Swapping Moon Cakes for Tim Tams

12 February 2015

Swapping the Petronas Towers for the Eureka Tower and moon cakes for Tim Tams, Li-Shen Ng is immersing herself in Melbourne and loving every minute of it.

The third year pharmacy student has packed up her life in Malaysia and moved to Melbourne as a part of the two plus two exchange program and said that so  far, the experience has surpassed her expectations.

"Melbourne is an amazing place and there is always something to do."

"The distinctive architecture and beautiful gardens are captivating but I find that the best of Melbourne lies in the outskirts - the scenery and views at  Phillip Island, the Yarra Valley and Great Ocean Road are just breath taking."

"Besides the magnificent landscape, I absolutely enjoy Melbourne's brunch culture and couldn't help but (attempt to) become a coffee connoisseur," Li-Shen  said.

The two plus two exchange was launched in 2014 and allows pharmacy students studying at Monash Malaysia the chance to study two years of their four year  degree at the Parkville campus.

Li-Shen was initially studying at Parkville as part of an intercampus exchange between Parkville and the Sunway campus before hearing about the longer term  exchange.

"I found out about the two plus two exchange while I was here on a one semester exchange and jumped at the opportunity to stay on for another two years."

"For me, it was an opportunity to experience a new culture and take advantage of the extra opportunities that come with studying at Parkville – the staff,  the facilities, the research," she said.

As the first student to pass through the two plus two program, Li-Shen is somewhat of a trail blazer for her classmates in Malaysia and said her friends  still studying back home have shown a lot of interest in the program.

"I share some of my experiences on Instagram and Facebook which is a great way of staying connected with my friends back home."

"Moving overseas to study is a massive investment both financially and emotionally and the two plus two program helps alleviate some of those pressures."

"I was able to transition into university life while still living at home and paying the international fees for two years rather than four is less of a  financial burden", she said.

With the first year of the exchange coming to an end, Li-Shen has had time to reflect on a busy but brilliant first year.

"Looking back on the last twelve months, I have done so much both in and out of the classroom"

"I have made great friends, I have learnt from some outstanding researchers, I have explored new places around Australia and I undertook a really enjoyable  placement at Geelong Hospital."

"But I have to say my favourite and most exciting 'Aussie' activity was watching a footy match at Etihad Stadium with my friends!"

With interest in the exchange program expected to grow, the faculty is hoping to see more Malaysian pharmacy students coming to Parkville.

Dean, Professor Bill Charman said the world is becoming a smaller place and opportunities for travel and collaboration across borders continues to grow.

"We work very closely with our colleagues in Malaysia and the exchange programs in place allow a seamless transition for the students."

"The course content is produced at Parkville, but taught at both Monash campuses, so no matter where the classroom is; students will get the quality  education, which leads to quality practitioners."

"It works both ways, we encourage our students to go out and experience a semester in Malaysia too," he said.

Li-Shen had some words of advice for students considering an exchange in either direction and said the experience is only as good as you make it.

"Put yourself out there and actually make friends with the locals!"

"It is very tempting to just stay in comfort zone and hang out with your mates from your home country, but trust me – the experience is a whole lot better  when you make the most out of it."

Q&A with a pharmacy lecturer that has studied in both Australia and Malaysia

Dr Vivienne Mak is a Senior Lecturer in pharmacy practice at Monash Malaysia and has studied and worked in both countries. She shared her experiences and  highlighted the fondest memories of her time in Australia.

What are the best things about studying in each country?

Studying in Malaysia was great as I was closer to my family and friends but studying in Australia gave me the opportunity to experience new cultures and be  exposed to different learning experience.

To students considering studying in Australia, what advice would you provide?

It is a fantastic and multicultural place to study, live and work and a place I call my second home. My advice for those wanting to study in Australia is  to embrace not only the university culture but the Australian culture as well. Studying and working in Australia was one of the best periods  of my life.

What are the top three things your recommend all Malaysian students try while in Australia?

Feed a kangaroo, watch a live AFL game and ski during winter.

And what about students in Australia considering a semester in Malaysia, any advice?

Malaysia is a vibrant country and a food paradise. If you are interested in a gastronomical experience, learning about new cultures, towering skyscrapers  but also experience cool highland getaways and forest life, a semester in Malaysia could be for you.

Your favourite memory of your time in Australia?

The people that I met made my experience much more enjoyable. But my best memory was winning the PSA Young Pharmacist Award in 2010, which made my family  and friends very proud.

Your plans for the future?

I want to stay  in academia and continue to be involved in teaching future pharmacists.