Inspired by U.S. experience, Malaysia student gives graduation gift to UIU

The notion of making a gift to a non-profit organization may be foreign to most Malaysians, but one Malaysia student sees giving a “graduation gift” as her way of saying thanks to Upper Iowa University.

Yen Sing Tan Goh of BatuCaves, Malaysia, who will graduate from UIU this December began her collegiate studies at the Upper Iowa University-Malaysia, Subang Jaya. Yen Sing studied for three years at Subang Jaya before she became interested in the American communications program at UIU through an advisor at Upper Iowa. Her friends, who previously traveled abroad to Fayette, also impressed her with their positive experiences.

“They told me there were many more opportunities to get to know other cultures by being involved, inside and outside the classroom,” said Yen Sing. “American programs are known to highly encourage projects and participation; being involved on committees and classroom discussion was especially interesting to me.”

In October 2013, Yen Sing arrived on the Fayette campus with tuition assistance from the International Ambassador Scholarship. In addition to her academic involvement, she joined P.A.S.T. (Peacocks for Student Tradition) and secured a communications internship on the Fayette campus at the office of Institutional Advancement and Alumni Relations.

“One of my favorite tasks was Homecoming. I was one of so many people working together,” said Yen Sing. “To see it all come together so nicely was rewarding.”

Back home in Malaysia, far fewer citizens make gifts to non-profit organizations than in the United States. According to the Guardian News and Media Limited, 60% of Americans give money to charities at some point in their lives; in Malaysia, only 32% give. Similarly, UIU Malaysian alumni typically do not make financial gifts to the university.

However, when Yen Sing attended The President’s Ball at Homecoming, the university’s largest fund-raising event of the year, she was inspired to give a gift to UIU.

“Throughout the event I listened to stories of others supporting the university and it became clear to me that I wanted to do the same.”

Because of her internship at the UIU alumni office, Yen Sing knew about all the options available to her as a donor. Rather than supporting just one project, she wanted to spread out her gift and support each of her favorite projects on campus:  P.A.S.T., the annual fund, Peacock Walk Brick Program and the President’s Residence.

Before submitting her donations, Yen Sing reached out to her parents in Malaysia to see if they would consider contributing to her gift to make even more of an impact.

“My family was happy to help; they know that being in Fayette has given me experiences I would not have gained anywhere else in the world.”

Yen Sing is set to graduate December 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies. She plans to remain in the United States (likely Minneapolis, Minn.) for at least one year to gain more hands-on experience.

“Some people receive graduation gifts, but I felt it was more important for me to give a graduation gift back to the university,” said Yen Sing. “After all, this place changed my life.”

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