Studying abroad gave these young folks the chance to travel

Zahirah dedicated a lot of her time exploring the beautiful mountains of New Zealand. — ZAHIRAH YASMIN MUHAMMAD MUNJIT

For most people, the opportunity to study abroad is a privilege that comes with a rewarding experience, as you not only get to explore a new country, but be exposed to various cultures too. And not forgetting, you also get to meet people from different backgrounds along the way.

Of course, pursuing an education overseas presents an opportunity to travel to new places, too.

Malaysian students who studied abroad and international students who pursued their tertiary education here share their travel experiences with us.

Chan Weng Kit from Malaysia

When he was a medical student at the Royal College Of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, Chan Weng Kit, 28, certainly did not miss the chance to explore the various interesting sights and experiences the country has to offer.

He managed to travel extensively around Ireland and a few countries in Europe while studying there for two-and-a-half years, some time ago. He later returned to Malaysia to complete the remaining half of his five-year degree in medicine and surgery in Penang.

From climbing two mountains in one day to walking all the way to a neighbouring town, Chan said he is immensely grateful to have had the chance to experience “life” in this part of the globe.

“One of my most memorable trips here was hiking up Mount Errigal, a 75m-tall mountain and the tallest peak in Donegal. Interestingly, Errigal translates to the ‘king of the hill’, and I indeed felt like one when we reached the top,” said Chan, who was part of the Climbing and Mountaineering Society back in Ireland.

Chan explored various interesting sights while studying in Ireland. — CHAN WENG KITChan explored various interesting sights while studying in Ireland. — CHAN WENG KIT

Chan and his friends trekked for nearly four hours before arriving at the peak, where the group was then treated to sweeping vistas of the mountain ranges. As they were descending, someone suggested they scale the smaller king of the hill, the Wee Errigal. Full of spirit and eagerness, everyone went along with the idea. “Two mountains in a single day!” Chan exclaimed.

On another occasion, he visited Bray, a coastal town in Wicklow.

“I actually went there twice to visit my close friend. He took me to the McDonald’s in town. I assure you this was no ordinary McD. In fact, it is deemed one of the ‘coolest’ in the world,” he shared. This particular fast food outlet was housed in a historic building from the 19th century.

When not busy cramming for exams, he frequently found himself playing tourist in Dublin. “Some of the places I went to were the Guinness Storehouse, the Book Of Kells at Trinity College and Dublin Castle,” he shared.

“Ireland is packed to the brim with rich history and architecture as well as some rather picturesque views featuring Mother Nature. During my time there, I explored most of the touristy sights and some hidden local gems.”

Apart from Ireland, Chan also travelled to see the spectacular Northern Lights in Estonia, and visited other Nordic countries, including Sweden and Finland.

Zahirah enjoyed hiking when she was studying in New Zealand’s Queenstown. — ZAHIRAH YASMIN MUHAMMAD MUNJITZahirah enjoyed hiking when she was studying in New Zealand’s Queenstown. — ZAHIRAH YASMIN MUHAMMAD MUNJIT

Zahirah Yasmin Muhammad Munjit from Malaysia

Zahirah Yasmin Muhammad Munjit, 27, led an adventure-filled life while living in New Zealand’s South Island for more than five years. She had gone to the country to study Adventure Tourism Management at Queenstown Resort College (QRC), but continued to stay there for a few years after graduating to gain some work experiences.

She worked as a photographer for Shotover Jet, and then later as part of a boat crew.

When she was still studying, she would go on short road trips with friends during her semester breaks to check out the small towns around Queenstown. “Sometimes, the trips were for concerts; I saw my favourite artists on stage such as Khalid and Post Malone,” she said.

Zahirah is passionate about the great outdoors, which pushed her to explore more of New Zealand’s vast natural landscape.

“I’m an avid hiker, so my time there was mostly spent in the woods and the gorgeous mountain ranges,” she shared. Zahirah added that she preferred going on multi-day hikes, either with friends or on her own.

Her favourite spot is Milford Sound, located in the Fiordland National Park. She said that there were always plenty of activities to do there besides hiking, such as kayaking, swimming or picnicking at the waterfalls, and going on a river cruise.

“There are several trails in the national park with interesting terrains like the Routeburn Track and Kepler Track. The former takes you through the Routeburn River, which is an amazing experience, while the latter is also equally enjoyable, as sometimes you have to walk in the rocky stream,” she said.

Zahirah noted that hiking was a good activity for students and tourists on a tight budget in New Zealand, as it is usually free or doesn’t cost much. “I was receiving a monthly allowance from my scholarship, but I worked part time on weekends to fund my travels,” she explained.

“Studying overseas has given me a sense of purpose and shaped who I am today.”

Turkmenistan student Aynabat loves Malaysia’s diverse culture and food. — AYNABAT MUHAMMETNIYAZOVATurkmenistan student Aynabat loves Malaysia’s diverse culture and food. — AYNABAT MUHAMMETNIYAZOVA

Aynabat Muhammetniyazova from Turkmenistan

Malaysia is loved for – among many reasons – its cultural diversity, and one such thing that illustrates this is her delicious food. Aynabat Muhammet-niyazova, who hails from Turkmenistan and was a former accountancy student at Quest International University in Ipoh, Perak, could not agree more.

“You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to food in Malaysia. Having tried various dishes, a few of my favourites include nasi lemak, laksa and pisang goreng,” Aynabat, 25, said, adding that she also loves local fruits like mangoes and papaya.

Over the course of her stay in Malaysia, she visited Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands (Pahang), Penang and Langkawi in Kedah. These holidays were taken with her family when they came to Malaysia to visit her. She especially enjoyed holidaying in Cameron Highlands, as she found herself fascinated by the stunning panoramic landscapes of the town.

“Imagine having tea while gazing over the sprawling tea plantations. My family and I tried strawberry picking at a farm, too. It felt like a good break from the daily grind,” she shared.

Aside from visiting the different states, Aynabat said she also made friends from various cultural backgrounds.

“I even became close with one of my friends’ family, and I learnt first-hand about other international students’ cultures and experiences in Malaysia, too.”

One of the upsides of studying outside of your own country is that the experience teaches you how to navigate life on a foreign land on your own, said Aynabat.

Nabila Nadia Sidek from Brunei

“Getting to celebrate different cultural events was the highlight of my stay in Malaysia as an international student at Quest International University,” said 28-year-old Nabila Sidek from Brunei, who studied journalism in Ipoh.

Nabila enjoyed exploring the Malaysian heritage during her stay here. — NABILA NADIA SIDEKNabila enjoyed exploring the Malaysian heritage during her stay here. — NABILA NADIA SIDEK

She said that the experience was meaningful to her as she was able to be part of a diverse and multicultural setting.

Nabila also said that besides the fact that Malaysia was close to home, one of the main reasons she chose to study here was because of the cultural similarities we shared. This made it easier for her to adapt to university life.

“Assimilation of culture was a non-issue for me, as it’s pretty much the same where I live,” she said.

She spent most of her weekends discovering local gems with her friends, who were from Ipoh. These little trips helped her unearth many interesting locales in the city.

“I also enjoyed going to the amusement parks,” she said, adding that it was a way for her to unwind.

Nabila and her friends would travel to other states like Penang and Melaka during short semester breaks. “The local street food in Penang was unbeatable. The historical city of Melaka was great for sightseeing, especially for a history buff like myself,” she enthused.

As a student, Nabila would sometimes look for places which offered student discounts, to save money.

She said that studying in a new environment can really change a person in many positive ways. For her, the experience has widened her lens and helped her look at things from a new angle.

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