fbpx

20 May 2022

International Students Share Their Experiences in Kuching: Part 2

By Aazean Aida Mujahid

Imagine moving to Malaysia as an international student, how would you experience the country? We invited some of our international students at Swinburne Sarawak to share their stories and personal experiences of their time in Kuching.

 

VANIA LIM

From Pontianak, Indonesia. Bachelor of Business (Accounting and Finance).


  1. What’s your favourite Kuching/Malaysian food?

I would say the best food I’ve eaten in Kuching is Kampua Mee. Kampua Mee looks quite similar to Kolo Mee but there are specific flavours that I adore which differentiate Kampua Mee from Kolo Mee. The noodles are tossed in soy sauce and shallot oil, which give it a slightly saltier flavour. Plus, it’s drier and amplified with a sweet chili sauce, balancing both the sweetness and saltiness! *chef’s kiss*


Kampua Mee is a traditional hawker stall dish with Foochow origins.

  1. First Malay word/phrase you learnt?

Malay words are pretty similar to Indo, so I can understand them quite well. If I recall, the first Malay word I learnt was ‘Jom’ (Let’s go). The word itself is the coolest catch-all phrase in Malaysia! It can be paired with other terms such as “Jom makan” (“Let’s eat”) or “Jom pergi pantai” (“Let’s go to the beach”).

  1. How similar or different is Kuching from your hometown?

My hometown (Pontianak) is located near to Kuching and that’s why some people aren’t able to distinguish the difference between my hometown and Kuching. In fact, we have food here which look similar to Kuching but are very different in taste and flavour, mainly because most food here is spicier and richer in traditional Indonesian spices compared to Kuching’s.

There’s also a difference in terms of the language. Most of us predominantly use Bahasa Indonesia to communicate, as compared to Kuching where English is more widely-spoken.

  1. If you could bring one item from your country to introduce to friends in Kuching, what would it be?

I would definitely introduce Indonesian folktales to my local friends in Kuching because it enables me to inform them about Indonesian culture, people, religions, and places altogether in a simple manner. Each folktale consists a pearl of the story that provides us with moral guidance and meanings that we can relate to throughout our lives.

  1. What’s your recommended ‘must-do’ while in Kuching?

Apart from indulging in Kuching’s unique food, I would recommend hiking at Bako National Park! There are 16 hikes in the park with different distances and trails which are well marked. If you want to do the most beautiful hike with Instagrammable views in Bako Park, you should go for the Telok Pandan Kecil trail, which was the one I visited. The 2.6km hiking trail is easy for beginners and takes approximately 3 hours to reach the top. Once you finish the climb and arrive at the top of the cliff, you will be able to view the stunning landscape of the beach, and the green sea water is just astonishing!


Bako is Sarawak’s oldest national park and is famous for abundant wildlife, secluded beaches, trekking trails, and jungle waterfalls.

  1. Your tip for students looking to study abroad in Kuching?

Now that I’m currently back in my hometown, my regret is that I did not explore Kuching that much due to my intense focus on studying. Hence, one important suggestion that I can share is to experience new places, foods, and cultures in Kuching as much as possible while you are earning credits towards your degree. Kuching is a city full of surprises and it would be a shame not to explore the beauty this city has to offer you. There are many food paradises, cultural attractions, outdoor activities, hidden gems spot that might amaze you, and what’s fun is that you can discover the spots yourself like a detective, either on the internet or by asking your local friends! 

 

MGASU KIHANWA LUGADIRU

From Nairobi, Kenya. Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Electrical and Electronic).


  1. What’s your favourite Kuching/Malaysian food?

Tough question to answer, given the wide variety of food I have tried since being here. I would say, and by a close margin, Laksa Sarawak. There is an absolute presence of flavour and it puts your tongue in a trance, to say the very least. It is a dish I’ll surely introduce to my family back home.

  1. First Malay word/phrase you learnt?

Interestingly, it was ‘Falsafah’, primarily because there is a close relationship between Malay and Swahili (my native language), which has the same word with the same meaning: ‘Philosophy’. I would say that understanding Malay, although not fully, has been easier thanks to its relationship to Swahili, and that creates a more homely feeling here in Kuching.

  1. How similar or different is Kuching from your hometown?

Kuching is a lot warmer than Nairobi, the city I come from. It took me some time to adjust to the warm and humid weather here, but it is safe to say I adapted well. During my first days here in Kuching, the weather was quite something as I was sweating profusely, even after little was done. However, having been here for a while now, it has made me acclimatise a lot easier.

Kuching has more availability of street food and going to eat out is a lot cheaper than Nairobi. The ease of finding a ‘kopitiam’ (food and coffee shop) is a relief, as they are virtually in every corner in Kuching. Food is amazing yet affordable.


Cheap, tasty eats are abundant in Kuching, with packed meals ranging MYR5-10 (USD1.15-2.30).

  1. If you could bring one item from your country to introduce to friends in Kuching, what would it be?

It would be a form of public transport we call matatu, which are public service vans for the people. It would make movement around Kuching a lot easier since they are relatively cheaper and the availability of matatus back home makes them easily dependable.

  1. What’s your recommended ‘must-do’ while in Kuching?

First thing, head to the Borneo Cultures Museum to learn about Sarawak’s rich history. Secondly, for classy cuisine and a serene dining experience, try a meal at Trevi. A place to go for an enjoyable walk without a sense of time would be Kuching Waterfront. The word ‘breath-taking’ does little to describe the experience, especially at night with the colourful lights and water fountains.


Morning, evening, or night; the Kuching Waterfront makes for a pleasant stroll any time of the day.

  1. Your tip for students looking to study abroad in Kuching?

Have an open mind and be ready to make friends with people here, who are really kind. While being in a foreign place, it helps to have supportive people around you who can offer you peace of mind and mental stability, which results in a better academic and social life and ultimately enriches your whole study abroad experience. 

 

OLIVIA IVAN

From India, raised in Brunei. Bachelor of Computer Science.


  1. What’s your favourite Kuching/Malaysian food?

After my 7th birthday, my family and I migrated to Brunei, a peaceful sultanate known for its oil and natural gas. So, it wasn’t a complete culture shock moving to Kuching as there are similarities with the Bruneian culture and tradition.

Although Kuching and Brunei do have several common dishes, I was introduced to the ever-popular and ubiquitous Laksa Sarawak. The balance of the heat from the spice paste, the tartness from the tamarinds, and creaminess from the coconut milk still make me salivate.

  1. First Malay word/phrase you learnt?

Food is the key to my happiness so I made sure to learn a couple of words such as ‘Ayam dan daging’ (Chicken and meat), ‘Ikan’ (Fish), ‘Satu’ (One), ‘Dua’ (Two) just before I landed in Brunei. By the time I arrived in Kuching I was able to place my orders effortlessly.

  1. How similar or different is Kuching from your hometown?

I come from the country where diversity originates; umpteen variations in language, food, clothing and religious beliefs: India. Born in Pune, I have enjoyed the dramatic colours, lights, and entertainment up until the age of 7.

Similarly, in Kuching you can explore the beautiful and loud streets either by walking or traveling by Grab vehicles or bike. When it comes to celebrations, whether it’s a festival, marriage or birthday, the only thing that would make India different from Kuching and Brunei would be the need of music and dance. Just like our movies, any party function or celebration would not be complete without us busting a move. This is a reflection of our culture and how art imitates life and vice versa.

  1. If you could bring one item from your country to introduce to friends in Kuching, what would it be?

I would like to introduce the street foods from different states and cities in India. The dabeli from Ahmedabad; bhel puri, sev puri, and dahi puri from Uttar Pradesh; idli sambhar from Chennai; and the most popular food loved by the people of Maharashtra, the pani puri and vada pav.


Lively and colourful Indian street food.

  1. What’s your recommended ‘must-do’ while in Kuching?

Kuching brings in a different feel, maybe for the fact that the city is surrounding the snake-like Sarawak River, making it a magnificent spot in the region. The first thing I would recommend you to do is to take a stroll along the Kuching Waterfront. While you are there, visit the Astana and do some shopping at the Main Bazaar. Borneo Cultures Museum that opened recently would be the place to learn Sarawak’s heritage. Last but not least I would suggest you to plan multiple trips surrounding the city! It could be to Bako National Park, Permai Rainforest Resort or even take a hike to a Dayak village at Bung Jagoi to learn the local tradition and history while you get to taste their native food.


Borneo Cultures Museum is the second largest museum in Southeast Asia.

  1. Your tip for students looking to study abroad in Kuching?

It may sound impractical to plan all these events as a student since we do get a certain amount of allowance. However, if you plan your budget, save up, and research on the student discounts that are available, it would make it a lot easier. Although English is widely-spoken in Kuching, it would also be best to master the local language for easier communication, or at most learn a few phrases because it is always good to learn a new language.

Try to mingle around with people of different backgrounds as this would allow you learn to accept people from various races and ethnicities and also promote multiculturalism. The last thing I would say is to not be afraid to ask for help. You are not expected to know everything and it is okay to make mistakes, however this should not stop you from learning and discovering the unknown!

 

FAIZAN KHALIL

From Karachi, Pakistan. Bachelor of Media and Communication.


  1. What’s your favourite Kuching/Malaysian food?

My favourite traditional Malaysian food would be the simple and humble yet delicious Nasi Goreng Biasa (plain fried rice). However, for my top pick of food available in Kuching, it would be a local burger joint called NOMS which serves fusion food. They serve the best beef burger in town, and it’s halal too!

  1. First Malay word/phrase you learnt?

The first Malay phrase I learnt was “Terima kasih” (“Thank you”) because it is always good to show gratitude to those around you.

  1. How similar or different is Kuching from your hometown?

I come from the metropolis city of Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan and the twelfth-largest city in the world. Life is very fast-paced compared to Kuching, although slowly the laidback and chilled vibes of Kuching city grow on you.


Labelled one of Southeast Asia’s most liveable cities, Kuching maintains its quaint old-school charms with the conveniences of a modern city.

  1. If you could bring one item from your country to introduce to friends in Kuching, what would it be?

The authentic biryani, all spiced up and aromatic, served with creamy, cooling raita (yoghurt sauce).

  1. What’s your recommended ‘must-do’ while in Kuching?

As an international student, I will be leaving Kuching one day and taking all the wonderful memories I experienced here with me. So, I would recommend embracing the culture and exploring all that the city has to offer. Meet new people – local and international (we get peeps from all around the world here at Swinburne).

Discover the abundant nature found in Sarawak such as the beaches of Damai, Pasir Panjang, Lundu, and Sematan, to name a few. Other recommended things to experience would be Permai Rainforest, and altogether take in the simplicity of the rural areas of Sarawak and the warm hospitality of Sarawak in general.


The city’s proximity to nature offers a quick weekend escape from student life.

  1. Your tip for students looking to study abroad in Kuching?

Come with an open mind, be quick to adapt, and you might end up being surprised at all it has to offer. You might find Malaysians shy at first, but once you get to know them, they are the best people who will embrace you with open hearts. And while you are at Swinburne, don’t forget to create memories, nurture friendships, and have the best time of your lives while getting a world-class Australian education.


Read Part 1 of ‘International Students Share Their Experiences in Kuching’ here.

Excited to make Kuching your next study destination? For more information about Swinburne and how you can attain an Australian education right here in Sarawak, visit Swinburne’s website www.swinburne.edu.my, Facebook page (@swinburnesarawak), Instagram (@swinburnesarawak), Twitter page (@Swinburne_Swk) or YouTube channel (Swinburne Sarawak).


Related news

Job Hunting in the Era of Social Media

Read more

Saving Our Planet: Every Little Step Counts

Read more

International Students Share Their Experiences in Kuching: Part 1

Read more

You’ve Submitted Your Application to Swinburne. What’s Next?

Read more

A World for All

Read more

It Is Our Duty to Be Happy

Read more