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A Chinese Language scholar’s journey from Malaysia to Beijing, China

China, known for its explosive culture and digital trends, is soon to become Teoh Wah Sheng’s new home. Teoh is a Malaysian scholar sponsored by Yayasan Sime Darby and is on his way to pursue a Chinese Language course with a foundation in Mechanical Engineering at the Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU).

“My ultimate goal is to learn from them and contribute what I learn to my beloved motherland, Malaysia,” he says. Below he speaks to us more about what he feels furthering his tertiary education in China:

Tell us more about yourself and the application for the SD Scholarship Programme.

Frankly speaking, I had never heard of the Yayasan Sime Darby scholarship programme during my school days until a friend of mine told me about when we were discussing our future paths. I was amazed when I saw that China was one of the countries included in the scholarship programme, which is very rare in Malaysia.

Why did you choose China?

Although TikTok is a great way to familiarise with the Chinese culture, in my opinion, China has been rising exponentially globally for many years, economy and technology-wise. Besides that, China is a country with a rich historical culture.

This culture is accompanied by their resilient spirit – it’s a nation that has survived many challenges. My ultimate goal is to learn from them and contribute what I learn to my beloved motherland, Malaysia.

Beijing is known for its modern architecture and ancient historial sites. Source: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP

What attracted you to study at BLCU and what was the application process like?

I am a new scholar this year, so the application process might be a little different from the previous years due to the pandemic. We basically had four stages that were all conducted online in English.

The first step is to fill up a form and email it to Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD). You will then be notified if you are selected. The second step is an online ability test, which is more or less an IQ test but with a time limit. The hardest part is not the questions, but more the tension as the seconds go by.

Then the third step is participating in a case study to solve a real-life problem. The interviewer might seem strict at first, but in my personal experience, she was kind. The last and fourth step is being interviewed by the board of directors who just want to know more about you.

The last interview will be an opportunity to share your personal life stories. Staff members are there to help with any questions you have, so it’s a warm and welcoming environment.

What is the first thing you plan to do when you arrive?

I have been thinking long and hard about this, imagining a variety of possibilities. For now, I think I will be exploring the areas close to me so that I will be able to familiarise myself with the surroundings.

The most important thing is to look for the nearest convenience store, so I feel secure in planning my studies and travels. As a thrifty patriot, the things that I am going to bring back home are going to mostly be unique local souvenirs and the knowledge which will help our nation prosper.

What items will you be bringing with you from home?

I’ll be bringing a pillow and fish crackers – known locally as “keropok” – to make me feel more connected to home. Having travelled overseas before, I am aware that homesickness is not a myth. I do understand that feeling distressed is part of being away from home for too long.

I also hope to share what I’ll be bringing so I can maybe share a bit of my culture! The seniors in my school recommended I bring along personal hygiene products that I am used to in the event that end up being allergic to the products they have in China, or simply because I miss home. Fragrances and smells do help trigger comforting memories.

What makes you stand out from other students?

The things that make me stand out is being myself, being independent, but not too self-centred. I have the willingness to learn and adapt to my surroundings, but at the same time not forget where I am from.

What advice do you have for students looking to take the same path as you?

To anyone who is reading this, regardless of the course and university you are interested in, remember: there will always be someone better than you out there. Do not let the title of “top student” burden you heavily.

There is more to life than competing and excelling in academics. You have to also learn to seek and find your purpose in life. When it comes to work, do your very best, and if you face any problems, try to look at them as challenges to discover your new potential.

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