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News > Profiles > Bonjour! Nadia Jihad ('04) brings Malaysia to Paris

Bonjour! Nadia Jihad ('04) brings Malaysia to Paris

A big congratulations to Nadia for being part of the team that made A Malaysian Night in Paris: Bintang Malam Paris a success! Nadia is a ... Read more
16 Dec 2021
Written by Aleia Zulkifly
Nadia Jihad ('04)
Nadia Jihad ('04)

A big congratulations to Nadia Jihad ('04) for being part of the team that made A Malaysian Night in Paris: Bintang Malam Paris a success! Nadia is a freelancer involved with events that promote Malaysian culture. Most recently, she proudly brought a taste of home to the city of Marseille, where she worked as a curatorial assistant.

After being postponed twice before because of the pandemic, Bintang Malam Paris was shared with the Parisian public throughout the evening on October 22-23, through the cinematic work of the legendary Malaysian actor Tan Sri Datuk Amar Teuku Zakaria Bin Teuku Nyak Puteh, or better known as his stage name P. Ramlee. The event also included workshops, a concert, a film screening, karaoke, and culinary tastings celebrating all that is Malaysian culture.

Growing up, Nadia spent her time mainly in Malaysia and the United States. Up until she was seven, she briefly attended school in Ithaca, New York, where her father was living at the time. Nadia looks back fondly on her time in New York, saying, "I loved my school there, which was such a change from Malaysian schools. Nonetheless, when I returned (to Malaysia), I readjusted well to the Malaysian school system too."

Nadia also remembers the classes she took at ISKL that helped her even years after graduation, "I took Introduction to Spanish at ISKL with Senora Herrerra, which I loved, and that helped me a lot with learning French much later." She also talked about her academic success, saying, "I studied hard in school in Malaysia, including at ISKL, and skipped two grades as a child leading to my early graduation from high school at the age of sixteen in 2004." On top of her studies, Nadia spent a lot of time playing squash, helping her with the U.S. college admissions process.

In contrast to her current work, Nadia mainly took subjects like Biology, Chemistry, and Physics during her High School and college years, which emphasized applying equations to solve real-world problems. Nadia shares, "...that was what I felt I was good at, with little thought on what I really wanted to do." However, Nadia grew increasingly curious about the fashion industry. She then began her research on Malaysian designers, took a leap of faith, and applied for an internship at the Asia Society New York.

After her internship and working for Malaysian-born fashion designer Yeohlee Teng, Nadia wanted to return to school and learn more. She enrolled in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program at The Parsons School of Design, which happens to be the top design school in the U.S. and one of the top three globally. Parsons is located in New York City with a branch campus in Paris. She eventually transferred to the Paris campus, where she enrolled in intensive French courses to better work in France. "Having never taken art history before, I faced challenges during this time, although I enjoyed the language learning part very much."

In Paris, she has attended events like ASEAN Day and Deepavali lunches organized by the Malaysian Embassy, the Indonesian Network, and the Malaysian Association of France. She shared why she actively attended such events, saying, "As someone who has been away from home for so long, being involved in Malaysian culture or simply having Malaysian friends compensated for this."

Besides the new and unfamiliar scenes, Bintang Malam Paris brought, its success also lies in the unique and diverse team of people behind it. The organizers were French professors from the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies (CASE) at the University of Languages and Civilizations (INALCO). One of them is Elsa Lafaye de Micheaux who offered Nadia the role of curatorial assistant. Eddin Khoo (the event curator) is from PUSAKA and the event volunteers were Ph.D. students at CASE and French students learning Bahasa Melayu at INALCO. Nadia made good friends from the event who all shared a similar interest in Malaysia or the language (one of them even used to play soccer at ISKL).

Overall, Nadia reflected on her journey that led her to be a curatorial assistant for this event.

"My role as the curatorial assistant for Bintang Malam Paris was largely due to my ability to speak French, Malay, and English. Being Malaysian, I was interested in promoting Malaysia in France and learning about Malaysian history, cinema, and music, particularly those from P. Ramlee's time. This role was a great opportunity for me as it was my first experience working in France. Finding work in the arts is challenging, particularly with my multidisciplinary background and non-French degree. Still, I am hoping to continue here as a freelancer while I find something more permanent with either a French or international employer in Paris."

We wish her all the best in her future endeavors!

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