Life as a 2+2 student

Posted on: 8 December 2023 by Louise Colley in December 2023 posts

Sernyen Mah on campus
Sernyen Mah

Sernyen Mah is a third year Microbiology student in the School of Life Sciences. Here he tells about his experiences studying at both XJTLU and Liverpool as a 2+2 student, and winning the Microbiology Society Prize for his performance during his second year.

I started my undergraduate in 2021 at XJTLU. While most of the world had reopened their borders and schools, I was still stuck in online classes due to China’s strict COVID-19 restrictions. It was an unpleasant start to say the least, especially for an in-person learner like me. Even worse was not having any laboratory experience. Could you imagine being a life sciences student without having any hands-on lab practicals?

I eventually applied for the 2+2 programme. The opportunity to further my studies at the original red brick was exciting, but the massive difference in tuition fees had always proved to be worrying. I tried my best to cope with online classes, doubling my study time all while working part-time as a physics tutor. My hard work did eventually pay off as I was offered a place at the University of Liverpool with a 25% discount on tuition fees, making it a financially viable option.

Being a 2+2 student was not initially easy. At first, I struggled to cope with assessments as Liverpool had far more written assignments compared to XJTLU. Fortunately, my lecturers were patient and kind, always guiding me along the way. Special shout-out to my academic advisor, Dr Jamie Hall, who even supervised me during my summer studentship to further hone my lab skills!

Socialising at Liverpool as a 2+2 student who spent their first year online was similarly tough. I arrived here knowing only one friend I met online, and most people had already formed close friendship groups. Luckily for me, I’ve got to know a lot of amazing friends. My closest friends have been my second home here. We’ve gone on wild adventures and celebrated festivals together to miss home a little less.

I initially studied biological sciences at XJTLU because it was only one of two life sciences programmes offered, the other being bioinformatics. My time at XJTLU was well spent. A little-known fact: XJTLU’s biological sciences degree is accredited by the Royal Society of Biology! As such, they taught me the fundamentals of biology to the highest degree, which really helped me during second year.

However, my passion lies in microbiology, especially in the biotechnological applications of microbes, from vaccine production to bioenergy. When I first started my course, it was a bit surreal. An everyday Malaysian studying microbiology in the UK, I could have never imagined that. I think, ultimately, my passion for microbiology really drove me to be my best. I enthusiastically delved into lectures, seminars, tutorials and workshops, enjoying every moment.

I was nominated by my Programme Director, Dr Gemma Wattret, for the Microbiology Society undergraduate microbiology prize. This is awarded annually to the second-year undergraduate student who performs best in microbiology and came as quite a surprise! Sometimes imposter syndrome can get the better of me, despite coming so far. This award serves as a confidence booster, but more so a confirmation that I have been doing well academically.

I aim to pursue a PhD and so, as I continue my academic journey, this award will surely boost my chances. Not only the award itself, but the free membership in the Microbiology Society will provide me with excellent networking opportunities. I hope meeting with academics and other like-minded individuals will also help me in my future endeavours.