Dissertation Research at the Maritime Institute of Malaysia
14 March 2019
Lena from Geography utilised the Global Experience Bursary to support a period of research at the Maritime Institute of Malaysia.
Lena Fricker, Geography
While at MIMA (Maritime Institute of Malaysia) I undertook a range of activities. Mainly, I carried out my dissertation research interviews with policy makers and industry experts in Malaysia. The interviews not only taught me a lot on the subject of Maritime relations itself, but also allowed me to develop my qualitative research skills. I attended a range of roundtable discussions and conferences on topics like China's rise in Asia, green shipping efforts and the conflicts in the South China Sea. I learnt about marine spatial planning and also China's One Belt One Road initiative. I also had the chance to visit Singapore to talk with an expert on the South China Sea.
The main benefit of the programme at MIMA was that I had the connections and network needed to carry out the interviews. Without MIMA's name and their help in getting in touch with policy experts, I would have found it much more difficult. This directly benefited my dissertation research in many ways. In terms of future career aspirations, working at MIMA also gave me an insight into the world of foreign policy and diplomatic relations, which I now feel like is something I'm really interested in job-wise. Watching people debate at roundtable discussions and attempt to find the best way forward in terms of regional policy fascinated me. I also got the chance to meet people from a whole range of industry backgrounds and nationalities, allowing me to expand my network and appreciate a variety of cultures.
Some challenges I faced were industry limitations. Policy experts from the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs were simply too busy to have the time to be interviewed. It was also a new industry to me, having only worked previously in corporate businesses. There is a lot of formalities and diplomatic relations that go into planning conferences and attending events. I overcame these challenges by remaining positive that my research would be still carried out despite being turned down by a few potential interviewees. I also asked questions whenever I was unsure on the formalities of the industry to avoid any offence.
To other students considering a short-term global opportunity, I would say go for it! Your summer is long and you should definitely try and make the most out of it by going out of your comfort zone and trying something new. I'm really grateful for UCL's help in allowing to make my programme abroad smooth and extremely enriching.