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From Malaysia to Japan: A Hanami of Knowledge and Culture


From Malaysia to Japan: A Hanami of Knowledge and Culture

04 January 2024

From Malaysia to Japan: A Hanami of Knowledge and Culture

Studying abroad has always been a dream of many young Malaysian students, including Nurul Atiqah binti Kasim, who has always wanted to pursue her studies in either Australia or Japan. The thrill of exploring a new language made her choose Japan. Fast forward a few years, she is now in her fourth year as an Economics student at Shiga University.

She was supposed to start her degree in March 2020. But, as we all know, COVID-19 disrupted our lives and plans, and therefore, she had to take a gap semester and postpone her start date. It was already autumn when she finally arrived in Japan in November 2020, and the days were shorter than anticipated.

“I remembered the seniors taking us out to do some paperwork. When we were done, it was already dark out, and I assumed it was already 8 or 9 pm. So, imagine my shock when the seniors suggested we head out to the supermarket to buy some necessities. Only then did I realise that it was only around 5pm or so!” Atiqah laughed as she remembered her first few days in Japan.


Living her life to the fullest

When asked about the highlights of her life in Japan, Atiqah listed three achievements that she is proud of.

The first was being the only international student to represent her university in an intervarsity event, which gave her the opportunity to talk about her life in Japan as an international student.

Atiqah also had the opportunity to develop her skills outside of the classroom. She helped her lecturer to publish a book, where she designed the book cover and formatted the book content. This allowed her to develop her skills in Microsoft Word.

And, lastly, it would be her involvement with the Malaysian Students’ Association in Japan (MSAJ). MSAJ has over 1,200 subscribers to their newsletter, and the committee consists of almost 60 students who organise events and activities for the Malaysian student community in Japan. One of their activities is the Japan-Malaysia Sports Diversity Festival, which was recently held in mid-December 2023 in collaboration with the Japan Sports Association and the Malaysian Embassy in Japan.

Before coming to Japan, Atiqah never imagined herself being a part of something so big. From a member in her 2nd year, she is now the current president for MSAJ. Her experience in MSAJ has allowed her to grow as a person. She met many people and explored various activities outside of her university life.

One of MSAJ’s notable projects last year was the MSAJ Career Fair 2023. With financial support from TalentCorp under the MyHeart Young Global Leader (YGL) Programme, this initiative provided students the opportunity to connect with leading companies and industry experts, acquire experience and knowledge and explore job opportunities. The event saw participation by over 120 students and featured 18 companies, including PETRONAS, Perodua, ExxonMobil Malaysia and many others.


There’s more to Japan that what you see on social media and entertainment

When you think of Japan, the first few words that comes in mind would be words like Shibuya Crossing, Cherry Blossoms or Mount Fuji. Anime and TV shows have made big cities Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto popular tourism hotspots but there are a lot of hidden gems in Japan that are not as well-known as their famous counterparts.

“For instance, I think Gifu prefecture is underrated. It is really pretty with a lot of nature to explore,” she says. (Note: Gifu is in central Japan, close to Nagoya and about 2.5 hours’ drive from Kyoto and 5 hours’ drive from Tokyo).

One of her favourite spots in Japan so far is Kamikōchi, a national park near Nagano in the Japanese Alps with beautiful hiking trails and magnificent views. “It feels like the Swiss Alps, but here in Japan!” Atiqah adds.


Looking for opportunities to contribute to Malaysia

For Atiqah, having a small community of Malaysian students in Japan has been helpful in overcoming any loneliness or homesickness. Her Malaysian community has become a second family, a second home for her in Shiga.

“People think that studying and living abroad is always fun and cheery. But in reality, you feel like a stranger who doesn’t belong anywhere. You are not a local in Japan, but you also feel like a stranger when you return home to Malaysia because you’ve been away for so long,” says Atiqah. However, meeting up with old friends in Malaysia made her feel like nothing had changed, even though they were all on different journeys across the world.

“I guess home is not just the place, but the people that made it feel like home,” she added.

Atiqah firmly believes that the experience of studying and living abroad has broadened her perspectives and given her a lot of opportunities to explore new things.

“It can be uncomfortable to try something new, especially at a place where you have to learn a new language. But the end result can be so rewarding and fulfilling. Like people say, it’s better to try and fail, rather than not trying at all.”

Atiqah also believes that by studying and living abroad, you gain a lot of expertise and knowledge that can and should be shared with the community in Malaysia. For her, if we cannot give back to the community directly, then we should at least acknowledge the privilege that we get and be mindful of the people and support that we have been given to help us get to where we are.

“This is why I like the MyHeart platform – it allows me to connect with other Malaysians studying and working across the world and learn from their own experiences and journeys.”

If you are a Malaysian student studying abroad like Atiqah, join the MyHeart community today to learn more on how you can benefit from the community of Malaysians abroad.