Did you know smell could be transmitted through the internet?
Sharon Kalu Ufere is from South-East Nigeria and she is a part of the research team at the Imagineering Institute Iskandar Johor Bahru. She has been in Malaysia for 4 years now. She moved to Malaysia with her children in January 2015 to do her Masters in Biomedical Engineering.
WORK IN MALAYSIA
After your master’s degree at UTM, how did you find a job at imagineeringinstitute considering how hard it is for Africans in Malaysia to find work?
Yes, it is actually hard to get a job in Malaysia as an African but it is not impossible. After my master’s degree, I got this job but I must say it was a miracle. While waiting for my convocation, a friend of mine sent me a message and she said “Sharon there is a research company in Nusajaya why not try” Later I sent a message to the director and he requested I send him my CV which I immediately did. After about one week, miraculously I was called for an interview and as God may have it I got the job.
Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it.
As a research engineer, what are the things you seek to achieve at the Imagineering institute?
The Imagineering Institute is a research lab with the vision “Invent the Future of the Internet”. It is the first independent multi-disciplinary internet and digital media research & development (R&D) institute focusing on internet, digital media, and mixed reality research. Through this research lab, I seek to make a difference, impact lives and demonstrate through hard work that we Africans can do whatever we put our minds on doing.
What are the successes you’ve accomplished since working at the Imagineering Institute?
At Imagineering Institute, I have worked on several projects. Developing research design, conducting user studies, writing research articles etc. One of the major works I’m involved in is called Electric Smell. Here we are working on digitizing smell. Letting people share their smell experience across the internet.
Don’t let fear or insecurity stop you from trying new things. If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.
LIFE IN MALAYSIA (JOHOR BAHRU)
what is your favourite part of living and working in Malaysia?
Personally, I like the serenity of Johor_Bahru_District, couple with several fun places to visit like Legoland Malaysia Resort and lots of shopping malls. The truth is there’s something for everyone.
Any neighbourhood recommendations in Johor Bahru
Johor Bahru has a number of nice neighbourhood suitable and affordable for expats.
For security purposes, gated communities are most appropriate. I will recommend houses in and around Iskandar Puteri.
Would you rate Malaysia as a friendly country?
I think Malaysia is a family-friendly country, where you can raise your children. There are lots of fun places you can go as a family.
Did you move here immediately with your family and how did they manage to settle in after relocation?
Yea, when I got admission for my master’s degree I moved here immediately with my 3 kids. Settling in after relocation was not much trouble for me because my husband was already here. The only challenge was adjusting to the time difference and Malaysian meals.
What are some of the challenges African expats in Malaysia face and can you suggest any solutions?
Social Integration: there should be public awareness that Africans or blacks are not in any way less.
Financial: I suggest MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) for African students studying in Malaysia to be entitled to work for certain hours within their study period and an option of a few years after their studies. This will increase the attraction of Malaysia as an education hub.
Food: Provision of African food stands.
In your opinion what are the things Africans wishing to visit or live in Johor should look out for?
Things to look out for are Johor’s rich culture and diversity of food. There is something for everyone to enjoy. There are quite a number of exciting places to visit and have fun with the family. But while doing these avoid taxis whenever possible. Some drivers are known for their bad behaviour and service. Instead, use ride-hailing apps like GRAB, they work really well here.
Also, watch out for snatch thieves on motorcycles. Johor and the rest of Malaysia are pretty safe for travellers as compared to other countries in the region. However, snatch theft cases still happen occasionally throughout the country. Pay attention to your surroundings, especially when a motorcycle is approaching.
Be Mindful of Cultural Influences. Johor is generally more conservative than many places in Europe and the United States
I know as an Expat, you go where work calls or sends you. However, do you see yourself here in the distant future?
The distant future in Malaysia is uncertain basically because the job here is on contract. At the end of the contract, if my contract is not renewed and I do not get another job, then I will definitely not be living in Malaysia.
What are the changes you would like to see for Africans in Malaysia?
Malaysians perception towards Africans here is rather negative. Somehow, some Malaysians think that Africans are here to do all sort of illegal business. You know once you mentioned you are from Africa, the person will take a second look at you and most often the person’s perception of you will change immediately until proven otherwise. A grab driver once asked me if there are human beings living in Africa. I immediately used the opportunity to educate him a little about Africa.
Hence, changing this impression is what I would like to see for Africans in Malaysia.
To prove to them that there are many good Africans who have genuine sources of income, who are doing legal businesses, working very hard and impacting lives.
What is your best advice you can give to anyone considering studying and working in Malaysia?
- Keep an open mind, trust that everything is possible and be determined.
- Do not rely on the negative experience of others. You might face some level of discrimination at one point or the other but that does not cancel the fact that there are still good Malaysians who will go out of their way to help you achieve your goal.
“When You Pray, Move Your Feet”