EVERY once in a while, a scholarship comes with a ticket to travel and it was this that brought exchange student Paul Gerard Micallef to Malaysia.
As this year's recipient of the Malaysia Australia Colombo Plan Commemoration (MACC) scholarship, Micallef ended up in Malaysia for his study stint. He said that everything was up to his expectations.
Malaysia is modern and the people are friendly and hospitable. The only thing that set me back is that almost everyone I meet speaks English.
Having had some exposure to Bahasa Indonesia during his high school years in Melbourne, Micallef was initially eager to practise speaking the language on campus. However, he was surprised to find that the Malay language is rather different from the Indonesian language.
I was surprised that Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia differed in both intonation and dialect. I ended up speaking Bahasa Indonesia with my Indonesian peers since Bahasa Malaysia is hardly spoken on campus.
Micallef, who majored in aerospace engineering at Monash University in Melbourne, plans to embark on a two-week long adventure of interesting places in Malaysia before hopping over to Thailand and Hong Kong at the end of his study stint in Malaysia.
As a MACC scholar, Micallef will spend a semester studying at the Monash University Malaysia (MUM) campus. He intends to travel during the semester break in December.
Micallef was among the 137 scholarship recipients who received their scholarship award from MUM's vice-chancellor Prof Richard Larkins at a brief ceremony recently.
The scholarships were worth in excess of RM630,000. Two students received full Monash scholarships, 45 were awarded merit scholarships while the remaining 90 obtained entrance scholarships.
Merit scholar Teo Sze Chuan attributed his success to hard work and consistent study, and said he would strive to maintain his grades to qualify for the scholarship next semester.
It's tough but I will try my best, said the second year electrical and computer systems engineering major. He said the Monash experience has taught him to be resilient.
It was a double joy for Kam Shi Ying who received both the merit scholarship and the arts faculty award for emerging tops in the first-year communications programme.
Kam, who loves writing, received the award from MUM's school of humanities, communications and social sciences' head Assoc Prof Harry Ballis.
In her speech, MUM's pro vice-chancellor Prof Merilyn Liddel congratulated the recipients on their achievements. She said that the scholarship scheme was a means for the university to encourage and reward academic excellence.
With reward however, comes responsibility, and she challenged the award winners to use the opportunities afforded them to really think about the purpose of an education.
Use education not only for personal advancement but also as a means to contribute to the local community, country and world, she said.