I'm Max and I'm from Malaysia, specifically the Borneo side – the state of Sarawak.
If you know what Borneo is like, it's a world apart from London. It's literally trees! So that's what drew me to come to Imperial, because it was smack in the centre of London where everything is right in your face.
I never actually thought about going overseas, because my family is low-middle income. And the only reason why I could be here is because of a scholarship. So that kind of opened up my world.
I definitely wanted to be in a very metropolitan city like London or Paris – a big hub.
And Imperial provides one of the best educations in terms of STEM in the whole of Europe. So that's what drew me here.
What I really like about London is the fact I can find so many different cuisines here. In my hometown, it's mostly just Malay and Chinese cuisine, because that's primarily the demographic, but here I can eat whatever I want.
When I'm craving sushi, I know where to go. For a really good pizza, I know where to go.
Studying peanut butter jars with UROP
This summer, I wanted to do an internship but COVID rates were quite bad. And in Malaysia, they weren't really doing remote internships, so I was kind of hesitant.
So when the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) came around I jumped at the chance.
I ended up working with my professor, Dr. Ambrose Taylor, on ways to teach students about polymers. Primarily my UROP was focused on enhancing the student learning experience.
The main way students learned in the past was by touching physical products and objects made of different polymers – by experimenting and playing with them.
It wasn't possible to do that remotely, so what the professor did was to incorporate our day to day life into that learning.
We would go out and about and get – for example – a peanut butter jar to study. We'd see what kind of polymer it's made of, to get a better sense of how polymers behave.
We wanted to incorporate a lot more hands-on and interactive learning, because if you’re only learning through lectures and video calls, it can get quite mundane.
So we devised a lot of games and tried to incorporate the learning syllabus into a platform we designed.
It's pretty intuitive and people will actually want to use it. So that was an interesting project to work on.
Celebrating Hari Raya with friends
When I first came here, I didn't want to confine myself to just my friends from college. There are so many different people from everywhere around the world here – it just made sense to me to explore and meet new people.
I really like the Malaysian Society for the sense of community during celebrations. We have tonnes of celebrations like Chinese New Year and the Malay New Year, which we call Hari Raya.
These events are a very big thing in our culture, so having people from your country celebrating together is really nice.
I've talked to some friends from other countries who feel there's a gap between the lecturers and the students.
At Imperial, I feel like I know my lecturers personally. That has really helped with my learning and in trying to get a sense of what I want to devote myself to in the future.
In first year I went to my personal tutor and he was really helpful. He would check in on me and we would have lunch together to catch up, and it really helped talking to someone who knows what they're doing.
I also talked to my course leader, a careers counsellor and the student wellbeing advisor for Mechanical Engineering. And they all helped me in different ways.
The support is something I really appreciate about being here at Imperial.
Making music through Horizons
Creative courses are a side of my studies that I have really enjoyed.
With all of the science-y and maths things that we were doing, I worried it would make my life boring. I didn’t want my creative side to die out, so I wanted to do something creative as well.
And it was nice to have that opportunity through the Horizons programme.
I’ve learned about the psychology of music – how music affected people, how it enhances learning, how it helps physical therapy.
It was really exciting to get to play around with software and create our own music for the final project in the end. I created some music that was like mellow beats, lo-fi type stuff.
I essentially just camped out in the studio room for a good three days, just to play around with music.
Getting started with startups
I have two more years ahead of me at Imperial and I've started to think about what I want to do.
I like interacting with a lot of people, so that is what I naturally move towards. But I also enjoyed the whole STEM and problem-solving side of things.
Imperial held a startup careers event, to expose us to different industries, and I came across this booth about food. They had food on the table so naturally I was attracted to it!
As I was talking to the founder, we clicked really well over different kinds of cuisines and how we cook.
He said that he had a couple of positions going and that he was actually looking for a social media officer. I thought I might as well have a shot at it because I spent so much time on social media already!
Getting involved in marketing shifted my whole perspective of what I wanted to do and opened a pathway into the more creative side of things.
So I'm mixed between going down the path of mechanical engineering or going into a consulting or marketing role. Maybe I could do both? I'll figure it out.
Making international connections
I’m part of a non-profit international student organisation focused on entrepreneurship and trying to get students involved in the whole ecosystem of starting up your own passion project.
I thought it would be useful to delve myself into because I was interested in the whole startup ecosystem.
I really wanted get involved in something that I hadn’t been exposed to before, so I jumped at the chance to volunteer.
At first I was a basic officer, and then in second year I got promoted to the executive committee, and that's how I ended up an executive officer. It’s my job to set up standards and procedures and just keep everything flowing.
The best part is meeting people from all over the place. I now have friends in the States, friends in Australia – everywhere. And outside from working and getting to know them professionally, we’ve actually become friends.
Sharing my experiences
Since coming to Imperial, I’ve influenced other young people to come here.
When I was back in my hometown, I visited the students from my high school and encouraged them to work hard. I told them all about my life and how exciting it is here.
There's a whole world out there that is worth exploring, and Imperial is such a good place to study to advance your career.
What I really want is to encourage people from lower- and middle-income backgrounds to not give up on their dreams.
I’m putting the word out there that it's possible – I'm basically living my best life, one I couldn’t even dream of before.
Imperial has been a great experience for me, so I wanted to pass it on.