6583 miles from home

This post, written by PhD student Nur Rinah Abdul Ghaffar describes her experiences of coming to Bath University from Malaysia.

View over Bath from Calton Gardens

View over Bath from Calton Gardens

My first Airbus experience landed me on Heathrow Airport on April 19th 2013; 6583 miles away from Petaling Jaya (PJ), Malaysia. All alone, I was awoken by the chilling wind in Bath Bus Station around 9.30pm. A not so familiar sight ceases while a smiley Malay lad greeted me with an oh-so-comforting greeting, “Sister, are you Malaysian? Nur Rinah?” I grinned with no apprehension and I was led to a car to drive me up to a very serene neighbourhood called Calton Gardens, on a hill overlooking mesmerizing Bath.

It is a good tradition that fellow Malaysians would welcome a new addition to the small community of what I see as a close knit family. Still dizzy from the 8 hours’ time difference, I was impressed by their enthusiasm to get me comfortable, distracting my mind from missing my loved ones back in PJ.

Over the next few days I finally got to meet Dr. Christopher Chuck. He was as warm and friendly as all our email interactions were, and most passionate about my PhD project. I left the meeting feeling motivated and couldn’t wait to start. I knew from the beginning that my decision to accept MARA (a Malaysian government agency) sponsorship to commence this life altering feat would be a hard climb, but with so many helping hands around me, even from the onset of my endeavour, I knew that it would be worth the hard work.

The Chuck group has made restarting my research career an igniting one. With all the great knowledge and ideas, it has made all the little steps in my lab work so exciting. Having Fabio, Tanakorn and Fraeya working on the same species of yeast as me (which I still can’t pronounce!), it has made it all the more invigorating. Of course, the guidance of Chris has had a big impact on me. I have relearned and learned so much in just a few months.

My children, Ranya (left) and Raph (right) outside Bath Abbey.

My children, Ranya (left) and Raph (right) outside Bath Abbey.

As I am the “eldest” of the group, having young scientists working so diligently is very motivating and inspiring. The rest of the research group has also been so great, especially when you are stuck at your lab bench all day. Rhod singing and Lisa smiling would cheer-up anyone’s day. Now Jon and Joe are back in the team, the lab is even more cheery.

The last few months have included many ups and downs, but now that my two children are with me (and are at school near to the University) and that my PhD research is progressing, I couldn’t be happier. The weather is of course a vast contrast from home, but we are adapting day by day. The beautiful city of Bath is another joy to be in, other than for its university. I do not have words to describe it, it is for one to absorb. A beautiful city, a great university and wonderful people around me; I couldn’t ask for more!

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