KNOWLEDGE, skills and great career prospects are not the only things University of Southampton Malaysia students take with them when they complete their studies.
It is also the friends they have made as well as the affinity they have for their alma mater.
Although two cohorts of engineering talents from the Malaysia campus have graduated and gone their separate ways, both the university and alumni still keep the rapport strong.
The university held its second annual graduation reunion at Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur, bringing together many of its former students.
Its head of academic affairs Prof Neil Stephen said the function was especially for those who had studied at the Malaysia campus, as a platform to connect.
“Our hope is that the students, some of whom have not met each other before, would be able to develop a network,” he said.
“Our students are very able; I have no doubt they’ll see to the growth of the network, where it has people who work with some of the largest industries,” added Prof Stephen.
He said some of their graduates had careers in prominent companies, including Intel and Rolls Royce, while some had settled abroad.
Lee Ewe Jin, 25, was among the pioneer batch of 20 students at the university, and he recalled how he and his peers got along.
“We practically had the whole campus to ourselves and did everything together; this was something I was very fond of – we built friendships.”
Lee said due to the size of the university, everyone knew each other, and juniors were no exception.
“We kept in close contact with one another; once you start working, you never know where it’ll take you, and having a good network is an important aspect, both for career or socially.”
Lee, who now works for General Electric, said the university’s programme also empowered its students with skills that prepared them for their future undertakings.
“One of my greatest takeaways from the course was how to approach problems effectively.
“Not everything can be calculated through maths and equations; we need to have good communication skills around people, work is not something you go through by yourself,” he shared.
Lee’s coursemate, Toh Yew Jin, said the local chapter was something he held close to heart.
“We studied together for the first two years, moved to the UK together, and became a close-knit community.
“Even when we go our own ways, it’s good to keep in touch,” he said.
Toh said such reunion events not only enabled networking, but was also beneficial to their juniors.
“They can reach out to us, see what life and work is like after university.”
Toh, who is currently based with Spirit Aerosystems Malaysia, was keen to share the learning experience he had at the university with current students.
“One of the best things I experienced at the university was when we were tasked to handle a customer-oriented project, whereby we had to deliver a product within a specific time frame.
“We dealt with external parties, project management and learnt how to manage expectations and solve crisis – it prepared us for the world,” he recollected.
He has since secured an internship placement at the company for a university junior, who is now getting a firsthand experience of the aerospace engineering field.
The reunion event also introduced the graduates to the university’s new chief executive officer Dr Rebecca Taylor, who came on board in January.
“With just two cohorts of graduates, I’m really impressed that the university has already put events like this for students to get together, for us to talk to them, and for them to share their experiences.
“I understand the value of alumni and what they can give back, which is very much about engaging current and prospective students, and helping them to understand what they can get out of their degree and future employment,” she said.
Taylor said the university planned to increase student numbers, attract more aspiring engineers and explore other disciplines to add to the university’s portfolio to meet the demands of the Malaysian employment market.
“I know the graduates will continue to engage with us and future students, which is why it is really valuable to get their input as to how we may expand and grow,” she concluded.