Xin Yi Joyce Lee from Maynooth University was the only Malaysian in her year. Find out more about her study abroad experience…
For the past three years of my time here in Maynooth, I have not came across a single Malaysian student. How did that affect my way of life?
You learn to be alone (and be okay with it)
It can be especially tough during festive seasons like Chinese New Year or Mid-Autumn Festival, when you have no friends or family to celebrate with and you are constantly reminded of your loneliness every time you scroll through your social network, chocked with happy pictures of your family in reunion dinners you missed, food you didn’t get to eat and red packets you didn’t receive.
There were also days where you needed the warm companionship of the people familiar to home, like coming home after a long day to your mother’s warm food, or a trusty shoulder of a sibling/good friend to lean on when you’re down. Sometimes you don’t even realise how much you missed speaking your native language until you have actually spoken it to a real person.
I have come to the point in my life where I am able to deal with (or suppress?) homesickness. It only made me more appreciative of my friends and family from home.
The opportunity to hone your language and communication skills
To be honest, I was incredibly insecure of speaking to the locals when I first arrived. Being the only international student in my year had not only pushed me outside of my own bubble, but it also encouraged the social confidence in me that I never knew I had. From asking my first question in class to presenting my paper in a conference, I am glad to be situated in the uncomfortable position I used to be and turning that into valuable skill I can now exude with assurance in any given situation.
Meeting lifelong friends and getting the first-hand experience of an Irish culture
My very first house party and night out with my course mates are still deeply etched in my memory. I remember feeling uncomfortable (as I always do) and culturally shocked by the way people have fun here, but at the time I thought I had came to a personal epiphany, or more precisely a better acceptance on cultural differences and on top of that, relishing the moment itself.
Not to mention the warm hospitality of Irish families I received when friends invited me over to their homes. They cooked me a classic Irish meal, insisted that I have more than one cup of tea, and subsequently spending the night by the fire and just having a great time.
All these experiences I gained from my time here were only a fraction of what made me who I am today, or to reference the Disney movie Inside Out, they were my “core memories”. I cannot recommend enough to all international students to always befriend the locals, and that it is okay to feel uncomfortable, because chances are you will earn yourself an experience of a lifetime.