An MS Advertising student’s chronicle of studying from home

As an international student, I was concerned about changing travel regulations when planning for my final semester in Fall 2021, and how they could potentially have become more invasive, restrictive, and limited by the time I graduated.

It was fortunate that Boston University had the generosity, agility, and foresight to offer certain graduate programs, including my own, under a remote setting for those students who desired or required it. I am eternally grateful to the school for making this generous provision.

Upon returning to Malaysia after two years abroad, it was very nice to be reunited with my family. Our house is located roughly 40 minutes away from the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur, by car. 

I greatly appreciated the continued support from both the advising staff and the faculty at Boston University. However, as a remote student, I found that there is always the tendency to remain slightly off-balance or out-of-sync with everyone in Boston due to the twelve-hour-time difference. I occasionally feel somewhat torn between two worlds in terms of keeping in sync with communications in Boston while also remaining grounded with being in Malaysia, on the other side of the world.

The living room/dining room at my parents’ home, where I do a lot of my remote classes.

Combined with the somewhat unprecedented nature of the current learning environment, there were a few unplanned challenges. One such challenge was when I had to rearrange my class schedule prior to the beginning of the semester, as a result of being informed that I was the only remote student in one of my subjects. It was not easy for administrators to track or anticipate enrollment changes due to the constantly changing realities of people’s plans. Happily, I was able to find a suitable replacement course, meaning that I would take one advertising course and two elective public relations courses.

In terms of scheduling, I was happy with all three courses taking place at 6:30 AM – 9:30 AM Malaysian time (6:30 PM-9:30 PM EST). At the same time, I was lucky enough to get a remote internship at an advertising agency in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. My internship proved to be an extremely useful experience in providing insight into the advertising industry in Malaysia. However, it also proved to be more of a time commitment than what I was prepared to make at the time. My employers and I agreed that I would work the full working day, from 9 AM to 6 PM, but with time, I observed that work demands led me to sometimes have to work overtime. It came to a point where I struggled to remember some of my other commitments regarding my education, and I elected to halt my internship after a month.

Me at work.

Since returning home, I have also been able to enjoy the celebrated cuisine of Malaysia. As a multicultural nation, Malaysia benefits from a wide variety of different food varieties, including Malay cuisine, Chinese cuisine, Indian cuisine, Western cuisine, and fusion cuisine. Fried rice is one of my favorite dishes, and I have always enjoyed eating the different varieties available globally.

My favorite type of fried rice is made in the Chinese style and is available from a restaurant in Nilai, a town I am very familiar with, some 40 minutes from my home. This fried rice has a very rich flavor, with fried egg, chili, and fish cakes. I look forward to exploring the various different types of foods available in Malaysia once again, now that I am home.

Chinese fried rice with sambal paste.

All in all, my experience as a remote student is a testament to Boston University’s commitment in supporting its students, as well as the capabilities of the modern internet and computing technology that allows us remote and virtual learning and teaching methods. It also speaks to the wide and varied experiences that we have, which is something I appreciate, as I still remain in contact with many friends who remained in Boston. Ultimately, I stand by my decision to study remotely in Malaysia, and am happy for the ability to take a break, after two whole years alone overseas.

The view from our living room while I study.

Mohnish Kananathan, Terriers Abroad Blogger

Mohnish Kananathan is a Terriers Abroad Blogger for The COMmunicator, writing about his experience as a graduate student studying remotely from his home in Malaysia. As an M.S Advertising graduate student, Mohnish has served in project management and account management roles in advertising internships. A passionate car enthusiast, he hopes to pursue a career related to advertising in the automotive industry. His hobbies include driving his classic 80s Mercedes-Benz 300SEL and watching Star Trek. He also has a beginner’s understanding of German.

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