Miri – 14 May 2013 – Two postgraduate students from the University of Mons (UMons) in Belgium currently on a four-month exchange programme at Curtin University, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak) have given the university the thumbs-up for the research opportunities and cultural experience it provides.
Abdullah Özcan, 22, and Xavier Lenoir, 23, said they are adapting well to their new environment although it is their first experience in an Asian country. Both claim to have had most exhilarating experiences so far and would readily recommend Curtin Sarawak to other UMons students keen on joining overseas exchange programmes.
Their placement at Curtin Sarawak is the realisation of a collaborative agreement signed between Curtin Sarawak and UMons in August 2012. The agreement aims to promote the exchange of people and expertise, as well as the development of joint projects in higher education and research.
Abdullah, who is of Turkish descent, hails from Quaregnon in the province of Hainaut and is currently doing research on intelligent corrective mechanisms for lower extremity motion. He chose to carry out research at Curtin Sarawak because he wanted to explore new research opportunities, discover new cultures and improve his command of English.
“Initially, my lecturer at UMons suggested universities in Mexico, Spain and Chile. However, I felt that though there would probably be no problem communicating in English on their campuses, it would not be widely spoken outside and could pose a problem for me. Soon after, there was a proposal for me to come to Curtin Sarawak and I immediately accepted,” said Abdullah.
When asked about his stay in Miri, Abdullah said he has found it fairly easy adapting to the local lifestyle and campus life at Curtin Sarawak. He gets around the campus and goes into the city alone without any difficulty. He also regards Malaysians as extremely friendly and welcoming people, which he says helped him adapt relatively quickly.
“In Belgium, I live with my parents near my university. This is my first time living alone overseas. The experience has helped me mature and prepare for my future career,” commented Abdullah.
Besides making friends with Malaysian students, he has also gotten to know students from other countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. He said learning about their different cultures and traditions has been a most interesting experience.
On his future plans upon completing his research at Curtin Sarawak, Abdullah said he hopes to obtain his Masters degree as soon as possible and start working.
Meanwhile, Lenoir, who is carrying out research into optimisation of batch bioreactors, is also adjusting well to his new surroundings. He initially planned to go to Canada or Australia but chose Curtin Sarawak after he was informed by his lecturer about the university.
“To be honest, I couldn’t even locate Malaysia on the world map, but I thought, why not treat it as a new adventure. I’m driven by my interest to discover new cultures,” he said.
According to Lenoir, the people here are friendlier than in Belgium. He also enjoys Miri’s warm weather.
At Curtin Sarawak, Abdullah and Lenoir are under the supervision of electrical engineering lecturer Dr. Alpha Agape Gopalai and Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Ir. Yudi Samyudia, respectively.
Associate Professor Ir. Lau Hieng Ho, Acting Dean of Curtin Sarawak’s School of Engineering and Science, said he looks forward to seeing more exchange students from UMons at Curtin Sarawak, as well as the prospect of Curtin Sarawak postgraduate students heading to UMons for similar placements.
“We hope to take full advantage of the arrangement between our universities. UMons is, after all, a very prestigious university and our students would be honoured to be given the opportunity to study there, even for a short stint,” he said.
For more information on Curtin Sarawak, visit its website at www.curtin.edu.my, its Facebook page at facebook.com/CurtinUniversitySarawakMalaysia, Twitter profile at twitter.com/curtinsarawak, YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/CurtinUniSarawak, or Instagram at instagram.com/curtinsarawak.