So I (JM) have a new job. While playing with the elephants this weekend, I mentioned to some of the staff members of the Malaysian American Commission on Educational Exchange (the office that manages Fulbrights here) that I’d be happy to help out at their office if they had any use for me. Turns out they were desperate for volunteers to help mentor and advise Malaysian students interested in studying in the US. I guess they weren’t joking, because I got a call at 8:15 this morning and they asked me to be in at 10. I told them I could come in whenever they most needed me, and they asked me to come every day from 10-4. So I have a job. They pay me a "stipend" for lunch money and train fare of approximately $1.50 an hour which is hysterical. I’d do it for free, but this way it will accumulate into grocery money.
I got the grand tour of the office today. It’s a really nice, new place which is literally next door to the Petronas Towers, and it’s easy to get to via the train that runs near our place. They have an enormous library of materials about going to college in the States. I thought I knew just how many books there were ranking schools and giving little descriptions, but I was wrong. They have hundreds and hundreds of these things. I don’t know whether it’s kind of cool or really weird.
There were 8 or 10 students that came by today, so I listened in on the other two advisors to get a feel for how it works. It was really fun, they all have different stories and interests and little problems. I think the hardest thing is going to be getting them to look at other colleges aside from the Ivy Leagues. The was one dude who came in looking for material for his son and would not leave us alone until we helped him pull up the list of Ivies on the computer. Then he said "Where’s MIT?" It was pretty amusing. Did you know that during the Malaysian economic boom of the 1980’s about 20,000 Malaysian students came to the US every year to go to college? I thought that was astonishingly high, especially since this country has only about 22 million people. After the economic crisis in the 90’s and 9/11 the numbers are down to more like 6500. That’s still an awful lot. I’ll have other little interesting tidbits in the coming days as I slog my way through the 2 pound "Training Manual for Educational Advisors".