Ashby Maryo, a junior in mechanical engineering at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, hasn't been home to Malaysia in three years.
"You do feel (homesick)," Maryo said. "Mostly, you miss the food."
One event that helped to soothe those feelings was his attendance of the 2007 Midwest Games last spring at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, which drew more than 500 Malaysian students from all over the country.
"It feels like home," Maryo said. "I don't know how to put it into words."
His favorite game at the event was basketball. Even though Maryo admitted his team's performance left a lot to be desired, what they lacked in skill was made up in desire.
"We were the most competitive group on the court," he said.
This year's Games are taking place at SIUC and Maryo is one of the organizers, taking care of communication and accommodations.
Aaron Victor, president of the SIUC International Student Council and director of the 2008 Midwest Games, said they are organized by the Malaysian government's Ministry of Higher Education as a way to help students in the country network and to promote their culture in the U.S.
"Students come because they get to meet friends from back home, from all over the states," Victor said. "It is the largest Malaysian gathering in North America."
Events will begin Friday, when visitors begin checking in. The actual competitions begin Saturday.
The students compete individually and by school in the variety of games available. These include: badminton, basketball, soccer, swimming, bowling, chess, tennis, volleyball and relays.
Two traditional Malaysian games, congkak and sepak takraw, will also be played. Congkak is a board game. Sepak takraw is a kind of "kick volleyball," where a smaller ball is passed back and forth over a net with the feet, chest and head.
SIUC students, such as Victor and Maryo, have volunteered to take care of the day-to-day details to make sure everything is in place for the games. Victor said they are doing it purely out of school spirit because it is important for SIUC to host these kinds of events.
"You have to get people to come in and see the facilities we have," he said. "International enrollment is declining. There are a few factors in that. The best way to promote (SIUC) is with conferences like this."
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