By Indigo Interview
Tell us a bit about Malaysian society.
Malaysian Society mainly hosts events that surround Malaysian food, aiming to promote Southeast Asian culture in Durham. Last year, we joined the Global Fest to promote basic understanding of the country to people of different cultures. Firstly, we aim to provide a ‘shelter’ for Malaysian students to relieve stress outside of their academic life while also helping members make friends with people of similar culture. However, this does not mean that only Malaysians can join the society. Both this year and in previous years, we have had people of all different nationalities join our society. So, as long as you enjoy food, everyone is free to join us.
What are the values of the society?
Our most important value is inclusivity or how Malaysians put it, ‘being friendly’. If you have joined our events in the past, you will notice that we are all very friendly, and you will most likely get along with everyone. This is particularly in line with Malaysian culture as our country is multiracial, so we are particularly open and accepting. Consequently, this is the tone of our society.
What sort of events do you run?
On an annual basis, we celebrate all our major Malaysian festivals such as Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and Deepavali. In addition to that, we do multiple unofficial events such as badminton sessions, bar crawls and events with other Malaysian Societies in the Northeast Region. In the second week of term, we had a Welcoming Event for all, with Malaysian food the focus of the event. Our upcoming event will be Deepavali on 18 November where there will also be lots of food. We will be going to watch Lumiere after the official event, so do keep an eye out if you are interested in our society.
What collaborations and relationships do you have with other societies?
We planned several collaborations this year with other Southeast Asian societies. Building relationships and getting to know fellow students from diverse backgrounds is important in university, not just for Southeast Asian societies but for any society.
Firstly, interacting with students from various Southeast Asian societies allows for cultural exchange, fostering a deeper understanding of different traditions, values, and perspectives. For example, we can share our love for the food, festive celebrations, the culture or even our dislike for the humid weather.
Besides that, the exposure to different ideas and experiences can enrich one’s education. Engaging with peers from other Asian societies can lead to new insights and a more holistic learning experience. Interacting with peers from Southeast Asian societies, as well as from other backgrounds, is essential for personal, academic, and societal growth. Afterall, university is a place to build networks that will benefit your personal and professional life.
Tell us a bit about the importance of having a space for Malaysian students to be able to get together and connect in Durham?
University life can be challenging, especially for Malaysian students who often face a sense of displacement when studying abroad. Having a designated space where Malaysian students can come together, socialise, and celebrate cultural events as well as share our love for food provides a support network all the way from academics to mini hangout sessions. This creates a sense of belonging and community amongst Malaysians: a ‘Home-Away-From-Home’.
Malaysia’s most notable aspect is its melting pot of culture. Surrounded by Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore, Malaysia is home to a kaleidoscope of different cultures that only add to the nation’s rich history. This cultural blend benefits not only Malaysian students but also the broader university community, nurturing cross-cultural appreciation.
What are your favourite things from Malaysia that you want more people in Durham to know?
Malaysia’s remarkable cultural diversity extends to its exceptional culinary landscape. It’s no surprise that Malaysia stands out as a food haven in Southeast Asia, with a delightful fusion of Indian, Chinese, Peranakan, and traditional Malay cuisines to explore. Among the must-try dishes are nasi lemak, a coconut milk-infused rice dish served with crispy fried chicken, and mee goreng mamak, a flavourful Indian Muslim creation featuring yellow noodles with beef or chicken.
Finally, any advice for incoming international students?
Always be open to stuff, do not worry if you are lost. You are in a new environment, and everything will be unfamiliar, but if you need somewhere to rest or someone to talk to, you can always reach out to anyone that you know. The best way is to join a society of your culture as your peers are probably in the same situation as you!
Image: Chelger Chiew