Feeling at home in Sarawak

God’swill Ejeohiolei Esechie

KUCHING: A foreign student here misses his family in Lagos, Nigeria very much but is thankful that Sarawak and its people make him feel at home.

God’swill Ejeohiolei Esechie, 34, who is currently taking his PhD in Media and Anthropology at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), said Sarawakians are friendly and jovial.

He first arrived here in 2008 to pursue his Diploma in Communication at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology Sarawak branch. A friend of his, who was studying in a private university in Kuala Lumpur, recommended Kuching to him.

After graduating, God’swill went on to pursue both his Bachelor of Science and Masters in Communication in Unimas.

“I love Kuching. It is a nice place to be in,” he told New Sarawak Tribune in an interview.

God’swill, who has worked part-time with Hitz FM Sarawak, said he was only in his early 20s when he first arrived in Kuching.

Now, he said he had adapted to the lifestyle here.

“I have to admit that life here is a bit slow but in a positive way. People here seem to be more reserved — they mind their own business to some extent. Lagos, where I grew up, is a very busy place just like Kuala Lumpur. Everybody seems to be in a hurry.   

God’swill recalled his first challenge as a foreign student was communicating with the locals, especially when buying food.

He said since some of the people were unable to speak English, he had to buy a Bahasa Malaysia (BM) dictionary and learn a new language.

“Also, I was not used to the smell of the food here. Over here, you use a lot of garlic, soya sauce, ginger and some other spices. In Nigeria, we use more onions and less garlic.

“But now I like it. I even cook with these spices now. And my favourite dishes now are char kueh teow, laksa, ayam penyet, nasi kukus, nasi kerabu, and drinks such as iced lemon tea and Teh C Peng Special,” he said with a laugh.

The personal questions that the locals liked to ask him were cultural shocks for God’swill initially.

“They asked me how much I spent in a day, where I stayed and whether I shared the gas bill with my housemate. These questions were so personal.

“But after some time, I found out that they were just concerned. Now, I also ask personal questions like these,” he said.

God’swill added that unlike Nigerians, Sarawakians would not tell him directly if he did something wrong. This was another cultural shock to him. 

He said Sarawak and Malaysia are nice and safe places to live in probably after one’s retirement.

“Sarawak is the best place to study. The tuition fees are affordable compared to studying in America.

“If anyone wants to come here for the purpose of studying, why not? But, to come here in search of high paying jobs and get very rich, I think that may not be possible yet,” he said.

After completing his PhD, God’swill said he might stay on if he could find a job in Kuching. If not, he would go back to Lagos.

In the meantime, he makes sure he calls his parents every day to check on them.  

“Fortunately, although I cannot go back at the moment, I can still video call them using social media platforms,” said God’s will.