Food, a universal basic necessity. A way to find solace amidst the hustle bustle of everyday life. A way to enlighten the taste buds and embark on a gastronomical adventure. As Malaysians, we can admit that food has always been a big deal. Food is unanimous with culture, and has been a unifying element throughout the changing eras, breaking the fences of race and religion that stood to keep people separate.
A small group of friends from Sunway University’s School of Actuarial Sciences decided to capitalise on the unifying effect of food by starting the Sunway Makan Club. Meet President Lim Yih Teng, Vice President Ryan Teng Yew Xiang, and their fellow committee members: the Secretary, Kong Jia Jin and Head of Research and Development, Gan Huai Shien. Piquing an interest in the newest club on the block, we have interviewed these individuals to gain a clearer impression of what the Sunway Makan Club is really all about.
Purpose behind the club
The Sunway Makan Club was formed to be a “chill” club where everyone can join to make new friends and socialise. The founders of the club aimed to create a community where people can de-stress and escape from the demanding deadlines and tense atmosphere that most students face in their university and college years. The club attempts to keep the friend-group-like structure that the founders had when they concocted the idea of the club.
Staying true to this goal, the Sunway Makan Club has an unprecedentedly relaxed hierarchy, where all members are encouraged to contribute ideas and are treated no differently than HOD’s, EXCO’s, and even the president. As a result, a more easygoing atmosphere reigns throughout the club.
The club also serves as a way for new students to find a group they can themselves be with, instead of spending the first few days of college/university life. With the club’s nature being non-specific (compared to clubs tailored for certain hobbies or interests), any person can join, as we all have prior experience when it comes to eating.
All in all, the club aims to bring together students to unwind and mingle over different delicacies. After all, it wouldn’t be a makan club without food.
Interview with the President and Vice President
- How did you first come up with the idea of starting this club?
It was actually an impromptu idea we had while having lunch with friends. We felt that while there are a variety of clubs and societies at Sunway University, there was a lack of clubs that were entertaining and stress-free for its members to participate in. While looking for clubs that would boost your curriculum vitae is admirable and definitely worthwhile, life as a first-year university student is stressful as it is. Hence, we decided to come up with a club that would offer a sense of relief to students and a place where they would be able to socialise and gain new friends. Being in the pandemic for so long has taken away from the experience of university students being able to mix with their cohort and make new friends. We felt compelled to set up a club where they would be able to do so. Nothing quite unites people like the love for food. We decided to set up the Sunway Makan Club because we realised that when it comes to good food, people are able to bond over favourites and foster lasting friendships. This was the main idea that spurred us to open this club.
- What is the overall member participation like?
The Sunway Makan Club is actually an event-based club. This means that we do not hold meetings weekly or biweekly like most clubs. Instead, we hold activities during monthly events for our members. There are two categories of members: official members who have paid the membership fee and unofficial members who have not paid the fee. This arrangement is due to the size of our club, and because our events currently have a maximum number of attendees. Since not all members can attend the planned events at once, we ensure that only those who attend are required to pay the fee. Currently, we have about 60 official members and 400 unofficial members. We decided to go about our meetings this way because we felt that having weekly virtual club meetings would be against our initial purpose for the club. As students who have sat through and experienced many events through a screen as well as online learning, we knew that having club meetings online would not allow our members to engage with each other in the way we initially had in mind. This would be especially true since we have a large number of members as well. Based on the previous event that was held on the 20th of May, we feel that the overall member participation is good and definitely much better than what it would’ve been if it were held online.
- What do you think is the biggest appeal of the Sunway Makan Club?
We think many people were first drawn to this club out of curiosity and then stayed on because of its non-committal and stress-free nature. Non-committal because we operate on an event-based schedule that happens once every month. Unlike most clubs, the Sunway Makan Club does not just cater to one specific category of people. We all know how important eating is to us as human beings. Hence, it’s easy for people to walk into our club and feel welcomed because they do not need to have an obscure interest to bond over with other members.
- What were your expectations for the club when it started? Did you expect it to grow to the size it is today?
Since this is a brand new club, we decided to manage our expectations and just hoped for about 30 members at first. Surprisingly, this was not the case. We were overjoyed when over 400 people showed an interest in participating in our club, with about 60 who were serious about becoming members. Definitely, an unexpected response, but we couldn’t have achieved this without the hard work and diligence of the entire committee in planning events and brainstorming ideas.
- Were there any challenges when you first began, and how did you overcome these challenges?
We faced quite a few challenges when we were first setting up. The first challenge was definitely learning how to go with the flow and plan events accordingly. There was no structure or system set in stone for us to follow because this club is the first of its kind. Hence, it was difficult for us to gauge beforehand what exactly should be prepared and organised before an event. The second biggest challenge was time constraints. It was already hard enough having to deal with multiple aspects of event planning but realising that we had no prior knowledge of how to conduct things only made the planning process lengthy and rushed. We admit that since we started this club with just a few people at first, we lacked the manpower to set things up. In fact, our very first meeting among the committee was a failure because it was unstructured, and we couldn’t accomplish any tasks. From this experience, we learned many things as we went along and improved ourselves one step at a time. Admittedly, it was hard for us to step up and set up this brand new club because we have never been part of the executive committee for other clubs. All in all, it took around two months to set up the club and one month to plan our recent bonding event held on the 20th of May.
- What would you say to future club members who intend to join this club?
As mentioned earlier, university life is already stressful enough; why would one need to add more to the overwhelming plate of responsibilities? Why not just join a club to relax and have fun? The Sunway Makan Club is welcoming to all students from all walks of life, if you enjoy eating, you should come and join us.
Interview with the Secretary and HOD of Research and Development
HOD Research and Development
- As Head of R&D, what exactly do you contribute to the club
As Head of Research and Development, I plan events, look for new event ideas and diversify our current events. For now, I have been researching different types of food in Sunway and Malaysia to introduce into our bonding sessions and events.
- What are some current ideas about the club’s activities and progress?
I’m grateful that the atmosphere of the committee in the club is such that we all are comfortable enough to share ideas with each other like a big friend group. I hope that we would be able to extend this feeling of inclusivity to the rest of the club members as well. Currently, we are set to organise a talk on healthy eating lifestyles for the end of June, and following this, we hope to hold a barbeque night bonding session in July. Stay tuned for more events coming your way, organised by our club!
- What are some of the activities that the club has carried out?
The only activity we have had so far (since we are still fairly new) is the bonding session night held on the 20th of May. During this session, we had games and answered some questions surrounding the club’s purpose and events alongside some good food.
- How have these activities impacted the members of the club
From the previous event we have had, we received a lot of positive feedback via the Google forms we sent out to the attendees after the event. There were also suggestions on what the members would like to see more of in the coming sessions.
So far, the club has had one event, a makan night, where about 50 over people (quite impressive for a new club) turned up for a jolly time of food and games as they let themselves be distracted from the stressful workload studying can have.
The event was a success in the eyes of the club leaders, who were extremely pleased with the results after over a month of thorough planning. The club has mentioned they will continue to host physical events, preferring the closeness and togetherness of being present rather than staring at a computer screen, as we all have become familiar with.
Hopes for the future
In our interview with the various leading members of the club, they expressed their desire to continue hosting events that allow Sunwayians to bond and not feel lonely in their study life. The plan is to organise more get-togethers in an attempt to allow the shocking 400 people who have expressed their interest in participating in future activities the club has to offer.
They are planning a second event for the 8th of July, which is a talk session about “healthy eating lifestyles”, and are currently planning a third event which will be a bonding session (with food of course). These events will be physical and updates will be posted on their Instagram page.
At the end of the day, the club wishes to continue the atmosphere it has gained of being a nonchalant place to really let your concerns die down while you do something that some argue humans were created for: eating! With many more events to come, and with so many students having had their interest piqued, the Sunway Makan club may very well be on its way to becoming the largest club in Sunway University and Sunway College combined.
By Matthew, Hannah
Edited by Maki