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“How studying overseas is shaping me”
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“How studying overseas is shaping me”

As an international student in Malaya, Tahiya Islam, 23, a Correspondent from Dhaka in Bangladesh shares how studying in a culturally diverse setting has taught her lessons she could not have learnt in a textbook.

It is often said that culture shapes us to be more humane. Now, what does it mean by being more humane? I guess, it refers to being more kind, compassionate and understanding towards anything and everything in life. For instance, being a Bangladeshi girl, studying in a foreign land full of diverse culture, tradition, norms and forms, and with various nationalities, has this experience made me more humane?

If I am being honest, at first, I felt suffocated! I felt, I do not belong here at all! Everything and every situation seemed to get under my skin. My eyebrows used to frown upon everyone’s actions and behaviors toward me. But as times passed by, I realized, I wouldn’t have been like this with every situation if it were in Bangladesh and it led me to think about how I or we perceive things when we are in our community compared to when we are in a mixed community!

I have passed my first year in Malaysia; the hub of almost all the Asian and Middle-Eastern nationalities starting from- Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Japan, Yemen, Syria,Libya, Iraq, Iran etc. This one year taught me a lot of different aspects of living, that textbooks never did! I have learnt that you can smile at people while passing by as a kind gesture. I have learnt, no matter how busy you are on a weekday, 12pm-2pm is your lunch and prayer time. I have seen various nations that are always in festive and welcoming mood with open arms and delicious foods, I have experienced the rigidity and strictness of some cultures regarding their behaviors, I have been warmly welcomed in Pooja Celebrations, Christmas Celebrations, and Malaysian Weddings, I have befriended Malaysians and learnt about work ethics and punctuality and lastly, every day I experience, how a country can be developed, peaceful and a live with harmony with different nations, vibrant cultures, wonderful beliefs and values!

These experiences have taught me slowly and steadily about the importance of being open minded, being respectful towards one another and loving my country at best! Whenever I find myself in a new situation,I usually think of how I would have handled it in my country and how I should not think that it is going to be the same here. I have been capable of building this level of understanding in myself not because I was told to but because I had to, as a rational human being who needs to survive and sustain myself.

As the student of Master of Science and the Director of Arts & Culture of Universiti Putra Malaysia Students’ Association, I still feel I do not belong here. To be real, I do not. I belong to Bangladesh, in my culture, root and tradition with my friends and families. But if you want to live a life, you must go full circle, fall, get up, learn, make mistakes, put Bangladesh strongly on the map and come back to your roots to rest!

Reach me on Twitter@TahiyaIslam or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/islamtahiya

photo credit: Malaysia Night 2015  via photopin (license)

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About me: I am currently doing my Master degree in Pharmacology and Toxicology from Universiti Putra Malaysia. Besides my studies, I’m working part time at the EasyUni Education Agency.

I want to pursue teaching as my profession. I have a passion for writing and public speaking. I consider writing as one my strengths and would like to explore that area in the near future. I strongly believe in women empowerment and work with a couple of women empowerment organizations.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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