Author Archives: Ivan Ng

About Ivan Ng

A senior at the University of Mount Union. Majoring in Media Studies (Communication) and a Minor in Spanish.

It is coming… exams!

It is that time of the semester again. Yes, our final exams are just around the corner and I can already see people stressing out in the library at night. The biggest change that I had encountered in terms of education when I transferred from my hometown college in Penang, Malaysia was exams. Now I’d … Read more

It is that time of the semester again. Yes, our final exams are just around the corner and I can already see people stressing out in the library at night.

The biggest change that I had encountered in terms of education when I transferred from my hometown college in Penang, Malaysia was exams. Now I’d have to tell you that I came from an Asian country, and you’ve seen the stereotypical Asian parents on TV where results are everything.

Since coming to Mount Union, I have had science classes for general education requirements where students are quizzed every week to make sure we are kept up to speed on class material. These classes often have tests three to four times a semester. To top it all off, there’s that comprehensive final exam at the end of it all. Brilliant, isn’t it?

That is pretty much the norm where I came from. Our academic achievements are based on exams and test scores. Academic excellence is nothing but a number or a grade. That all changed for me when I came to Mount Union.

Being a communication major, I had the opportunity to take classes that go easier on the exams and crank up the practical side of education. I’ve taken print production, advertising, audio production and video production. I believe that classes with a more practical approach helps prepare one for life after academics more than classes with constant examinations.

Since coming here January of last year, I have spent sleepless nights in the 24-hour area trying to work magic with Adobe to create posters for my print class and create advertising campaigns for mock products are clients. In addition, I’m currently hosting my own show on WRMU that shares foreign cultures and music with the public. Talk about being practical.

Education in America really changed me, although I have remained pretty much the same in terms of how lazy I am during final exams season. All through high school and college in Malaysia, I always felt like it was never meant for me. I felt exhausted by constant examinations. Most of all, I was tired that my intelligence was being judged by what I could do on paper. I am happy that education here takes a different approach and with that I can be better prepared for the real world.

Not to freak out and all, but the real world is only a semester away.

I am… diverse?

I am… diverse?

Coming from a foreign country, I have always been considered to be part of the university’s diversity. I am an international student from Malaysia, and if you look at my ethnicity, I would say I am Chinese. I am, really. I am a third (at least I think I am) generation Malaysian-born Chinese studying here … Read more

Coming from a foreign country, I have always been considered to be part of the university’s diversity. I am an international student from Malaysia, and if you look at my ethnicity, I would say I am Chinese. I am, really. I am a third (at least I think I am) generation Malaysian-born Chinese studying here at the University of Mount Union. I was raised a Buddhist and currently have no religious affiliations. I am under the “still looking” category when it comes to religion. I wear correctional lenses for astigmatism. I am heterosexual but have great friends who are homosexuals and I respect them. I speak English, Malay and three different Chinese dialects. So yes, I do consider myself pretty diverse.

But am I?

The University of Mount Union hosted the 5th Annual Not Another Statistic Conference on Saturday, November 17. Organized by the Diversity Council, the conference hosted students from nearby colleges. The conference promotes diversity and aims to educate participants about the various issues that pertain to each of the organizations within the council.

The Diversity Council is a coalition of diversity organizations that includes:

Association of International Students (AIS), Association of Women Students (AWS), Black Student Union (BSU), Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), Hispanic Organization Latino America (HOLA), Spiritual Life Leadership (SLL) and See The Ability Not Disability (STAND)

Being part of the planning process and helping out at the conference expanded my perception on what diversity is. I also had the opportunity to meet and observe people from (literally) all walks of life. It made me think about how diverse I really am.

What is diversity?

Though I may be, in many ways, diverse, I feel that I am not. Sure, I may be a minority here, but back in Malaysia, well, technically I am also a minority back there, but you get my point. Back in Malaysia, I may not be as diverse as I am considered to be here. Diversity isn’t about being multiracial. Diversity isn’t about being different. I think to be diverse is to be open to people who are different from you.

For that, I am guilty. When I look at myself and the people around me, I am not so diverse after all. I consider this to be one of my biggest regrets in college. Being a transfer student and only having two years here, I feel as though I have spent most of my time in college surrounding myself with people who are like me. Of course, your closest friends would (most of the time) be people like you, but that does not mean that you cannot associate yourself with people who are different. That will change.

This semester, due to personal reasons, I have realized that I am more open to people than I had been for the past three semesters. Though I had refused to admit it, I do judge people way too often and that stops me from being open. People should stop caring about things like race and religion, gay or straight and what kind of disability one has. Easier said than done, I know, but at the end of the day, we are only human. I wish people could see that. Even though I don’t have this mentality daily. I should, really.

The world is becoming less segregated. We are at a time where people move around the world. We are witnessing the world transform into one big family. So the next time you see someone who is different from who you are, stop trying to spot the differences between you and that individual. Instead, walk over, say hi and be open. We all live in the same world. Make it a better place for you and for me and the entire human race. Now where have I heard that line before?

Pearl of the Orient

Pearl of the Orient

Cheah Clan House When I wrote my introductory post, I mentioned that I would love to tell everyone more about my home. Here it is. I am from Malaysia, a Southeast Asian country located between Singapore and Thailand. Somehow that description works for most people. Yes, we are that big piece of land between those … Read more

Cheah Clan House

When I wrote my introductory post, I mentioned that I would love to tell everyone more about my home. Here it is.

I am from Malaysia, a Southeast Asian country located between Singapore and Thailand. Somehow that description works for most people. Yes, we are that big piece of land between those two nations. My home state, in particular, is called Penang. It is mostly an island with some of its state land being on the mainland (Malaysia) itself. Penang is located in the northwest part of Malaysia.

Living on an island (a really small one, in fact) is one of the best things in life. Penang is one of the most developed states in Malaysia. I would say we are second to the capital city, Kuala Lumpur. That being said, it means that Penang has close to everything you need. Malls, beaches, hangout spots, the airport and anything you can imagine is never more than 20 to 30 minutes away. That is of course without traffic playing its evil hand.

Kapitan Keling Mosque

George Town, Penang’s capital city, is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage City. That means that the buildings and cultural events and craftsmen within the city is considered to be an important cultural treasure to the world and needs to be protected for future generations.

The city features colonial architecture, currently being restored to its former glory. Thanks to the UNESCO endorsement, Penang has been through an extensive transformation. Going back there during the summer break was eye opening for me because after being away for over a year, going back to a restored Penang makes me feel like a tourist.

I had the opportunity to do a “Heritage Trail” when I was back there over the summer. It seems to be a trend these days among youths in my state. The World Heritage status has given us youths a renewed sense of interest in our hometown. More of us are going out to take pictures and just visit the places that were specially shortlisted by UNESCO to be restored.

Master Lee: The last joss-stick maker. Joss-sticks are incense sticks used for Buddhist prayers. Master Lee is the last person in the country to still do it by hand.

If you happen to be in Southeast Asia and are thinking of visiting Penang, do take an entire day (or two) to embark on this Heritage Trail. You’ll find something different every time. I’ve personally been on the trail three separate times and I have always found something new, whether it be a new concept cafe (we have a lot of these), a new heritage building or just an old craftsman working on his artwork. George Town, Penang is full of surprises.

International Culinary Experience Like No Other.

International Culinary Experience Like No Other.

In the late 1980s, Harold Hall, who at that time was serving as director of international recruitment, organized a small gathering for the international students of Mount Union College to get together and enjoy food from the different countries they came from. The students cooked food from their respective countries and brought it to the … Read more

AIS members

In the late 1980s, Harold Hall, who at that time was serving as director of international recruitment, organized a small gathering for the international students of Mount Union College to get together and enjoy food from the different countries they came from. The students cooked food from their respective countries and brought it to the gathering to share with their peers. Each year, due to the increase in international student admissions, the gathering got bigger. Soon, the international students brought guests to the gathering.

Close to 30 years after that first gathering, the International Dinner is now organized by the Association of International Students (AIS). The event is held annually and has been a collaboration between AIS and the University of Mount Union’s food service provider, AVI Foodsystems.

This year’s International Dinner featured three festivals as its theme – Lunar New Year from China, Pongal from India and Day of the Dead from Mexico. Tables were decorated with paper dragons, which were hand-made by AIS members, chalk drawings (done with color pencil this time) and hand-painted mini skulls. The skulls were not as intimidating as I had expected. Being colored so extensively, they actually look… nice.

This year, the food represented countries including Greece, Romania, Thailand and Jamaica.

Greek Salad – Greece (for obvious reasons)

Stuffed Mushrooms – Italy/America

Pad Thai – Thailand (again, for obvious reasons)

Jerk Chicken – Jamaica

Ciorba Soup – Romania

Chocolate Fondue – France/Switzerland

The performances during the dinner were by Mount Union’s very own international students. The night featured singing and dancing and ended with a traditional Japanese dance called “So-Ran Bushi.” The traditional dance was performed by the Japanese students of Mount Union and depicts ocean waves and the tasks of fishermen.

It was a great night and I couldn’t help but feel relieved. Planning this with the other executive board members of AIS was stressful. At the end of the day, it was worth all the time spent. I had the opportunity to meet some great people from the Alliance community and also faculty members.

Now that this is over, I can finally eat, sleep and BREATHE normally again.

Which makes me wonder… what’s next for AIS? Wait and see.

Around the World with Food.

Have you ever wondered how food tasted in different regions of the world? I certainly have! These past few weeks have been pretty stressful for the Association of International Students (AIS). Each year, the AIS hosts the International Dinner in the Kresge Dining Commons. It is that time of the year again. The dinner falls … Read more

Have you ever wondered how food tasted in different regions of the world? I certainly have!

These past few weeks have been pretty stressful for the Association of International Students (AIS). Each year, the AIS hosts the International Dinner in the Kresge Dining Commons. It is that time of the year again. The dinner falls on Saturday, November 10 this year. With only less than a week remaining, the planning committee is starting to feel the heat.

What is the International Dinner, you ask? The International Dinner is a themed dinner where guests get to feast on dishes from around the world, as prepared by our very own AVI. The dinner also features performances from Mount Union’s own international and local students. The dinner is a great opportunity for members of Mount Union and Alliance to experience different cultures from around the world.

The dinner menu is carefully selected by members of the AIS executive board and will feature food from different regions of the world. This year’s menu features dishes from East Europe, South East Asia, and the Caribbean. The international students will also be helping AVI prepare some of the ingredients before the dinner. But do not worry; it will be the chefs of AVI who does the actual cooking. I would tell you more about the food, but doing so will only ruin the surprise.

Some of the students will also perform during the dinner. I can tell you for sure, that there will be a traditional Japanese performance during the dinner. It is a great opportunity for students to showcase their talents and their native culture with the community. Did I mention that some of the international students will be dressing up in traditional outfits?

Even though planning this dinner is no easy task, I do enjoy doing it. Being one who is very proud of my foreign status, this is also a chance for me to create a platform for all international students to share their culture with the whole community. This is part of the “bridging the gap” goal that I had mentioned earlier in my introductory blog post. This being my last year at Mount Union, I also want to leave, as they say, “with a bang.”

Just in case you were wondering, you can reserve a spot for the International Dinner during lunch and dinner hours in front of the cafeteria or call the Center for Global Education at (330) 823-3296.

Tickets for adults are priced at $10, students at $8 and children under 12-years old at $5.

With all that being said, I guess all I really have to say is “SEE YOU THERE!”

International Hour on WRMU

WRMU is the only jazz station that I have ever listened to. I have always been a mainstream chart music kind of person. I realized that WRMU has garnered many listeners from the Alliance area and that these listeners are real smooth jazz fans. What WRMU also provides is a platform for media students to … Read more

WRMU is the only jazz station that I have ever listened to. I have always been a mainstream chart music kind of person. I realized that WRMU has garnered many listeners from the Alliance area and that these listeners are real smooth jazz fans. What WRMU also provides is a platform for media students to explore the world of radio. WRMU has many student DJs. Some of them do it because it is part of their audio class requirement while others do it because they are passionate about it.

I was given a huge opportunity to host my own show after completing my basic level audio class last year. As a member of the Association of International Students (AIS), I was asked to host the AIS International Hour due to my radio experience. I took the offer and now, a year later, I am still at it. As president of AIS, the radio show meant so much more to me because it is a chance for me to share Mount Union’s diversity and let our listeners know of our international student body.

Each week, the AIS International Hour includes some of the following:

  • Focus on one particular country and share facts about that country.
  • Play music from the country of the week … because it is a radio show after all!
  • Feature a guest from that particular country to share an insider’s perspective.
  • Dish out fun facts about the country.

and towards the end of the program,

  • Confirm or dismiss stereotypes placed upon that selected country.

The show is a good chance for listeners to learn more about a different country every week and also to discover new music from that country.  So far, the International Hour has featured Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Germany and Spain.

The AIS International Hour is on WRMU 91.1 FM every Thursday at 9 p.m.

First time carving pumpkins.

Halloween has always been a strange celebration for me. Coming from Malaysia where the people love borrowing (for the lack of a better term) celebrations from the West, I have seen Halloween celebrations at local malls before. This being my second year in Ohio, I have also experienced Halloween here. Somehow, I never grasped the … Read more

Halloween has always been a strange celebration for me. Coming from Malaysia where the people love borrowing (for the lack of a better term) celebrations from the West, I have seen Halloween celebrations at local malls before. This being my second year in Ohio, I have also experienced Halloween here. Somehow, I never grasped the concept.

Each year, the Association of International Students hosts a Halloween event at Mount Union’s Nature Center. A simple event, really. We sit around a fire, roast hot dogs and roast marshmallows to make s’mores. I like s’mores. Right after, we will head inside the Nature Center and carve pumpkins.

It is a great sight to see international students, my peers, carving pumpkins for the first time. Their excitement was actually the highlight of my night. I think pumpkin carving has no age limit. It is a good stress reliever for us college students. Everyone gets to express their creative side. Things got pretty creative if I may say so myself.

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of…

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of…

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New York was amazing!

I returned from my fall break trip to New York with a heavy heart. It has only been a few months since I had left my hometown of Penang, and being a city boy, I loved every bit of New York City; the traffic, the buildings, the noise and even the rude people.

Yes I realized that I am a city boy after all. Even though it may be more stressful, I somehow like being in the fray.

It was a really short trip. We (a group of 25 international students) managed to cover quite a few sites in our brief visit to the Big Apple. We saw the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, Ground Zero and the Empire State Building… all in one day.

It was my second trip to the city that never sleeps. I was pretty indifferent when the bus approached Manhattan. But what I loved about arriving at New York City was watching the reactions of my peers who were about to visit arguably the most famous city in the world for the first time. Some were ecstatic, others speechless and one started playing Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” from her iPhone. Priceless.

The one thing that really caught my attention this time around was the diversity of NYC. Everywhere I went, I heard different languages being spoken by different people. Even in Chinatown, where one would assume the common language to be Mandarin Chinese, I heard at least five different dialects of Chinese. All of which I have never heard of. That is strange for me…because I know three dialects. It is amazing how these people come from all over the world to make a living and could all coexist in one big city. Not to be stereotypical, but I also noticed a pattern in how certain groups of people have certain jobs; especially in the Times Square area. I will not, however, specify the groups and match them to the particular jobs that I’ve taken notice of.

I felt pretty sad when we left New York. But I made a promise to myself that one day I will return to New York. It wouldn’t even matter what the reason is for my return. In the meantime, it is back to Alliance for me, but hey, Alliance is a nice place too.

Till next time, New York.

Goodbye. Adiós. 再见. Selamat Tinggal.

Off to Nueva York!

Off to Nueva York!

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There’s just something about New York that really draws me to it.

I’ve been to New York before. A short trip before I came to Mount Union. I figured, since I was going to transit at JFK International Airport, I might as well spend a few days at the Big Apple.

Don’t get me wrong, Alliance is pretty cool. Alliance is laid back and quiet; peaceful if I may say so myself. There’s just something about New York City that I really love. I mean, who doesn’t love New York, right?

Maybe it’s the skyscrapers. Maybe it’s just how modern the entire city is.

Every fall break, the Center for Global Education at Mount Union plans a trip to the city that never sleeps for the international students of Mount Union. This year is no different.

I have never been on one of these trips myself. Since coming to America, most of my trips to famous American cities were by myself. I enjoyed travelling by myself. I control everything.

I do realize that travelling with a big group of friends could be fun as well. That’s why this time around, I took up the offer as soon as I heard about it. So yes, New York, here I come!

This trip, I plan to cover as many landmarks as I can. Armed with my ever faithful Nikon, my goal for Fall break is to take about 500 (yes, 500) pictures. It shouldn’t be too hard, I’ve once taken 2,000 pictures when I went to Xi’an, China for a week. New York should be a lot easier.

This can only mean that my upcoming blog post(s) will feature pictures from my New York trip. Hopefully, I can capture the moments instead of just the scenery. I prefer moments. They mean so much more than just plain pictures.

The buildings. The traffic. The fast-paced lifestyle. So New York.

Maybe, just maybe, I’m just meant to be a big city boy after all.

Steps to get along in an international community.

Steps to get along in an international community.

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I’ve been here in the United States for just a little under two years. In my time here at the University of Mount Union, I have been actively involved with anything that pertains to the international committee. That means that I have met a lot of international students and teaching assistants. I guess this is my way of belonging. I wanted international students to not only get along with one another, but to build friendships with their American peers as well. We all know that this takes both sides to make it work.

In my short time here at Mount Union, I have seen friendships formed and sadly, alienation. Everything feels great when everyone gets along, but when it doesn’t, it really ruins the atmosphere. I think (and hope) that this can be fixed, or at least prevented in the near future.

There are certain things that one should take note of when trying to blend in with the students from different nationalities.

1.  Disregard all history between any nations.

I have seen, firsthand, foreign students who come here with a certain distaste for students from a particular nation due to the history between their nations. Honestly, I think that is just absolutely absurd. Things that had happened before you were born should not have an influence on you when you meet new people from different countries. Especially when we are all foreign students here in the USA. The world is, in many ways but not all, a better place now. Keep an open mind.

2.  What’s happening now, is just politics.

Even if there are some problems between the nations at the moment, being here in the USA is like being on neutral ground. Do not bring political tensions over here because that just makes situations worse. Regardless of what’s happening, bringing the argument here in the USA does not help situations back home in any case whatsoever. Keep an open mind.

3.  Stereotypes are bad… unless they’re true.

Do not take my title seriously. I have come to realize that there are just some stereotypes that are inevitably true. Even I admit to some stereotypes at times. However, one should always avoid using stereotypes to pick on people. Some may laugh it off, but some may be more sensitive to it than others. I think joking among friends is alright to a certain extent, but remember that once you take it too far, you are jeopardizing your relationship with that person. In any case, if someone says something stereotypical about you, laugh it off and be the better person. Keep an open mind.

4.   Realize that the world is much bigger than you.

Everyone is proud of their heritage and where they come from. But that does not mean that you should shove it down someone else’s throat. It is good that you are very proud of where you come from, but others may think the same of their own heritage. The world would be a better place and better friendships would come from it if only everyone could keep an open mind.

5.  Don’t spread the hate.

So you can’t get along with some people. Don’t go around trying to influence people. Don’t deliberately tell people about the conflicts so that people may take your side and turn on the other. Stay away but don’t spread the hate. Keep an open mind.

6.  When all fails, remove yourself from any undesirable situation.

If you really cannot get along, then do not put yourself in a situation where you would have to interact with them. As president of the Association of International Students, I strongly urge everyone to not resolve things with this step. But if it means having a more peaceful campus where American and foreign students coexist in harmony (like that melting pot people in USA and back home in my Malaysia speak of), then please just do not go looking for trouble. If you don’t like them, don’t see them. But keep an open mind.

These are just some of my thoughts from observing, for the past year or so, how international students interact with one another and with American students. Some may not see things to be as bad as I may have made it sound, but I am just very alert to relations and communications between people of different cultures and backgrounds. I am a communication student after all.

At the end of the day, the one most important thing for one to do to get along with people that are different from them is to keep an open mind.