The Euroculturer has invited Lex Tan Yih Liang, a student in the Erasmus Mundus Europhotonics Master’s programme to feature in this edition. Originally from Malaysia, Lex is an active member of the Erasmus Mundus Student and Alumni Association (EMA) as well as a founder of travel website ‘LeX Paradise’ since 2009, which is followed by over 3,000 people on Facebook. (http://www.facebook.com/LexParadise)
1) Hello, Lex, nice to see you here. Could you briefly introduce yourself and your Erasmus Mundus Master’s programme, Europhotonics?
Sure, I am Lex from Malaysia, an ordinary guy that dreams big. I love technology, entrepreneurship, and traveling. I guess those interests lead me to this prestigious Master’s programme, which is the Erasmus Mundus Master’s program, Europhotonics. It is a Master’s program that focuses on ”light”, or “photon” as it is known scientifically. In the field of photonics there are endless areas to explore and develop. These include laser technology which is used in the medical field, but also in machinery; renewable energy such as solar energy, and wind energy; consumer devices such as lighting, smartphones, and screen panels; optical devices such as telescopes, microscopes, and cameras. I have to say it is a great Master’s programme and I am finishing it later this year 2013.
2) Why did you choose to come to Europe to study one of the Erasmus Mundus programmes? And after studying Europhotonics for over two years, what do you feel about the choice you made two years ago?
I choose this program because I have a strong interest in technology, especially in renewable energy and the IT sector. Secondly, the Erasmus Mundus Master’s programme is one you would not want to miss out on if you like to travel. Lastly, this Master’s programme also offers entrepreneurship training and courses in its curriculum. That’s why I am in this program right now.
What I feel about my decision to take part in this programme? Simply awesome! Totally! I made the right choice, no regrets!
3) Could you tell us about LeX Paradise? How did it all start?
I founded LeX Paradise back in 2009 when I was living in South Korea. It was just a virtual space for me to write down my travel experiences in Korea. Four months into my stay there, Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) organised a contest for people that write about South Korea. I was really curious about the contest, and ended up joining.. I continued to write more about my travels and I was getting more familiar with Korea. At the end of the contest, I received an award as one of the top 30 travel bloggers. All of the winners were invited to a luxury trip around South Korea. I met many professional travel writers, youtubers, and entrepreneurs in the travel industry. From that point on, I learned to improve as a travel writer, webmaster, and internet marketer.
Yes, that was how I started LeX Paradise!
4) There are many Erasmus Mundus students who wish to run their own travel website given that we travel a lot as part of the curriculum, but it is not easy to keep it running since we normally have very tight schedules. How do you juggle with your studies and your extra-curricular activities as a travel writer, especially considering LeX Paradise is getting bigger and bigger every day?
Really? I met some of them but not so many. Are you one of them? If anyone is interested to start one, let me know – we could discuss it. (You can contact Lex here).
You are quite right about the amount of work as Erasmus Mundus students have to complete. It is not easy to manage all the activities alone. For that reason, contributors play a big role of maintaining the website as well as ensuring that quality contents continue flowing into the website. So that’s mainly how I get by.
And finally, LeX Paradise is not as big as you think but yes, it is getting better.
5) Have you heard about the MA Euroculture programme before? What is the first impression you had upon hearing the name of the programme? Let’s put it another way: if you were to meet a MA Euroculture student for the first time, what kind of questions would you ask to keep the person interested?
I heard about it when I was at the EMA-General assembly. What came to my mind was a Master’s program that covers a wide range of European cultures, including politics, social issues, communities, and of course Culture.
As for the question, it would depend on where that student is from.
To a European student I would ask: “What has the main influence of European culture been over the past decades?”.
To a non-European student: “What is the main difference between European cultures and the culture of where you are from?”
6) You are an active member of the Erasmus Mundus Association (EMA). Could you briefly introduce your job as Promotion Team Coordinator in the EMA-Southeast Asian Chapter (EMA-SEA Chapter)?
As a Promotion Team Coordinator, I am responsible for promotion-related activities in the region, managing social media platforms, brainstorming on promotional events, providing latest Erasmus Mundus information to all the potential candidates as well as representing EMA-SEA Chapter for EMA events. Those are the main features of my job.
7) How did you get involved with the association, and what do you like most about the EMA?
At the beginning, I was a member of EMA, just like anyone else who registers once they start their Master’s program. From time to time, activities were organized online, and I got involved in some of them.
At one point, I thought I should get more involved in the association by contributing with my experiences but also to gain new skills and expertise. For that reason, I ran in the board member election of EMA-Southeast Asian Chapter and I was elected. So, that’s the actual starting point from which I became very involved in the association.
EMA provides a platform for students and alumni to explore endless opportunities including social networking, soft skills, professional development, mentoring, activist, community development and many more. It is a hub for all Erasmus Mundus Awardees to connect, share and make the world a better place.
This is what I really love about EMA.
8) What is the easiest way for other Erasmus Mundus students to be more active in the EMA?
Since EMA members are spread out all over the world, it is hard to get everyone together to tell them more about the association. One of the ways to contribute that I could suggest for other EMA member is to start with online virtual events. For example, participation in webinars, online professional speed dating, online conferencing, as well as in the discussion board. This is one of the best ways to start, and it is the way I started as well. Another way is to get to know EMA members locally and start organizing events and hangouts in your area.
9) One of the two themes of the 4th edition of The Euroculturer is “Welcome home”. Have you been back in Malaysia yet since you started MA Europhotonics, and if you have, how did it feel to be back? Do you think your experience as an Erasmus Mundus student in Europe drastically changed your perspectives toward your home country?
I haven’t been back to my home country yet, but I can imagine how I am going to feel about it. I think I am going to feel very glad to be back home again after such a great time in Europe, feel loved and cherished to meet all my loved ones, and feel a sense of responsibility by being part of a local and global community that strives to make the world a better place.
I think my experience as an Erasmus Mundus student in Europe changed my perspectives toward my country, especially those perspectives that could improve and develop my country, Malaysia!
10) Lastly, could you please tell us about your plans after graduating from the MA Europhotonics Programme? What kind of work do you want to do? Also, will you still be a travel writer then?
After Europhotonics, I will definitely return to my home country for a while and will be back again in Europe to do a PhD or to launch a start-up. As usual, my work will be very technological.
Of course, once travel writer, forever travel writer. Once EMA member, forever EMA member!
Thanks, Lex for sharing your story with The Euroculturer Magazine. We wish you all the best with everything you do, especially your studies, LeX Paradise, and your engagement with the EMA.
Interview by Eunjin Jeong, 2013-14 EMA Programme Representative of MA Euroculture.