Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A smile in a pocket

If institutions of higher education are mushrooming all over Malaysia, many a person wonders the rationale of sending thousands of Malaysian students oversea, together with millions of taxpayers' Ringgit. As a Malaysian student who recently graduated from the United States, I am unable to speak for the wider group as I do not possess that much of an experience; but speaking for myself, I am happy at the end result that stretches over and beyond my diploma.

Everybody grows, changes, and eventually matures. The difference is the rate of change.

As I went through editing my blog posts starting with the oldest, I was shocked at how different I sounded back then compared to how I do now, and I am thoroughly glad! Distance—both time and space—do give you a sense of perspective that is in dire need to this generation that are too attached to their online profile, unable to judge their own actions from afar. When I see and read the way my peers—sometimes those older too—communicate to one another, I wonder, doesn’t clarity come with age?

The old mantra goes, “nobody’s perfect.” Yet, if I can grow in three years, why can’t others? I’m still learning, of course, to become a better person, but as John Mayer sings, "Did you know that you could be wrong, and swear you're right? Some people been known to do it all their lives." It shocked me when I hear those in their twenties declaring they need no correction. Being true to oneself does not equal to being rude.

It may be an exaggeration to say Malaysians (in our entirety) are rude, but they are not polite either. Malaysians, especially Malays, talk highly of our Asian culture. Personally, the only Asian culture that I am proud of is our respect for elders, and even that is slowly eroding into oblivion. We don’t start our conversations with a simple “Hello”; we don’t even say thank you enough. We don’t say “excuse me”; we would rather squeeze ourselves through discomfort. And please don’t let me start on our drivers who have no regards for others.

I am lucky in that I got plunged into a first world country: a country with a first class mentality. Sure, not all Americans are as nice as I may be portraying them to be, and so are there nice Malaysians out there. Subtracting the exceptions, however, the difference becomes glaringly bright. There is this idea we learned at school called “groupthink”. At the end of the day you are molded as the people around you, and after being back in Malaysia for only a week, I pray to God to not let that happen to me.

So to answer those who are unconvinced of the benefits of sending Malaysian youths oversea just to get a degree that they could obtain right here at home, I can assure you the benefits are too manifold for the skeptics to comprehend.