International Islamic University of Malaysia — Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Mosque in the Gombak Campus

Challenges of new international students at IIUM

This is one of the stories that I conducted for IIUM online news site

A new study year started and we have already arrived the middle of it. Assignments, group works, exams already knocked our door. In that process, we are all just keep our studies and our lives. Sometimes, we can be inattentive what is going on around ourselves.

In that context, we wanted to look situation about the new international students at International Islamic University of Malaysia. I believe, It won’t be wrong, If we say it took a little bit time to get used to here when the first time we arrived. I know, it’s still hard but for Malaysian students it is little bit easier than the international students. Because every time, get used to somewhere new, it’s not easy. A whole new place, whole new environment, new cultures, new foods, a different whether. Even, we are the people who struggle to get used a new car or a new house when we buy one, in our motherland. So, we decided to talk and reveal the things about what is the challenges for new international students at IIUM?

Briefly, let’s talk about how we choose the students that we contacted for this article. They are all from differents parts of the world. We interviewed with 6 different students. An Indonesian, Japanese, Turkish, Korean, Afgan and a Yemeni student. We tried to be careful which they are the first year students or they are newly settled into this campus. Like the exchange students that we interviewed. Now, you can be curious about why we interviewed with a lot of different students. There are a few different reasons actually. We wanted to do it, because, we wanted to reach maximum different ideas and problems that we can hear. Besides, we choose our students from different countries and we thought with doing that we could have a chance to see what is the real differences caused by economic development and cultural differences. In total, we wished to have a chance to make a comparison. Then, we could see the “Students’ thoughts and perspectives on IIUM shape relevantly where they come from or not?”

Before starting to share the details about we learnt. Let me explain, how we questioned them, too. We asked questions connected with five different point and those points were about environment in the campus, city, their thoughts and feelings about people, facilities and the services that provided by university, education in the university, lecturers, physical resources in the classes, accomodation and relevant issues, expectations before coming here and what they faced when they arrived here. We will share our observations under those five differents points. In the final, we will share some suggestions with you, too.

Lastly, I want to quickly to introduce our interviewees. From that point they will be only announced with their first names. Our first interviewee is Farhan Aldi Khunaifi from Indonesia. He study Economics.

Other interviewee is Yasemin from Turkey. She study at IRK. Third interviewee is Yasuhiro Mihara from Japan. He came here as an exchange student majoring on Islamic thinking. Forth one is Jieun Lee. She comes from South Korea and her department is international relationship.

Our fifth interviewee is Atiullah Attaiy from Afganistan. He is majoring in Kulliyah of ICT. Last person that we interviewed is Muaadh Esmail Qaid Almrham from Saudi Arabia, but, originally he is a Yemeni. His kulliyah is ICT, also.

We presented all of our interviewees. So now, it is time to mention what we have discovered from our interviews.

1. Campus life and Kuala Lumpur

For most of the student that we talked campus and circumstances is really good. But with a few problems of course. For example, Yasemin thinks campus is so big and old. She explained the situations like this: “In the campus to going somewhere is a real problem. Weather is so hot and we are not so get used to that yet. Every time, I have to effort so much for reaching to my kulliyyah.” Besides, Yasuhiro thinks in a similar way, he says: “Campus is very complicated and there is no enough signs. Most of the time, I lose my way.” The other students mostly said that campus is big but good. It seems, students like the campus because it founded inside a forest and very close to nature.

Our questions were continued with about people in campus. Student come from Indonesia Farhan told us it is good. I believe, that is because he doesn’t have a lot of problem with language and he study at economics. Because students, especially students study at IRK Yasuhiro and Yasemin shared that they are having some problems with communicating with others. Yasemin said: “Malaysian people is really kind. But sometimes, I feel alone. Especially in the classes. I am trying to communicate with others always anyway, it is seems a little disturbance for them. I feel like they are running away from me.” Our Korean student Jieun said: “I am having a kind of culture shock in the classes. Because, this is an Islamic country and even in the classes men and women sitting separated. Boys don’t talk with girls, girls don’t talk with boys. So, I have a lot people from different countries. Sometimes, I am having problems to talk with them.” Otherwise, Atiullah and Muaadh said very good things about the people in here just like Farhan.

When we start to talked about the city Yasuhiro mentioned that: “City is very developed and good. But, it is hard to feel Malaysian culture in here. Because this is a city mix of a lot of different cultures.” Another student Muaadh: “I haven’t been a lot of places, anyway, I can say it is quite good.”

In general, when we asked them how they feel in this campus. They told they feel very good just with a few problems. Mostly, they are saying campus life in here and being with all of other muslims and muslimahs is really refreshing.

2. Facilities and services of university

Just like students said before, IIUM, Gombak campus is really big and there are dozens of different facilities and services provided by university. Like library, pool, gym etc… So, what is students think about these facilities and services? Is there any problem need to improve? Let’s hear the answers from them.

Yasemin wanted to start with library: “Library working hours is a little bit problem. You can not focus on your study, because every praying time you need to go out and you need to come again. I know, this is an Islamic university and it is our duty to pray when we hear the ezan. Anyway, there are some non muslim students in here. So, maybe it is better to think on this working hours again.” Yasuhiro from Japan and Jieun from South Korea said the similar things. However, Muaadh explain the situation like this from his perspective: “It is compulsory for us to pray on time. So, you already need to go out. After your pray, you can easily get in again to library.”

We need to mention especially about working hours of sports facilities. Except one student, all people that we interviewed told they are not ok with working hours of gym or pool. Because they are so limited. They think assignments and classes already take a lot ot time. So, they want to increase working hours more than four hours a day.

Other than everything, they are really happy to campus have a lot of restaurants, banks, shops everything a student might need.

3. Lessons, classes and lecturers

Of course with everything we need to ask students about lessons and relevant issues. So, the things they said are not so bad, but, there were some points should be considered carefully.

Let’s learn firstly from Muaadh; “To be honest, it is not so bad, however, some courses needs a serious update. Because we have windows 10 now, but, we still learn windows xp and vista.

And Yasemin complained about language and tech stuff using in the classes. “In my home university in Turkey. Our faculty has been build just new. So everything is so quite best. But in here, it is not like that. Class equipments and most the things in the classes very old. Besides, I am really in a trouble with language. Unfortunately, some of the Malaysian teacher’s accent is really hard to understand for me. Even, there was a class that I dropped. The lecturer was mostly speaking in Bahasa Melayu. So, I asked from him to speak in English. But, he didn’t care, so, I had to drop that course. After that, I had a lot of other problems. I missed the add drop time, so, only I have is just 3 class now.” Similar problems, especially like language have been surfaced by Yasuhiro, Jieun, Atiullah and even Farhan. Also, Yasuhiro add; “Any lecturers offer any notes in the class. It is not like that in Japan. For that reason, in most of the time in the classes I don’t know what we are talking on.”

Students thought on their study in here was impressive. Because students came from countries like Saudi Arabia, Afganistan and Indonesia said a lot of good things about education system at IIUM. So, what about the students come from Turkey, Japan and Korea. Firstly, Yasemin from Turkey told us: “If I need to make a comparison in general, my school at Turkey a few steps further than here.” Then, we asked about that to Japanese exchange student Yasuhiro. He mentioned: “In Japan, lecturers explain their thoughts freely about the things that they are teaching in class. So, that let students to do to same and create a more sharing class environment. Eventually, this is direct us into a more free, open minded society.” Lastly, Jieun from Korea said: “I think, my university a little bit better than here. But, It is not a big deal. Because still, I enjoy here in my studies.”

4. Accomodation

In this campus students spend most of their times in their mahallahs. So, it would be a very big unfortunate to not to ask about this. Once again some of the students feel very perfect about their mahallah. But of course, there were some other ideas, too.

Yasuhiro stays at mahallah Bilal and his problem similar some other students. Because, he thinks staying with four people is new and a hard challenge for him. Anyway, he told: “Somehow, it is kind of good now. Because it is let us to learn other cultures very closely.”

Yasemin stays at mahallah safiyyah in 2 person room with another Turkish student. So, she said: “First moment when we get into our first room. It was like hell. Because everywhere was so dirty. Before this place, we had to change our room. So, we coulnd’t see something good. Anyway our new room was little bit better than previous one. Then, we decided to stay. We were so exhausted with my friend. After we see the room like that we decided to take some professional help and gave a little amount of money to one of the cleaning staff. So, she cleaned room for us and we settled. Right know, our mahallah one the mahallahs preferred by the girls very highly. I can say it is not so bad. Altough, there are some serious problems needs to be solved. My room very close to the bathrooms. Every night, in the late hours there are students showering and rushing on the corridors. Literally, they are yelling each other in the corridors. Even, I can not sleep cause of that voices. In my opinion, administration put some rules for that problems. Like there should be a rule about forbid the making voices and rushing, playing, showering or yelling in the mahallahs after a certain hour.”

Jieun shared us that she stays at mahallah rugayyah in a special one person room include private bathroom and toilet. So, she feels quite good about his room. Other students like Atiullah, Farhan, Maadh think very nice about their rooms, too. Except Maadh specially highlighted that the first time when he went in his room. It was shocking because he didn’t know that he will share the room with other three person. When point come to the bathrooms and toilets, they are all mentioned a few problem focused about cleaning.

It is obivous now everyone have some problems with WiFi connection. Every student that we interviewed pointed the same problems about internet. Our reporter Awwabin Zainuddin was reported on that issue. You can see the details from here: https://goo.gl/teyAZQ

5. Expectations and what they found

Every each of us had some dreams before came here. So, what do you think how was theirs and what they have seen here? Let’s start with Farhan. He said: “Actually this place is a little bit better than I expected. Totally I can say, I want to stay here more.”

What about Yasemin? She told: “I have to say I came here with a lot of different and better expectations. But, what I found in here was very hard to get used to in the beginning. Anyway, I feel better now. Still, I am not sure that I want to stay here more than I planned.

Yasuhiro said: “I did not never imagined this place like that. I don’t know why it is weird. But, I don’t feel inconvenience. I feel really good in here.”

According to Atiullah: “When I see the mosque everthing was so clear clear for me. I felt really relieved because that I am in this kind of an area.”

Jieun: “It is a little bit complicated. Because, I am having some problems, especially with socializing. But, seeing somewhere new and learning new cultures is still worthless.”

Muaadh: “My expectations was university is big, education is serious and detailed. Once I arrived, I can say there was more. Before coming here, I thought there is no activities and events. I came here and I see that I was wrong.”

Until here, we tried give you the detailed informations about new students’ thought about IIUM, campus, education, accomodation, city and people. We did this because we wanted to create a perception from every point and something can be a guide for new students in the future.

As you can see, for a student come from Indonesia, a country very close to the Malaysia in every meaning, everything is easier to get used to and live. Otherwise, if you are someone come far away countries, all cultural and economics differences can be a burden for you. Korean, Japan and Turkish students mentioned during their interviews they are having some problems about socializing here. As another Turkish student, I have to say that I don’t have so much socializing problems. Maybe that is because that I study at communication. So, everyone in there very open to the outside.

When the everything comes to the student come from Afganistan and Saudi Arabia. Scene was look like very similar with the Farhan. Because, only thing Maadh and Atiullah togetherly said a few things about staying with four person room. They suddenly add that they are ok with this right now. Now we know all of these details. So, let’s talk about suggestions.

Suggestions

You read the things what is the students said. Let’s mention three main, important points that can help you to get used to in this new place. They are so simple; be open minded, do not compare, focus on your dreams and decide why you are here!

1. Be open minded

Never forget you are here in a new country, in a new culture, with new people. Try to get enjoy of this. Stucking in the problems and cons will not help you to feel good during your stay in here. Be open to everything. Try new foods, try new languages, try to communicate with others. Don’t be scared! There is no reason for that. They are just scared as much as you do, that’s all! Only way to beat this is trying. If results are not satisfying you, do not leave the race in there. It is just a beginning, you should try again. Don’t never forget we were crawling before we were walking.

2. Do not compare

Especially with your country! That is the one the things that you immediately stop to do. Always thinking your family, your country, your foods, yours ‘everything’ will make harder your path in here. Realize and accept the circumstances and life style in here. We all know that will not happen suddenly, you need time. But, in this time, there is no need for bad thinking. Stress, depression is not good our physical health and we are not here for this. We are here because we want to study and change something in the world. So, let this happen for you, don’t make it harder.

3. Focus on dreams and decide why you are here

Living without a perpous have no difference living in a grave. So, right know, this moment, you need to decide why you are here. You have to have a reason to keep you stand and push you into your dreams without stopping, without tirelessly. We are all human beings we need reasons to live. Our most basic reason is our surviving instinct. So, you dont have to effort anything for breathing, but, you need to start to do something to reach to your goal, reach to your dreams. Think, ask someone if necessary but decide in soon. Then you can really start to study not for your degree, but for your dreams!

We are all human beings. How much it seems that we are complicated creatures. Nope, we are not that much actually. Just love yourself, love others, love the world. Don’t be scary that much to discover new things in the world, there is no death to end of it or there is already death to end of everything.

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