Mary PW Chin
Guildford is the lovely English town where I studied and lived 1998 to 1999. University of Surrey is my alma-mater (I don't customarily refer to every university I studied in as my alma-mater!) Later in 2007 I returned to work till 2009, when I packed to leave for my parachute to
a phase of thanksgiving
My time there as a student marks one of the most thankful phase of my life. Even till the very last moment, as I was finishing and preparing to return home (to serve at Mount Miriam Cancer Centre), I still could not believe that my feet were stepping on English soil, that in fact I got the scholarship I waited for. It was a critical turning point with an everlasting impact. The scholarship and the study gave me a long-ranging jump-start, without which I wouldn't have got the subsequent one by Cancer Research Wales. And, without which I wouldn't have got into CERN. One step leads to the next, if only we have the opportunity.
revisiting Guilford in 2006
The flight of steps where I used to exercise, view from the top.
The flight of steps where I used to exercise, view from the bottom.
The Senate House where I was thoughtfully given loose change.
University of Surrey knew how to be a university. It was the way a university should be. Till this day I'm proud to be a Surrey Medical Physics produce and I carry with me many fond memories of Guildford.
Revisiting University of Surrey, I looked forward to:
hearing once again the announcement on the train, "Guildford, this is Guildford." -- the characteristic incantation I used to entertain my course mates with (in addition to "Mind the gap... Mind the gap." for the London Underground). Unfortunately, arrivals are no longer announced the same way.
climbing once again the steps leading up to Guildford Cathedral, the university's neighbour. I used to climb up and down and up and down for exercise. I was conscious that over the years my memory had either shrunk or blown the flight of steps out of proportion. I longed to see it again if not just to put back the right proportion. Of course, the steps are still there -- but I found them only after some searching. Apparently my memory flipped the steps over to the wrong side of the cathedral.
I managed to take a picture of that flight of steps, also a picture of the University Senate House, where I was given money upon arrival on 30 September 1998. University of Surrey is always excellently reliable and error-free -- I could have flown to England without a single penny. For, as instructed in a letter sent to Malaysia, I went to the Senate House to see Mr. H... to receive some of the scholarship money. Mr. H... was there as promised, handed me money without fuss. Not just money but also loose change and coins -- to make sure that I could buy whatever I needed wherever I went. That extra thoughtfulness haven't ceased to amaze me.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed myself as a student there, the realisation of just how unparalleled Surrey was didn't hit me until later on. As I gained more exposure in the British academia, I appreciated Surrey even more. I couldn't find fault with the various offices be it the registry, finance, security, accommodation, information services, etc. It was a place where bureaucracy delivered efficiency cost-effectively -- no time and energy wasted in chasing people around. No unnecessary follow-ups required. Everything was prompt and exact. In particular, the Medical Physics group which I was part of was exceptional. Surrey was where
science is not rogue. Believe me there are really more rogue scientist around than commonly known, and I'm still amazed how people get away with it and continue getting grants and sitting on comfortable positions; people who only know how to talk but haven't a clue what they are talking about.
students are developed as individuals. Yes there are other academically good universities around, but in the course I attended at Surrey, extra miles were certainly taken to understand, respect and develop each student in the class.
the course was not run just for the sake of running a course. Our course was run with spirit and soul.
people did not need to warm-up before accepting others from diverse backgrounds.
Heathrow after UK terror plot
The airport website warned passengers, "Please do not come early" because the airport couldn't deal with the crowd. Very interesting, for I have only heard, "Please come early!"
At the departure gate there was an array of all sorts of bottled liquids. I found the scene comical. Passengers in the queue took turns to surrender their contribution to the array.
I found the queue to the departure gate a little longer than usual, but it didn't take too long to reach the checkpoint. Everybody had to remove their shoes. Other than that, I found no difference from my earlier Heathrow experiences.
How did it feel to be flying from Heathrow Airport a month after the
UK "terror plot"? Well, if there has been a real attempt to bomb, it has been foiled thanks to the UK police (who has been shooting people completely unconnected to any terrorist activities). Otherwise if it has been an attempt to scare, sorry the alleged scare isn't convincing. Given the choice I would have avoided flying at this particular time. Not that I've been successfully frightened -- just didn't fancy boarding a plane which I do not know where it is going to land! Since 10th August 2006, a number of flights were "forced" into emergency landing just because passengers grew suspicious of each other. Ridiculous! That's sick. Passengers have no right to screen fellow passengers. They are not airport security officials. Come on, if terrorists can be identified by the look, terrorism wouldn't have been terrorism.