Exchange Stories – Suvi Ellilä in Malaysia

Suvi Ellilä was an International Business and Logistics student in Metropolia Business School. She did her 5 months’ exchange in Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, situated in Kuala Lumpur. We interviewed her about her exchange experiences and here is what she told us:

Moi Suvi! Could you briefly introduce yourself and tell us why you decided to be a foreign exchange student?

“I am a final year IBL student who is constantly trying to look for new adventures and experiences. My motto is to find positive aspects in any occasion. Even the biggest challenges can be dealt with more easily with a spark of humor.

When I considered different options for my degree there were two things I prioritized very strongly: improving my language skills (especially English) and internationality. It became very clear that working in the future would involve an international aspect to some level- either working among foreign affairs, going to work abroad or interact with different cultures. Metropolia’s International Business and Logistics was a perfect study program to match these requirements.

When the opportunity was provided to apply for exchange studies I was in immediately! I was even more intrigued when our International Coordinator offered me a chance to go to a new partner school as the first exchange student from Finland, no need to think about jumping into this adventure twice. In fact, I spent the whole semester as their only exchange student and only Western person in Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. The other students were local (Malays) or from Middle East, Africa and other parts of Asia.”

After spending a semester there, what would you say makes Malaysia unique?

“Malaysia is a unique and beautiful country. Kuala Lumpur is full of modern architecture and wonderful parks. Taman Negara is one of the oldest rainforests in the whole world, and the paradise islands are believed to be among the most beautiful ones in the world.

8. Beach

Malaysia is also a relatively easy place to live in from a Western perspective. Almost everyone speaks English (Or Manglish as it called there) to some level, and Kuala Lumpur is a wonderful city. The place is a melting pot for many different cultures and religions. Malays, Chinese and Indians are the biggest populations and, on top of that, there are numerous ex pats and students/interns. This is an Islamic country, but other religions manage to coexist harmoniously (Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and others). However, one should pay attention to the customs (most of local Malay females cover their hair and wear loose gowns).

One of the greatest experiences of spending my time in Malaysia was the ease of exploring many wonderful places. Malaysia is a beautiful country and it has a very interesting history so traveling around Malaysia was extremely rewarding. In contrast to living in Kuala Lumpur, I was able to discover the wonderful Paradise islands with white beaches and clear waters (such as Perhentian and Tioman, Langkawi), to go to the Cameron highlands and explore clean and fresh nature with jungle and tea plantations, as well as and to discover cities such as Malacca with a strong influence of the Dutch colonial era. In addition to this, traveling to neighboring countries is quite cheap and easy; I was able to go to Singapore to admire the wonderful architecture and to spend a few weeks in Indonesia, Bali, Lombok, Gili’s, and Sumatra.”

8. Sunglasses

How different is Universiti Teknologi Malaysia from Metropolia and the Malaysian education system from the Finnish one?

“I conducted my studies in UTM, which is a public technical university. The biggest difference is definitely the fact that there is much more bureaucracy there, documents usually require signatures from many different parties. I ended up collecting them by running back and forward between different departments. The best way of getting things done is going to talk to people face to face, since getting responds via e-mail might take a long time or they might be forgotten.

UTM is influenced by Harvard University and the International Business School (IBS) applies many case studies and study methods used by Harvard. Many of these methods were interesting and good, but in general Metropolia’s methods are more efficient and demanding. The International Business School there acknowledges that many European countries have more advanced education levels compared to them and, because of this, they aim to target their study places to students from developing countries such as from Africa, in order to educate them and improve their knowledge.”

Lastly, would you recommend foreign exchange to Malaysia to someone else?

“I would absolutely recommend Malaysia to anyone interested living in a big metropolitan city, with a busy international atmosphere, keen on travelling easy and cheap around Malaysia and South-East Asia. If you have a patient and curious nature to explore new adventures, Kuala Lumpur is an excellent place for your exchange period.”

8. Shore

Olivia Nastase (with Suvi Ellilä), Photos by Suvi Ellilä