For many Malaysians, having communities of families, relatives, and loved ones gathering together is commonplace during Hari Raya, or really any other festival. In spite being an increasingly international country however, little is heard of the celebrations within Malaysia’s non-local communities, and how their Raya experiences differ, albeit uniquely, from the Malaysian experience.
Latifa (second from right) in a club activity with her international friends from INTI
Latifa Hamad Nassoro, a Tanzanian-born student, moved to Malaysia two years ago and has since celebrated Raya away from her family during her time here. Presently pursuing her B.A (Hons) in Business Administration with INTI International College Kuala Lumpur (INTI), Latifa shares her Raya experience in Malaysia with her “rafikis” and how it differs from her usual Raya experience.
“Rafiki”, more popularly known as the name of the wise mandrill character from Disney’s animated film, “The Lion King”, translates into ‘friend’ from the Swahili language. Latifa shares that her “rafikis” have become her second family here since she began living in Malaysia.
“As international students, many of us do not have the opportunity to travel back to our own countries for the holidays, so we have built our own family community here. It is really fun to do so because these are the family members we get to choose and it is a multicultural one due to the different nationalities,” shares Latifa.
Latifa’s typical Raya celebration in Malaysia involves inviting other international students over for a pot-luck session, indulging in the various international cuisines, engaging in conversations about their cultural differences, and organizing dances to music shared by her friends from their respective countries.
“My Raya becomes a very international experience because apart from preparing a Tanzanian dish myself, our pot-luck spread includes a Kazakhstani dish, a Nigerian dish, and an Algerian dish. One could say we even beat the hotels at their game when it comes to preparing an international feast,” jokes Latifa when describing her Raya experience.
“Once the feasting is done, we then share conversations about politics, culture, and religion from our own countries. Consequently, to lighten up the atmosphere, we play music specific to our own countries and end up in a dance. Sometimes, we teach one another our traditional dances as well.”
Latifa credits her international experience to her time at INTI. Presently the Vice President of INTI’s Student Council, INTIMA, Latifa involves herself in as many campus activities as she can and meets other international students from different programmes.
Latifa (far left) assisting with food preparation for INTI’s iftar celebration
Anis Laila, Chief Executive of INTI International College Kuala Lumpur, shares, “INTI presently has international students from close to 100 countries from across the globe and we encourage these nationalities to connect and discover new cultures as part of our diverse learning environment.”
“Beyond offering a curriculum that is recognized internationally, we also provide opportunities for all of our students to gain international experiences through semester abroad programmes and study tours. By creating a truly multicultural community, we empower students to look beyond the familiar and engage in knowing more about the world around them, preparing them for the increasingly inter-connected workspace they will step into as future professionals.”
With the Raya celebrations still ongoing, Latifa’s experience reminds us to not only celebrate our Raya with our families and loved ones, but our non-local “rafikis” as well.