My summer school experience: cultural diversity in Asia and Europe

Participating in an international summer school is a great way for students to gain international experience, learn new skills, increase their intercultural understanding, network, and have fun while visiting an ACU member institution overseas.

Last year, the ACU offered UK students the opportunity to gain this experience through our Global Summer School Grants. Here, Lewis – an undergraduate student from University of the West of England – writes about his experience at this year's international summer school at the University of Malaya.

After a long bus journey from Bristol to London and a 13 hour flight I arrived feeling somewhat apprehensive and disoriented at Kuala Lumpur airport. I had wanted to visit Malaysia for many years so being awarded the ACU Summer School Grant was like a dream come true. After arriving at the Asia Europe Institute of the University of Malaya I was quickly made to feel at home and my initial excitement returned.

The summer school course I attended was based on analysing cultural diversity in Asia and Europe and consisted of lectures, activities, day trips and assignments. We had renowned academics travelling from all over the world to teach us about subjects they had spent their lives researching. I found myself really getting engrossed in the subjects and enjoying learning more than I had in a very long time. The learning aspect actually made me reflect on life back home and gave me inspiration to broaden my education by taking new classes and picking up new books.

The assignments we were given were fun and engaging, exploring team building and leadership development scenarios. The schedule was well thought out so we studied every day, but also had plenty of time for leisure. We often went on day trips visiting all the main tourist attractions around Kuala Lumpur, relating the trips back to our lectures and assignments. These excursions even included visiting Parliament in Putrajaya and sitting down for a debate and lunch with the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Lewis Clark, University of Malaya summer school - lake image

My favourite experience was when we travelled a few hours north to Melaka and camped with a traditional Malay farming family. The family taught us about their way of life and we even had a chance to catch catfish with our hands!

I cannot stress enough that the highlight of my trip was the people I met. When you're waking up, sleeping, eating, studying and exploring with people you have never met it quickly feels like you have been friends for years. I made friends from South Korea, Malaysia, England, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Laos, Italy, China and I have no doubt I will stay in touch and meet them again.

The experiences and memories that were created have helped me in my development and will stay with me for ever. I think everyone should travel. Meeting people from completely different backgrounds enhances your understanding of the human race and gives you the confidence and skills to work with others later in life. Also your tastebuds will be forever grateful, I still dream of Malaysian cuisine. The whole trip far exceeded my expectations and I am missing Malaysia and everyone I met tremendously. If you're reading this then you're likely considering a similar path, all I can say is you won't regret it! I'm already planning my next adventure...

Thanks for reading!

Lewis is an undergraduate student at the University of the West of England, UK – he was awarded a grant to attend the Cultural Diversity in Asia and Europe summer school at the Asia Europe institute, University of Malaya, last year.

Read more about how you can get involved in an international summer school with the help of our Global Summer School Grants, which will be opening for applications in January 2019.

Last modified on 15/01/2019
Tags: students, Asia, Commonwealth, university