Wednesday Jul 15

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Meet Saim, undergraduate student at Curtin Sarawak

ProfWhat do you do?
I am a final year business student, doing a Bachelor of Business Administration degree at Curtin Sarawak.

Where are you from?
I am from Pakistan, though I was born in Europe and was raised in Brunei.

Describe yourself in a few words.
Driven, friendly, humble.

Tell us about Curtin Sarawak. Why did you decide to study there?
Curtin Sarawak is a very technical university, where whatever you are taught is applicable immediately in both daily life as well in your specific field of work. It differs from traditional universities, which focus on theoretical learning rather than practical application. The knowledge I am gaining here is realistically helpful to me and aids my ambitions in a very real way. I chose the Sarawak campus because it is close to home and cost effective.

Immediately applicable?
I mean that what you learn isn't just theory for the sake of writing it in exams to pass - you learn things you can actually apply at a practical level in life. This is for the business school. For the engineering school, studies are literally practical in the sense that there are indeed on field attachments and placements students can undergo with companies such as Shell.

What's the ratio of students to teacher per class?
For the business school which is what I am a part of, there are roughly minimum 50 - maximum 200 students maximum per lecture (taught by one lecturer), and around 20 - 40 students per tutorial.

Do you folks get a lot of 'homework'? Is there a balance to allow for study-life balance?
The homework we get depends on the course we are doing and the specific unit; it is not an unbearable amount but it does become a heavy workload as you enter your final years. I would say that, as at any university, you have to choose between the student trinity: study, university life, or sleep. Pick two.

That's me (second from right) involved in a public debate in the main foyer outside the main lecture theatre at Curtin Sarawak

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A few friends taking time out on the weekend to play DOTA

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A painting my friend did on the weekend. We usually end up doing random things like this to pass the time on weekends.

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What is it like as a student living in Miri?
Student life in Miri has been made easy by the university. There are bus services running daily except for Sundays to and from the university from the three different housing complexes the university owns, namely Curtin Villa, Curtin Village and Curtin Waters. There are buses that run on Fridays to help Muslim students like myself go for prayers. There are also buses that go to town at noon on Saturdays and return at 6.30pm, so that students may go relax at the malls, have something nice to eat and maybe catch a movie or do some shopping. I personally live off campus as it is better value for money for me, and I can opt to live with my friends. Living with friends helps a lot as you can support each other and life never gets dull. (Photograph: lying down in a hammock outside my friend's house to relax after a long day of classes)


image 4Many Bruneians flock to Miri over weekends for a short holiday. In your time there, what have you discovered about Miri?
In my time in Miri I have discovered that it is a town of accepting, peaceful people of a variety of racial and religious backgrounds. Before I went there, as an international student I thought I may face some difficulties due to the language barrier but found to my surprise that a lot of Mirians went out of their way to try to speak to me in English to make me feel more welcome. I also noticed that they did not discriminate against me based on my race or religion - they were in fact helpful in helping me find places of worship and pointing out places to avoid where non-halal food was served.

I discovered that Mirians are a people who prize the welfare and safety of animals as much as people; this is why there are many clubs and societies dedicated to helping stray animals. I would be lying if I said that organised crime in Miri is a misconception - it is an unfortunate thing everyone living there must accept, including students, and it is important not to simply ignore - however it is avoidable and it is represented by the actions of very few among a generally kind hearted and good-doing population.

Are there any local hangout places where students go to? Places only locals would know about?
There are many actually! I have come to realise that Miri is a town that loves its burgers. There are two burger joints that students go to fairly often when they have the time, which are Burger Lah and KFCK (both located in town). These places serve amazing custom burgers with homemade halal burger patties and custom sauces. Burger Lah specialises in grilled burgers whereas KFCK is better known for the range of sauces and combos you can have.

For students at Curtin, Toast House is an excellent place to have breakfast (though you need a car to go there as it is located in Lutong on the road toward the newly opened MYY Mall, just after the turning toward the Lutong Petronas station). For a proper dinner 'Siamese Secrets' is quite a popular place. To hang out in general, students can always go to the Piasau Boat Club which has a nice beach and some great food, though the food can only be ordered if you go with a member. There is also Lutong beach which is an open beach similar to Tungku beach in Brunei, and near this beach is the Old Airport Airstrip where there are often legal street drag racing events set up in co-operation with the city council. This is not a hang out spot so much as an attraction that is definitely worth checking out.

Two of my friends and aspiring DJs mixing music

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Our debate team with a team from a university in Afghanistan while we were there for a debate competition representing Curtin Sarawak (Malacca, March 2013)

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What are your plans after your time at Curtin Sarawak?
After I finish my undergraduate studies, I will be doing a postgraduate degree straight away. I chose to do a Business Administration degree at an undergraduate level as it literally teaches you how to start and run a business without failing. I will pick a post graduate degree in a field in which I am interested in starting a business. In three years I see myself working in the field in which I will do my post graduate studies in order to raise the necessary capital and to learn the specific chops required to start my own business.

Do you miss Brunei?
I usually go back home in Brunei every other week. I miss the serenity and of course my mum's cooking.

Editor's Note: When I think about Miri, the 'old' Miri comes to mind. I grew up in Kuala Belait in the 80's and I remember the (loooong) queues and the two ferry rides that got us to Miri. I remember Sugar Bun and walks around Wisma Pelita Tunku with my family. I never invested time to discovering Miri neither do I have many Mirian friends so all I know about the current Miri is superficial at best - what I would describe as the 'weekend' Miri. You know, the Malls, international franchises, buzzing nightlife, etc.

Thank you Saim Jalees for your insightful and honest account of living in Miri. I intend to make a trip over soon to visit the local places you mentioned!


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