“MER experience include immersing oneself to transboundary culture and societies, which cannot be described by words alone…”

My name is Rick Leong and a Malaysian enrolled in the 2014-2016 cohort of the MSc. Originating with a degree in BSc in Life Sciences (specialisation in Environmental Biology) with an interest in Marine Biology, I was determined to advance my education and research interest in marine ecology with a Masters that incorporated a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the marine environment and for that, this Master suited perfectly to me. As an avid traveller myself, I was attracted to the mobility pathway of the course, given that I would be able to ‘travel’ around three different European countries on a rotational semester basis. It was truly a non-forgettable experience. My experience throughout the duration of the course has been extraordinary, to say the least and mostly indescribable with words. From a curriculum point of view, I have been exposed to various European marine research backgrounds and disciplines. As a person with a background in biology/ecology, I enjoyed learning about seafloor geology and physical oceanography which I had no learned before. The experience also included immersing oneself to transboundary culture and societies, which I opine cannot be described by words alone; I had the utmost pleasure of learning to speak French and Spanish (though I prefer the latter), experiencing life as a European country resident (and not a tourist) and experiencing cultures that are foreign to that of Southeast Asian. Who knew Rick would a crack a walnut in a Sagardotegi (Basque cider house) with his forehead? Aupa!

Another priceless experience was the international friendships that I have forged from the MSc course. I am so grateful to have forged a great friendships with my both European and non-European course mates. My cohort (2014-2016) was, and, is still truly an international and united cohort given that we are of different nationalities coming from the Far East (Hong Kong China), Western Europe, West Africa (Kenya) and up to the Pacific shores (California). I have learned so much from my peers and picked up habitats such as drinking rakija (plum brandy from Serbia), eating marine limpets in Azores, learning to speak Kiswahili (Habari!), making Basque pintxos and cooking pasta the Italian way. I was also equally elated to share my Malaysian food culture and experience with other peers. The experience has broaden my horizons to different cultures in many ways. I believe that I am truly a different person than I was before the Master – am now a boundless world citizen as the far as the marine environment would connect all of us!

Post- MSc, I am currently employed as a Field and Lab Coordinator, in the Asian School of the Environment, Nanyang Technological University of Singapore. By applying the knowledge of field research and logistics from the curriculum and the mobility pathways of the Masters, I am the main delegate leading international (outside Singapore) undergraduate field programmes of the School relating to ecology and human Societies, which includes marine related field programmes. During my spare time, I am a moonlighting marine biologist who is working on scientific publications from my previous endeavours. In the near future, I intend to further my studies with a PhD and I intend to use my Master experience and network for hone my marine research skills.

I will always cherish my experience and I truly hope future students will enjoy the experience as much as I did.

Con muchos abrazos,

Rick Leong