This is first blog in our new Scotland's Universities Welcome the World series. The blogs will all be written by current students at Scottish higher education institutions, and will profile the different ways in which they are part of Scotland's international welcome. Find out more about Scotland's Universities Welcome the World here or from the video at the bottom of this page.
For me, hearing about having the chance to potentially travel to the other side of the globe to study for a year was like having a bath: I like to know I have the option but it’s never going to happen. However, one dull afternoon I attended an exchange talk where I indulged in the fantasy of spending a year in Southeast Asia. They explained about the year of cheap food, travel and unforgettable experiences. I’m sure I remember the classic phrase “once in a lifetime opportunity” being thrown in on more than one occasion. It was the first time I’ve heard the phrase used honestly and not just as a high-pressure sales tactic. But I figured that after 20 years living in Edinburgh it was time for a change, so I signed up.
The first few weeks of my year in Malaysia flew by. It takes no time at all to get acquainted with the weird new life you have in Malaysia. The small group of students from the Edinburgh campus who had transferred for the year were given the opportunity to take part in an array of pretty unbelievable experiences. I have attended university fairs in Hanoi and Jakarta, where I spent a long weekend in another country and represented Heriot-Watt at an international university fair. Additionally, I was asked to give a speech at the British High Commission about my experiences studying abroad, and have had a newspaper article written about my experience as a student in Malaysia.
As expected, diving into an alien culture has also been one of the highlights of the exchange. Luckily, Malaysians are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. The local students love nothing more than to teach you about their national history before feeding you your body weight in food. In return, we have taught them about the highlights of Scotland including the highland games, castles, and Irn-Bru. Fortunately they seem to love cold weather and were unfazed when we described what haggis actually is. It did take some time to explain the ‘Wheesht’* study room in the university where ‘Nae Bletherin’** is allowed.
It has also been rewarding to actually apply the ‘International’ aspect of my degree within the academic environment. Experiencing hugely differing perspectives and business cultures when devising business plans and having ethical discussions has actually made classes more enjoyable. Overall, I can definitely say that my 3rd year exchange to Malaysia has enriched my university experience. Participating in an exchange program hasn’t just improved my CV, but has also made me appreciate the global application of my degree and allowed to me to fully experience life in another country.
* Quiet ** No chatting