Nadhira Abdul Halim
Questions and answers:
- Before you came to Brookes what did you study and where?
- What made you choose Brookes as a place to study?
- What do you think of the course now you're here?
- What kind of financial support did you receive to help finance your degree and how did this financial support enhance your experience of the course?
- What are your plans for when you've completed your course, for work or further study?
- What are the best aspects of studying at Brookes?
- What advice do you have for others?
- Other information
After high school in Malaysia, I went to Mahindra United World College of India (UWC), to study an International Baccalaureate (IB). Being there for 2 years has given me a lot of opportunities and eye-opening experiences related to travelling, peers from around the world, locals, villages, arts, architecture, volunteer works around India etc. I’ve worked with organisations in India that supports HIV/AIDS, taught English and Math in villages, worked in a crocodile farm in Chennai, organised art exhibitions on campus, taken part in dance and drama events and more.
One of the projects I’ve done was to build a compost pit for the crocodile farm. Although the structure is relatively small, being outdoors, collecting bricks and stones, physically making the structure made me interested in designing structures. From these experiences, and my interest in Math and Visual Art as subjects, I got interested in Architecture, which led me to studying Landscape Architecture in University of California, Davis, USA. During the course, we visited many places around California to learn about designed and natural landscapes. When I was there, I was involved in serving food to the homeless on a weekly basis, mentored elementary school students, and was involved in dance performances. I did that for 2 years (half the course), then decided to apply Brookes when I realised I’m keen on learning Architecture as a whole, buildings included, and not just its surrounding landscape.
• Brookes Architecture emphasises a lot on individuality and creativity, on top of technicality, which I thought was very encouraging. In their brochure/website, they encourage students to use different methods of representation, drawings and models; I like that they don’t insist on a specific style. Coming from Landscape Architecture, I was very much interested in sustainable and culture-based design, which Brookes emphasised in its brochure.
• Ranking: Being a scholarship student, a university’s ranking was important for me to convince the organisation to allow me to transfer from UC Davis. Brookes Architecture’s ranking as top 5 Architecture programme in the UK is certainly a perk.
• Oxford: I’m intimidated by large cities such as London. So being in Oxford, a smaller student-filled city was certainly a plus point for me. Oxford is an amazing city, and before coming, I’ve heard positive things about Brookes and Oxford from 2 friends whom one was in Architecture, and the other about to start.
It was certainly a challenge for me to adapt to how the course is run, especially coming from an American university. It was tough, but certainly a positive challenge. The areas of research (in particular the Unit options) are very interesting and diverse. I feel that I’m encouraged to explore a lot by the tutors I’ve had, and to work outside my comfort zone, which is a really fun thing to challenge myself to. For one of the projects in my 2nd year, I even had to learn all about pottery making! Which I ended up enrolling in a pottery class, until now.
However, at times I do wish that we could get more contact time with tutors, lecturers and module leaders. I do sometimes feel like having a bit more time with them would help. But despite that, most tutors (at least the ones I’ve had) are very helpful and approachable, so I’m never really left clueless and uncertain of my work.
I receive financial scholarship by an organisation in Malaysia called Yayasan Dayadiri. They are an established organisation that supports funding for selected students who are accepted into universities, especially in degree programmes which other establishments may not support (government, oil companies, banks), for example, Architecture. It has been incredibly helpful, as I most likely won’t be able to attend Brookes without their financial support. And with that, I can focus more on my course works, and be involved in other things outside my course: societies, dance lessons, volunteer works, pottery lessons, all of which I find an important part of being in university.
At the moment, it’s all still up in the air. I’m exploring my options of working in Europe for my year out before starting my Part 2. I’m interested sustainable and alternative design, so I’m thinking of going down that line. One that I have in mind, although not in Europe, is to work with Arkitrek, a Borneo-based Architecture group that specialises in sustainable design, in particular tropical passive design and the integration of architecture with social infrastructure and the natural environment. I’ve been interested in their work, but their annual summer workshop is a bit too pricey for my budget. So being able to work with them would be fantastic!
Alternatively, I am obsessed with food! My current Unit for Design Module is focused on Food in Urban Development. Having read quite a bit on the subject matter (my dissertation is also related to this topic), realising that food and architecture is very much related has opened up another possible path for me to take.
Field Trips: I love that every year, we get a major field trip, and several local trips. In my first year, we went to Cardiff, and Berlin (which I wasn’t able to attend due to personal reasons). Then in my 2nd year, we went to Naples, which was an incredibly experience! Food, architecture, history, bonding with friends and tutors…it was an amazing trip. Alongside that, we also went to Avebury, Goring and the Ridgeway as part of our research projects. I think small trips like that contributes a lot to our education experience as a whole. This year we’re heading to South of France!
Design Units: I find the design units for 2nd and 3rd year Architecture really interesting. There’s a range of units to choose from, each focusing on different aspects and having unique briefs. Last year I was in Unit G, which focused on innovative sustainable design. I learned to make my own bricks, pottery, vegetable growing, mushroom picking…all part of the Architectural research! It was really exciting to see how all these elements influence the building you design. This year, I’m in Unit C which focuses on Food and Urban Development. It’s still at the beginning stages, but I find the connection between food and architecture fascinating!
Tutors: I speak for myself, but I find that the tutors I’ve had played a big part in my experience here. So far I’ve had really great tutors that has been encouraging, challenging, tough, helpful, critical, all at the same time. I find it really exciting when they challenge me to develop outside my comfort zone.
Workshops and Lectures: In the Architecture department, there are always additional workshops and lectures that are open to all. They are given by practicing architects, professionals, and experts of a certain subject area. These workshops and lectures may not necessarily be about Architecture, but they are great additions to broaden our knowledge and experience. I often attend the weekly lectures organised by OxArch.
Societies: I’ve been involved in Oxford Architecture Society (OxArch) last year, and being a committee member has taught me a lot about organising events, contacting working Architects, planning etc. This year, I’m the President of Oxford Brookes Malaysian Society (OBMS), which is only in its 2nd year. So structuring the society and running it is an exciting challenge. I’m also involved in starting up Squirrel, Brookes Pop-Up Food Co-Op. It’s still in the organising and starting up process, which is very exciting for us and we’re learning a lot.
The diverse societies in Brookes, I find, is really enriching our university life. There’s something for everyone. And if there isn’t, we can always start one up!
To future students: I’d say, come to Brookes! There’s so much going on, and so much to get involved in. Oxford’s a great city to be living in. Plus, the new building is looking great! (I managed to convince a cousin to come to Brookes). To current students: Get involved as much as you can! Join societies, sports, travel with friends, attend additional talks, events…it’s all part of the experience, and part of the fun. To Architecture students: Make the most out of the Units you’re in. Stay positive, keep exploring, reach out to your tutors and choose the units based on your interest and gut feeling. You won’t go wrong.
The summer before I started Architecture at Brookes, I interned at one of Malaysia’s largest Architecture firms called Veritas Design Group. I was involved in design projects, which have continued on even after I left. I was also exposed to meetings, site visits, model making and a variety of components that makes up an Architecture firm. It was a really fun experience that certainly geared me up towards starting at Brookes. I learned a lot at the firm that I brought to my first year. But now at the start of my 3rd year, I realise I didn’t know a lot when I was interning, and now, can hopefully turn things around and bring what I’m learning in Brookes to the next place I’ll be working at.
I’m a huge fan of travelling. From big cities like Milan and Los Angeles, to the rural areas of Sarawak in Borneo and Chennai, India. Travelling is an enriching experience that I find enhances my education. When travelling, the experience of local cultures, buildings, people, languages, food, sceneries are just some of the things that make my education in school or university fuller and more vibrant. I’m always more than happy to tell stories of my travels.