KUANTAN: Being the only foreigner among 605 new students at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) Kuantan campus has been an eye opening experience for Aminah Koutoub from Guinea.
Aminah, however, is no stranger to Malaysia as she has lived here since 1993, when her family moved here as her father was then doing his PhD in IIUM, Gombak.
Her father, Datuk Prof Dr Koutoub Sano Mustapha, was later made an associate professor and was eventually promoted to deputy rector.
He is now the Minister of Religious Affairs in Guinea.
Despite having lived in Malaysia for many years, Aminah said her experience in Kuantan was totally different.
Having attended school at various international schools in Kuala Lumpur among a group of multi racial student, the campus scene in Kuantan was a stark difference.
“This is my first time in Kuantan and it has been quite a culture shock for me as the rest of the new students are Malays.
“However, it is a good experience and it reminds me that home will not always be near you.
“You have to stand on your own when the time comes,’’ Aminah said when met after the oath swearing ceremony here recently.
IIUM rector Prof Datuk Seri Dr Syed Arabi Idid and IIUM Kuantan campus director Prof Datuk Dr Kamaruzaman Wan Su also at the ceremony.
Aminah was pleasantly surprised with the reaction from her new found friends because she was a foreigner.
“They tried their best to speak English with me.
“There is even one of them who said that I am her first foreign friend,’’ she chuckled.
She said although English was the medium used at IIUM in teaching and communicating, the spoken language was still Malay and Aminah admitted her Malay was not good.
“I do have Malay friends but they mainly speak in English.
“However, I feel very blessed to experience this warm welcome in Kuantan,’’ she said.
On choosing IIUM to do medicine, Aminah said the university emphasised excellence on both academics and religious studies.
The second child of eight siblings plans to specialise as a paediatrician.
Aminah said the orientation week was tiring but it prepared her for life as a university student.
Syed Arabi said IIUM received 52,000 applications and only 3,600 were accepted, showing that those who made it were a lucky lot.
He said they were among the best brains in the country and their behaviour and academic performance should reflect that of articulate manners.
The 605 new students are taking courses in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, science, allied health science and nursing.