December 11, 2013

InternShip Overboard?

Monday I had my first job interview in like ever, I guess.. I basically rolled into all my current jobs so no suit and preparation needed for those. This time however, was very different and although I was slightly confident going into the interview I feel horrible afterwards. It is one of those times where you need to really experience something first before you understand what is to be expected.

November 27, 2013

Sharing is Caring is Sharing

On a specific Monday in October 2009 I was about to give a presentation for the EC module together with my group members. That is, until I become a dad just the day before. So I sent out an e-mail to my class members and lecturer that I could not make it to school become my daughter was just born. Obviously being one of the more legit excuses to not be able to make it to class, people understood, except for the part that they had absolutely no idea that I was about to become a dad. I had shared it with none of my classmates, lecturers or school until it was inevitable. Kayumi is now four and I have been thinking about how sharing my situation with my environment has effected my life.

November 23, 2013

Some Reasons to Love USM

After 5 months studying for my exchange at USM (Universiti Sains Malaysia) in Penang. All I can say is, I love this campus. No wonder it’s the number one university in Malaysia, making it harder to get into. I don’t know the tuition for this incredible campus. All I know is, it’s definitely not cheap for the locals.

Here are some of the reasons why I think you should pick USM:
1. It’s totally a great environment to study. I stayed at the hostel Saujana, and the surroundings are quiet. It’s a safe environment too, since there are some security in each USM gate.
2. For sports junkies, USM is like a Disneyland. USM got a lot of sports facilities, such as Tennis courts, Basketball courts, Badminton courts, pool, football courts, hockey courts, volleyball courts, Squash courts, mini outdoor gym, and indoor gym.
Don’t get me started on other kinds of sport that you can do here. Some of them involves fencing, table tennis, dancing, and many more, although not all of them are open for non-member for the campus activities. If you’re an outsider, you can also book some of the courts for really affordable price. An hour in a tennis court only costs 1 RM, while booking the badminton court only cost you 0,5 RM/hour! No reason to not do any sports here
3. It’s a great environment to get healthy. Campus areas are really clean, and the air is fresh, since there are a lot of trees grown in the areas. Even though it’s not a non-smoking environment, you will rarely see some students smoking in hallways or crowded areas. But of course, it’s still not allowed to smoke in indoor areas.
4. It’s easy to get around. You can experience the cuisines around Bukit Gambir (especially Plaza Ivory) or Sungai Dua. The food is really affordable (if you don’t want to call it cheap), and there are a many kinds of food to try too. USM is practically close to some of the places to visit in Penang. You just have to hop on a Rapid Penang to reach your destination.
Girls Hostel

Those are the major reasons to enjoy studying in USM. I won’t say anything about the “study” part, cause I think every campus always strives to produce better students every year anyway. Coursework or exams won’t be a burden if you know how to manage your time. However, USM definitely provides the facilities you need to study or have some fun to relieve your stress from all the coursework.

November 20, 2013

Music my Muse

My colleague was charming enough (truly is) to be invited to a concert tonight by the artist himself (Bonobo) and kind enough to ask me to join her. So we'll be on the guest list for the whole programme including after-party this upcoming evening. I only go to clubs occasionally because I do not enjoy it superbly, however I absolutely do love going to concerts. There is nothing like live music and the vibe is almost always excellent because all visitors share a similar passion for the performer.
Since I still buy almost all of my music on CD and do not currently use any streaming services I am not really up-to-date with this evening's show, so I downloaded some albums before I actually own them and hardly surprising, it is brilliant.

November 11, 2013

Back to School

Last Tuesday my daughter(4) returned home from Jakarta with her mom. Together with a friend I picked up the girls from the airport and upon arrival at home the little one pulled most of her toys out to play, she had not seen them in months but remembered them all the same. After a more than 16 flight and jetlag (+six hours time difference) it did not take long before silence returned once more to the house amidst the chaos of toys and luggage. The following day would be the little one's first day to school.

November 7, 2013

Pleasent People

Last week was my birthday, something I care very little about and so I did not actively celebrate it nor did I add it on my Facebook account although people eventually did found out which is obviously much more fun.

As I was trying to forget about it my mom did of course call me just before it was about that time and a friend posted a picture on Facebook with a sort of explanation in the morning. I started the day by going to school and followed classes as usual. Thereafter is more or less where all the wonderful presents this year came in.

October 31, 2013

Reasonable Reactions?

Internet brings us riches and fortune, mostly in the form of knowledge, or it should at least. Last week I unfortunately spent some time on the internet in specific places that had a negative impact on my view on human-beings and mostly the Dutch society as a whole. For it seems some are not using the internet for interactions or broadening their knowledge but instead try to reinforce their superficial knowledge on topics of which they cannot begin to comprehend the reality.
Somewhere I read that superficial knowledge is more dangerous than ignorance and this become very apparent last week. I will not discuss the topics but instead the reactions to keep it short, hopefully.

October 28, 2013

A friendly voice

It was quite a shock when I opened the letter from Aegon to realize that my car insurance had almost run out. I was already 3 weeks late with payment! Aaargh! Just when I thought I was on top of things. However, seeing as the letter had been sent to my old address, (I left that house back in 2009), it wasn't so strange after all.
So, what did I do, (after making a quick internet payment)? I tried to change my address - online. It always seems like the most logical step is to go online and arrange whatever you need.  I soon realized that it's not logic but rather the human touch that overcomes the technology.

A rose for the kind Aegon rep
I finally spoke to!
"Sign up to MijnAegon" the website clearly invited me. So, I clicked this link and that one and finally got to a longish form where I could put in all my personal data (a little annoying since you'd think they would have my data if I just put in the Policy number?) However, I put the information in - and lo and behold - an error message. Grrrrr.... Now it's true that I did this the first time late at night, on my ipad, in bad light. My eyesight isn't quite as good as it used to be, so perhaps I made a mistake. I tried again. Nope, same error message.

This morning I tried again, in better light, wearing reading glasses, on my computer. Again same #@(& error message. So, I called the helpdesk. The first time a recording asked me to give my name, my address, my postcode, the reason I was calling. Yes, I had to do it twice... And when they finally transferred my call - the phone got disconnected.

Luckily this morning I had PLENTY of patience left, so I called again, spoke very clearly into the darn answering machine and this time, was actually transferred to a real human being.

October 20, 2013

In Time

"It is not a matter of time
it is a matter of effort"
Many, many, many, deadlines ahead. One keeps thinking: "in time, just a couple years longer". Suddenly I realised this is not at all the way things work. As time passes we accomplish things but not because of time itself but because of the effort we put in our accomplishments. Most revelations in my life do not last long so I surely hope this one will, because the reality is that there is very little time left and much effort needed to reach my goals.

October 14, 2013

Week's End.

So what happened? Well, almost 27 hours of work since Friday and the absence of my laptop (among many other things).

October 8, 2013

Leaving China - Journal 15 - Laszlo Schenkhuysen

After being in China for over almost six months now I came to realize it was almost coming to an end. Because I knew it would be a while before I would have to possibility to come back to this amazing country, therefor I chose to spend the last five weeks traveling and exploring China. In these five weeks I have encountered strange, amazing and stunning events. From walking through the numerous crowded cities, driving on a scooter through the authentic landscape, to walking through the mountains for several days when taking a Buddhist route, all left a great impression on me and made the moment of departure even more frightening.

October 4, 2013

The Table Challenge

After my last class yesterday (almost)evening I rushed to buy a table at Ikea. The kind of foldable type that would fit nicely in my cosy(read: tiny) studio located in the historic city centre of Amsterdam.

September 27, 2013

The Point of Viewless

"We have become so used to the constant availability of secondary research
that we no longer desire for primary research,
thus also failing to develop an opinion of our own."

I wrote the above sentence as a conclusion to an interesting conversation I had  about how we are quite unaware of the negative impact technology has on our lives and in particular on education, which was somewhat confirmed by the recent introduction of 'iPad-schools'.
As I grew up the importance of technology and the internet grew along with me. I also think certain things became available at the exact right time. There were limited distractions and as a student a lot of preparation, planning and effort went into studying to make sure we had the right resources and knowledge available at the right time. Because back then, information was not always within reach.

September 19, 2013

Preaching Teaching

Let us me write about something that makes the HVA/HES a great place to study at: its lecturers.
Having been around for a while for reasons I will share in future posts I had my fair share of lecturers at this institution and with the start of the new semester I met some new faces and reconnected with familiar ones. Although it is no secret that teachers are a crucial element to a successful and rewarding learning experience I started thinking about what it is that makes for a good teacher.


June 25, 2013

Exams in USM

Here’s another new experience at USM: examinations! At our home university, usually I just need to enroll, check for the exam dates and venue, attend the exam, write my name, and do the exam. It’s quite the same process at USM, only it’s a bit trickier than that.

First, about the exam schedules. There could be three exam schedules. The first draft usually goes out at 8th week of the lecture. There might be some changes to the draft if, for some reason, a student’s exams are on the same time. The second timetable usually the timetable they use for the exams, and it goes out at 12th week of the lecture. If there’s any other changes whatsoever, the third timetable goes out, but it rarely happens I guess.
Second, the examination slips. Before entering the venue, the students have to print their exam slip. It’s available online, so they can just print it by themselves. The exam slip is the identity card, and with no exam slips, they have to convince the invigilators of their identity. Bringing other ID cards such as the student card or your passport (for the international students) is a way to convince them that you belong to that exam.
This exam slip is tricky, but it’s necessary to prevent any kinds of cheating, such as sitting in your friend’s exam. There’s a photo of the student in the exam slip, so they can just cross-check it.
Third, attending the exam. USM got this system where they only do two exams in a day but it’s spread throughout the campus. The first exam’s in the morning (at 9 AM) and the afternoon exam is at 2 PM. That’s why the exam took longer, about three weeks. If you’re unlucky – like me – your first exam might be in the beginning, and ends on the last day of the exam. *sigh*
Fourth, writing the names. In USM, students are not required to write their names. Instead, they write their index number in words and figures (for example, One Zero Zero Zero One [10001]) on the attendance sheet and the cover of the answer booklet. This index number can be found outside the exam halls or on the exam slip.

Finally, doing the exam. I’m not sure why students need an answer booklet to answer the questions. Most of the lecturer asked for straightforward answers, yet there are about 10 pages of paper in the answer booklet. What about the excess papers? I’m still wondering.

About the difficulty of the exam, I think it’s quite relative. Lucky me, I guess, I’m used to getting harder questions from my home university. This definitely showed in my results as well if you know what I mean.

June 7, 2013

On Exchange in China: Waterparks have RULES!

 By Laszlo Schenkhuysen

This week the average temperature was 35 degrees. Since my roommates and I have finished several courses already we decided to go to the Chimelong water park. Chimelong water park was an amazing park filled with several crazy water slides. The feeling of being able to get into the water while it is that warm outside was amazing. I can't describe how happy I was to be able to do that since it has been almost eight months for me already since the last time I have touched the water. Because the Chinese do not like to be in the sun, and even cary umbrella's with them incase the sun starts to shine, there are almost no pools or beaches you can go to. The day we went to the park was the best day we all had in a long time. It has been so warm during our stay and sometimes even that warm that you cannot move around without getting soaking wet. The park was our holiday in China and we had a great time.

The curious thing about that day was that we got introduced with two aspects of the Chinese culture. The first thing we noticed was that even when it comes to pools the Chinese really emphasise on rules and guidelines. When we got in we noticed that the largest pool which had a stage in the middle was surrounded by approximately 45 lifeguards, all heavily equipped with a whistle. We started to swim and just do what you normally do in a pool but nothing was allowed. When we got on each others neck all life guards started to whistle that we had to get of off each other. When we went under water you could even hear the whistle underneath because 10 of them started to blow. Swimming under water was apparently not allowed. Splashing some water in each other faces was not allowed as well. The only thing we could do in this large pool was standing and listening to the music, because that is what you normally do in a pool right?

The other aspect of the Chinese culture came to play when we splashed water in each others face. What happened here introduced us to the fact that China really is a collectivist society. Since we were the only foreign people in the park a lot of people already looked at us. Some Chinese that were swimming nearby saw that we splashed water in each others faces but did not really understand the point. I noticed that some started to do it a little to each other but stopped after one time to see how the other reacted. When they saw me looking one of them threw a little water towards me and I had to laugh, because you could see that they did not know if I would like it or not. I splashed some back and three of his friends came to join him and started to splash water against me as well. My roommates joined and we stopped after about five minutes. We stopped because the lifeguards started to blow their whistle again, but when we looked around us we noticed that no one was swimming near us anymore. I am not lying or exaggerating but within a area of 4 meters we were circled in by 40 to 50 Chinese all facing us. I could not hold myself so I splashed some water in one of their faces and the Chinese on their turn started to scream and throw water on all five of us at the same time. You could not even hear the whistles anymore as well as that I was not able to see because of all that water flying around. All Chinese teamed up to battle the foreign people and it was the strangest but funniest thing I have experienced during my stay in China.

The fact that the Chinese put a lot of emphasis on rules became clear to us as well when they finally opened our apartment complex private pool. The pool is so convenient and nice after a warm day to cool of and relax, however our pool is bound to some rules and regulations that I have never seen before. There is a time schedule for the people in which they are allowed to go into the pool. In the morning from 09:00 to 11:30, from noon 14:30 to 17:00 and in the evening from 19:00 to 21:30. The period from 11:30 to 14:30 is the hottest time of the day in China and exactly that time we are not allowed to get in. Besides the time schedule we have to pay three euro for one round which is equal to 2,5 to 3 hours. This was a bit disappointing but I am still very happy to have a pool nearby to cool off.

May 14, 2013

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

After I arrived I had the weekend to settle down before the introduction and the classes started. My jetlag took a long time to be over, partly, maybe not partly but mostly my own fault, because I spend my nights chatting with my fiancé. With the 7 hours time difference it is not easy to talk without keeping one or the other out of their sleep. This resulted in me being awake until about 3-4 in the morning, waking up at 6.30 for morning prayer. Sleep again until I had to get ready for class. After class take a nap and then go out for dinner with friends, to finally end up in the dorm chatting again till early in the morning. By keeping daily contact we managed to “survive” 5 months without each other. After some weeks he booked his flight to Malaysia, so the prospects of us spending 2 months of holiday together in Malaysia was something to look forward to and made the time we had to miss each other easier to handle. That way I wasn’t held back by feeling miserable and I could do what I wanted to do during my exchange and still had the feeling that I had my loved one to share with. Absence makes the heart grow fonder they say. Our bond was growing stronger even though we had to cope with the long distance, we decided to plan our wedding in the summer, at my fathers house at Tioman Island. (yes, Google it).

Well, I guess I underestimated planning a wedding in a foreign country. 500 km from the actual wedding location, and on my own. But fortunately I had some great friends who helped me out. Hani and Ireena from my Islamic thinking class helped me with creating the invitations, buying fabrics for my wedding dress, bringing me to a tailor who could make the dress I designed. But most important they supported me mentally when I got stressed.

This is one side of our wedding invitation.

I sent invitations to our family in the Netherlands, knowing most of them would not be able to make it made me quite sad. Especially because my brother, his pregnant girlfriend and my sister-in-law-to-be with her family would not be able to be there.
Thankfully my Mother, the 3 younger brothers of my fiancé, his mother and one of my best friends have booked tickets to come over to be there. The date was set on 07-07-2012. I had less then 4 months to arrange everything.

But in the end.. nothing goes as planned.. to be continued…

May 4, 2013

Update 7 months after graduation

Hello everyone!

It is been a while since my last post cause I have been busy as hell, which is a good thing for Graduates.
Short summary:
I was applying for jobs before my graduation and kept receiving rejections everytime. And when graduation came, I was really depressed! I felt so useless and embarassed  for not having a job.
Then I realize that I was the only one that is desperately seeking for a job whilst my fellow graduates were taking a trip or a break.
I guess I had put up a pressure (study-graduate-immediate job) on myself which only worked negatively on me. After graduation I was depressed and then I also started to apply for jobs which were below my educational level. Then a week before my borthday I got accepted at Esprit, a clothing store.
I was happy and not happy at all as you can imagine the reasons why that is. But then I put on my optimistic shoes and said to myself: "An-Nur in this difficult financial period grab anytime you can and hold on to it untill you find something better. At least you now have an income to pay your monthly fixed costs."
So whilst doing a part-time job and studying for a customs course at Schiphol, I graduated for my customs course on February 2013 and got a job at DHL as Operative Support Officer dealing with (inter)national customs transport.

I think if I did not took an specialized course after graduation, I probs would be unemployed till today. The urge to continue is a wonderfull skill I have developed over the past years. This urge to continue keeps me motivated and pulls me back up when I am feeling down or when I hit a bump in the road and need to pull myself back up.
I also have to thank my parents for bringing me up this way.
My friends, however, slightly disagree seeing me taking such a decision. They say I deserve a break after 4 years of hard-work. This kind of bothered me for a while and I doubt whether I am making th eright decision.
My parents luckily are open-minded, so I talked with them and they calmly reminded me why making this decision isn't that bad. Both of them grew up in poverty and they never knew what the word luxury meant. My dad luckily managed to have part-time jobs and save up money to go to school and so did my mom. Dad became a teacher, mom a nurse. After we got born, mom quit working to take care of us, dad was pressured as he was the only financial source. Here it was when he realized that his children would be in the same poverty cycle and decided that we should move to a place with better opportunities. For the sake of our future, dad took a huge risk to move to NL. Thank god, everything went smoothly. It was difficult in the beginning for us children to adapt to NL. But because I have such loving, positive and hard-working parents, we got all the help, love and guidance a child could ever wished for and I thank god everyday for that!

But enough of my childhood, now I am having a fulltime job (almost working 2 months there now), working crazy shifts. You can say things are finally starting to pay off =D (hard work that is!)
I am also the only female employee in my department. So I am having all the attention hahaha =D
If you want to know more about my job or what it is related to TMA, let me know, this might be my next post.

Till then (^_^)

April 23, 2013


In USM I had to follow 5 courses to achieve my 30 ECTS. I chose the following subjects: Malaysian economy; Malaysian studies; Islamic thinking and social changes; Gender, ideology and power; and Bahasa Malaysia (which is the Malay language). As you may conclude out of this sum up, my exchange was focused on Malaysian culture.3 of the 5 courses I took were given in the Malay language. As a result I expanded my Malay vocabulary  rapidly and I also had the opportunity to mingle more with the natives then other exchange students. Because of the fact I could choose the courses myself from so many interesting courses available. It was a joy to go to school everyday, most regular classes were quite big with about 40-70 students. The language classes were max 20 this was better to gain the actual experience practicing dialogues. Below I will give a brief explanation about my experiences with the courses.

Malaysian economy is obviously about the economy in Malaysia. This was the only subject which I needed to buy a book for. In all other classes, the teachers provide you with copies of books, and hand outs. The course consisted out of lectures, bi-weekly student group presentations which had to be in depth about a subject from the previous lecture, individual/group assignment, this assignment I choose the subject Islamic banking,  and final exam which consisted out of multiple choice and open questions. And ironically, being an business student, economics was the course I got the lowest grade for during the minor.

Malaysian studies was about, politics, culture, criminology, social systems, and a part economy as well. This class was quite interesting and many exchange students followed this course. It was interesting to me to learn about different aspects of Malaysia, the course consisted of continuous assessment which was measured by attendance and voluntary assignments, next to that there was 1 multiple choice mid-term exam, an individual assignment and a final exam which consisted out of multiple choice and open questions.

For the Islamic thinking and social changes class I had 3 different lecturers during the semester. In this class there were only 3 girls me included. So during that class we always sat in the lecturers office and we got drinks and food during class. With only the 3  of us we had a lot of time for discussions, personal stories and opinions, this often got Very personal which sometimes even ended up in us passing the tissues around to wipe our tears of compassion. During this class everyone had to prepare a presentation and a report for every lecturer, and the final exam consisted of open questions only. Because this was a philosophy class, the answer were never really wrong as long as you can justify your answer. In this period the three of us got very close and I still have contact with those girls every week now.

Gender, ideology and power was about the behavior patterns, division, differences and similarities between men and women in society and on the work floor. This course consisted of continuous assessment measured by attendance and class participation, weekly student presentations, individual or group assignment, and a final exam which consisted of multiple choice and open questions.

Bahasa Malaysia was the course of Malay language, the grade was an average of oral examination, oral presentation, listening test, and 2 writing tests. For me this quite easy because I already had some basic knowledge but it was nice to learn some business language.

In the end these were my grades: for 3 subjects I got a 10, an other 9 and for economy Malaysia a 7. Not bad right? When you have the chance to choose your courses during your minor choose them in the field of your interest, so you enjoy going to class and actually study, which in the end will result in some nice grades! 

USM Bus Route

For those who have been to USM (Universiti Sains Malaysia) or will go to USM as en exchange student soon, knowing about the bus route inside USM is necessary. This might be an unimportant post for most of you. I mean, who would post about bus routes? Especially, bus that only covers specific areas?
But this was quite important for me, because as an exchange student, bus is a necessary vehicle (besides walking on foot) to go around USM. So, without further ado, here are the bus routes:
This picture shows how big USM campus is, I got lost more then once.

PALAPES – Indah Kembara (hostel) – bus stop in front of Jabatan Keselamatan (Security Department) – DK S,T,U,V,W – Bakti Permai (hostel) – USM Hospital – SK I,II,III,IV/DK A,B,C – School of Languages, Literacy & Translation (SoLLat) – School of House Building & Planning (HBP) – School of Management (SOM) – Eureka – Fajar Harapan (hostel) – Indah Kembara- PALAPES
PALAPES – Indah Kembara (hostel) – bus stop in front of Jabatan Keselamatan (Security Department) – DK S,T,U,V,W – Bakti Permai (hostel) – USM Hospital – SK I,II,III,IV/DK A,B,C – Dewan Budaya/School of Arts – Eureka – Fajar Harapan (hostel) – Aman Damai I (hostel) – Aman Damai II (hostel) – Indah Kembara – PALAPES
PALAPES – bus stop in front of Jabatatan Keselamatan (Security Department) – DK S,T,U,V,W – Aman Damai I (hostel) – Aman Damai II (hostel) – Indah Kembara – PALAPES
Aman Damai II (hostel) – DK S,T,U,V,W – Bakti Permai (hostel)- USM Hospital- SK I,II,III,IV/DK A,B,C – School of Languages, Literacy & Translation (SoLLat) – School of House Building & Planning (HBP) – School of Management – Eureka – Fajar Harapan (hostel) – Aman Damai I (hostel) – Aman Damai II (hostel)
Note: the color of the bus is the color of the card in front of the bus, NOT the color of the whole bus.
Also, if you’re staying or will stay at either Desasiswa Restu, Saujana, or Tekun, there’s also a bus that goes around this mini hill so that you don’t have to walk up the hill on active school days. The route started at a bus stop after you cross the bridge from PALAPES to RST. The route goes like this:
Bus Stop (USM RST) – Tekun – Saujana – Restu – Bus Stop (USM RST)
There are only one kind of bus that goes through this route, so they’re all the same.

Because the earliest class starts at 8 in the morning, the bus should be available around 7.30. If there are no busses, then you should definitely enjoy the morning and walk to your class instead. Which is definitely enjoyable as u can see the sun rising above the trees and the buildings. I used to walk when I had early morning class as it wasn’t that hot yet. If you would walk at a later point of the day, you are at risk to arrive in you class room soaked in sweat. As for the last bus, it’s around 10 PM, so you should finish your errands before that, or take a student cab which are available on call and are very affordable.
Happy learning at USM!

April 16, 2013

HvA Student Laszlo on Exchange: Guangzhou and the Chinese Feather Ball

Week 5 in Guangzhou, China

by Laszlo Schenkhuysen

Guangzhou becomes home:

This week my roommates and I decided to stay at home. Last week we traveled a lot. That week consumed a lot of energy and made me wish for my bed a lot. It was that week in which I experienced for the first time that I missed Guangzhou and I missed my bed, it finally felt like I missed home. It was the first indication for me that our house in Guangzhou started to feel like coming home and that my bed actually was my bed instead of just a bed to sleep in. Because of that I have been spending a lot of time at home as well as enjoying the Guangzhou kitchen in the city as well. Since Guangzhou has the most restaurants in China we were very spoiled and picky about our food. It was amazing going back to the restaurants we were used to.

Since we have arrived in Guangzhou we had some nice weather. An average temperature of 24 degrees, a cool breeze from time to time but lately the rain season has started and we have experienced a lot of rain. This weekend however we had a clear blue sky with 27 degrees temperatures and decided to sit at the river with some drinks, music and a Chinese feather ball. 

Chinese feather ball:

The purpose of this game is to form a group and kick the ball into the air as many times as 

April 3, 2013

Journey to Penang

Before I went on exchange to Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang Malaysia, I had to a lot of preparations to do. The university application required a health declaration which included an X-ray, and blood test for a list of diseases like STD’s and other then that also drug use. I still don’t exactly understand why they needed all those results, even my doctor laughed about the list she checked and signed for me.

Next to the officially required preparations I had to prepare mentally as well. I decided to go to Malaysia because I wanted to learn more about my roots and to find more peace of mind while discovering about my culture and my religion, Islam. I saw this exchange as an opportunity to develop myself. I was always eager to learn more about the theological views on life and now I had to chance to mingle with people who could actually teach me more about it. I decided I wanted to start wearing the headscarf (hijab) when I went to Malaysia. So during my transfer in Dubai I went to the ladies room and took the scarf from around my neck and put it over my head to cover my hair. For me the time felt right and it was a safe place for me to experience this for the first time without judgmental opinions from 3rd parties. This was the first step to my internal and external changes I experienced during my exchange.

I arrived at Penang at 7 PM local time, which differs about 6 hour from where I came from. But the temperature difference was about 40 degrees, from the freezing -10 to 30degrees Celsius in the evening! It’s still very clear outside, didn’t really look like it’s evening already. But in less than an hour, it’s already dark. The weather is quite warm in the evening, but it’s quite windy, so it’s quite cool, but not so much that it gets cold.
Two USM International Buddies, Tiqah and Chen, picked me up that day. Besidesme, they also picked up some other exchange students from Finland, Mexico, Indonesia, Canada, and Korea. Most of the exchange students that I met that day stayed at Sunnyville and E-Park (the apartments within walking distance of USM). But thankfully, the Indonesian and Korean student, whom I knew as Oki and Bada, stayed at USM dorm.

Each dorm room was built for two students, so there were two beds, two desks, and two closets to keep our clothes. The rooms had no air conditioning, but the windy Penang and the electric fan on each room keep it cool and comfortable to sleep in. Every four rooms had two showers and two toilets, so we don’t have to wait too long if we want to take a bath or go to the toilet. In each dorm, they also provide Laundry Room and Ironing Room where we can wash and iron our clothes in. With these kinds of facilities at the dorm, I can see why there are many exchange students each year at USM: because it’s neat and easy to adapt in. Well, for a half- Malay student like me, it doesn’t take a long time to adapt at Penang, because it’s not that different to when I have lived in Malaysia before.

March 28, 2013

Who’s Afraid (to be) the Big Bad Wolf?

Leadership is something we strive to teach our students here at the International Business School. We do it by throwing them to the wolves in the first year, and letting them start up their own businesses. We insist that they take initiative in their studies and in projects, and as teachers try our best to be facilitators of education rather than imparters of information.

Some people are natural leaders, but many are not. Some people think that a leader must be an extravert, but nowadays more and more studies show how remarkable the introverts are, and how we loud(er)-mouthed people should listen more and speak less…

While leadership may not come naturally to all, it is certainly, like with many skills, something one can learn. And while learning to do this, just like when we were babies learning how to walk, we often will find ourselves crashing to our behinds, humiliated by our failures. The secret to success of course, is not to be put off by our failures, but to get up, and try to walk again!

The annoying this about human nature is this: (well there are many annoying things, it’s true, and this is just one of them!) The older we get, the more scared we become to fail! And worse than that is this: We are often even more scared of success!

Marianne Williamson[1] puts it very well:
“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?...”

Why are we so afraid to succeed, to lead, to let our light shine? Perhaps it stems from our upbringing, from our parents’ voices telling us not to be too proud, or from classmates telling us not to show off.  Some people are afraid that they will end up evil if they wield the power they have been given. "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."[2]

Are you afraid to lead? Do you dare to take chances; do you dare to ‘not be liked’? For many of us, it’s much easier to remain a sheep, to follow rather than take the lead. There seems to be less danger there. But even sheep need a shepherd. A shepherd to keep the herd safe from the wolf – leaders don’t have to be big bad wolves themselves! 

So, dare to speak up, and who knows where you might end up! 
Maybe somewhere you dreamed of?

[1] by Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles  [2] John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902)

February 12, 2013

Self compassion= good grades!

This morning. still lying lazily in bed, considering how cold the day would be, I stumbled across a  TEDxTalk by Dr. Kristen Neff on Self Compassion vs Self Esteem. Being a big proponent on both, my curiosity was tickled.
Turns out that Self Esteem is not quite as attractive as it would like to be - since it depends a lot on the idea of comparison - how good am I, (compared to the others)? Am I the best? How can I be the best, if everyone else is too? And what happens to Self Esteem when I fail to succeed? Nose dive into the shallow end of the swimming pool...

On the other hand, Self Compassion "has all the benefits of Self Esteem (good mental health, high motivation level, self confidence) without the pitfalls!"

So, for all the students (of life too), how do we get some of this good stuff that will keep us highly motivated?

There are 3 elements needed to boost your own self compassion:

1. Be kind to yourself (as you would comfort a small child or your best friend)
2. Common humanity (you are not alone in your troubles - no one is perfect. Life is far from perfect)
3. Mindfulness (be aware of how you are feeling at any given moment - including the uncomfortable feelings, as when we are connected to how we feel, we can cope with whatever we are feeling much better than if we deny or bury our feelings).

To hear Dr. Neff's talk, or find out more, you can go to:

May we all have a self compassionate day!