Student Stories

Learning is a continuous process.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” ― William Butler Yeats

Firdaus Muhammad-Sukki
Studied in Imperial College London Electrical and Electronic Engineering

1) Experiences studying in the UK

I came from a big family. There are 14 of us, and my dad’s salary as a labourer was just enough to make ends meet. My parents always said, “if you want to improve yourself, you need to learn”.

Learn about Myself

I did my A-level in KYUEM from 2000-2002 under the scholarship from Yayasan TM. I was one of the two scholars who were successful in continuing our studies to the UK. KYUEM had been a great foundation in helping me prepare for my UG life where I learnt that success is not just from academic studies. I was actively involved in extra-curricular activities where I taught silat, played hockey and badminton as well as chess, I joined the kompang team and dikir barat and I also managed to complete my Duke of Edinburgh – achieving a Bronze Award.

Trying to choose a university to go to in the UK where I’ll be spending 4 years of my life was such a daunting task as I have never even been anywhere outside of Malaysia.

I learnt that it is OK to ask for help when you are stuck. MABECS played an important role together with the counsellor, Ms Kasthuri Thilaga in KYUEM, about choosing the universities and preparing my university applications.

Learn to Adapt

I was accepted to pursue my MEng degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial College, London under the Yayasan TM scholarship. This is the first time I will be away from home. I was all too excited and nervous to be on the long flight for the first time and did not get enough sleep the night before. I ended up falling asleep the whole 13 hours of flight from KL to London!

Arriving at Heathrow was overwhelming. Everything was so new. The environment, the language, the culture, the food, etc. I learnt that I need to adapt in order to survive in these new surroundings. I need to be independent, I need to socialise with friends, and tolerated many things. Being your own chef is a requirement or you’ll end up hungry or out of pocket for spending on take-outs.  I also learnt that travelling and exploring another country is something fun to do with your friends! I spent most of my holidays backpacking with friends around Europe which was amazing until the 7th day when you started feeling tired of all the walking, photo-taking and your three meals a day consisted of only tinned tuna and bread. Looking back, I still laugh so hard over this.

Learn to Not to Give Up

In March 2009, I was accepted to continue my PhD at Glasgow Caledonian University, partly funded by them. The research was very new especially in Malaysia– development of new generation of solar technology. I was excited with the prospect of bringing my wife and two small children to the UK but to bring a family and comply with the UK Visa requirements, I need additional funding. I sent in many applications for scholarships to support my study. For the next 5 months, I was rejected by 9 funding bodies. It was so disheartening, and it made me feel like such a failure. Throughout this period, it was the support from your closed ones that made you stronger. Thanks to my wife and families, giving up was never an option. I persevered and 5 months later, I received the long awaited call from Yayasan TM and they were willing to support my family expenses and that made the move happened. But with only a little to go on, budget wise for all four of us, I was adamant in applying for another funding. I was successful in getting another part funding from Scottish Funding Council (SFC). I obtained my PhD in 2013.

2) My research on renewable energy

I want to aspire people to learn and keep seeking knowledge. I am now an active researcher and is currently a Lecturer in Robert Gordon University, United Kingdom. My research interest is in designing optical concentrator – a type of lens that can be used in many applications. One of it is to create a cheap solar photovoltaic system to not only generate electricity, but at the same time generate hot water for buildings. I have managed to get my designed work patented and this design has the potential to replace the traditional solar panel. The results from this on-going research were published in many research journal papers. I am also actively presenting in seminar and conferences about my work. I supervised a number of PhD students to work in this specialised area.

I am the co-founder of an MSc in Solar Energy Systems, the first and only course of its kind in the UK which will be starting in September 2019. I teach Electrical & Electronic Engineering at RGU where I hope I can share my knowledge with other students, hoping that they will aspire to keep learning.

In RGU, I am one of the active researcher and work together with a fellow Malaysian, Mr Ahmad Syahrir Ayub who are actively involved in wind energy research.

3) Essential tips for Muslim students

  • Halal food is easy to find in the UK. There are many halal butchers around and thanks to the initiative of the Muslims here, major hypermarkets now carries Halal meat and products too, such as Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda.
  • Hypermarkets here are everywhere and choices are very wide where you can find most of your food supplies. Always read the ingredients lists, and if it says ‘Suitable for Vegetarian’, and as long as there are no alcohol, you can consume them. Besides, cooking will help you save a lot of money.
  • Once a while, you can eat out. Again, there are many Halal restaurants around the UK.
  • There are many mosque all around the cities in the UK. Besides the Central Mosque, there are local mosque, Islamic centre where you can go.
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