Elephant trekking, hands-on 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 part of the five-strong team from King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Girls in Birmingham which picked up the team prize at the University’s Academy Excellence Awards, which recognises top 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 went to 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 the natural ecosystems that exist.”
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.
A taste of Malaysia
Merunisa, also 17, said: “The whole trip was perfectly planned to ensure we experienced as many different aspects of Malaysia as possible.”
And while hard pushed to pick a highlight, she enjoyed the time spent in the ‘Orang Asli’ village — which translates as ‘original people’.
She said: “The residents who had previously lived in the rainforest had been rehoused in a small village. 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.”
Experiencing campus life
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.”
Study in the UK — and Malaysia and China
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 the University’s other campus in Ningbo, 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 and are so keen to endorse our facilities in Malaysia. 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 international campuses in Malaysia or China.”
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottinghamhas 42,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia; according to the Sunday Times University Guide 2012, ‘Of all the British universities, Nottingham has embraced internationalism the most.’ It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK by 2012 application numbers, and ‘the world’s greenest university’. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University aims to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2011, for its research into global food security.
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