An Engineer Abroad – The Return

I’m back home in Australia after having spent 3 and a half weeks abroad at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was an incredibly busy and awesome time over there and it went way too quickly – 3 weeks is nowhere near long enough to see and do everything, but boy did we have a good go at it.

Right from the get go I was thrust into what was undeniably another world. I went straight to the accommodation on campus which would be my home for the next few weeks, and the differences in the standard of living were immediately apparent. The room has a hard and cracked concrete floor, a massive gap under the back door (which screams an invitation for the mosquito hoards), and a mattress that was about 2 inches thick at the better spots. Good AC though. If nothing else this taught me how crazy adaptable people are –  a few days later I’d managed to get somewhat settled (if not entirely comfortable) in this environment that was so very different to anything I’d ever lived in before.

As if I needed further proof that I was in a new country I went 100 metres down the road and found what I immediately dubbed the ninja training park. I kid you not, this park had ponds with stepping stones and thin planks to traverse, various parkour setups, and even a barbed wire crawl. From here the adventures only continued. Between time spent on my studies I got to see a lot of the city; so many malls, food streets everywhere, massive markets with hundreds of stalls (which for some reason all seem to sell practically the same things – not sure how that works), and architecture that ranged from massive and intricate skyscrapers to the slums which would be contrasting vividly on the other side of the street.

The weekends were the best chance for travelling and I got to see some of the bigger sights of KL; the KL tower and parks near it, Merdeka Square, the central markets, Chinatown (and Petaling Street), more temples than I can count, the lake garden, Stonehenge (well a replica – I wasn’t quite that lost), little India, Batu caves, and so many more places. I also got to do a couple of longer trips over the later weekends. The first one was to Malacca – a city full of museums and history, where we travelled around on a Pikachu bike carriage which was blasting traditional tunes such as gasolina and despacito. The other bigger trip was to the Genting highlands, which had a cable car, an immense Taoist temple, and a mall the size of a small city at the top.

The project itself (the primary reason we were in Malaysia in the first place) was very successful. It split into two parts, the major segment on RSA encryption where I got to try my hand at implementing this encryption algorithm; and a smaller section on cryptocurrency at the end where I got the chance to learn how blockchains work, and how these are implemented in cryptocurrencies.

While the project was incredibly interesting and I learnt a lot from doing it, and the travelling was incredible; the most valuable experience from this trip was being able to live and study in a different culture and to experience a different way of life. This, more than anything else on this trip has helped completely shift my perspective on so many matters. I have a newfound appreciation for living in a true first world country. I also have a newfound appreciation for the importance of communication (and a greater respect for those who do exchanges over here where very few will speak their home language at all). Even if everyone speaks the language there is still a gap in fluency which makes communication difficult; previously I have always taken for granted being able to speak to anyone and expect to be understood (and to understand them), now I realise how important it is to be able to communicate.

Overall it has been an incredible experience, I have learnt a lot, met a bunch of people, and experienced what can only be described as another world. Most of all I am going to miss the cost of living over there, and the food; which was delicious, flavourful, varied, and very cheap.

Ryan Rowston, Bachelor of Computer Science, participated in a 2018 NCP study tour: Science, Science Policy, Technology and Innovation in Malaysia 


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