Malaysians have been coming to New York City, the West Coast of the U.S., and Chicago since the 1970s for job and educational opportunities, partly because of political and economic tensions in Malaysia. Although some students later found jobs in U.S. companies, many students from Chicago returned to Malaysia after their education ended. Community leaders in 2001 estimated that the Malaysian population of metropolitan Chicago had decreased to 600-700 individuals.
There are three Malaysian government offices in the U.S. whose goal is to assist and supervise Malaysian students. One of them is the Malaysian Student Department (MSD) in Evanston, Illinois, which covers the midwestern part of the U.S. MSD sponsors several events each year for students in the region, including the celebration of Malaysian independence, the Midwest Games (a three-day sporting competition), and Ambassador Award Night, whose function is recognizing the academic achievements of Malaysian students.