Written by Seana Adams

My time in Malaysia was a unique one as it was my first experience being abroad for as long as three months. I had to adapt to a new culture, a new language, and new customs. Although this was something that I was aware of before hand, it had taken some time to get used to. I am surprised by exactly how much I miss Malaysia. I miss the people, the food, my colleagues, and the lifestyle that I had when I was there.

However, there were days that I found challenging. Some days, I found it hard to be so far away from loved ones. The twelve-hour time difference also made it difficult to communicate with family and friends back home. Fortunately, my colleagues at the Institute for Health Systems Research (IHSR) made the transition process less difficult. During my first week, we had a meeting with all members in the office to establish a To-Do list for not only work-related projects, but tourist activities as well. My colleagues put in a lot of effort to ensure that we had an amazing overall experience in Malaysia, and would take time to describe hiking trails and must-see attractions whenever we inquired.

After telling my boss that I was interested in visiting a Catholic church, she picked up myself and the two other QEScholars that I was living with and took us to church that Sunday. Afterward, she showed us a special lunch place where many locals ate. The hospitality showed by these colleagues made me feel as though I had a family in Malaysia. Several of them would often go out of their way to bring us breakfast, lunch, or cultural attire.

My most memorable experience was when my birthday arrived in June. Initially, I was upset about not being able to spend it with loved ones. Then, without even telling my boss that it was my birthday, she organized a celebration at her house with all of our colleagues in the office. They bought two cakes, fed us Malaysia’s cultural staple, “Nasi Lemak”, which is a variant of chicken and rice, and served us several fruits and desserts. They toasted to my birthday and ensured that we had left overs to bring home with us. This experience made me feel accepted into the IHSR community, and made me immensely grateful to be surrounded by such thoughtful people.

Amidst all of the adjustments I had to make while abroad, the consistent support of my colleagues at IHSR made me feel at home.  I have learned the value of developing relationships in new settings. I have learned the value of taking time to reflect. I was surprised at the depth at which I was able to relate to my boss and colleagues on several topics. I felt accepted and at ease. This was a very important aspect of my experience abroad and I am very thankful for having had the opportunity to engage with such caring, selfless people.

Watch the video from Seana’s QE Scholar Insights webinar: