Each month, Office of International Students and Scholars introduces one international student/scholar by highlighting their cultural background, personal experience in both home country and U.S. It is our hope that this mini introduction will help Lehigh community to have a better understanding of the international students and scholars on campus. We encourage every student to participate in this activity. If you would like to be featured, send your message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1) Hi Vanisha, so tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What are you studying here at Lehigh? When will you be done with your studies?
Hi, Sean. I am Vanisha Kumar Param Kumar, an exchange student from University Technology PETRONAS (UTP), Malaysia. I am currently undergoing my junior year of Bachelor in Chemical Engineering in Lehigh University. The courses that I am taking in Lehigh University are more environmental and energy related as I either have taken or am not qualified in term of pre-requisite for the courses offered by the chemical engineering department for the fall 2014 semester. Although the courses I am taking in Lehigh University are not related directly to my major but I believe they will benefit me in the future because no matter what major you are doing now, in the near future, everything will be related back to sustaining the environment and the earth energy resources in order for the mankind to survive. I will be graduating from UTP on September 2016 after my internship and senior year.
2) So far, what do you think about Lehigh? Do you like the campus? The faculty? The people? Your housing?
I have been here for the past two months and all I can say is I am loving it here. I like everything about the campus especially with the old building design and the breathtaking view during the fall. Honestly speaking, I did face some problems adapting myself to the education system in Lehigh but with the help of my advisor, professors and fellow classmates, I manage to cope with it so far. I find most of the people here very friendly. No matter where you go, people just greet you despite the fact that they do not even know you. I am living in Trembley park which for me is an ideal location as it is convenience for me to go to classes, the library and the dining hall. Besides that, I also have great housemates.
3) What is your daily life like at Lehigh?
My daily life is pretty basic at Lehigh. Every morning I wake up few hours before my class to freshen up and prepare for class. Breakfast is a must for me unless my fellow classmates are interested in listening to my stomach grumbling throughout the entire class. After classes, I normally head back to my room as I feel more comfortable studying there. In the afternoon, I normally have a 45 minute nap so that I can stay up a little longer at night to talk to my family back in Malaysia. I also try my level best to join the activities on campus so that I can learn more about the university culture here.
4) So in this short new journey of discovering America in terms of the culture, language, ideals, and traditions, what have you discovered or learned about the American culture?
I notice that Americans value their culture and traditions. During my pacing break, I was lucky to have the chance to experience some real American life style at my friend, Carlie Skellington’s house in Flemington, New Jersey. Her mom has the weekend plan for us to go pumpkin picking and to the New Jersey’s largest haunted scare house. All this activities are normally done by the Americans during the month of October in conjunction with the Harvest and Halloween festival. This was my first time going pumpkin picking and also I had my first caramel apple which tastes so good. I had a great time with Carlie and her family. Besides that, I recently had a chance to learn about American football. I notice that most of the Americans here born and live football. Most Americans spent their weekends going to football games or watching it on the television. I was disappointed that the Lehigh vs. Lafayette Rivalry 150 ticket is sold out. I really hope to go. I also notice that people here in the United States speaks other language beside English such as Spanish.
5) What is the most obvious difference between American culture and the culture in your home country?
I think everyone knows that Americans are always known for their punctuality. Besides punctuality, the most obvious difference between American culture and Malaysia culture will be the use of first name with people older than us. In Malaysia, we call our elders by terms such as ‘pak cik’, ‘mak cik’, ‘uncle’ or ‘aunty’ although we are not related but In the States, Americans call people elder than them by their first name if they are not related. It took me some effort referring people twice my age by the first name and truth be said, I still cannot get the hang of it.
6) Describe what daily life is like for you in your home country.
My daily life back in my university in Malaysia is quite the same except that I do not take naps in the afternoon. I think I took up the habit of having a nap here because of the jet lag and because I want to stay up to talk to my family.
7) What are your hobbies? Interests?
I am not a sport person. I am more into music and instruments. Back at home, I play the piano during my leisure time. I have a guitar back home too and I always wanted to pick up guitar but I never had the time to learn it. I was very excited when I found out that there is a beginner in guitar class offered for the fall 2014 semester. Now I can go back to Malaysia and cross ‘learning guitar’ off from my to do list.
8) What kinds of adventures have you been on here in the US?
Honestly speaking I haven’t been out much. The 30 minute in the haunted scary house with Carlie’s family will have to be the bigger adventure I had so far especially coming from a person who is scare of the dark.
9) What kinds of adventures have you been on in your home country?
Before I came here, I was selected to attend development program at Outward Bound Malaysia. That was a one week camp which involved a lot of venturesome activities. Our phone and other electrical devices were taken away from us during the entire course. Our activities include working together and kayaking the whole Pangkor Island (6.9 square mile), staying in a desert island, whaling eight men whaler and etc. Although the whole program sounds tiring but I have learned a lot from it. I have pick up some survival skills, team work, physical skills and many more. I have also experiences a lot from this program such as scooping up water from the well to shower, starting up a fire without a lighter, etc. Like the founder of Outward bound, Kurt Hahn said “there is more to us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.” This outward bound program had truly made me a better person.
10) What do you miss most about your home country?
I miss my family the most. Just recently, my family celebrated Deepavali, an Indian festival of light back in my home country. During this festival, we have relatives and friends from all races around and we munch on ‘murruku’ and chit-chat and have fun. I was sad as I could not be there to celebrate Deepavali with my family this year. Besides that, I miss home cooked meal especially my dad’s mutton curry and my mom’s black pepper prawn and Chinese herbal soup. I cannot believe I am saying this but I miss the weather in Malaysia too. In Malaysia, we have a tropical climate with high temperature throughout the year. So it is pretty hard for me to adapt to the cold weather here but still I am looking forward to my first winter experience.
11) If someone was going to visit your home country, what would you tell them to do there and where would you tell them to visit?
I would recommend them to visit the cultural hub of Malaysia which is Kuala Lumpur. In Kuala Lumpur, we have the PETRONAS Twin Tower which is the most iconic building in Malaysia. The PETRONAS Twin Tower held the world’s tallest building record once until Taipei 101 was built. You can have a majestic view of the city from this twin tower. If you are looking for something more religious and historical, you could visit Merdeka Square where the Malayan flag was first hoisted in 1957, Brickfields which is also known as ‘little india’ and Batu Caves which is the most famous hindu temple in Malaysia located in a cave on the mountain. If you are someone that loves to shop, then visiting the Petaling Jaya Street, better known as Chinatown, the Central Market and Berjaya Times Square Mall is a must. You will be surprise what you could get there for just a small amount of money. Besides Kuala Lumpur, there are many more interesting places to visit in Malaysia. For nature lovers, Cameron Highlands, Taman Negara, Pulau Tioman, Mount Kinabalu and Langkawi are few must visit natural paradise in Malaysia.