience of studying abroad—first in Australia, now in Japan. My first time studying abroad was when I was in my early twenties, and my second, my late twenties. And it really is a wonder how having a few extra years of maturity under my belt has made my second go even better than my first.

Yet at the same time, both experiences hold the same similarities in terms of what I long for from Malaysia.

For instance, I miss the food. Stereotypical Malaysian answer, I know, but there is more to it than that. Beyond missing the bold flavours and variety that Malaysian cuisine has to offer, I especially miss the ease of which I could go about getting food.

For context, there are certain things I cannot eat. In Malaysia, I could just pick whatever I want off the menu or off the shelves without a care in the world. But in Australia and Japan? Nope. This is especially true in Japan, where grocery shopping is made even more challenging because I need to use Google Translate every time I want to make a purchase. Like seriously…?

I miss the ease of communicating with others. Or senang cerita, I miss Bahasa Rojak lah. There is just something incredibly satisfying about butchering the English language and throwing a couple of Chinese and Malay words into the mix. Can’t really do that in Australia or Japan, I’m afraid. In Australia, I had to get used to using pure English in conversation. Which was easy enough. In Japan, I have to make do with my limited Japanese.

Which in turn leads me to hopelessly butchering the Japanese language. Bless the Japanese for tolerating my astoundingly poor Japanese. On the other hand, though, at least I get to butcher something.

On to my third point. I miss the weather. As strange as it sounds, I actually like Malaysian weather. It’s stable, predictable and I don’t have to spend so much money buying different clothes, shoes and accessories for different seasons. And, I don’t have to go from one extreme to another i.e. hugging the air-conditioner or sitting in front of the heater.

Next up, I miss getting into the local festivities! There is no time lonelier for a Malaysian than when Chinese New Year or Hari Raya rolls by and there’s no one there to celebrate with. Don’t even get me started on Ramadan. Most times if you live in a non-Muslim country, you’d have to brave through that one alone, and dodge many well-intentioned food offerings and lunch invitations. The struggle is real there.

And… minor thing, but I miss how Malaysians are more exposed to other cultures. Granted, I never really felt truly connected to any of the cultures in Malaysia due to my multiracial background, but at least I don’t have to explain why I can’t do XYZ multiple times every day—and get weird looks while I’m at it. Before then getting well-intentionally pressed to do that XYZ thing because they think I’m just being shy. Haha! It’s funny, but goodness does it get tiring…

Again, it’s funny, isn’t it? Sometimes, all you need to do is be away from something to truly appreciate it.

That said, I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given to study abroad. I love where I am right now, but living away from home has also given me a brand-new appreciation for my home country. It has made me love Malaysia even more deeply than before, and I am grateful for that too.

I love you, Malaysia, and I look forward to seeing you again.

You may find out more about Melissa from her Instagram.

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