I (jm) had a consultation with a guy today while he was waiting for a document to be certified, and it started out just like normal. He wasn’t Malaysian, that was clear, and his English was better than mine, but I figured he was just some regular international student. He was asking me why the Malaysian Ministry of Education would not certify his degree from Excelsior College, which he did here in Malaysia through a local college. He needs to get it certified to send off to a potential employer in Dubai. So the Ministry sent him over here, I’m not exactly sure why, and I had to tell him that we don’t know anything about this particular program he did.
Then he lets it slip that he’s from Iraq. He said he literally “fled Saddam” and came here, by himself, 11 years ago when he was 15. He’s been living on his own here ever since, and did high school, college, and now a business degree in Malaysia. I asked where his family was, so he told me his parents are in Jordan, one brother is in Canada, and another brother and sister are in two other countries, I forget now which ones. He said that if I asked about his extended family, though, that he pretty much knows people everywhere in the world. When I told him that it was pretty amazing that he came here alone so young, he told me that he was kind of tired of hearing that from people, and that he didn’t have much of a choice; he had to get out because things were so bad there. I told him that I had met several Middle Easterners here, but no other Iraqis, and he said that most of the Iraqis living here are working class. Anyway, it was interesting, although I have to admit I was a little bit uncomfortable (like, does he hate the US, or should I be apologizing or something?).
This was right after I met a woman from Burma who has been living and working here with her family for 12 years. She’s trying to send her son to, you guessed it, Harvard. But he actually has had an American style education so far and got great SATs- 800 on math, 800 on the new writing, but not so good on the reading section. So she was really nice and was going to be my interesting person of the day, until I met the other guy.
I’m also getting all sorts of weird calls lately that I’m not really qualified to handle because all of the advising staff is now in America and I am on my own. There was a call today from a banking law professor at University of Malaya who is trying to prepare a paper on ways UM can attract more international students. So I have no idea, but I gave her a few sentences with the right buzzwords and she seemed happy. I think “get your faculty members to publish more in international journals and become more involved in the international academic community” went over pretty well. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that UM needs to stop losing all its best professors to other countries because they speak out honestly about the government here. That would probably be a good place for UM to start.