Even since she was little, Mary-Ann Ooi Suan Kim knew she wanted to master the English language.
It was a kindling passion that would take her from studying in the UK to making the world a more sustainable place.
The young Kim loved reading and found “the best novels” at the British Council library — which was open to her since she’s been a member since she was 11.
It was here where she found herself fascinated by the prestige of the language. Today, she credits her academic and career success to the British Council – the place that started it all.
“I remember having a dark pink card that gave me access to the library and the books,” Kim tells Study International.
Soon, fluent and articulate in English, she was inspired to pursue both her undergraduate and postgraduate law degrees in the UK.
“A life-changing experience”
To Kim, the UK was an obvious choice for many reasons. “Studying in the UK has been a life-changing experience,” she says.
“The highlight for me is the top quality, world-class education – which British universities are synonymous with. Over and on top of that, is the experience of global cultures.”
She had a great time, especially in the residence halls at the University of Sheffield. On Fridays, it was tradition to serve food from all over the world, from Mexico to India.
“I believe it’s the same for all the British universities, not necessarily just Sheffield. So that in itself, it makes one, especially a Malaysian, become global in thinking,” she says
“You don’t just go there and be like ‘Yeah, I really miss my nasi lemak.’ And it really instils confidence in you.”
Kim is a barrister today, where hours are long and the tasks can be gruelling. Looking back, she is thankful for the rigours of her UK degree for easing her move from university to career.
“Of course, as students, we would dread studying that much but now I realise why,” she says.
“When we are now in the workforce, it’s so important to read and prepare whether it’s to pitch to our next client or advocacy.”
How studying in the UK boosted her career
The perks and privileges of her UK education did not end there.
In recognition of her contributions as a UK graduate to the biomass industry in Malaysia, Kim won the Study UK Alumni Awards’s Entrepreneurial Award.
It was in the UK that she was first introduced to concepts such as sustainability, climate change, carbon emissions, electrical vehicles and renewable energies.
Kim took these back with her to Malaysia, where she started a business converting biomass residues into carbon-neutral renewable energy.
As Kim’s story shows, a UK degree can bring you places — and one in the midst of a tweaking ringgit is still worth striving for.
“Bring your student card everywhere; walk to save on transport costs or get an Oyster card; working while studying is great but don’t do it at the expense of neglecting your schoolwork,” advises Kim.
Apply for financial aid too. “If you get good results, you are more than capable or qualified to apply for bursaries and scholarships,” she says.
“Take full advantage of that. Really, you know, you’ll be surprised because if you don’t apply, you never know.”