BATU Pahat native Tiyo Ling Xin is living her dream of pursuing her fully-funded master’s degree overseas.
The cherry on the cake for her is that she gets to do it not only in one foreign country, but three in total, during her two-year (or four-semester) study, which commences this month and will end in September 2025.
A recipient of the Erasmus Mundus Partner Country scholarship for the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree in Tropical Biodiversity and Ecosystems (Tropimundo), the 26-year-old will be enrolled at the Université libre de Bruxelles/Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium during her first and fourth semesters; Technical University of Mombasa (TUM) in Kenya during her second semester; and the University of Florence in Italy during her third semester. “The most exciting thing about pursuing my master’s in different countries is that I can explore the tropics and wildlife beyond Malaysia’s borders. It is also a chance to learn new languages and cultures.
“It is exciting to have TUM as one the institutions because studying the tropical savanna ecosystem has always been one of my dreams,” she told StarEdu in an email interview recently.
As a young girl, Tiyo loved spending time in the forests but it was only when she started reading about the biodiversity crisis that her interest in conservation biology was sparked.
That led her to acquiring a bachelor’s degree in conservation biology at Universiti Malaysia Sabah in June 2021.
But after graduation, she found herself feeling “a sense of incompleteness”.
“I believe in learning by doing. During the Covid-19 pandemic, I missed the chance of participating in conservation-related events and field trips to support my biology knowledge and dissertation writing,” she said.
That motivated Tiyo, who was working as a full-time teacher, to spend months on the Internet looking for a potential master’s programme to “gain deeper academic and practical knowledge” and a fully-funded scholarship for her to further her studies.
“At first, I aimed for a Chevening Scholarship but my application got rejected. Then, through a conversation with a friend, I found out about the Tropimundo programme.
“I had goosebumps when browsing through the information on the web page as what it offers fits perfectly with my goal, so I just went for it and I got it,” she said.
On the subject of her fascination, Tiyo said: “I want to study trees and wildlife, and make it my life’s calling to work with them.
“My dream is to pass on the beauty of nature, and the connection of nature and humanity to more people through words and any other medium.”
During her close to two-year stint as a teacher, she played her part in promoting awareness among the younger generation by taking her primary school pupils to explore the forests, and interact with plants and sometimes small wild animals.
“Young people today lack a deeper understanding of conservation, because they haven’t been exposed to much information on environmental conservation,” she asserted.
She said members of the public can refer to resources online to broaden their horizons on nature conservation topics, pointing to the Malaysia Biodiversity Information System (MyBIS) website, which provides information on biodiversity research and management in Malaysia, and nature learning and conservation-related apps, such as Mongabay and iNaturalist.
“Take some time to really relax and observe nature around you. Walk in a park or go for a hike, and you’ll start to appreciate nature and want to protect it,” she said.
Tropimundo is funded by the European Commission. The next scholarship call for applicants intending to start in the 2024/2025 academic year is expected to start next month.
The scholarship covers tuition fees, travel costs and a monthly living allowance for the entire duration of the programme.
According to Tiyo, who obtained tips from the Tropimundo team, referees play a significant part in supporting one’s application.
She also recommended including one’s educational background and work experience in one’s personal motivation letter.
“I referred to online examples initially but in the end, I just wrote down how I really felt.
“Write what makes you eligible for the scholarship, why you’re applying for the course, and your future plans,” she advised.
“Dreams do come true. Have faith in yourself and take action. There will definitely be ups and downs, but each pitfall will teach you how to rise,” she concluded.
Li Zhen, 19, a student in Selangor, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. To join Star-NiE’s online youth community, go to facebook.com/niebrats.