life Tag Archive

My First Ever “Breaking Away” in Australia

Written by Editor’s Picks, Student Life

It’s hard to define “home” when you don’t stay in one place for an entire year.

In my case, during the first half of the year, I lived in a homestay. During the winter break, I went back to my home country, Malaysia, to visit my family before coming back to Australia. Just recently, I moved out of homestay into a shared house with friends.

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Living in different places brought out different aspects of my personality. While I was at the home stay, it seemed imperative for me always to show my best behaviour because it was like I was representing my own country. I would consistently wake up early, get myself ready for classes and get my laundry done on time. If I didn’t, I felt it would reflect poorly on my parents and how they have raised me. At the same time, it was the right kind of pressure, the kind that makes you a better person. I felt much more productive, and I certainly got a lot of things done, and I was also able to enjoy what Sydney had to offer in the spare time that I had.

Ice skating with the ladies

Ice skating with the ladies

But now that I’m living in a shared house, it feels like the pressure is gone. I don’t have to put myself on a pedestal and demand myself to be the best example of a Malaysian girl because I’m in a house full of Malaysian girls. There’s no reason to try to stand out because I belong. Of course, at times I do feel left out and awkward, but it happens to everyone. These kinds of awkward moments only last for a split second…then life resumes its course. I’m slowly learning to work through them because if I think about it, in the long run, this is where I can learn more about who I am and establish a closer connection to people from my culture.

Im Ready yo

It may not seem like much but living in a shared house tests my independence and maturity. I am even more in charge of my survival than before, especially when it comes to food. I now have to decide what to eat every day! That’s super stressful! If it were up to me, I’d just eat instant noodles, but I hear that’s not exactly healthy. Really, I have the utmost respect for mothers and fathers that always know what to cook for their families (y’all got it figured out). Also being in university, I am wholly in charge of my studies. There’s a lot of gap time in between classes and what I do in those hours could either really help me or hurt me. Of course, the first few weeks of uni I messed around and slept in my free time. But I’ve grown to realise the importance of setting a routine early on in the semester when it comes to studying. That is certainly something I will work on next semester.

The ladies from Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney

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Being able to live in a shared house with different people has also allowed me to meet more people and more friends! It was something I was not able to do back in the homestay as I was living with one family. I recently met my housemates’ friends when we went on a trip to the Blue Mountains together. We hadn’t met before, but during that journey I found that I really connected with them and felt at ease. We have since become friends, and it’s helped me feel that I won’t go through life alone.

The Malaysian sensations from the recent Blue Mountains trip

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My parents have told me stories from their university years about finding a close-knit group of friends, and I have always wanted to experience something similar. I wanted to find people I could seriously consider my brothers and sisters in this new city. By deciding to move to this shared house, I feel as though I have done just that.

It feels like home away from home.

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Things You Don’t Know About EID in Malaysia

Written by Entertainment, Student Life

Islam is a religion practised by over a billion people and Muslims are followers of the faith. The ninth month of the Muslim calendar is the holy time of Ramadan, when Muslims all around the world fast for a month. By avoiding food and water from dawn until dusk, Muslims look to fulfill one of the pillars of Islam. (The five pillars of Islam are five basic acts in Islam that are considered mandatory and are the foundations of Muslim life.) After resisting temptation and fighting inner demons, they are then rewarded with Eid (or Raya), a month filled with food, forgiveness and celebration. As it is a big occasion in countries all over the world, Eid is observed in tandem with the country’s specific culture.

In Malaysia, where I come from, the event is a huge deal. Preparations can even begin from the second week of Ramadan. It depends on how much money you’re willing to spend, but some families go all out and make their Eid clothes or kuih (koo-weh). Some even give their living room a makeover: new curtains, new cushions, new furniture, new paint, the whole she-bang. Others choose not to be too grand in their Eid preparations. 

What do we do during Eid in Malaysia?

The night before Eid, Muslims in Malaysia watch their TV sets and await the Eid announcement after Maghrib prayers (second last prayer of the day). Once it is announced, a takbeer is heard in the nearby mosques and various TV channels. It is a proclamation to prevent Muslims from becoming too prideful and to remind themselves that the month of Eid is a blessing and a reward from Allah (the Muslim god).

The takbeer is usually performed by men at various mosques

On the first day of Raya, Muslims go to the early Eid prayer at the nearest mosque. Then, they return home to the delicious home-cooked meals that have been prepared that morning or the night before. Raya is celebrated with immediate family members first, then with other relatives and/or friends.

After breakfast, we have a “forgiving session” where family members take turns apologising to each other for any mistakes made or harsh words spoken. Usually, the youngest will ask for forgiveness from the eldest and move down the age line. The reason we do this is because Eid is the time of forgiveness and renewal. A common phrase used during this period of the year is kosong-kosong which translates to “zero-zero”. It means that all past mistakes are forgotten, and we begin our relationship with each other fresh and new for the rest of the year.

As shown here, the oldest sibling is asking for forgiveness from their parents

Families usually go to each other’s houses to visit, reconnect and eat. So people who you haven’t seen in a long while or have never even met before may pop up at your home. But, in the spirit of forgiveness and Eid, you greet them with a smile and open arms. At the end of the visit, the adults may give out duit raya, money in individual packets, young children, students, the elderly and orphans.

Duit raya in colourful packets

The amount will vary depending on each family and each person. The packets are either bought or received for free from various institutions like departmental stores or fashion boutiques. The more relatives you visit, the more delicious food you get to eat and the likelier it will be to get money as well!

What do we wear during Eid?

In Malaysia, we wear our traditional clothes during Raya. Women wear baju kurung or baju kebaya that can be ready-made or tailored.

Baju kebaya

Men wear baju melayu with sampin and songkok.

Though recently, women may be seen wearing long dresses known as Judah or abaya that can have a variety of designs and colours. However, it isn’t usually considered traditional Malay clothing, but Arab.

Since it is encouraged to dress nicely and wear new clothes on the first day of Raya, many people are eager to prepare in the days leading up to it. Some families may even decide to coordinate their Raya clothing. There’s a sudden surge of shoppers at various malls selling traditional materials, new designs pop up (ranging from affordable to expensive), discounts are offered and shoe sales increase. Needless to say, it can get pretty hectic!

However, after the fifth day of Raya, the excitement starts to die down a little bit. You can wear non-traditional clothes or stop serving Raya food to guests if you wish.

What do we eat?

The first day of Raya, we eat traditional Malay food such as ketupat (ke-too-pat), rendang (ruhn-dang), sambal kacang (sam-bal ka-chang) and ayam masak merah just to name a few. Each state will have variations, but it is the same all around Malaysia.

Ketupat or nasi impit are soft rice cakes that have been boiled for a few hours, with a hand-woven coconut leaf case. Because of the skill required to make the casing, ketupat takes longer to make. Therefore, many tend to buy versions ready-made from the market or use nasi impit instead. The skill is still practised in more rural areas of Malaysia though.

 

Ketupat or nasi impit is best eaten with rendang is a dark-coloured spicy meat dish that originated in Indonesia. The smell is one-of-a-kind and aromatic.

Sambal kacang is a spicy peanut sauce that’s usually eaten with satay during normal days. Ayam masak merah is another spicy dish, but it is red and uses chicken instead of meat or peanuts. (We do like our spicy food, eh?)

Seen here are rendang, ketupat, ayam masak merah, sambal kacang, and seronding.

To cool and sweeten our palate, we treat ourselves to various kuih (dessert/pastries) that have been homemade or store-bought in the days leading up to Raya. Desserts may include tart nenas, suji, Almond London, other cookies, cakes and kerepek. In this modern day and age, you have just got to know where to get the best kuih to impress your relatives and friends.

What do we listen to?

Raya-related songs can be heard everywhere you go during this month. Here are some classic selections:

Eid is a grand celebration for Muslims all over the world to mark the completion of Ramadan, regardless of culture and customs. Even so, Eid has its special identity within a culture. For example, in Malaysia, Eid is unique in such a way that it is identified by the food that is served, clothes that are worn, and most importantly, duit raya.

How does your culture uniquely celebrate Eid?

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4 Things New Students Dread

Written by Student Life, Tips & Tricks

It is the start of a new semester. If you are like me, you are just starting your career in university. Moreover, also if you are anything like me, you most probably dread quite a few things about uni life. Moreover, on top of that, we realised international students! A new start in a new university in a new country. What could go wrong?

Orientation

Credits: Wawasan Open University Malaysia

It is not much of a dreadful feeling but more of your insides doing a full gymnastic routine as the clock counts down the minutes until your orientation. Orientation is just sitting in a big hall while someone on the podium talks. So, in theory, it is nothing to worry. However, the thought of having to see so many people as well as being in an unfamiliar situation can be pretty overwhelming. Even though it is nerve-wracking, keep in mind that the orientation session is for you to understand how you can make the most out of your time in the university by using the resources available to you.

Making friends

If only making friends was as easy as when we were kids

If only making friends was as easy as when we were kids. In high school, it is easier to make friends – you are in a set classroom in your year, and you know those people. University, it is different. You would be pretty dang lucky to go to the same university as your best friend and even luckier if you are doing the same course! However, of course, not everybody can have that kind of luck. Mere mortals like you and I are thrown into the crowd of freshies feeling somewhat vulnerable. You are not entirely sure of other people’s intentions or how they are going to react to your unique personality. Some just ooze confidence and charisma, and that is the bomb dot com. Someone may strike a conversation with you, and it goes right. Moreover, sometimes it is only after the conversation ends do you realise how you could’ve added that extra spice. Then you are just waiting for the chance to use that witty comeback you had saved up. Certainly, trying to make friends can be a challenging task but with persistence (along with an open mind) can help you generate a spark with your peers.

(Also, I find that if you go to orientation without your parents, it is much easier for you to make friends.)

Group assignments

I was looking through my subject outline, and I noticed for a few of my courses, there would be a group assignment. Oh no. My head was already spinning at the thought of having to talk strangers, but I was also anticipating I would have to do a lot of the work too. It is pretty unreasonable to think so negatively of my peers since I have not even met them yet. However, I have had some bad experiences working in groups in the past. To avoid doing all the work yourself, be sure to communicate clearly and thoroughly with each other. Work out what is expected of the assignment and from each of you. Delegate the work equally among everybody and help check each others’ work.

Looking for your classroom/lecture halls

Directions and I do not mix too well. Having to search for my classes, in particular on a large campus, is a nightmare. I also hate being late. When you walk into class after trekking 50 kilometres just to find it, people will stare at you like you have murdered someone. Lateness also shows that you are unprepared for work, and that does not give the greatest first impression. In order to avoid such situations, it is best to explore the campus beforehand to locate key locations – lecture halls, tutorial rooms, cafes, bookshop, and other important places.

University life is pretty much like in Monsters University

However, the university is bound to be a great experience. Here you will meet people with colourful personalities from all over the world, network with your peers, and perhaps make lifelong friends. So take a deep breath, chin up, and do your best.

There are many more things that can shake up newbies so share your experiences in the comments down below! How did you overcome your nerves during your first few weeks at uni?

 

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World Press Photo 2016

Written by Entertainment

World Press Photo 2016 is a global exhibition showcasing the best visual journalism of the past year. Compelling photos are displayed in the State Library of New South Wales until the 19th of June. I urge you to visit the impressive library and the exhibition. But a fair warning, some photos are graphic so viewer discretion is advised.

The atmosphere at the exhibition was silent and reflective. The photos felt emotional and raw, bringing to life the phrase “a picture is worth a 1000 words”. The photos brought to life some of the remotest parts of the world, such as the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Tibetan Buddhists would travel to this place for the week-long Bliss Dharma Assembly. Photos of the earthquake that hit Nepal were also featured. These were some of the most emotional photos I had ever seen, apart from photos of the refugee crisis.

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The Larung Gar Buddhist Academy at Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture celebrating the week-long Bliss Dharma Assembly

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Some of the devastating shots after the massive earthquake that hit Nepal

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Some of the devastating shots after the massive earthquake that hit Nepal

Beautiful shots of nature, as well as some of the bloody truths of the world, are on display. They remind us to acknowledge that even though some of these issues don’t affect us directly, it will surely affect us in the long-run both personally and as a species. News of devastating events such as the earthquake in Nepal, the refugee crisis, or police brutality becomes much more real because you can’t simply change the channel and pretend things like that aren’t happening.

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Shots of the current state of some of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas as a result of police shootings

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Some of the less gory photos of the refugee crisis, including the famous one where Syrian refugees designate a chair for each member of the family that they’ve lost

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Racism is not a thing of the past and it is still a heated topic in America

But, not all photos that were displayed were of devastation. There were shots of sports such as basketball, ski-jump, and synchronized swimming.

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Photos of cultural traditions such as the feast of Las Mayas were included as well.

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Life at the Antarctic was also captured, truly reminding us that there is life just about anywhere.

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It is important to remember that though these shots are beautiful, they are more than art. They are real people, real photographers, who sometimes risk their lives to showcase the truth. These are real issues and each shot tells a story. This exhibition connects us with each other because empathy is universal.

“World Press Photo’s prestigious Photo of the Year was awarded to this evocative image of a Syrian man handing his baby through barbed wire as he crossed the border from Serbia into Hungary It was captured in August 2015 by Warren Richardson, the first Australian to win World Press Photo’s top honours!” (taken from The State Library of NSW Facebook page)

So please, visit the exhibition and see for yourself these compelling images because the photos featured in this article do not do them any justice. The library opens at 9am Monday – Friday and 10am Saturday – Sunday.

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