Going on an overseas exchange program was never really on my radar for university. I didn’t know where I would like to go, when to go, or if I could afford it! With financial aid from a New Colombo Plan mobility grant and a leap into the unknown I found myself in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia during my Honours Year. I didn’t really know much about the country before leaving, but over my semester abroad I’ve come to know and love Malaysia’s diversity as a cultural hot spot. Not to mention having the rest of Asia on your doorstep is an added bonus!
I arrived a week before classes started to learn my way around campus and the city. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) is a 30-minute train ride from the chaotic city centre, conveniently having a train station nearby, but feels a world away being in the middle of a forest. Living on campus was a new experience for me, as was having monkeys steal my washing, but living in the international college meant that I not only made friends with the locals (who always know the best places to eat), but with other international students whom I plan on visiting when we can travel again. Academically, studying at UKM allowed me to explore topics that aren’t offered at Flinders and I was lucky enough that the forensic science students and faculty were so welcoming and accommodating (especially because my Bahasa does not go beyond ‘thank you’ and counting to ten). An internship at the National Wildlife Forensic Laboratory gave me a unique honours project working with endangered species and the capacity to observe casework for ongoing court cases.
If the Malays know one thing, its food! There was plenty of late-night trips to the Mamak for roti canai, teh tarik, and nasi ayam – it’s a good thing I’m not scared of spicy food! My favourite dish from the whole trip was from a café on campus – a big bowl of fresh noodles that were hand-made in front of you and cost less than AUD$3! The relaxed nature of the Malays means that nothing is on time – so always opt for an extra drink instead of rushing to catch the bus which is probably running late anyway.
Cramming all of my lab work, assignments, and washing into the week meant that my weekends were free for travelling and exploring the city, including; many trips to the Petronas Towers, café-hopping around the city, a spontaneous weekend in Penang, driving to pristine beaches and coastline in Langkawi, and a mid-semester girls-trip to Singapore!
The UKM Global family are some of the most genuine people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, they put in a tremendous amount of effort to organise trips and activities for exchange students. The support through the good and challenging times from both Learn Without Borders and UKM Global was fantastic – a tremendous thanks goes to all who made this experience possible.
Sarah Walsh, student of Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Forensic and Analytical Science) undertook a semester exchange at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Malaysia in S2 2019. Sarah’s exchange was funded by the New Colombo Plan (NCP) Mobility Program by the Australian Government.