Looking Back: Living in Malaysia


My wonderful Ramadan host Ibu (grandmother) teaching me how to make ketupat 

This trip was one of the primary reasons that I started this blog turned website. After returning to Malaysia and traveling Southeast Asia with my mom two summers ago..I wanted to start reflection on the past and looking towards the future.

Some of our biggest tests are often our greatest learning experiences and help define us. 


The fresh food is so good! Coconut water straight from a friends backyard

After graduating high school early, I decided to take time off before college and applied to a few gap year programs through the State Department that would allow me to serve in a different way. I always knew that I would take time off before college, not just because  I was younger but because I was always such an intense student and wanted to take some time off to explore myself. I ended up getting into two funded programs; one to Germany and the other to Malaysia. I knew nothing about Malaysia and jumped into the experience  whole heartedly. Maybe too much. It was a year filled with the most personal growth that I have ever had. At times it was very painful, but I also had the best moments where I felt everything was falling into place.

One of the greatest blessings of the trip was how it tested my faith and strengthened my relationship with my family and friends while allowing me to add infinite new friends and experiences to my life. It made my question everything that I thought I knew about the world and get to know myself on a level that I didn’t know was possible.  


The best part of Malaysia is the amazing food!

I also met some of the most extraordinary people who not only helped me through some times where I questioned everything about the world including myself, but shared the joy and contributed to one heck of a year.

This was without a doubt one of the hardest times in my life I have had so far, but it was also filled with so much joy, love and moments that will remain with me forever.

Fellow exchange students from all over the world and friends at school

Satu Malaysia!

One of the main goals of the program and my job was attending a public school where I interacted with the youth of Malaysia, doing cultural exchange and service projects. Everyone was so welcoming! Malaysian school is very different than the American system and has a lot of U.K elements to it with some also very funny traits including a trimming of the guys hair in the courtyard (if their hair is too long), prefects, being sorted into colour houses and a lots of holidays due to all the cultures!

Saya Suka Makan (I like to eat)


(She made my beautiful Sari)

 Malaysia has three main ethnic groups; Malay, Chinese and India which makes for a very complex, colourful and diverse country where there is always something going on! I lived with a Buddhist Chinese host family initially and then moved to a Catholic Chinese-Indian host family. Both were really wonderful and challenging experiences that allowed me to gain deeper insight to the culture and people

Celebrating Ramadan with friends

I was also able to experience living with host families for short time periods during holidays such as ramadan where I lived with a wonderful family that was Malay Muslim. I learned all about Ramadan, helped cook, got some beautiful clothes and visited many friends and families houses to celebrate. There was A LOT of food involved.


At an Indian temple enjoying a snack and wearing the beautiful clothes!

I also got to celebrate the Indian holiday of Deepavali where I lived with an Indian family for the weekend and got to go to a temple, wear a sari that I had made for me, cook all the traditional food and volunteer in giving back to the community.

Selemat Detang ke Malaysia

I will never forget the people…come visit me in America!

Jumpa Lagi 

The greatest part of the experience were the people I met and made relationships with that I will stay in touch with for a very long time. I told everyone that when they get married, I will come to the wedding because no one does weddings like Malaysians! I hope there are many weddings in the foreseeable future.

So much fun with friends and food.

Saya Tak Faham (I don’t understand…a lot)!

I was able to travel a lot throughout the country during my time off and it was absolutely gorgeous! I couldn’t wait to take my mom back to show her around and introduce her to my friends and explore many of the places I had not visited before.

I sort of kind of like children. 

Living in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language or know anyone is the biggest challenge…but after making it through despite the ups and downs, it makes me feel like I can do anything!

Nama Saya Kaila, Saya Dari ke Amerika. Saya suka banyak…banyak makan!


In Malacca where I was based in. 

The world is a beautiful place and no matter where you are, there are always people willing to teach if you are open to learn.


The flashing lights of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur…an extraordinary place. 



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