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From Malaysia to Germany: An engineering student’s journey to self-independence

Here’s a tongue twister: “Wirtschaftsingenieurwesen.” Now, try saying that five times – and fast. Yes, we can’t either, but that’s the name of the programme 21-year-old Malaysian Voon Li Ler is currently studying at the Munich University of Applied Science in Germany. The eight-syllable-long German word translates to “industrial engineering.”

Does he miss home? Yes, particularly his mum’s home-cooked dishes, “char kuey tiao” (fried rice noodles) and garlic chicken rice. Voon knows, however, these are small sacrifices compared to the bigger perks he will gain from his time in Germany. He tells us more about it below:

How has studying in Germany impacted your life?

Studying in Germany has greatly affected my independence to say the least. I have always relied heavily on my parents back home in Malaysia when it came to transportation, formal matters, or meals. Due to that, I had to start from scratch by taking the initiative to take matters into my own hands. 

Ever since coming to Germany, the whole process has been overwhelming and, at times, scary, but I’ve been able to come out strong thanks to the support of friends and family. Overall, I realise how crucial it is to be responsible for yourself. This should be one of your core traits if you plan to study overseas.

How do you find substitutes for things you miss from home most?

I mainly miss my mum’s food. At times, I recreate those I’ve learned from her, though finding the right ingredients can be a challenge. I also miss Malaysian dishes – there is just no taste like home.

What has been your most exciting trip in Germany so far?

That would be visiting Weihnachtsmarkt in Nürnberg with new friends from my university’s international student society. I got to meet new people from Spain, Greece, Sweden, Turkey and so forth. I learned more about their cultures which really broadened my perspective about the world. It was a great bonding session as we chatted and drank some “Glüwein” (mulled wine).

What was the biggest culture-shock moment for you?

I still remember the day I first saw public areas filled with naked people! That, to me, was a complete shock. One time, I saw naked people sunbathing on the grassy fields in the middle of a crowded park, and this was treated as completely normal here. It really surprised me as this isn’t common in Asia.

Was the reality of your experience in Germany different from your expectations?

To be honest, I came here without any expectations. I knew that I would be pushing my boundaries like never before by studying in a foreign language in a foreign country, and all I had to do was make the best out of it. This was more of a goal, rather than an expectation.

What are your favourite spots to visit in town, and why?

If you decide to study in Munich, you’re in for a treat as it has very nice places to visit. A favourite first spot of mine would be Hofgarten at Odeonsplatz, one of the best places to cycle around. It is also a beautifully maintained park, rich with architecture and perfect for the ‘gram!

My second favourite place would be the area around the station Universität. This area has great student vibes and only a short walk from Odeonsplatz. Aside from the amazing student-friendly cafes, bars and restaurants, it is also really central.

Last but not least, Olympiapark. It is a huge area, so it’s best to explore it through cycling. Joggers would love it here, and there’s a hilltop area to get a beautiful bird’s eye view of Munich and catch the sunset.

Voon Li Ler, enjoying summer in Germany as an international student. Source: Voon Li Ler

How has the German Educare University Preparation programme helped you in Germany?

The University Preparation programme has definitely helped me to fit in with a new group of friends and to learn the basics of the German language. I was already somewhat fluent in German but this allowed me to further develop my German language skills and learn different scientific subjects in another language easier. I was able to mainly focus on getting used to new scientific terms rather than the structure or grammar of my sentences.

What do you like most about studying in Germany?

Studying here motivated me to push my personal boundaries and take greater risks. This is mainly because I was able to study a foreign language in a foreign country which has taught me a lot about self-independence and discipline. A lot of people say this, but the long and tough road is worth it in the end. Trust the process.

What is your advice to others who want to take a similar path to yours?

Have notes! Write down the lists of things that should be done before arriving, and what should be done when you arrive. It’s very common here that the “German way” of dealing with things is complicated and long. Bearing that in mind, having lists helps you organise everything.

My advice for learning German: use new words and learn on a regular basis. Verbs are a must to master, so keep practising until you get used to the different forms.

What are your plans for the future? Do you see yourself living and working in Germany?

I do plan on working and living in Germany, but not forever. I see myself having a job which allows me to travel around Europe, which is one of the reasons I am currently studying in Germany.

German Educare is a tertiary education specialist founded by a group of Malaysians who graduated from Germany with the hopes of providing other Malaysian students the opportunity to study, live, and work in Germany. To find out more, please visit germaneducare.com

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