Category Archives: Studying Abroad

Bath On Ice

Snow’s fun when its fresh, fluffy like cotton candy, white, pretty. Then it solidifies, turning the pavements and roads into a free-for-all ice rink. Pedestrians sliding and skidding, cars and buses losing grip on the icy hills, bendy buses and trailers jack-knifed causing gridlocks, and motorists abandon their cars on the road side continuing the traffic congestion the next day.

Chaos.

Observing the local traffic news reminds me of the KL scene during heaving rain and flooding, except that the cars have a lot less grip on the ice. It occurs to me that the drivers here are not very prepared to drive in wintry weather. Using the regular threaded tyres on slippery surface is one thing, there are plenty out there who did not clear the inches of snow from the top of their cars before driving out (crazy people).

The following pictures were taken during the first and second day of snow last week. I headed out for a bit in the morning, had fresh snow for breakfast, rolled around in the snow as morning workout before hitting the books again. Missing out on snowball fights SUCKS but flunking sucks harder hence the decision to stay in. I lost my wellies during the summer (don’t ask how or why), so in my trusty Converse I ventured out for groceries and penguin shuffled much to the amusement of passers-by.

7.30-ish a.m of the first day of snow. Lymore Gardens, Bath.

DSCN5835

Discovered Narnia behind our backyard!

DSCN5853

Frozen playground.

DSCN5902

Frosty pathway.

DSCN5918

Oldfield Park rail station.

DSCN5928

DSCN5927

P.S : Exams over! Weewooooo!

Advertisements

Terminologies

As of late the words iftar, hijab, suhoor, eid have been making rounds with increasing frequency in my Malaysian social circles. Most of this come from undergraduates/fresh graduates who are or have studied abroad. In my opinion it would be natural to be using these vocabularies if one has been studying in a country where Arabic is the main spoken language. The crowd who made these terms a trend however, are mainly UK and US university students.

These vocabulary tid-bits are absorbed as the students mingle around with the Arabs, Pakistanis, Indians, and the rest of the multi-ethnic Muslim community abroad. The non-Malaysians making up the Muslim community utilise the Arabic term to describe the various acts of worships because either they are Arabs, or that they do not have terms in their mother tongue to describe it hence the borrowing of the Arabic terms. Malaysians on the other hand, have long since had our own terms in Bahasa Malaysia to match its Arabic origins.

(click for clearer display)

The above is a quick list of common terms you might stumble on a daily basis. If anyone has any terms that should go into this or words you suspect the result of Arabification or terms you don’t know and would like to know, let me know so I can build a modest vocabulary listing of it for fun 😉

Malaysia has always been a curry pot of culture and language. It’s okay to use terms from other languages interchangeably in conversation and writing. In the case of the vocabulary listing above where we already have our own term for it which depicts accurately the teachings in the Quran, I opt to preserve bits of our own culture and wish people Selamat Berpuasa, Selamat Berbuka Puasa, Selamat Bersahur, Selamat Melilit Tudung, Selamat Hari Raya.

There is no point to using Arabic terms simply to sound pious, God knows and understands everything everybodyin the whole wide world says and whisper, even in your hearts.

If you really want to copy the culture of Muslims in the UK or abroad, have a go at dates with cream. Seriously. That was how dates were served every time I go to the mosque for buka puasa when I spent my Ramadhan last year in UK.

Important Lessons from “Excess Baggage”

I’ll skip the age old adage of “thou shalt not do things at the eleventh hour” go to themore  important life skills I learnt from my little adventure.

1. Smiling and be polite.

This would be the easiest of the lot for me and anybody else to practice. I have a very outspoken personality and talking to strangers is not a problem for me. I lost count how many times I said Please and Thank You. “Please can you hold the door for me”, “Thank you, that’s very kind”, “Thank you so much!”

All the assistance I had made my journey to Gatwick made life a bit easier and these strangers did it without asking anything in return.  Dress decently, look good, ask nicely, and people would –God willing – be obliged to lend a hand.

2. A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed.

I honestly can’t thank my friends and friends of friends enough for helping me through. It is not the status of the person that determines how much help you receive; it is the level of familiarity and trust. In my case these were the people who are very close to me. Half of them are undergraduates like myself, the rest are working adults.

Ordinary people who know you well will be more willing to offer assistance than high ranking officers who are simply acquaintance (in most cases, these type of people will only acknowledge you if you happen to have what they want or if they want to associate themselves with your successes).

3. Communicate

I sent out and reply messages and calls right down to the last bit of power left in the Blackberry. Seriously, thank God for the creation of internet and 3G! Without them I couldn’t have reached so many people and exchanged so much information in short notice.

Social networking sites can be very useful when used in the right way. Also, word your help request properly.  “I need help” and “I need help with [insert request] by [date, time]” makes a lot of difference in the type of respond you get and the speed at which help is provided.

Stupid train and waiting lounges not equipped with power points for charging. At that point in time I was willing to pay a pound for even 15 minutes of charging time which would last me another half hour or so. Recent mobile phone models charge to full battery pretty fast, my Blackberry timed about an hour and a half to be fully charged from almost zero capacity (I only got to recharge it when I reached home).

I know I probably sound like a wreck in my status updates, in real life I sound and look quite collected apart from looking a bit tired if I say so myself. Perhaps I should consider working in the air traffic control office. For that job the operator is required to notify the pilot or ground staffs of any foreseen problems and provide emergency protocols in a calm manner. Can’t imagine someone going “OHMAIGODDD, YOUR LANDING GEAR ISN’T WORKING!!!!” over the radio when the pilot is already sweating it out navigating the control systems.

4. Take and keep only what you need.

I missed my first train by two minutes because I had too many things. Had I travelled with one luggage and a backpack I could have ninja-ed onto the train in good time. If physical excess baggage is already capable of causing so much hassle, imagine the burden of emotional baggage.

This incident forced me to get rid of old stuff I hardly use or no longer need. The urgency of the situation made very clear the essential things that I really need. I had a lot of clothes (70% of it was plain white shirts, practical lingerie, and socks) as I was preparing to work the day after I arrive in KL (fortunately the company had a delay on forwarding me the joining details so I’m due in the office only on Monday)

Old, holed pyjamas – throw.  Free t-shirts – sentimental value but not much loss, bye-bye. Primark shirt – the cost to pay for the extra baggage can buy hundreds of the same article, discard.

All of this made a humbling experience. In case I turn snob, please remind me of all I’ve been through and the people who helped me. If that doesn’t work, whack me with a wok. Credits to mummy for bringing me up with survival skills. None of steps I took is taught in any lectures or text books. You have to figure out for yourself when faced with life’s challenges.

Excess Baggage

Before I begin my story, I would like to thank everyone who stayed with me online, offline, and in prayers when I landed myself in a tight spot before my departure from London. Raising £170 in just about 2 hours would not have been possible without contributions from Ms Foo, Mei, Q, Ivan, Ms See, and Ting Ting. I have never felt so touched by responds to my status on Facebook.

Thank you all so much.

My room was still a mess when I called the taxi to transport my belongings and myself to the train station. Earlier I nicked the weighing scale from the bathroom to weigh my luggage. Initially I had only one box, one medium sized luggage, and a small luggage to hand carry onto the flight. The total weigh of the things intended for cargo was just under the 30kg baggage allowance.

As the taxi was called for I realised I still had quite a number of things to bring with me strewn across the room. Panic mode: ON. My train was due in half hour. I grabbed the more necessary items and stashed them into my backpack and spare bags. The rest I swept into a large bin bag to discard. I left behind two foldable umbrellas (I had a total of six umbrellas) and three huge sets of colourful post-it notes as public property on the table in our puny common space. I discarded the less competent free pens from careers fairs and events. I left behind many spoons, my pan, a saucer, a mug, a jug, a large towel, a small towel, and a list of small miscellaneous items.

When the taxi arrived I was bringing down my luggage, cleaning the room as much as I can, and somewhat still packing, all in succession. I was literally jogging with an average of 10kg weight lifting up and down the stairs 4 or 5 times.

I left my keys at a friend’s asking his favour to help me keep the Quran ( I COMPLETELY FORGOT ABOUT IT >.< ) and a bit of cleaning up. If you’re reading this, I’ll return the favour whenever I can, alright? Sorry for causing trouble!

I first made a trip to a friend’s house to deposit a borrowed coat and books before rushing to the train station.

I almost, almost gave up carrying my things at the train station until one of the staff members offered to help. I missed the train which I booked tickets for, so boarded the next one.

About ¾ of the journey to Reading I was hunching over my bags at the space between two carriages. Thank goodness the officer who checked my ticket did not notice or ignored that the ticket was only valid at the booked time. *Phew*.

I asked and was given a bin bag from the guy behind the counter at the food carriage and threw more pens, a notebook full of separation process notes (I know in which book to find the same information and in more detail), a towel, and a t-shirt. By this time I knew I would have to pay for the excess baggage because I didn’t know what else to throw out. I sent out my first S.O.S on Facebook to get someone to alert my mum of a quick message I posted on her wall (my current phone plan does not allow international dialling).

My mum handles all the financial arrangement for my tuition fees and expenditures while I’m studying in UK, naturally she is my first port of call. Adx called my mum and thank goodness she picked up after  several missed calls. Mummy explained that even if she is to put a standing order at the time (it was almost midnight where she is) the transaction would not go through until the next day. The remaining options were to borrow money, or put her over the line at the check-in counter and pay by credit card.

I thought I had overdraft. I knew I had overdraft, but just wasn’t sure how to use it. I tried calling the bank but it didn’t go through as I cannot remember my telebanking security number.

Oh boy.

I recalled reading the price list for extra baggage on the airline webpage so I approximated having to pay £150.

“Desperate mode : ON.

Peeps, I need to raise £150 in the next two hours. Will pay back in the next couple of days. Anyone willing to help please let me know I’ll PM the account details.”

N N. 12th June 2012, Facebook.

Within minutes I had five respondents requesting for my account details. At Reading I had to switch trains and was lucky to have a member of staff helping me out with my belongings as it was peak hour when people are making their way home from work. From Reading to Gatwick I was making calls and replying messages in one of the best fundraising effort to date. £170 in about two hours, I get paid 15x less per hour for my part-time job.

During a short break between influx of communication I thought that if charity bodies adopt a more entrepreneurial approach, that is to apply for start-up funds and make more money out of it people would be more willing to contribute as in a way it showed that the contribution was a worthwhile investment and the charity body is sustainable. I didn’t get to brew the idea longer as after that spark of thought I had to concentrate on the matter at hand.

Never in my life had I thanked God so many times in a day.

I thank God for the helpful station staffs that helped with my luggage.

I thank God for the people who had genuine concerns and I am ever so grateful to have them as friends.

I thank God for the couple who held the lift doors while I try to get all my things into and out of the lift.

I thank God for the security people at the doors for holding the gate as I doubled back to get all my things together.

May God bless you all.

At the check-in counter, the total weight of all my things was still over the overweight. After a short nagging by a senior-looking lady I repacked my things and threw up more t-shirts (the ones I had for free), a discounted dress from H&M, a Primark shirt, torn jeans, and pyjama pants that hung an inch above my ankles. Brought the total weight down to a fairly acceptable level and paid the £140 levy. I arrive at the departure gate 10 minutes before the closing time. The moment I stepped on board the plane I felt like I’ve completed a leg of Amazing Race – Mambang version.

Rendezvous

I was in London on Sunday to meet up with several people I’m working with for Projek Kalsom. This trip had almost completely shed off my identity as an engineering student and the fact that I study in Bath. In the morning I was told I looked like an art student. Later at noon I was learning about boom poles, shot gun microphones, and how it differs from omni-directional microphones. Towards the end of the day, a number of people thought I have been studying in London for many years.

A careers fair organised by UKEC was held at UCL and Projek Kalsom was given the opportunity to set up booth. A fair number of people stopped by and there was quite a list of names and email on the interest list. Hannah (the girl in the dress) is the director of this project and Khairul (the dude in grey) is the person behind the trailer/documentary production for it.

We managed to get a handful of students interviewed about their views on the Malaysian education system and their experience on Projek Kalsom.

All in all, it was a really good trip. I even had a girl from my university who attended the fair recognising me as the evil stepmother in the recent BAMSA Night. Epic. Now I feel like a celebrity LOL!

The fair had been a good opportunity to sell myself to the various company representatives present, but I wasn’t really focused on that bit. I felt so detached from my engineering self, not to mention having fun helping out with the booth and my friend who conducted the interview I couldn’t be bothered. Besides, most of the representatives were mostly from the business or public relations department and I can’t talk membrane structure or energy balance with them!

However I found out that one of my ‘dream’ job – to hold the ping pong bat lookalike guiding air planes on the tarmac – are part of the airline companies, not the airport. And that a single wafer of silicon chips costs RM400. The remainder of the time I was happily collecting pens and freebies and a huge pad of sticky notes from Astro which costed me a dirty look from one of their girls (I had squeezed through a crowd of people, reached hand out, grabbed it, gave a cheeky grin and disappeared with my prize MUAHAHA).

Not bad for a Sunday in London, right?

BAMSA Night!

Part contributor to my blogging absence was due to relentless rehearsals and time taken to memorise lines for the play. Each year, Malaysian Societies in universities all over UK will organise a Malaysian Night at their respective universities. In the case of University of Bath, it’s called Bath Area Malaysia and Singaporean Association.

If there is such an award, I would have probably won the title of ‘Mak Cik of the Year’. I was given the role of the evil stepmother in the performed play, Bawang Putih Bawang Merah on the 18th March at the Art Lecture Theatre on campus. Looking back at the pictures taken during performance, I was rather afraid of looking at myself. It looked like I was radiating absolute meanness and this comment have been echoed by several other friends as well. Oh well, call it convincing acting.

I hijacked a few people’s camera for the following pictures. These were taken during rehearsals. Taken by yours truly 😉

Credits to Fau for her directions, May for the makeup, Fiona who keeps reminding me of practices, the choreographers, co-ordinators and everybody in the production – you guys were AWESOME!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the event, and everyone who attended! It was great to know the audience enjoyed the show. That’s the best satisfaction one can have doing performing arts. I won’t lie. The stress, the frustration, the anticipation. I enjoyed every single bit of it.

RAG is a fund-raising group which organises various events and activities to raise funds for charity. This event was part of RAG week and profits from the Fashion Show goes to Sue Ryder Care.

Wednesday, 16th March – The event was held at the Bath Assembly Hall. It was full house and everybody was dressed to the nines. I actually wore heels and gave myself a good pat on the back for having successfully walked up the steep gradient towards the venue (Bath is rather hilly if you ask me). Considering I’m hopeless in these vanity shoes, it was an achievement to have not tripped over, not even once, throughout the night. Pretty impressive eh? HAHA.

The models on the runway were students from the University of Bath. Taking into account they weren’t professionals, they did a reasonably good job showcasing the clothes which were sponsored by upmarket stores in and around Bath. They had designer outfits from Ted Baker, Warehouse, Kurt Geiger, Karen Millen, Republic and the likes, just to name a few.

As a VIP ticket holder, I had a seat right before the runway, which was awesome! The night would have been double if not triple the awesomeness if I had one of those bad ass DSLRs to take pictures with. The faithful camera of mine decided to have random fits throughout the night but I still manage to get some pictures nevertheless.

The models showcased lingerie as well. When the girls walked out, the DJ played ‘Fever’ (the old version, I don’t know who the singer is) and they strutted their stuff in slow motion. Exothermic. The room temperature must have risen by a few degrees.

I received a complimentary Lip Blush in Dark Blonde, a massive can of Elnett Satin hair spray both from L’oreal Paris and a whole host of redeemable vouchers. Loving the lip colour as it matches closely with my natural lip colour. Now I can do the Rosmah with all that aerosol in the can. HAHA! Bouffant pouffe anyone?

The Awesome Bus Driver

Shivering like a cold, wet, cat on a rainy day, I was running late for the 5.13pm train to London. I was a the bus stop waiting for the bus which has missed its schedule. A few minutes later, a lady with a child in a perambulator joined my waiting under the miserable shelter of the bus stop.

“The bus is late again,” I sighed.

“I know!”she exclaimed. “It’s hardly ever on time isn’t it?”

I smiled and chuckled, “And I’ve got a train to catch at quarter past five.”

“Where to?”

“London.”

“Oh, do you normally live there?” She enquired.

“Na-ah. Just going there for the weekend. I’m studying at the Uni of Bath.”

“Will you be staying with your family or relative?”

“Nope. Staying over at a friend’s. I’m from Malaysia.”

Once on the bus, the lady had a merry conversation with the bus driver. When the driver also mentioned he was going to London for the weekend, she excitedly told the driver to hurry up and that I must be on time for my quarter-to-five train, “Ignore anybody else on the road! She needs to get there!”

It was fun! Fortunately there were nobody else on any of the bus stops along the way so it was a smooth ride until the city centre. Then, there was the dreaded traffic congestion. It is common in Bath to have congestions on Friday evenings as that is when many people would be driving back home or somewhere, and one of the main highways passes right through the middle of Bath. Hence the Friday evening traffic nightmare.

He let me off in the midst of halted vehicles (bus drivers are not suppose to alight their passengers elsewhere apart from designated stops) and before I got off, I handed the lady and the driver two little bars of chocolate each (I carry a little bit of nutrition with me wherever I go). I managed to get to the train station eight minutes before departure – Hurrah!

Arrived at Paddington an hour and a half later and a new adventure unfolds…

Frank Morton

Everything was in fast motion, my camera could not keep up with all the action. My basketball team was thrashed, but I had thoroughly enjoyed it. The past day had been one of the longest, most intense and tiring 24 hours of my life. I lost my key, walked down the hill, departed for Nottingham at 0500, half a day of games, pub crawl, friend of a friend’s place, and left Nottingham for Bath at 0200 the next day. Sweet.

Frank Morton is an annual sports event where Chemical Engineering departments of universities all over UK gather for a friendly match. This year, University of Nottingham played host. The running of the games events were rather disorganised with many teams sitting around for hours doing nothing while waiting for their turn to play. Some wanted to cheer on their mates on a different event, but did not because they were unsure of when their own teams would play on next.

Anyway, it was quite a spectacular show with Manchester turning up with purple capes, Birmingham with their bright yellow shirts, and Newcastle team painted black and white and over a dozen dressed in costumes depicting cows.

After the games ended, we had a few hours of exploring the town before the closing ceremony at Gatecrashers. Birmingham emerged the overall champion. Bath won best t-shirt design and rugby and I can’t remember what else. The floor was so packed it was almost impossible to move. Reminded me of the motto on Edinburgh’s t-shirts, “We do in on packed bed with strippers.” (Note: this is something only somebody who has studied chemical engineering or similar studies would understand).

A pub crawl followed the closing ceremony. After having nearly all my energy depleted during the day, I found myself with a headache with all the loud music and smells of beer in the air. So I left halfway through and made way to a friend of a friend’s place.

My friend’s friends were so kind to serve supper. I even managed to get a couple of hours of sleep before making way back to town to catch the uni’s chartered bus back to Bath. Thanks peeps! Love you guys! I dozed into oblivion throughout the whole journey back to Bath.

I’m now at my friend’s place near town centre, waiting for the next bus home. Pre-breakfast was four bars of Kit-kat. Smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich, and a steaming hot mug of coffee awaits back home. I still need to find my key or make a replacement. And I need to get started on that First Year Design Project.

Chemical Engineering rocks!

Penggoyang Kaki Profesional

Penggoyang Kaki, or Leg Shakers if directly translated, is the equivalent of the Lotus Eater in English literature. A ‘company’ set up by two aspiring individuals at the tender age of 19, it aims at recruiting the best of the procrastinators and lazy bums.

The CEO is a first year Chemical Engineering undergraduate in the University of Bath, and the CFO, first year Economics undergraduate in University College London. Instead of obviously revising their academic materials or preparing for exams, they occupied themselves on the company’s set up. Truly the best examples of Penggoyang Kaki Profesional.

To those who are naturally productive, fret not! We can specially tailor Penggoyang Kaki training courses to fit your personality. Be it a 101 on “Innovative Procrastinating”, Living In A Pile of Week/month/year-old Laundry and Survive, How to Look Like You’re Paying Attention in Lectures When You’re Not, or simply Sitting Down and Doing Nothing, there is something for everyone regardless of age, sex, qualifications and unproductivity levels.

No admission or processing fee, and no pain all gain policy. Send in your resume today!

HAHAHAHA. Honestly, I am thoroughly enjoying this. I’ve been studying/staring at my notes for so long my left eye has begun to twitch uncontrollably. I just hope my wits stay with me until the end of the week. Revision has been intense, intense, intense. LAST paper on Friday babeyhh!

P.S: Just search up “Penggoyang Kaki Profesional Sdn Bhd” on Facebook and you’ll find us 😉