Studying During the Pandemic: A View From an International Student

International students, Iffat and Ramisha, got together to give an honest sharing studying virtually at Taylor’s.

It’s been more than a year since I enrolled at Taylor’s with the intent of studying in Malaysia and having my shot at an independent life. Then, as we all know, the pandemic hit and caused our world to turn upside down, changing everything in the blink of an eye. One of the most drastic changes for me, and the lives of millions of students worldwide, was having our entire education system shift online.

We started attending classes, working on presentations, and even making new friends all in front of a screen. Though, it was personally a great obstacle to overcome, with every challenge and change comes new opportunities for us.

One of the many unique opportunities that came my way was making friends with fellow Taylorians from around the world, outside the programme I’m in, without leaving my home country. One such friend I made online through Taylor’s International Student Society (TISS) is Ramisha Adil, a first-year Taylorian studying Bachelors of Biomedical Sciences, currently living in Saudi Arabia. 

Here’s her account of why she chose to study in Malaysia despite the restrictions of the pandemic.

Q: What made you choose to study in Malaysia and at Taylor’s?

A: Though I always knew I wanted to study abroad, I initially didn’t choose Malaysia. Then, while browsing for universities to study at, I saw an ad for Taylor's University on Instagram and, out of curiosity, clicked it.

That’s where it all started. Learning about the international exposure, multicultural environment, and the amazing opportunities provided by the university gained my interest. Not to forget, Malaysian food!

Another thing I found interesting about Taylor’s University was the SHINE programme. If you’re like me who loves volunteering, getting exposure, and networking while polishing life skills and work ethics, SHINE is the answer.   

Plus, the campus is beautiful! Can’t forget to mention Taylor's very own Duckie!

Studying During the Pandemic: A View From an International Student

Q: What were your expectations when applying here?

A: A lot to be honest! I always wanted to attend a university where I could gain life skills and exposure along with my studies. I really love networking with people and taking part in a lot of extracurricular activities. So, I knew Taylor’s was a good option for me. The Biomedical Sciences programme here has a very detailed study plan and was something I had in mind. 

But, as we all know, the pandemic hit. There was so much I’d planned but it changed my plans drastically. I was supposed to fly to Malaysia in May 2021 but, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to travel to Malaysia because of the restrictions. Everything was ready — the flight was booked, luggage packed, and then the cases started rising drastically which eventually led to a temporary ban of international students. 

I was heartbroken because I was super excited to finally meet my friends, explore a new country, travel, and head to campus! Honestly, can’t believe my first year is gonna end soon.

Q: How was it like transitioning your entire academic life online?

A: I’m a very hands-on and practical person. I prefer having physical or face-to-face classes so transitioning my academic life completely online was kind of difficult for me. It was something I never imagined.

As all my classes and exams were online, my screen time increased massively and slightly affected my eyesight. I’d probably get glasses at this rate! I used to be someone who’d move a lot while studying. Now that it’s online, I’ve to sit for hours in front of a screen doing my assignments and projects aside from the online classes. 

Because I’m not in Malaysia, I’m missing out on my face-to-face practical sessions and also face the challenge of being in a different time-zone. There’s a five-hour time difference between Saudi Arabia and Malaysia! So, when I have classes scheduled for 8am Malaysia time, I’ve to wake up at 3am which, let’s be honest, is a struggle.

That being said, though it took me a while and being a hands-on and practical person, I think I’ve started to adapt well to this new online learning experience. The lecturers are super sweet and helpful making sure that the class is interactive. I’ve also joined a lot of clubs and societies to keep me busy and productive and also make new friends from different backgrounds. 

The first club I joined was Taylor’s TRADISI — a cultural and traditional club with the vision where ‘no tradition will get left behind’. I’m currently the director of Event Management. I’m also a part of the events team for Taylor’s University School of Biosciences Club (T.U.S.O.B) and Taylor’s Toastmasters club which has helped me a lot in improving my public speaking skills.

Another club that's personally one of my favourite clubs, is TISS which is a great club to join especially for international students. TISS allowed me to make a lot of friends — including Iffat! And to add to that, I’m also a part of the community engagement department. Despite it being online, I’m glad to have these golden opportunities to learn and polish my leadership skills. I really love the teams I work with! 

But again as I said earlier, the time-zone difference is a challenge when coordinating. That’s pretty hard and something I’m still working on — can’t wait to finally be on campus!

Studying During the Pandemic: A View From an International Student

Faye Lim, from The Rojak Project, shares more about Malaysia with the members of TISS.

Studying During the Pandemic: A View From an International Student

Taylor's Toastmasters Club x SHINE Programme at the Speak Up! Team event.

Still figuring out your education journey? Speak to one of our counsellors today to get all your questions answered.

Q: Even though you didn’t get what you expected, what’s one thing you feel happy to have gotten?

A: Meeting amazing people! Even though I’ve not been to campus, I was lucky enough to find super supportive, helpful, and wonderful friends. I don’t know what I’d do without them and I can’t wait to meet them once I go to Malaysia — Love you guys <3!

I’ve also found myself being involved in a lot of activities, volunteering, and working all while being in my home country! I can proudly say that being in this pandemic, I’ve gotten time to work on myself for the better and polished my skills like multitasking and managing my time effectively.

Q: What are a few helpful things that you’ve learned despite the circumstance?

A: I’ve learned to always be thankful, grateful, and optimistic. Indeed the circumstances might be hard but everything happens for a reason so we should work hard to make that reason beautiful instead of regretting the situation. This mindset definitely helped me a lot.

If you’re tired, take a break — you deserve it. Remember, it’s okay to not be okay. Things might be hard and get out of control but eventually everything will be alright. Being part of a lot of activities and studying Biomedical science, there were times when everything became difficult and overwhelming which drained me. I’m lucky to have been surrounded by supportive people and was able to get the rest I deserved. 

Being kind to yourself is something we should practise more. Allow yourselves to learn from your mistakes, take your time while making decisions, and be comfortable in our own skin. Realise we don’t have to change ourselves to fit in anywhere. This has definitely boosted my confidence.

Q: Now that the campus is reopening for students, will you be coming to Malaysia any time soon? 

A: Yes! Finally the wait is over and I’ll get to come to Malaysia soon. As it has been a year now, my E-Val will be expiring in October, so I had to put in a request for its extension. It’s currently processing so, hopefully, I’ll be in Malaysia and on campus soon enough!

Q: What are you looking forward to the most about coming to Malaysia?

A: Definitely, without a doubt, is to travel to Malaysia, visit the campus, and finally meet my friends! I really can’t wait to meet all my friends and lecturers who’ve made the whole situation a journey that’s easy and fun! 

I’m definitely looking forward to attending face-to-face classes and getting hands-on experience since the programme does involve a lot of practicals. Though there are commendable online efforts being done, nothing beats being in the lab and soaking myself in the environment! Super excited for that!

Not forgetting the food! I’m dying to try Malaysian food as I’ve heard so much about it and I want to try them all! The first thing I’d probably try is probably nasi lemak and satay — starting with the basics!

Q: Reminiscing back over the last year and finally coming to Malaysia, do you regret your decision to study online because of the restrictions?

A: I’ll be honest — in the beginning, I did. I questioned myself if I should have just taken a break or a gap year instead. But now, looking back at my first year and all the things I was able to do — all the amazing people I got acquainted with, my friends, and all the volunteering experiences, I’ve absolutely no regrets.

In fact, I’m quite glad that I took this decision as I got to explore a lot of things while being in the comfort of my own space.

It’s obvious that these sudden changes were difficult to face for many — me being one of them. It was very difficult learning and adapting to a new country without even being in it. However, with each passing day, just like Ramisha and everyone else, I’m also learning to adjust and cope under the circumstances. 

For all of you reading this, keep your head up and face these challenges head on. It might be difficult right now, but at the end of the day, there is nothing we can’t accomplish — even online classes! 

Though I won't be heading by to Taylor's so soon, my hope is we’ll all finally be able to experience the wonderful life and experience being physically at Taylor’s, meeting all the amazing friends we made online, and being immersed in the Malaysian environment.

Perhaps when I head back to campus, I’ll finally be able to meet my good friend, Ramisha, in person!

With the light at the end of the tunnel becoming brighter as international students are allowed to travel to Malaysia and be back on campus, perhaps our hopes will soon become a reality too.

Studying During the Pandemic: A View From an International Student

Ready to get started on your journey studying in Malaysia? Find out how here.

Iffat Ara Islam is currently pursuing Bachelor of Business (Hons) in International Business & Marketing at Taylor's University. She is also a committee member in the Community Engagement department of Taylor’s International Student Society.