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Incredible Sarawak: Students find it hard to leave the state that has so much to offer

on 17 Mei 2010.

Story and photo by EFFADYLIA AFFENDI
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TO THIS day, there are still many young Malaysians in the Peninsula who know little of Sarawak. The thought of having to part with their family and study in a university in the state is frightening to some.

Those who go out on a limb, however, and come to the state would often find it hard to leave when the time comes. One such university which has opened the minds of many young West Malaysians is Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).

Since it opened its doors in August 1993, the university has been a gateway for them to not only pursue tertiary education but also to discover Sarawak.

For Dhipa Palanimally, a 24-year old from Perak, studying in Unimas was the best decision she ever made.

Noralis: Studying in Sarawak has taught me to be more open and respect other ethnic groups.

“Personally my choice to pursue tertiary education in Sarawak, specifically Unimas, was a life changing experience as a student and an individual,” she said.

She believed that Sarawak is the best example of the 1Malaysia concept because everyone got along very well with each other, no matter what ethnicity they may be.

“I have never encountered any racism when I was in Sarawak. In fact, I feel more at home here. Sarawakians are hospitable towards outsiders. They display their friendliness with warm welcomes to their homes and lives.”

She was also impressed with the high rate of mixed marriages in Sarawak.

“Since most of my Sarawakian peers are of mixed parentage, I have had the opportunity to learn about the diversity and cultural backgrounds which exists in Sarawak which was oblivious to my upbringing.”

Kuala Lumpur born Gary George, 24, loves Sarawak so much it is a must to return to the state once every year.

“Sarawak is a beautiful state not just because of the rainforest and all the scenery but also the people who lives there and the cultures they have with them.”

During one of his Gawai visit to his friend's longhouse in Bau, he was never treated like a stranger but like a long lost friend by all of the occupants of the longhouse.

“Not only Gawai but any other festive celebrations, people of different ethnicity come together and celebrate in unity. Talking about festival, my favourite would be the Rainforest World Music Festival which happens annually in July.”

Ong: It's just amazing to be able to witness the vast flora and fauna.

He also said whenever he was in campus, it felt like as if it was a moving billboard for United Colours of Benetton.

“I really envy and respect the racial harmony available here in Sarawak. Every state should make Sarawak an example of 1Malaysia,” he said.

Language was never a problem when she first came to Sarawak for S. Connie Pearl, 23, who hails from Tambunan, Sabah.

“The language, especially the local Malay dialect is unique and very easy to learn too. I also notice that the local Malay dialect acts as a tool of integration among the Sarawakians whereby they understand one another even if they are of different ethnicity.

“I've also managed to learn other languages such as Bidayuh language and Iban language from my friends,” she added.

She also found that when it comes to religion, there is tolerance in Sarawak.

“I asked my Muslim friends about their thoughts on the latest issue concerning the usage of Allah in churches and they were not angered at all. They said that this issue is not an issue after all. As long as they know whom exactly they are praying to, it does not matter. What matters is that they still believe in their one God.”

Ong Wei Ling, 24, from Kedah always knew he would love Sarawak even before he came here.

“It's just amazing to be able to witness the vast flora and fauna of Sarawak during our field trip to Miri and Niah Cave last year organised by Unimas. For a nature enthusiast like me, it's also nice to know that Sarawak has so many to offer in terms of eco tourism.”

For a state with multi-ethnic background, he is impressed to see how each cultures do not clash with each other but manage to integrate instead.

“No one view the other as a threat, instead, it's like an extended community here, with each and everyone respecting each other regardless of their differences. Sarawak itself is almost like the Cultural Village, it's not just for show, it's real life they're displaying there.”

After three years in Sarawak, he also found out how laid-back life in Sarawak is compared to where he lives.

“I'm not just talking about attitude but also the way they live their life. They're not aggressive but instead, very relaxed. And this nature allows them to be more in touch with life and therefore, there is peace and acceptance of the difference around them. One more reason why I love Sarawak.”

Noralis Buang, 23 from Johor said if it wasn't for her Unimas friends from Sarawak, she would have had the same old assumptions about Sarawak.

“If it wasn't for my Sarawakian friends, regardless whether they are Malay, Iban or Chinese, I would never be able to see Sarawak as I see now. I was critical of Sarawak, I assumed many bad things when I first came here but everything changed when I started to learn more about my friends. The more I learned about them, the more I learned about Sarawak

“Studying in Sarawak had taught me to be more open and respect other ethnicity as well as respecting other people's religion,” she said.

For these five students from all over Malaysia, it has been a wonderful experience studying in Sarawak. They have learned so many new things as well as improve their viewpoints of Sarawak . Not only they've seen the world's most famous living museum but they have experienced it themselves during their stay here. For them, their adventure doesn't end here, there's always something new waiting for them in Sarawak.

Extracted from The Star Online.

Arkib Berita

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, 94300 Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia Telephone: +60 82581000/+60 82581388, Fax: +60 82 665 088, Email: corporate@unimas.my
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Tarikh terakhir kemaskini: Khamis 28 Januari 2016.

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