April 20, 2024

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Global Biodiversity Summer School: Uniting for Environmental Stewardship

Biodiversity Ecoaqua Mini Summer School, a collaborative effort between Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT), unfolded against the scenic landscapes of Terengganu from November 10th to November 12th, 2023. This program seamlessly brought together 29 international students from UTM, including representatives from the International Student Society (ISS) and exchange students from Indonesia, China, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Palestine, Yemen, Bangladesh, and Egypt. The program proved to be a transformative experience, encapsulating the essence of cultural exchange, environmental awareness, and educational enrichment for the students. Departing on November 9th, all participants embarked on a 9-hour bus journey from UTM to UMT.

Upon arrival on November 10th, participants received a warm welcome from UMT’s Global Buddies for the first day. The program kicked off with ice-breaking activities, fostering connections between international students and their UMT counterparts. The first activity involved a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative at UMT beach, where participants engaged in beach cleaning. This activity served several crucial purposes, all aimed at preserving and maintaining the health of coastal ecosystems and promoting environmental sustainability. The next session featured a team-building activity, a sandcastle-building competition. This hands-on experience encouraged participants to promote social bonding, communication, and a sense of accomplishment, making it a valuable team-building exercise in a natural setting. The day concluded with a scenic cruise along Terengganu Drawbridge, providing participants with breathtaking views of the coastal city.

On November 11th, the group set off to Setiu, exploring the Wetland School of Setiu. This initiative, spearheaded by a local non-government organization (NGO) since 2019, aimed to reconnect the younger generation with nature and preserve cultural values. En. Allim Jamaluddin, the founder of the Wetland School of Setiu and Director of Operations for Ecoswed Initiative, delivered a talk, providing an introduction and playing a significant role in explaining the purpose behind this establishment to the participants. Participants experienced an ecotourism excursion, including a river cruise through mangroves and Nipa Palm areas. Additionally, participants were introduced to the traditional process of making Terengganu fish snacks, such as keropok lekor and satar, guided by local villagers. Keropok lekor is a traditional Malaysian snack, particularly popular in the state of Terengganu. It is a type of fish cracker or fish sausage made from a combination of fish and tapioca flour. The day immersed participants in local traditions, featuring traditional games such as congkak and permainan guli, local cuisine, and the warmth of a traditional Malay house. Participants witnessed firsthand the delicate balance between nature and human activity. The program’s emphasis on community-based initiatives and traditional practices not only enriched the participants’ perspectives but also contributed to the preservation of local culture and knowledge.

The evening of November 11th marked the closing ceremony, a celebration of shared experiences. A barbecue session brought participants together, and the ceremony included prize distribution, certificate giveaways, and insightful speeches from UTM VIPs. As the final echoes of the closing ceremony resounded, it became evident that the summer school had succeeded in its mission. The participants, hailing from diverse corners of the globe, not only deepened their understanding of biodiversity and ecological systems but also forged lasting connections.

The final day, November 12th, began with a visit to Noor Arfa Batik, providing participants with insight into the intricate art of Batik Chanting. They had the chance to showcase their creativity through a Batik Coloring activity. The group then explored Pasar Payang, Terengganu’s renowned market, indulging in local foods, drinks, and traditional attire, specifically the original kain batik. The journey concluded with a visit to the famous iconic mosque in Terengganu state, Masjid Kristal, a symbol of architectural brilliance. The participants, regardless of their religious backgrounds, were captivated by the mosque’s unique charm. Departing for UTM, the participants carried memories of a summer program that seamlessly blended education, cultural immersion, and environmental awareness. The Biodiversity Ecoaqua Mini Summer School not only enriched the lives of the participants but also strengthened the bonds between UTM and UMT in fostering a global community of learners and environmental stewards.

As the participants bid farewell to Terengganu, they carried with them not just certificates and souvenirs but a profound sense of global citizenship. The Biodiversity Ecoaqua Mini Summer School had successfully sown the seeds of environmental consciousness, cultural appreciation, and lifelong connections in Malaysia. Beyond the shores of Terengganu, the impact of this program reverberates in the hearts and minds of those who participated, creating ambassadors of biodiversity and cultural understanding poised to make a positive impact on a global scale. The collaborative spirit between UTM and UMT, embodied in this summer school, stands as a testament to the power of education in fostering a united and sustainable world.

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