‘Second family’ helps UTM students get over raya blues

Celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri away from home can prove to be a big challenge especially if its their first time. – BERNAMA

JOHOR BAHRU: For both foreign and local students in Malaysia, celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri away from home can prove to be a big challenge especially if it’s their first time.

However, the presence of a ‘second family’ who generously prepares Raya traditional dishes as part of the Aidilfitri celebrations have somewhat reduced Sayem Rahman’s longing for his family in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The fourth-year student who is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Skudai here said this was the first time he had been away from his family.

“I had planned to return home but once the Movement Control Order (MCO) was enforced, I found not many flight slots available to Dhaka. So, I dropped the plan altogether,” said 24-year-old Sayem when met by Bernama, here, yesterday.

Sayem, who can understand and speak Malay, said he was also concerned that if he returned to Bangladesh, he could lose focus on his studies, especially since he needs to undergo industrial training soon.

“This (industrial training) is more important. Thankfully, in UTM, I have a second family comprising fellow countrymen and students pursuing other courses. This is like my own home.

“This morning, we celebrated with the university management with Aidilfitri dishes and delicacies,” he added.

To ease his longing for his family, Sayem said he plans to cook the Bangladeshi Eid traditional dishes with his eight friends.

“Maybe we will make ‘payesh’, ‘haleem’, and ‘kacchi biryani. Payesh is a type of rice pudding made from rice and beef mixed with sugar and coconut milk, at times while haleem is a stew or beef soup cooked with lentils and Kaachi Briyani is mutton biryani rice cooked for one to two hours.

“The cooking process is very easy as we have brought all the spices needed for the dishes when we returned to Dhaka prior to this,” he said.

Meanwhile, for Malaysian student from Perlis, Asraful Syifaa Ahmad, the Aidilfitri celebration with her ‘second family’ is also exciting as there were various activities to be carried out.

“Like me, besides being a Ph.D. holder in Computer Science, I am also a fellow college assistant and president of the Post-Graduate Student Society School of Computing.

“So, in a day, my schedule is quite tight with preparing food programmes and others. So, I don't feel so lonely away from my family.

“My family understood my decision not to return to home, this despite the government allowing tertiary students to return to their respective hometowns recently,” she added.