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Developing them via travelling

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By: Sr Dr Zuraini Md. Ali, Sr Dr Nor Haniza Ishak

In January, Minister Dato’ Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir unveiled MOHE’s 2024 Aspirations at Universiti Malaya, highlighting five focus areas to enhance higher education. One of these areas, focusing on nurturing talents, caught my attention, particularly in how we can all play our role in shaping students’ development.

We believe that instilling the right values in our youth is crucial for their future success. And one way to do this effectively is through travel. It might seem simple, but the experiences gained from exploring different cultures and environments can have a profound impact on students’ resilience, teamwork, discipline, communication skills, self-confidence, maturity, willingness to explore new things, and mindset.

Resilience is key for students as they navigate the challenges of university life and beyond. By exposing themselves to new situations and cultures, students learn to adapt, overcome obstacles, and develop a broader perspective on the world. A study from 2021 among university students in North Carolina found that travel experiences significantly contributed to students’ ability to bounce back from adversity.

But travel is not just about resilience—it also fosters a sense of global citizenship. Experiencing different cultures firsthand breaks down stereotypes and encourages empathy, preparing students to be socially conscious leaders in an interconnected world.

Furthermore, travel provides unique learning opportunities outside the classroom. Whether exploring historical landmarks or architectural wonders, students gain valuable insights that enrich their academic pursuits and encourage interdisciplinary thinking.

In addition to personal development, travel can also drive innovation and collaboration within the academic community. By facilitating cross-cultural exchange and collaboration, universities can leverage diverse perspectives to tackle complex challenges and drive progress.

In our role as educators teaching “Heritage Building Measurement & Analysis” to undergraduate Building Surveying (BS) students, we have come to understand the profound impact of experiential learning on personal and professional development. These skills—teamwork, discipline, communication, self-confidence, maturity, and a willingness to explore new things—are not just desirable; they are essential for success in today’s dynamic world.

Field trips serve as invaluable opportunities to cultivate these skills. Over the years, we have led our students on explorations spanning the length and breadth of our country, from the UNESCO heritage sites of Melaka to the historic corners of Acheh in Indonesia. These journeys aren’t merely about documenting buildings; they are about unravelling the stories embedded within them.

Take, for instance, our recent expedition to Langkawi, Kedah—a seemingly unassuming locale at first glance. One might question the presence of heritage buildings in a place known primarily as a sleepy fishing village, especially compared to the grandeur of palaces and mansions found elsewhere.

But true heritage extends beyond architectural grandiosity. It encompasses the narratives woven into the fabric of society—an intricate connections of human experiences and aspirations. And it’s within this framework that our journey in Langkawi unfolded, revealing unexpected treasures hidden amidst humble surroundings.

Among these treasures stood the quarters where Tun Mahathir Mohamad, the longest-serving Prime Minister of Malaysia, embarked on his transformative journey. His six-month tenure in rural Langkawi marked the starting point of his visionary leadership, laying the foundation for modernization and progress in our nation’s history.

Through the lens of heritage, we unearthed not just bricks and mortar, but the aspirations of a nation personified in one man’s journey. It’s a testament to the power of place and the stories it holds—the essence of true heritage that transcends time and space.

These field trips, seemingly simple in their execution, are profound in their impact on the young minds of our students. They offer more than just academic insights; they foster a deep appreciation for history, culture, and the human spirit. Each journey becomes a stepping stone in their personal and professional development, equipping them with the skills and mindset needed to navigate the complexities of the world around them.

As we look ahead to MOHE’s aspirations for 2024, let’s recognize the significant of integrating travel experiences into higher education. Even though this specific course was no longer applied due to accommodating current trend in industry, it still can be embedded in other courses throughout the program.

Let’s empower students to explore the world around them, fostering resilience, global awareness, and a passion for lifelong learning. After all, the journey of education isn’t just about reaching a destination—it’s about embracing the experiences along the way.

So, let’s go travelling, young ones!

……

Dr Zuraini is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Building Surveying, Faculty of Built Environment, Universiti Malaya; and one of the recipients of 2021 Anugerah Akademik Negara. She may be reached at zuraini_mdali@um.edu.my

Dr Haniza is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Building Surveying, Faculty of Built Environment, Universiti Malaya; may be reached at norhanizaishak@gmail.com

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