Answering a few questions for those who are curious!
What is a Fulbright anyway?
It’s a grant that offers research and teaching opportunities to recent graduates or grad students in over 140 different countries. Funding is primarily from the U.S. government but is supplemented by private donors and the host-country’s government. Cultural exchange is a main goal of this program.
I knew next to nothing about Malaysia when I first thought about applying for a Fulbright. There are 140 countries to choose from, but you can only apply to one each year. For me, queen of decision-making (not), this was a daunting task. But, after minimal discussion with my wonderful adviser, I knew Malaysia was the right pick for me because 1) It’s culturally, geographically, and linguistically diverse, both from the United States and within itself, 2) I’ll be placed with another ETA as my housemate, and 3) Malaysia accepts 100 applicants each year, so my chances were higher than in most other countries.
Where the heck even is Malaysia?
I’ll have easy access to Thailand, China, India, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc. etc. No clue where I’ll go during my free time, but I’ll go somewhere!
Is Malaysia safe?
Yes, relatively! SafeTravel, a government website in New Zealand lists Malaysia as “some risk” for travelers due to “the threat of terrorism, crime and the potential for civil unrest.” BUT the same level of warning is issued for travelers to the United States. According to NationMaster, the U.S. murder rate is over twice as high as Malaysia’s, so that’s a good sign. However, crime levels are 33% higher in Malaysia than the U.S. (but I believe their laws are more restrictive than ours).
What language do they speak in Malaysia?
Bahasa Malaysia is the official language and is spoken by much of the population as a first language. Many also speak English, due to British colonization during the 18th-20th centuries. Some groups speak Mandarin or Tamil, an Indian dialect. Many also speak various indigenous languages; there are 137 living languages spoken in total. I am SO EXCITED to hear and learn some myself!
What about religion?
61.3% of the population practices Islam; 19.8% Buddhism; 9.2% Christianity; 6.3% Hinduism; and 1.3% traditional Chinese religions. Islam is the official religion, and it is illegal to convert from Islam. However, those who are not Muslim are free to practice religion however they please, though Atheism and Judaism are generally not accepted.
What about FOOD?
Malaysian cuisine is a magical amalgamation of Malay, Indian, Chinese, Indonesian, and Thai food. Lots of rice, noodles, and curries. Unfortunately, maintaining a vegetarian diet might prove difficult–shrimp paste is in many savory dishes, and vegetarianism isn’t very common in areas with a primarily Malay population. I’ll do my best, but I might adopt a more flexible (i.e. pescatarian) diet while I’m there.
That’s enough for now! If you wanna know anything else, feel free to drop me a comment.
Tangled Up in Blue – Bob Dylan
Field of Opportunity – Neil Young
Queen Bee – Taj Mahal