February 17, 2013, by Ben Hunte
Back to Msia, Why Study Abroad, Graduate Employment, & Amsterdam!
Where Am I Now?
Well, I’m actually sat in an executive suite, in Melaka, Malaysia, treating my best friend to a luxurious 21st birthday weekend.. No word of a lie. I got back to Malaysia earlier this week, and jumped straight into a 5* vacation. More on this weekend next week though.
Some people like to book their international flights months in advance, but I prefer to book mine the night before I want to travel. Not only does this mean that I won’t have any date-change fees to pay for sudden itinerary changes, but contrary to popular belief, I also usually get my seats for much cheaper too. I can’t lie though, this time I acted on a complete impulse, because I woke up on Monday morning, saw snow falling from the London sky, and booked the first flight back to the jungle. For those who have yet to experience snow, and as a result are now cursing at me for being so ungrateful, allow me to educate you..
SNOW IS NOT YOUR FRIEND. Admittedly, when the first few snowflakes fall from the sky, the prospect of snow is very exciting for us Brits; however, by the time it turns to ice, and cars start sliding through roads, or it builds up so heavily that schools close, and public transport comes to a stand still, and flights get cancelled, and people start getting sick, it’s more of a nuisance than anything, and really should be avoided at all costs; hence why I’m back in Malaysia. Whereas at the start of this week you would’ve seen me enter Heathrow Airport in a bobble hat, ski goggles, and scarf, I am now sporting my finest baseball cap, Raybans and a gym vest. I love this place.
Being Back in Malaysia
When I was working at the Marriott Hotel last summer, and found myself constantly networking with business guests who worked for huge global corporations, they always told me that their ‘glamourous’ lifestyle spent in airports and hotels eventually becomes quite tiring and dull. Not to say my time in Malaysia is becoming like that, because it really isn’t, but the travelling from the UK to Asia and back has definitely become a routine rather than an amazing adventure.
Looking back now, I don’t think I cracked a single smile from when I checked into my flight, to when I was preparing to land 16 hours later (I say ‘preparing to land’ because the minute the captain announced Malaysia’s 42 degree heat waiting for me on the ground, I couldn’t stop grinning – I genuinely hadn’t seen the sun since leaving in December). Whereas my parents would once drive me to the airport before I left for a few months, I now take the train there; whereas my friends used to throw me parties before I left, I now get excuses for why they can’t see me and text messages wishing me the best; whereas I would once strike up conversations with passengers around me in the Emirates Business Lounge, I now find myself trying to look inconspicuous so that others don’t approach me, and wishing for the time to pass so that I can jump on my next flight and be in Malaysia ASAP. What’s going on!
Even my journey back to uni was very routine. The minute I landed I made the necessary calls to my UK and Malaysia based friends/family, just like always, and then I proceeded to take the same route as always to get back to campus, with the same playlist blasting on my iPhone. No nerves, no random moments, no chances to get lost and experience a bit of drama, no interesting new faces along the way, same old – same old!
SO my aim for this semester is to find the excitement I first had when I was on my way to this crazy land, because when I’m trapped in a full time job next year, I know I’ll be wishing to be in the airport coming back.
How does it feel to be back though? ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. I was away for exactly 2 packed-out months, so now I have lots of things to update people about – and everyone else has stories of their holidays to report back to me. It’s also nice to walk around campus and not only be recognised, but personally welcomed back; the warmth of our UNMC student-community (read: FAMILY) really is something that I doubt any other university in the world can match. You can quote me on that.
Why Study Outside of the UK for University?
Just before I left the UK, I went out to dinner with my partner’s family, and one of the topics of conversation was why anyone would want to study outside of the UK, and specifically in Malaysia, for any part of their degree. Usually, the fact that I study in Malaysia is celebrated, and I feel like an old wise man, recounting my amazing tales of international student-hood to eager ears.. but on this occasion, and literally for the first time ever, I was actually being challenged on why it was beneficial.
Their main concerns involved the cost (which in all honesty doesn’t apply to me because I’m on a full scholarship, with an allowance, thank you Nottingham), the complete difference to ‘standard’ British university life, the fact that studying abroad ‘disturbs’ one’s education (in terms of completing an overseas exchange, and returning to the home campus without housing for the next year sorted, and friendships having moved on etc etc), and how completing a full degree outside of the country you’re looking to work in for the rest of your life can’t possibly be of benefit..
I’ll be speaking in detail about my graduate interviews in a few moments, but I believe that through being given the opportunities to attend them, I’ve definitely learned why international study should be a priority for every single student.
In every interview and networking event I’ve been to since starting university at UNMC, I’ve been asked questions along the lines of “You study in Malaysia? Wow! What’s it like?” If the person asking the question has been travelling themselves, or has an interest in travel, this in turn opens up a huge conversation; one which my friends hate because they’ve had to hear it so many times. I’m in a situation which is unlike any other British student, and when a company receives 15,000 applications for a handful of graduate positions, you need some kind of an edge over every other applicant, or you’ll be overlooked as if you don’t exist. I have that edge, and the proof is in my employment-pudding.
In one of my graduate assessment days last month, a girl came out from one of the personal interviews in tears.. She was a student from Oxford University, fresh from Germany, literally red eyed and sobbing in our holding room, and why? Because one of the interviewers ripped apart her CV and told her she had absolutely no chance when she admitted that she’d never held a position of leadership.. I then walked into that same interview with my head high thinking I’d be fine, but he STILL ripped me apart for being ‘a coward’ and wanting to work for someone else when I should really be starting my own business. The company still made me an offer though.
Regardless, my point is that if you don’t step up to the plate and start showing off your skills and taking on different responsibilities, other students will (and probably already have) so you best get used to getting beaten in interviews.. and THIS is why studying in Malaysia is amazing. I can almost guarantee that if I was studying at the UK campus, I would be a casual member of a few societies, but because of the size of the place and the competition for leadership positions, I would probably just sink into the background and disappear along with everyone else. UNMC is a relatively new university, and with a little bit of effort invested in a new project, you can make a big impact and leave a legacy – as I believe I have.
Aside from the whole job perspective, I would still advise you to embrace every single opportunity given to you that will allow you to further your personal development. The biggest life-challenge I’ve faced so far, was packing my life into 30kg and moving it to the other side of the world for 3 years, knowing nearly nothing about what to expect. That alone made me realise how strong I am, and how much I need travel in my life. Also, I’ve made friends from around the world, who are doing all kinds of degrees, and aiming for all different futures – I always joke that I’ve now got holiday homes in every country, but I kind of do.. It did suddenly hit me at Christmas that once I graduate next year, I probably won’t see the vast majority of my friends more than a few times a year, at most, which is going to seriously suck, but as I’m learning with my friends in the UK now – if relationships are lasting, they can survive via Skype, Facebook, and the occasional face-to-face visit. Trust me.
In the end, with more students choosing to study abroad, those of us that have had our eyes opened up to the world look so much less unique, and I’m guessing it’ll then be harder for us to stand out.. so maybe I should be telling you to NOT take my advice! Why WOULD you want to come and study in Malaysia? A hot country, where the sun is always shining, food is cheap, travelling to different paradises is easy, our campus is small enough to stand out and create amazing life-long relationships with both fellow students and lecturing staff, and above all you get the same degree as studying in the UK campus which has none of the aforementioned advantages?
UNMC really doesn’t need defending; some of the smartest and most amazing people I’ve ever met study and teach here, and I love our jungle exclusivity! Obviously this experience is not for everyone, but then again, not everyone’s exclusive 😉
The Fun & Games of Finding Graduate Employment
Ask me a month ago what position I saw myself working in as a graduate and I would have said ‘human resources within an investment bank.’ Ask me now, I’m not so sure. Whereas when I started applying to places I was saying ‘I want to work anywhere that will take me, because graduate employment is so hard to find and all about luck,’ the last few months have shown me that if you work hard enough – good things will happen, and amazingly, little old me actually had a CHOICE of fabulous companies to pick from.
So far, I’ve got through to 7 final interviews (2 investment banks based in Canary Wharf, London, 2 accountancy firms based in Central London, and 3 global organisations headquartered around the UK), and these interviews have each taken a maths test, a verbal reasoning test, a logical reasoning test, a personality test, one or more phone/Skype interviews, and a lot of waiting, to get through to the final stage. I went to 3 of the interviews, and received 3 offers. Technically I still have 7 applications ‘under review,’ but as I’ve already got my top choice, they don’t matter now. If I do get invited to any more interviews when I’m back in April, I will probably go to them for experience and networking sake, you never know what the future holds.
The company that I chose to go with for this summer, and for their graduate scheme, is a globally renown company which I know will benefit me in the future as much as I can benefit them, and they’ve been my top choice since the initial application stage. This company’s scheme not only involves travelling internationally, learning their HR functions in several of the 50 countries they operate in, but it will also finally let me see what it’s like to work outside of the capital, as their HQ is outside of London. It will be so nice to drive into work every day rather than give ridiculous amounts of money to Transport for London.
The 2 day interview for this company was absolutely horrible. It cut me to shreds, challenged me in ways I didn’t think possible, and literally took me to the most stressful point of my undergraduate career, making me justify why this company – why this career choice – why this location etc etc etc. It also made me realise how much I wanted the opportunity that they were hanging in front of my face, which made me stress even more! Either way, from 15,000+ applications, for all of 150 graduate positions, of which only 4 are for the HR function, they called me the next day to say they want me (believe I screamed down the phone like an X Factor contestant *how embarrassing*). The future is bright!
My Completely Unnecessary Trip to Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Every time somebody tells me about how I need to go to ‘this’ country in Asia, and ‘this’ beach in particular because it’s the best in the world, I turn to them and say “beach is beach is beach.” I’ve been fortunate enough to travel so much that I really can’t differentiate between beaches anymore! As long as there’s sun, sea and sand, one beach feels almost exactly the same as another to me.. Similarly, now I’ve started to travel around Europe, everywhere’s beginning to seem the same.
I was in Brussels for New Years, and spent last weekend in Amsterdam.. If it wasn’t for the waffles everywhere in Brussels, and the marijuana everywhere in Amsterdam, I genuinely wouldn’t have noticed if my transport had taken me to the wrong city.
Amsterdam was amazing, but mainly because of the company that I was with. I’m strictly against smoking, and for obvious reasons I couldn’t really enjoy some of the other ‘laddish’ things on offer there, but I wanted to experience the city and form my own opinion of it. I appreciated the cultural aspects, the museums, the history, and the art, but it lacked a unique identity, which I genuinely thought it would have.. It just felt a lot like many other European cities. I’m sure if I’d have embraced my Caribbean roots a bit more, I wouldn’t have wanted to leave though.
If you’re looking to visit Amsterdam (shout out to those of you currently at the UK campus), I would recommend jumping on a coach and staying at a cheap hotel, because you’ll literally just be using it to sleep in at early hours anyway. I stayed at the Easy Hotel Amsterdam and it was perfect for a weekend break, so definitely check them out if you don’t mind the hostel experience.
Finding a New Room in the Jungle
As I said last week, one of my main worries about coming back to Malaysia was my living situation, but I really didn’t need to stress, because the minute I got back to UNMC there were plenty of potential rooms to rent. I don’t know why so many cheap houses and hostels are empty, especially now the semester’s started, but I’m not complaining.
My original aim was to find a condo in a nice part of KL, and experience living as an expat (for the same price as some of the rooms next to campus), but in all honesty, I actually need to focus on my degree now, so this is not the time to be experimenting with travelling cross-country to make it to my lectures.
My bestie, Eiman, had wasted no time in getting back to Malaysia, moving everything out of our old house, and jumping straight into a new empty house right next to the bridge to campus; so after a long phone call to her Chinese landlady – who speaks NO ENGLISH AT ALL, I found myself living in the room next to hers once more. Good times! Even better is that after another English VS Chinese shouting match, we managed to agree that I could sign a 4 month contract as opposed to a 12 month contract, so I can go home in April without needing to pay for the whole of summer.. What a nice lady.
Aaaaand that’s it for this week! Next week I’ll tell you all about the madness of Eiman’s 21st birthday and our student-budget defying trip to Melaka, the Mr/Miss Nottingham 2012/13 auditions we’re organising, and anything else that creeps up over the next few days.
Ben Henry Hunte