British universities attract students from all over the world. Lyddia Cheah moved to the UK from Malaysia, where she was training badminton and represented her country in world-wide championships. Coming to the UK gave her a chance to continue developing her badminton skills, while finishing her Masters degree at the same time. She is a postgraduate Mechanical and Manufacturing engineering student at the University of Derby.
Before coming to the UK, she already had major sports achievements, that granted her access to her Sports scholarship:
“Prior to moving to the UK I trained at the national badminton centre in Malaysia and I first represented Malaysia at the age of 13 years old and continued to do so until I was 24 years old. It was a great honour to represent my country and travel the world doing something I loved to do. I participated in numerous prestigious international tournaments such as the Commonwealth Games, Asia Games, South East Asia (SEA) Game, World Championship, World University Game etc. My biggest achievement is winning a gold in the Commonwealth Games and I represented Malaysia. During my time at the University of Derby I represented Team Derby in the national league and in the University leagues and tournaments. I have won 7 British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) medals and 4 league titles.”
Sports scholarship gave her the opportunity to come to the UK and start thinking about the future. Already achieving a lot in the sports world, Lyddia got the chance to finish a university degree, with the help of her sports scholarship.
“I started at the University of Derby in September 2015 accepting a place on the undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering. It was the sports scholarship that attracted me first to Derby, the University offered me the opportunity to study through an advertisement at my college in Malaysia, Help University. I have always enjoyed travelling to England to play badminton for Malaysia and as soon as I received the sport scholarship and I was happy with the course I took the chance straight away as it is a great opportunity to pursue my study and sport at the same time. I had achieved as much as I could on the badminton International scene and now it was time to look ahead to what was next.”
UOD offers a great scholarship scheme, with excellent sport facilities and supports such as coaching/sport staff, training, gym, physiotherapist for injuries treatment, psychologist etc. They have given her full support for both her academic and sport needs, and it made her feel like home. That’s why she decided to continue her postgraduate studies with UOD.
On how hard it is to combine the two, Lyddia says she has all the support she needs to ensure she performs well in both her academic and sport life.
“If I could not attend lectures due to training or matches, the academic staff (lecturers/personal tutors) have supported me by giving me access to recorded lectures and also 1 to 1 tutoring if needed. If I could not attend training due to my academic work, coaches are understandable with my situation and rearrange my training schedule. And the sports staff, our University’s Performance Sports Officer Donna Kellogg constantly arranges meetings with me to ensure my wellbeing throughout my university time, which is really helpful for me to achieve both of my academic and sporting goals. All the staff are very accommodating and supportive, allowing me to continue my training, as well as, studying full time to become a qualified engineer. My lecturers are very understanding of my goals, at times, training and competing can be very intense and time consuming and they provide additional support when appropriate.”
Lyddia is very excited about her future career in engineering, with University of Derby being an excellent choice for allowing her the access to high-quality amenities, keeping her knowledge up to date with latest developments from e-manufacturing and robotics to computer aided design to structural analysis, vibration and dynamics to thermofluids. It has also given her confidence that she will do well in the job market after achieving her Chartered Engineer (CEng) status.
Coming to the UK therefore meant a step forward in her academic and sports career, but it also made her realise she changed as a person.
“I have travelled from a familiar place in Malaysia to live and study in a new country and I have come from a totally different culture to the UK. At first this was difficult to be away from my family but with sport you walk into a training environment or a coaching session and you are surrounded by like-minded people and I soon felt at home with this group of players. To be on an academic course that are mainly male students has been interesting, but I feel this is a positive thing as hopefully being a female in an engineering world will help support my future career ambitions. Soon I will be going through another transformational journey from a student into the working society.”
As a sports scholar, Lyddia has to keep up with her training sessions on a daily basis. That can be quite challenging taken into account her university duties, but she still has enough time to relax and hang out with her friends and teammates:
“A normal day as an athlete and student in UOD: Get up, depending on when my first class starts, some days I have an early morning training with my team (as early as 7am). After that I will eat my lunch in my flat or at the university depending on my timetable. I will have training 1 or 2 sessions a day, 5 days a week. I have the weekend off and during my free time I am completing university work mostly and occasionally hanging out with friends and teammates. My sister travelled from Malaysia and studied her masters here too, so it was great to have her here for my final year and share this experience. My favourite chilling activities are watching movies and tv series or playing video games.”
Representing her university, after representing Malaysia, gives Lyddia a great honour and pride.
“I always enjoy the moment of wearing a jersey with the logo of the University of Derby during matches. It just gave me strength and a positive feeling because I know everyone from the university will be behind supporting me. Additionally the support and recruitment of other good players has enabled me to be part of a team to win the premier league, this is the first team to do this at the university.”
Receiving the sports scholarship makes the life of an international student in the UK a lot easier. Having financial support can be a huge factor in excelling both academically and professionally. In addition, being a sports scholar, gives you access to all sports amenities such as gym, physiotherapy, psychology support, nutrition and wellbeing workshops and strength and conditioning sessions.
On how excellent the University of Derby is in taking care of their sports scholars, Lyddia recommends it to everyone wishing to continue their sports career:
“Please come to Derby! First, UOD offers a great sports scholarship package which allows you to enhance performance in sports at the same time in academics too, allowing flexible learning. Lecturers in UOD are very supportive toward students to excel in both sports and academics, so they are always there to give their full support and help if you experience any difficulty. Nonetheless, Team Derby staff constantly do their best to assist me throughout my university time. It is a good environment for student athletes. I have enjoyed working and training with other sports scholars on the courts and in the gym, all working hard to achieve individually but also for the University and many I would now call my ‘friends.’”
If you do decide to take on Lyddia’s path, time management is one of the key elements to this. Be disciplined towards myself, always set a routine and short goals for yourself. Don’t leave everything till last minute, set a priority list, start early and constantly keep track with the progress of your work.
However, after years of strong dedication and perseverance, many doors will open for you. Lyddia’s plan sounds great:
“My sporting goal is to win another gold medal for the university team in the Championship league and assist the younger generation here in the Derby community and at the university to improve through sharing my own experiences. My career goal is to complete my Masters at the university and find a job in the UK. I am aiming for a graduate scheme in a global company.”
If you see yourself becoming a sports scholar in the UK and following Lyddia’s path, make sure you send us an email at email@example.com!