It has been more than three months since I have been away from home. I remember the first few days when I was sure I would be coming here. I was scared. I was scared of being mugged, killed and having my organs harvested. The reason I chose Malaysia is because it was closer to home. If I fell sick, I could just board a plane and be home in four hours. Another reason is the exorbitant costs of North American education and their continued rejection of my applications into their master’s programs. Canadian universities have a really sad rule where they measure a student’s worth by the GPA.
Despite my three years of advertising experience, I couldn’t get into a master’s program in Canada because of their minimum 3.00 CGPA rule. Bored of my job, bored of Dhaka, I looked around for universities in the strangest countries: Jamaica, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic. I really liked an ad school in Germany but I couldn’t afford the living costs plus tuition fees. The application process in the other countries I mentioned was too rigorous. Almost as if they didn’t want you to come!
Then I came across a friend who was doing her undergrads in Monash. A brief inspection of her social media posts got me all pumped up. I checked out the university website, the ranking, reviews and it seemed like a pretty decent choice. Best of all, Monash valued a person’s experience not just their grades. So I decided to apply with my portfolio.
Only two and a half months later, I feel like I have become a completely different person. More mature, more grown up. I feel my mind becoming more inquisitive, more analytical, more intelligent and efficient. But not all of it is owed to the course readings and the lecture notes. I mean, the theories helped me frame reality from an entire different perspective. But the exposure to different races and immersing myself in a global culture is what changed me the most. I learned a lot about myself and the world around me by making friends from the strangest countries. The feeling is too profound to properly put down in words. Meeting so many different people from so many different parts of the world has shattered all the preconceived notions I had about different races and ethnicities. But at the same time, it has made me wonder how wonderfully similar we are, even across races and cultures. For example, after speaking to a few classmates about politicians and politics in their nations, I found out that almost all of them are unhappy with their governments, and almost all of them make fun of their heads of state. And every single one of them complains about corruption. Our similarties are overshadowed by our differences.
Take Germans for once. I have previously only met one German woman in my life, while living in Dhaka. She was a friend of a friend who was working for an NGO and we went on a road trip to Sylhet. She was a blonde haired blue eyed classic German beauty who spoke very little and was cold to the touch. She reinforced my prejudice that all Germans were awful people. And then I met Miriam. A German girl from Berlin. Humble, polite, a soft spoken vegetarian with flecks of green in her eyes. She laughed easily, and her laughter was like windchimes. Almost like a joyful waterfall. A joyfall. She would laugh at that.
I used to think all Chinese people are hard working, soft-spoken and insanely smart. Boy was I wrong! I have met Chinese undergrads who do nothing but bum around and smoke pot. Which is kind of risky here in Malaysia cause you can literally get a death sentence if you get caught with a certain amount of weed. There are urban legends of this girl from Yemen getting a death sentence for dealing.
Anyway, back to stereotypes. Being exposed to so much American media and shows like Homeland, and having rarely met any Arabs in real life, my image of an Arab man was unflattering. I expected stubborn meatheads who would look scruffy or overtly flambuyoant. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Arab people are beautiful. The men are tall, well built and soft-spoken. The women are god’s gifts to mankind. And their language is like poetry. Flowing, seducing, caressing.
Speaking of Americans, the recent popularity of Trump has led me to believe most Americans represent his values. My sweeping generalization of Americans was challenged when I met Professor Joel Moore, from Arts and Social sciences. He was a substitute who was teaching us about Quantitative research methods. I was shocked to find out later that he speaks fluet Thai and practices the deadly art of Muay Thai!
The Africans are the most beautiful, in my opinion. The women have lush full lips, brilliant glowing skin and smiles that would make your whole day. The men are strong, silent and reassuring. They make you feels safe. Most of them work out and have perfectly scultped bodies. But then again, that’s most guys in Monash.
Speaking of perfectly sculpted bodies, some of the Chinese girls are insanely good looking. Their bodies are works of art, and their fashion is classy yet casual. Like Beyonce in her early days. Some of them are so beautiful that you just want to stop what you were doing and gape in awe and soak in the aura of perfection!