Faiz, Fatin and Sabrina: The Malaysian students of Polytech Grenoble – Interview

The moment I learned there were Malaysians students in Polytech Grenoble I was immediately intrigued. I had always been aware of France’s assets in terms of education and how attractive it is to foreign students. The diversity of the students that populate Grenoble is undeniably significant, although the foreign students you usually encounter tend to come from East Asia, Northern America or simply from Europe.

I met Fatin and Sabrina on the first day of the intensive English course where their story was brought to my attention during a dedicated “Mingle time”. After they quickly explained their background and where they came from, I remained curious about certain details. For instance, the reason they had chosen France as their country of studies and their incredible proficiency in French (that made me wonder if French was taught in Malaysia???) still eluded me.

For this reason, I am pleased to get to know more about their story and to share it with you. I thus bring to you Fatin, Sabrina, and their friend Faiz as well –who kindly answered my questions!

Did you know? Malaysia is a country located in South East Asia. Its capital is Kuala Lumpur and its official language is Malay and English is a recognized language, which is why some schools teach their students in English.

To begin with, please take note that France’s and Malaysia’s educational systems are very different. As Fatin explained during our first English class when asked by our teacher, students in Malaysia are offered the opportunity to study abroad by the government. Their choosing France can seem a bit off in a world where English-speaking countries are besieged with an ever growing number of foreign students and that is what is what my first question dealt with.

Me: Why did you decide to study in France and not in another country?

Sabrina: The main reason we chose to study in France is the standard of education which is generally high and the reputation of the academic institutions. France offers a wide range of interesting courses, some of which are not available elsewhere.

Sabrina went on to praise France’s gastronomy and its landscapes, adding that “for passionate foodies, France is the place where you discover great taste and great execution. Not to forget that France is the perfect place for a vacation. It is a very beautiful country; every part of it is breathtaking and unique”.

I then turned to Faiz who shared his own experience of having the opportunity to study abroad right after high school.

Faiz: After getting my SPM results, I got a scholarship offered by the Malaysian government to pursue my studies overseas. Honestly, I randomly chose France as it was the first European country that came to my mind at the time. France’s educational standards are somewhat better than in my home country, especially in engineering. I also wanted to learn a new language, which is why I chose France rather than an Anglo-Saxon country.

Me: By the way, when did you arrive in France?

Fatin: We arrived in 2015, around three years ago. Roughly forty Malaysian students came to France under the program.

Fatin got closer from her friends during the one-year course that took place in Tours. She added that there is a Malaysian students’ association in France that organizes various events for Malaysians to meet and get to know each other. The association, called MASAF, gives tips about the life in France and acts as an intermediate platform for the cohesion of Malaysian students.

Me: Would you say that many Malaysians have the opportunity to study abroad?

Sabrina: To come and study here in France, we had to compete with everyone else to get the national scholarship. It was a challenging process: the outcome greatly depends on your interview performance and your exam results.

Sabrina then explained that it is still possible to study abroad without financial aid from the government, but not everyone can afford to pay the tuition fees since the European currency is higher than the Malaysian ringgit.

You may have picked up that the Malaysian system does not quite work the French one. Faiz mentioned something about the SPM (the Malaysian Certificate of Education) that Fatin then explained more thoroughly.

Me: What are the main differences between France’s and Malaysia’s educational systems?

Fatin: The main difference between the two is that we graduate high school with the SPM which is an equivalent of O-levels (Editor’s note: O-levels are now UK’s GCE and are of a slightly higher level than the French brevet). This explains why we had to do a one-year course when we came to France: to make sure we had the level required by French baccalauréat.

She went on to explain how the Malaysian system works:

Fatin: In Malaysia, after graduating from high school, students can choose to pursue their studies by doing a one-year foundation course or a two-year diploma before continuing with a bachelor’s degree. Other than that, the difference between Malaysia and France is that most of the syllabus in Malaysia is taught in English, which is our second official language, while not a great deal of subjects are taught in Malay, our official language.

If you have ever conversed Faiz, Sabrina or Fatin, it must have come to your mind that they master the French language perfectly. To study in a foreign country is difficult enough with all the cultural differences and the adaptation to a new lifestyle; hence I came to wonder how they came to learn French. Did they have to hit the ground running and learn it on the spot or was French taught in their schools?

Me: How did you learn French exactly? Did you learn it in Malaysia or right here in France?

Sabrina: French isn’t a language widely spoken in Malaysia. Actually, we did not speak French at all before coming to France. Thankfully, we had a year of intensive French classes in Blois or in Tours before entering tertiary education. We keep practicing French in school with friends and teachers and in public. After all, the best way to learn a language is in a country where it’s spoken.

After the one-year course, many Malaysians elected to pursue with a technical degree in an IUT. Sabrina herself chose this path before applying to enter in PRI in Polytech Grenoble, along with Faiz. As for Fatin, she studies in IESE. They are all first year students.

After learning about their background I asked Faiz about his plans for the future. As it turns out, they are all required to serve a 6-year bond in Malaysia, as agreed in the scholarship contract. Apart from that, Faiz does not know in which country he would like to work in the future, but considering his impressive path, there is no doubt that he will find it soon enough.

Matthieu Olivier, president of the theater club

Matthieu, a student in GGC at Polytech Grenoble, is the president of the school’s theater club. He explains us who he is, the origin of the club, and their plans.

Who is Matthieu?

Matthieu did seven years of theater before his two prepa years, during which he stopped because he lacked of time. He missed it a lot, and of course joined the theater club right after arriving at Polytech Grenoble last year when he heard that it existed.
As Matthieu was the most active member last year and that he loves theater, managing a group and organizing events, he gladly took the previous president’s role this year as she couldn’t do it again. He truly cares about each member of the club: he helps them strenghen their qualities and fill their gaps but also designs for each one of them a role that fits them best.

The origin of the club.

The club was created last year for the first time in Polytech Grenoble by Helia. She studied two years at Polytech Tour for her PeiP before coming to Grenoble and was a member of Tour’s theater club. She wanted to keep on practicing and performing when she arrived here but there was no existing club, so she decided to change that.
And that’s how the club was born! Matthieu felt pretty lucky to join the school the same year.

The club’s daily life.

The club’s goal is to put on not one but two plays this year (just like last year): one before Christmas and the second one before Easter so that everyone, even the 5A, will be able to come and see or participate. Before starting to write anything, they got to know each other and did some exercices for several weeks. Theater requires multiple skills: speech, acting, improvisation, confort with the audience… Which they all improved together through exercices. Matthieu was the one directing these exercices: he repeated the same ones he did with his previous groups (with Polytech and before), but also searched online for new exercices and invented or tweaked a couple other ones.

The Christmas play.

They started working on the Christmas play since the last holidays. At first, they searched together for a theme that would be interesting but also fun to work with: this year they chose Christmas. Once the theme was settled, they started doing some improvisation exercices on it. These exercices brung them a lot of ideas that they then used to put on the play. Here is a glimpse of the plot: a villain will try to bring chaos to Christmas, but the Christmas elves will try to stop him.

Future plans.

The team from L’Hexagone, a theater in Grenoble, contacted Matthieu to give the group a couple lessons once in a while, and maybe even collaborate during one of their plays!

Photo du club de théâtre

Interview of Julie Dubois from OP

This article will focus on one of the most important associations of Polytech Grenoble. Without its cast, you would have almost no trace of your Polytech years, which would be extremely sad. Always discreet but always present, they are there to immortalize your greatest moments of glory at Polytech. Armed with their cameras they are real little paparazzi, nothing escapes them. They have been rampant now for several generations of students and are known as Objectif Polytech. Julie Dubois (TIS4) is a very active member of Objectif Polytech (and of the BDE)  and she kindly agreed to answer a few questions.

Élisa: -Hi Julie! Thanks for taking time for this interview.
Julie: –Hey! No problem.

Élisa: – For how long have you been part of Objectif Polytech?
Julie: –Since the beginning of last year, arriving at Polytech, it’s been almost a year and a half. I had never really done photography and I did not control my camera at all.

Élisa: -Can everyone join OP?
Julie: Yes ! Beginner or professional, we accept everyone, that’s what makes the interest of the association. The more experienced ones share their experiences and their good plans, offer photo releases, themes, and are jury of photo contests.

Élisa: -Can we take courses of editing, photo or video with OP?
Julie: –Yes, we do photography, video, editing and computer graphics (creating logos and posters). We try to vary the subjects of the courses, this year all the courses of the semester follow a schedule.

Élisa: -Are there regular meetings between you to organize?
Julie: –Yes and no. When the handover between the old and the new team was made, the choice was made to take a team rather than a single person who manages OP. We asked the most motivated to join a Facebook group conversation dedicated to the organization, but seeing the declining interest of the members of this conversation, we quickly saw that meetings were not necessary. In the end the decisions are made almost alone. For photo staff, outings, themes, etc., it is only the volunteer members who participate.

Élisa: -Is OP present at each Polytech event?
Julie: -We are trying ! This is not easy because many members do not have a camera and some are interested only in the photo (they are less present in the atmosphere Polytech and therefore less present at parties). There is also a lack of publicity somehow, I think in particular about the administration that uses UGA photographers rather than OP, for example.

Élisa: -How much time do you spend on average per week for OP? Are there busier times than others during the year?
Julie:There is not really any average time .. In general, there is 1h of lessons per week, which must be prepared, then we try to organize in parallel outings and photo contest or directing short films on a weekend. But in addition to all that, there is the treatment of photos taken at events. The more we are present, the more work is added. During integration at the beginning of the year, this is where we have the most work. There are about 5000 photos to process! Once the integration is over, there is the gala 2 weeks later that also requires a lot of work. I would say this is the most complicated period at OP.

As you understand, OP is very important for the student life in Polytech. If you want more information, do not hesitate to ask Julie or any other member. Here is the link to their facebook page which contains all their work: https://fr-fr.facebook.com/objectifpolytech/

And a contest has just ended, so do not forget to check out the winning picture directly on Facebook !