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Malaysian Student Strives For Balance
by James White

Photo Courtesy Gerald Ling

Ling, a graduate student from Malaysia, is the only member of his family tree in the U.S.

Adapting to the U.S. education system was a challenge, though. In the U.K., he says, students study year-round, but receive important grades only every few years, in tests that take place at age 12, 15 and 17. Ling compared these tests to bar exams. The American system of semester-based exams, with midterms and finals, required a seismic shift in study habits.

These tribulations were not without reward. Ling in particular enjoyed the broad focus of classes at UMass, which allowed him to indulge interests in the liberal arts. At home, he said, he would never have had the opportunity to study theater or photography.

After graduating from UMass, Ling managed to get a special one-year work permit that allowed him to open his own photography studio. He specialized in sports photography, collecting the equipment and cultivating a mastery of lighting and angles.

His prized photos a bird's-eye shot of a victorious women's ice hockey team, a fish-eye perspective of a Cambodian temple hang below spotlights in his living room, revealing Ling's precise, careful artistry. Nothing in his shots is accidental he tweaks each frame through many takes and Photoshop until his fine eye for detail is satisfied.

And, he's quick to point out, his lust for travel hasn't been fully satisfied yet. After graduation, he hopes to travel to the west coast. He's thinking of moving to the Bay Area of California, to seek a job with one of the many chemical engineering firms in the region. His first priority is finding an employer who will sponsor his application for a green card , which would allow him to stay in the country permanently.

He's looking forward to learning more in a new environment.

"I never want to fall into monotony, to stop learning," he explains.

"Most people from home who study abroad plan to come back with their degrees," he says. "I don't."


James White is a senior majoring in journaism and English. This story was written for Journalism 213W, Magazine Writing, taught by Professor Wayne Worcester.