IT WAS love at first sight for Ihediwa Samuel Chibundu the moment he landed in Malaysia.
“The moment I walked out of the airport, I knew the country was going to be special for me and I was not wrong,” said Sam.
“From the food to the rich culture, I love it all!” exclaimed the smartly dressed lecturer, who prior to his adventurous trip to Kuala Lumpur had never travelled out of his country.
Born and bred in Imo State, the southeastern part of Nigeria, Chibundu completed his primary and secondary education there, before pursuing his diploma in Public Administration at a local university in Enugu, Nigeria.
“In 2002, after completing my higher national diploma in Mass Communication, which is equivalent to a degree here, I decided it was time I realised my dream of studying abroad.
“I then started doing online research about different countries, to see which suited me best not only in terms of environment but also financially.
“I finally chose Malaysia because it had all the criteria I was looking for,” he explained.
After receiving his acceptance letter to pursue a master’s degree at Universiti Malaya (UM), Chibundu still remembers how nervous he was at the thought of leaving his comfort zone for the first time.
“I can now confidently say it was one of the best decisions I made.
“The quality of education is top notch and the lecturers at UM were not only knowledgeable but also friendly and approachable. It made studying enjoyable,” said Chibundu, who will turn 40 this month.
“When people ask me if I have any regrets choosing Malaysia to pursue my higher studies, I simply tell them it is now my second home. I think that explains everything,” said Chibundu.
He has lived in Malaysia for nine years now and is lecturing at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar).
He admitted, however, that it was a little challenging for him at the beginning, especially not being able to converse with the locals.
“The first few weeks in Malaysia were a totally new learning experience, almost a culture shock,’’ he said with a laugh.
“I only know that Islam is the official religion here. I didn’t know I could find Indians and Chinese as well.
“I learnt a lot at UM when I took up a subject called Malaysian Studies.
“I attended the Bahasa Malaysia classes and surprisingly not only did I enjoy myself but I also picked up the language quite fast because it was similar to my mother tongue, Ibo. Now I can easily order food at my favourite mamak joints!” he said.
“It took me nearly a month to actually try some of the local dishes. I was afraid to order as I did not know what to expect, but now I can’t resist the roti telur bawang.”
The former journalist, who loves nasi lemak and nasi goreng ayam, said he would be pursuing his Ph.D here.
“What is there not to love about Malaysia?
“ The people here are so friendly, there is a wide variety of delicious local food and the colourful festivals I have witnessed over the years are simply awesome.”
“I still remember that the first festival I witnessed was Wesak Day.
“The procession of colourful floats and large crowds was exciting. We don’t get to see such celebrations back in Nigeria.
“Even the weather is lovely. I find myself discovering more unique things every day and that makes my stay here even more interesting,” he said.
Upon completing his Master’s degree programme, Chibundu decided to stay on and work in Malaysia. When Utar offered him a post as a lecturer, he did not think twice.
“I immediately took up the offer because I felt teaching was my calling. It has been a great experience so far because my colleagues and students don’t see me as a foreigner,” said the lecturer who teaches Journalism at the Kampar campus.
“The first thing I tell my students every semester is I can’t speak like a local but I will make sure they understand what I teach,” he said, adding that he was not a strict lecturer and preferred using a friendly approach.
“I tell my students about my country and every time I get the chance to travel back to Nigeria, I make sure I take plenty of pictures of Malaysia to show my friends and family back home,” said Chibundu.
“I sometimes cook Nigerian dishes and invite friends and students over to sample them. I think it is a great way for us to learn about our respective cultures,” he said.
“The celebrations here are livelier and bigger compared to Nigeria.”
Chibundu has no plans to leave Malaysia yet.
“Who knows, I might meet my life partner here!” said the bachelor with a laugh.