International students got to experience the real village life during the Serumpun Sejagat programme in Kampung Kubang Depu, Terengganu. Photo courtesy of Universiti Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia is home to many of us. Little that we know, it is also considered as home to many international students.

For a Pakistani national, Salman Ahmed Hashimi, Malaysia has a special place in his heart.

“It is no longer just a place of study, I have a newfound family here,” the 25-year-old said.

Ever since joining the Serumpun Sejagat programme organised by the Higher Education Ministry, he has discovered a stronger connection to this country in Kampung Kubang Depu, Besut, Terengganu.

He even called his host parents ‘mama’ and ‘daddy’.

“Mama and daddy took us to the hot spring in Besut which was magical since it was raining then.

“The cold rain was pouring down on us while we were bathing inside the hot and steamy hot spring,” the PhD engineering student from Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) told HE Today.

Being in a foreign land and missing the home-cooked food, Salman was touched by the food prepared by his host mother.

“It was my first time having ‘ikan tiga rasa’ (sweet and sour fish) made lovingly by my mama,” he said.

Despite the communication barrier, Salman and his host family remain in contact and constantly chat with them via Whatsapp.

“We are planning to have a reunion soon and I will definitely go back to Kampung Kubang Depu to visit my family,” he added.

Salman Ahmed Hashimi (third from the right) and his host family at the Serumpun Sejagat programme in Kampung Kubang Depu, Besut, Terengganu. Photo courtesy of Salman Ahmed Hashimi.

Local Malaysian delicacies are definitely one of the major attractions of the programme.

While Salman loved the sweet and sour fish, Distie Alexandra Limahelu said she couldn’t forget the deliciousness of the east coast traditional dish, Nasi Kerabu.

“I am absolutely in love with Nasi Kerabu. It is so good,” said the 19-year-old Indonesian.

Distie said it was refreshing to see many people from 34 different countries and cultures coming together and finding kinship despite their cultural differences.

To Distie, the programme provided a platform for international students to learn about the cultures of Malaysia and experience Malaysian hospitality first hand.

“I was most excited about meeting so many people from many different countries and universities.

“I once felt alone in this country, but now I’m glad to say that I have hundreds brothers and sisters across the country. We are one big family now,” she said.

Distie, who regarded Malaysia as her second home said the programme also gave a chance to them to share their own culture and give a good impression to Malaysians.

“My (host) mum and dad are very lovely and I miss them so much,” the Corporate Communication degree student from Infrastructure University Kuala Lumpur (IUKL) said.

Students enjoyed the local Malaysian dishes at the homes of their host families. Photo courtesy Universiti Kuala Lumpur.

A total of 134 international students from 39 countries who are currently studying at various public and private universities in Malaysia recently participated in a 3-day Serumpun Sejagat programme in Kampung Kubang Depu, Besut, Terengganu.

This programme, which was organised by Universiti Kuala Lumpur and Ministry of Higher Education, gives way for international students to stay with local host families so that they will get to know and experience the rich cultures of Malaysia and its people.