Ghai Siung Chong – Postgraduate (international)

Ghai Siung comes from Malaysia, and is studying for a PhD in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Sheffield.

Why did you choose to study in the UK?

I always wanted to read aerospace engineering, ever since I knew I wanted to become an astronaut. The University of Sheffield was ranked very highly the year before I came to the UK, so for teaching quality and excellence, so it wasn't a tough choice at all.

As an international student flying around the world to a foreign country, safety is the foremost priority. The UK is definitely one of the safest countries in the world and Sheffield is one of the safest cities! I also like the international community in the UK; I feel like there is a mutual respect between local residents and students here.

Finally, the UK is a central place in the world; every European country is only a short flight away, so I get the chance to visit other countries during my vacations!

What do you see as the key factors that have helped you on the path to success?

Success comes in different shapes and sizes. In terms of academic achievement, I was awarded The Royal Aeronautical Society Award for achieving the highest score in all my three years of study in Sheffield. I was admitted to read for a doctorate degree with full scholarship.

The key to this ‘success’ is never giving up and daring to dream big and achieve bigger! Completing a degree is obviously not easy, but you have support every step of the way, from your department, tutor and your peers. So, take advantage of the first-class resources and opportunities.

In life outside of my studies, I have been heavily involved with extra-curricular activities. I was the chair of the Volunteering Committee, organising plenty of volunteering opportunities as well as organising the ‘Volunteering Award’, where we welcomed the Queen's South Yorkshire representative Lord Lieutenant Andrew Combe. I was also part of the International Students Committee, campaigning and looking after the welfare of our international students. The opportunity to work in an international team and with people from all walks of life is an experience that will make you stand out in the crowd when applying for jobs.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I have always wanted to be an astronaut, and that has not changed at all! Coming from a small town in Borneo Island, the UK is a land of opportunities and open doors. I have met world class lecturers and professors here at Sheffield and, because of my PhD supervisors, I am now working with Venus Express (satellite) data as well as working on a side project with NASA, to analyse data for scientists all around the globe. These would have been impossible if not for the opportunities I’ve had in the UK. I believe all my job experiences will only bring me closer to my dream.

What is your advice for other international students like yourself?

It can be daunting to come to a country where the cultures are completely different. But to me, that's the best part of living here! I did not just gain knowledge from the top-notch university, I learnt valuable life lessons which would have been impossible if I stayed in my comfortable bubble. It is easy to just hang out with friends from the same backgrounds, speaking the same language, and doing the things you would have done back home. 

My advice would be to try to break the bubble and spend time with people from other backgrounds. You will learn new languages, new cultures and most importantly you will make friends from all around the world!

Fast-forwarding to now, I have found friendships, adventures, cultures, opportunities and now, my second home, all here in the UK. These things will stay with you forever and no one can take them away from you. You too can experience these, but you will first have to push the boundaries.

This case study was originally posted by the University of Sheffield and is published with kind permission.