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Friday 2 September 2022 1:44pm

malaysianmainStudents from the International Medical University in Malaysia are welcomed to the Faculty of Dentistry. In front left is student Nathanael Lim Wei Shen who spoke on behalf of the IMU students at the pōwhiri: “In this cold weather a warm welcome is much appreciated.”

The Faculty of Dentistry has welcomed back a treasured group of students from the International Medical University (IMU) in Malaysia.

A pōwhiri was held last week to officially welcome the 24 Malaysian students who will be studying with Otago for the remaining two-and-a-half years of their Bachelor of Dental Surgery degree.

The partnership programme with IMU has been running since 2010, with over 140 graduates to date. Unfortunately, the programme had been suspended for the previous two years due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Associate Dean International for the Faculty of Dentistry Andrew Tawse-Smith developed and runs this programme with the dental education team and says it’s wonderful to resume his hosting duties.

“We’ve missed these students over the last couple of years. They really do add to the culture of the faculty for our staff and students. Multi-cultural experiences are so important and enrich the programme at all levels,” says Associate Professor Tawse-Smith.

Nathanael Lim Wei Shen spoke on behalf of the IMU students at the pōwhiri, saying: “In this cold weather a warm welcome is much appreciated.”

Nathaniel enjoyed learning te reo and tikanga Māori for his part in the pōwhiri and is seeking further opportunities for cultural development alongside his academic learning. Nathaniel is following in the footsteps of his father, an implant specialist in Malaysia who set his sights on Otago for his son because the faculty is highly regarded.

Because the programme was suspended due to COVID-19, there are two cohorts of students who have arrived this year – 11 students who were unable to come last year and chose to delay their study, and then the 2022 cohort of 13 students.

malaysianmain2Associate Dean International for the Faculty, Andrew Tawse-Smith with student Abraham Wong, who delayed his study by a year so that he could train at Otago.

Abraham Wong is one of the students who deferred his study by a year to take up the opportunity to learn at Otago. Abraham has a Singaporean father and Malaysian mother and was brought up in Singapore. He believes this Otago qualification will offer more international career opportunities. Abraham took up dentistry due to its hands-on elements, alongside the theoretical.

He is enjoying the practical aspect in his studies here and the pace of learning “with more time to absorb and understand the information, rather than cramming it in.”

After a short bridging course, which covers cultural as well as academic preparation, the Malaysian students join their third year Otago peers in Dentistry. Nathaniel says there has been a lot to learn as they join the third-year students, but staff have been helpful and encouraging.

The students have additional support such as student accommodation, and a buddy system with a fellow student, the Associate Dean International at The Faculty and support from The International Office.

Associate Professor Tawse-Smith says while it has been a big team effort across the University, it is well worth it for this very special group of students.

- Kōrero by Antonia Wallace

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