By chance during my freshman year at Arizona, I landed at Manzanita-Mohave, one of the international dormitories. I was kicking around my soccer ball in the parking lot, and the Brazilian exchange students were quick to join in with me. I spent many days showing them the aspects of American culture that I cherish, and many southwest destinations later they became some of my dearest friends. Their drive to explore and learn about our culture was brilliant and a catalyst for my decision to study abroad.
Ultimately, it was my love for soccer, alongside with a desire to explore my ancestral roots that led me to Great Britain for the fall semester of my junior year. After reviewing a list of Universities with transferable credits, I chose to attend the University of Nottingham because of an excelling chemistry program and its location in England’s East Midlands.
Two of the most stimulating classes I took there were physical chemistry and stellar structure. There was a major emphasis on independent study; each class occupied only two hours of lecture per week. This structure suited me quite well because while it required discipline, it allowed the flexibility to tour the region and meet new friends. Spending winter break with my English relatives and catching a Newcastle United match (my and my granddad’s favorite soccer club) were memories I won’t soon forget.
A few weeks later, I flew to Southeast Asia to start the spring semester at Monash University Malaysia. The warm dense air of Malaysia was a stark contrast to the slicing cold English climate. Another major difference this time around was the accommodation. In England, I was staying in a student apartment complex. In Malaysia, I lived with a friend that I met at the University of Arizona in a house located in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. It was my first taste of big city life. The population of Malaysia is fairly evenly split between three main ethnicities; Malay, Indian, and Chinese. Incredible food options were represented by each culture, and it became clear why Malaysia is famous for its cuisine. I gained a familiarity with many tropical fruits that otherwise I would have never encountered. The most popular fruit amongst Malaysians is durian. On the outside, it is prickly and smells like ‘a garbage truck that ran over a skunk’. On the inside however, it is the sweetest and creamiest fruit with a texture similar to that of a ripened avocado.
The most interesting course during my stay in Malaysia was an environmental chemistry course that focused on the modern aquatic issues. This course supplied me with the expertise needed to do a research project on environmental pollution in the Klang River Basin (Kuala Lumpur). Paired with an interesting course on the historical and political governance of Malaysia, it provided me with insight around the challenges of maintaining the environment during a time of rapid economic development.
Throughout this past year I have been enchanted by the striking sense of kindness present far and wide. From the cold and rainy island of England, to the hot and sunny peninsula of Malaysia, I was met with care and consideration from those with whom I crossed paths.