By Laura Evans
The pandemic has made it harder to meet people. Classes and clubs have moved online. Students are spending time at home, often alone. But they’re making the most of it.
At the International University of Malaya-Wales (IUMW), one group of bright young students had months worth of plans completely thrown upside down by the pandemic – the IUMW Student Council.
Ten individuals who collectively, would be the student voice for the university. An honour. But come December there was news of a new virus causing concern in China and just 3 short months later, universities around the world, including IUMW, had closed their campuses to curb the spread of the virus – and had moved online.
“Covid-19 and online learning came with an entirely new set of challenges. As a council, but primarily as students ourselves, our utmost priority was the student community in IUMW”, Raja Rajeswary told us, who’d been President of the Student Council for around 3 months when lockdown hit.
“We now had the enormous task of maximising student engagement through only virtual platforms and had to cancel all our pre-planned physical events. I can’t say it wasn’t challenging, but honestly, my experience serving as the President of the Student Council amid a pandemic will be the highlight of my university years. We would have online meetings late at night and early morning the next day, we’d be on a call with the management. I can proudly say that the past year has truly developed us into the individuals that we are today”.
“While grasping the new reality, we also had to come up with a list of new virtual events that students would engage with, the same way they would as if we were on campus”, Financial Officer Nurul Farzana told us. “We believe our events left an impact on our students”.
Some of the innovative list of virtual events from IUMW’s Student Council include a poetry competition, cooking show series, online career bootcamp, career gateway webinar in collaboration with LinkedIn, even online self-defence classes with a Taekwondo Head Coach – the list goes on.
IUMW is a joint venture between the University of Malaya and the University of Wales, the two oldest universities in their respective countries, and offers Dual Award degrees with their UK partner, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. It’s a draw for international students from around the world, including the council’s International Student Officer, Hassan Mursal Hassan who is from Somalia.
“Even amid a pandemic, I met many new faces and interacted with so many students with whom I shared memorable moments, which I will reflect back on for years to come”, Hassan told us, who looks after the international student community from around 50 different countries at IUMW. “My experience this year has been positively overwhelming and one that has shaped various aspects of my personality”.
While many university students of 2020 might feel like they are missing out on the traditional university experience, the extraordinary circumstances current students find themselves in could ultimately set them apart from others, as they build strength and character through adversity – and become part of a historic generation who lived through one of the biggest shake-ups the education industry has ever faced.