After three incredible weeks studying at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), The National University of Malaysia, I have returned home. I’ve caught up with family that I missed during my time away and my daily routine has now been converted from study-holiday mode to stressfully-preparing-for-another-semester-of-university mode.
From the moment we touched down at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, to the farewell dinner we shared with our UKM family, the sense of welcoming expressed by the UKM Global staff and student ambassadors was unbelievable.
We only had a 21-day program but the organisers ensured we saw more of Malaysia than a large proportion of the locals. After settling into our student accommodation, we started off travelling to Kuala Lumpur (KL) to gain an insight into Malaysia’s capital city. The central and street markets presented an atmosphere completely new to me; before even walking into a shop, a product would be enthusiastically displayed by the shopkeeper with a price that seemed to change depending on my apparent interest (but don’t be fooled, my haggling skills are those of an amateur and did not earn me significant discounts).
Upon recommendation from a friend a few days before departure, I made it my personal mission to get myself to the top of the Petronas Twin Towers, one of the main tourist attractions in KL. Although it took four attempts due to closure, rainy days and sold-out tickets, when I finally made it to the top I was presented with spectacular views of the city and I’m very glad I made the effort.
The social science lectures were delivered by distinguished and highly reputable academics within UKM. I had never experienced a social science lecture but I was blown away by how fascinated I quickly become with the history, archaeology, language and politics of Malaysia.
A personal highlight of the trip was having the opportunity to see Langkawi, a cluster of islands near the northwest coast of Malaysia. During our time in Langkawi we were given the opportunity to swim in the clearest water I have ever seen, both under a waterfall and on the beach right next to the rock formations and fossils we had just learnt about. The nature and its preservation was like a different world, it certainly felt that way when two cheeky monkeys almost pinched my backpack after I turned away for less than two minutes! Despite an 11-hour bus and ferry transit between UKM and Langkawi, the trip was definitely worth it, and exploring the remainder of the island is the newest addition to my bucket list.
My first experience overseas was a huge success and all of my initial nervousness and worries proved unnecessary. I am now left with a sense of desire to return and continue exploring Malaysia, as well as reunite with the amazing people I met during my stay.
Thomas Beltrame, Bachelor of Engineering (Biomedical) (Honours), Master of Engineering (Biomedical) student, participating in “Investigating the history, culture, politics, and science and technology capability of Malaysia” funded by the New Colombo Plan in January 2018