Spending three weeks in Songkhla, Thailand is definitely an eye opening experience for 10 undergraduate students from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) who have just completed the student mobility program at Thaksin University from 23 June to July 13, 2019.

The program was part of a joint collaboration between the Faculty of Language and Communication, UNIMAS and Department of Western Languages of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Thaksin University.

During the three weeks’ program, students were required to attend classes, conducting presentations, participating in community projects and at the same time, were given the opportunity to explore beautiful tourism attractions within Songkhla, Hatyai, Trang and Phatthalung vicinities with their Thai buddies.

Gabriel Lihan Apat Ferguson, 21, from Kuching said the three weeks’ program was simply amazing and has provided him with valuable exposure and experience where he got the opportunity to learn about cultural differences, new language and making new friends.

“Thais are really nice and kind people. They are very welcoming, appreciative of your company and patriotic too. This is something that we can learn from them,” Gabriel said.

Lee Jia Min, 21, from Miri acknowledged that the mobility program has taught her about self-discipline and confidence.

“This program is not a walk in the park as we need to wake up early to attend some of the classes that we are assigned to and that means we have to wake up early as most classes start at 8.00am.”

“In addition, we were also assigned by Thaksin University lectures to do country presentations which include introducing Malaysia, its people, food demonstrations, teaching Malay language and Malaysian culture to Thai students. This requires team work,” Jia Min added.

She also disclosed that the mobility program has forced her to step out from her comfort zone where she needs to be brave to talk to strangers especially when she has to find her way around the campus.

“In a way, this has forced me to improve my communication skills and also help Thai students to improve their English as well,” she quipped.

Studies have shown that students learn effectively through experiential learning. This has been one of the objectives of the student mobility program, which is to expose students to real life experiences and hopefully will improve their skills in problem solving.

The incorporation of community project in the mobility program has also exposed students to real-life situation and presenting them with the ability to adapt to new circumstances, and to deal with problem constructively.

Getting the opportunity to spend half a day with children at SOS Orphanage Village in Hatyai definitely helped participants of the mobility program to appreciate life, as well as becoming more compassionate and learn how to help others who are less fortunate.

“I guess this is our way to bring cheers to the underprivileged children at the orphanage. They enjoyed the activities that we organised for them. We teach them to learn the alphabets, count in English, name the body parts and play games. It is a nice feeling to see them happy and enjoying themselves,” said Sarah Hafizah Chandra, 22, a second year Communication Studies Program student from Kuching.

According to Sarah, the outreach program with the orphanage was a great opportunity to give back to the community and also a chance to work together with other students’ volunteers from the United States and the Philippines who also took part in the program.

After spending time with the children, Sarah and other participants headed to Samila Beach and participated in a Beach Clean Up activity where they managed to collect a total of 80kg of trash.

“This is the least we can do to keep the beach clean and for everybody to enjoy the beautiful scenery at Samila Beach,” she added

The participants of this program also got the opportunity to learn about Thai’s culture when they visited Southern Folklore Museum located at Tambon Ko Yo, Amphoe Mueang Songkhla. At the museum, students learn about ancient civilizations which include indigenous arts, pottery, farming, trapping equipment and household items.

Atiqah Amanina Mohammed, 20 from Brunei said she learns about different culture of Thai’s people especially about the tradition, food from the visit at the Folklore Museum.

“It is interesting to see that there are similarities of culture among Asian countries. This is evident in music, dance, literature, architecture and even language. The trip to Folklore Museum definitely enhance my understanding on cultural differences and similarity that we have,” she pointed out.

Apart from visiting museum, students went to a two-day English Camp at Phattalung & Trang provinces where they participated in team-building activities, taking a boat trip to the lotus lake, hiking to Plaiwan Watarfall and observing the local ways of life by visiting a fishing village.

During the three-week program, the students also visited Malaysian Consulate office in Songkhla and witnessing the signing of MoU between UNIMAS and Rajamangala University of Technology Srivijaya.

“Mobility program provides students with international experience, improve their language capabilities and cross-cultural communication skills which is necessary in order to prepare students for employment in the future,” said Joseph Michael Blanchard who is a lecturer at Thaksin University.

Joseph also acknowledged that student mobility program is all about knowledge sharing between institutions through cultural exchange between students which support the internationalisation objective that can increase the visibility of the institution’s presence at the global level.

[Source: “Enriching experience for UNIMAS students at Thaksin University” published by SarawakVoice.com]
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