“You need to grab the opportunity and just go for it”. Those were the inspiring words from one of the UTM students participating in the 2011 UTM-Harvard Summer School Programme.

As Tan Chin Chee, Sara Chong Sung Ching, Nur Hidayah Abd Shukor, Tham Kok Hui and Ling Ting Yi were asked to share their experiences in Harvard, one cannot help but be inspired and motivated by the determination, enthusiasm and resilience of these five lucky UTM students who were chosen among many, vying to be part of the 2011 Harvard Summer Programme.

In completing their courses, meeting people and keeping an open heart and mind to the learning experience in the world’s prestigious university, the students came back feeling enriched and rewarded after going through what might be a once in a life time experience.

The five students were selected after going through a series of rigorous screening process, where they were given the opportunity to undertake short courses for 7 weeks in Harvard University under a collaborative initiative made possible between UTM and the renowned institution. UTM covers the cost of flights, tuition fees and accommodation while students are required to have their own funds to cover other living expenses.

During their stay in Harvard University the students were well guided by Prof. M. Rahman, a Harvard HBS Alumni and practicing lawyer, who is also the UTM Ambassador in Boston. Prof. Rahman assisted the students in obtaining short term rental arrangements about 20 minutes walk from Harvard University. The students followed the programme in Harvard from June 27 until August 12, 2011.

For Sara Chong Sung Ching, the people and learning makes the experience “irreplaceable”. Sara took “Principles of Economics”, a new interest out of her specialized field in Chemical Engineering. The course enabled her to see economic elements in all aspects of life, as she is exposed to the connection between market forces and human behaviour. Although the course is intensive, it was a rewarding learning experience as the knowledge she obtained through the lectures lets her see economics in a different light and from various perspectives.

She noted the difference of classroom learning between students in her class and her learning experience in Malaysia. According to Sara, students in Harvard are very active in their learning and are not just mere recipients of knowledge. The students are more eager to question and share opinions constructively with the professors and other peers in the classroom. Not only that, the diversity of student bodies exposes her to different cultures in the institution, allowing her to make friends with students from all races, beliefs and religions.

Sara also experienced the hospitality of the local comunity Faculty of Petroleum, Renewable and Environmental Engineering,. She enjoyed her experiences of being able to strike conversations with the people she just met, and being taken care of by friends and acquaintances she had come across in the campus.

For Tham Kok Hui, he has UTM to thank for for realising his dream. Tham is grateful for being given such a rare opportunity to experience Harvard. A final year student in Faculty of Petroleum, Renewable and Environmental Engineering, he commented that the experience has broadened his horizon and allowed him to see things in a different view.

According to Tham, Harvard University is a melting pot of people and cultures. The interaction with new friends that he had met along the way, for example a lawyer from India and his housemate from Korea is described as “something that I won’t experience in UTM”. He looked up to Prof. M. Rahman as he is knowledgeable, friendly, hospitable and down to earth, and takes care of him and his fellow UTM students well throughout their stay.

Tham enrolled in ‘Judgment and Decision Making’ together with Sara as part of the requisite for the Summer School programme. Both remarked that the course gave them ideas in foreseeing the consequences brought forward from an array of possibilities, making them more confident in making decisions.

As for Tan Chin Chee, the experience made him wonder whether a good job and good life constitute everything?

Tan who recently graduated during this 47th Convocation Ceremony, will be heading to Cambridge University, UK on Sept 28th for his postgraduate studies. He noted a change of perspective towards his life and goals after attending the Summer School.

According to Tan, he used to think that a good job and good life are what graduates should strive for after their studies. During his interaction with his peers in Harvard, he observed that the students were looking at creating an impact and contributing to the community, while optimising their qualifications in their field of career. Students ponder questions such as “How can I be the best around?”, “How can I create something great?” and “How can I change the world?”, which is a far cry from his overview toward career and life.

The course he followed, “Cross Border Innovation” validates his observations as Professor Iris Bedrow, the academic in charge of the course let him see the connection between innovation, business and development, with different teaching methods in class, lots of input and Prof. Bedrow’s easygoing and friendly personality.

The UTM-Harvard Summer School Programme will enter its third year of implementation in 2012, with another five students to be sent abroad for similar experiences.