Malaysia trip teenagers will never forget

November 2nd, 2014

Elephant trekking, conservation work and a daily slice of molten chocolate cake — it’s no wonder that 17-year-old Iffat Ahmad calls her all-expenses-paid trip to The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC) the ‘best of her life’.

Iffat was one of five pupils from King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Girls in Birmingham who picked up the team prize at the University’s Academy Excellence Awards for students aged 16-19 from England’s academy schools. She was joined by fellow A-level students Merunisa Nazam, Amanpreet Nandhra, Shazia Jehan and Hajrah Zafar.

The prize included both the week-long trip and £1,000. Last year’s winners were invited to visit the The University of Nottingham Ningbo China.

“Every single day was amazing,” said Iffat. “One day we went to the elephant sanctuary in the morning and a tropical rainforest in the afternoon. I did things I’d never dreamt of doing and I learnt so much about elephants from (UNMC academic) Dr Campos-Arceiz who was really passionate about endangered species. In his words, the elephants were ‘disgustingly cute’.

“It was really refreshing to do ecology fieldwork in real life — it made me realise the importance of everyone working together to conserve natural ecosystems.”

The trip was designed to give the winning pupils a taste of culture, life and study in south-east Asia. The students took part in language lessons and observed a lecture at the University. They also completed an ecology project involving elephant relocation and a student-led activity assisting indigenous tribespeople.

Merunisa, 17, said: “The whole trip was perfectly planned to ensure we experienced as many different aspects of Malaysia as possible.”

Merunisa’s time spent in the ‘Orang Asli’  — ‘original people’ — village  was a particular highlight.

She said: “They led a very simple yet happy lifestyle and certainly made me appreciate what I have. The main thing which I will always remember about Malaysia is how happy the people always were. Everywhere we went there was always a friendly happy face to welcome us. I would encourage anyone thinking about the awards to enter and just give it a go. This opportunity has changed me into a more focused and conscientious person and will stick with me forever.”

Professor Stephen Doughty, Vice-Provost for Teaching and Learning at UNMC, said: “It was a tremendous privilege to have the students visit the campus and to see campus life at first hand.

“The highlight of the visit was a project undertaken by the students on sustainable ecology. They heard about research work being undertaken by Dr Campos-Arceiz at the Malaysia campus focusing on elephant relocation and conservation, as well as seeing some student-led activities assisting marginalised indigenous tribespeople to cultivate produce to create a sustainable income.”

The trip was also an opportunity for the students to see what life is like at UNMC and to encourage them to think about studying in Malaysia or China.

Professor Sarah O’Hara, the University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Access and Community Engagement, said: “It’s great to hear the pupils thoroughly enjoyed their trip to The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. We know how fantastic our campuses in Malaysia and China are and the Academy Excellence Awards and this phenomenal prize are a great way of demonstrating this, as well as rewarding the hard work of students at academy schools.

“Hopefully the trip has demonstrated to the students that you can study at a top-class university like Nottingham and also take advantage of the opportunity to spend time at our campuses in Malaysia or China.”

The Academy Excellence Awards are sponsored by the David Ross Foundation and hosted by the University. Nottingham alumnus David Ross (Law 1987), Chairman of the David Ross Foundation and Co-chair of Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, has already committed £2.1m to support Nottingham Potential,  a commitment to break down the barriers to higher education and a key project under the Nurturing Talent theme of the University’s Campaign.

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