The Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Electrical Engineering alumnus, Nikhil Jaden Naidoo recently returned from Thailand after completing his Master of Engineering degree in Electrical Engineering at Suranaree University of Technology (SUT), located in the North Eastern region of Thailand.
Naidoo (25) from Chatsworth, Durban was awarded the Nelson Mandela Thailand Post-Graduate Scholarship in October 2019. His Master’s degree was based on researching quantum dot solar cell efficiency and fabrication techniques. He spent two years in a province called Nakhon Ratchasima, in Thailand completing his Master’s degree. Naidoo indicated that SUT is one of the best universities in Thailand, having a state of the art technology and an amazing campus.
“My original plan was to visit home after about a year, but the COVID-19 lockdown and travel restrictions made it impossible. The experience that I’ve had is hard to describe with words, it’s simply amazing. The work I did as a Master’s degree student was intense, with a lot of stress and late nights, but that was only a part of my experience. I’ve met some of the best people I’ve ever known, making friendships to last forever, and memories to carry throughout my life. I have no regrets and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity,” said Naidoo, when rounding up his stay in Thailand.
Sharing some of the challenges he faced during his stay in Thailand, apart from the language barrier, the biggest challenge was the food which definitely took some getting used to. He revealed that the main types of food in Thailand are variations of noodle and rice dishes, often spicy. Another challenge he mentioned was making friends, since a lot of the other students did not speak English, but some were interested in learning and were excited to meet foreigners.
“I met other international students and foreign professors, through sports, camps, and church. The friends I’ve made helped me throughout my two years, I still talk to them and plan on visiting soon. An obvious challenge that everyone knows about is COVID, the lockdown and restrictions got pretty strict in Thailand. I was forced to spend a lot of time in my dorm room when the pandemic started, my research was also delayed. I was able to complete my degree in time though, with the help of my professor and lab mates, who assisted me,” added Naidoo.
Naidoo’s most memorable moments in Thailand, are the camps, hikes, game nights and learning to play the ultimate frisbee. He added that he enjoyed travelling solo, whenever he had the chance, he visited islands, temples and malls.
Giving insight on his scholarship, Naidoo remembers clearly the day he received the good news as it was 04 October 2019, his birthday.
“In September 2019, while I was scrolling through my emails, I came across a call for applicants, for a scholarship to study in Thailand. I didn’t think I would be a strong candidate but decided to take a chance anyway. I told myself, if I get it, I would be fulfilling two of my career options at once (killing two birds with one stone)-getting to do my Master’s, while also being able to travel. A week later I got a call, telling me to prepare all my documents and send it, because they were considering my application. About a week after sending the complete application, I received a message saying that I was one of two successful applicants,” explained Naidoo.
To his surprise the other shortlisted applicant who was also from DUT, turned down the offer to study in Thailand after discussions with her family, leaving him to travel abroad alone. However, through the love and support from his family, he made sure that he does miss this amazing opportunity.
“I was disappointed when the other student said that she would not be joining me, I probably felt more comfortable if I didn’t have to travel alone. I knew that I couldn’t let anything deter me from grabbing onto this opportunity, not even the fear of travelling alone. In hindsight, travelling alone may have benefitted me, being forced to find my own way and learning how to do things on my own,” shared Naidoo about travelling alone.
The adventurous young man, who likes to explore and meet new people enjoys being challenged mentally and physically, which he sees as a way to grow to as a person. In June 2019, he completed his BTech in Electrical Engineering at DUT and had a chance to tutor at the University, sharing his knowledge with fellow students.
Now that he is back, Naidoo is looking for a job in the engineering field, preferably solar power or semiconductors. He also plans to further his studies by enrolling for his PhD. For now, he is enjoying catching up with his family and friends after not seeing them for two years while he was in Thailand.
“The development of the Nelson Mandela Thailand Scholarship for engineering students was facilitated by the then South African Ambassador to Thailand, His Excellency Geoff Doidge, with Suranaree University of Technology (SUT) to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Mandela’s engagement with Thailand. Mr Naidoo was supported throughout his stay by DUT’s Co-operative Education Department, which has a long-standing collaborative agreement with SUT,” said DUT’s Director: Co-Operative Education, Mr Shakeel Ori.
Pictured: Nikhil Naidoo.