I’m Aqeel and I’m from Malaysia. I moved to the UK to study my A levels and then I took a pathway course at the University of Liverpool International College. After my Kaplan pathway course, I progressed to an undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Liverpool.
Now, I’m working on my PhD at Cranfield University — it’s been a long journey getting to where I am today, and I want to share my story.
A childhood passion
I was born in a small village called Bachok in Malaysia. It’s by the sea and has a beautiful, long stretch of sandy beach. It’s a very serene place and perfect for escaping busy city life.
When I was younger, my parents bought me a book about building simple electric circuits. I remember failing a lot, but I also remember the joy I felt when I got it to work! I guess that’s what sparked my interest in engineering when I was younger, and it grew from there.
Studying abroad: a dream come true
Studying abroad was a far-fetched dream for me. I always wanted to do it but I never really considered it possible. The opportunity came when my mother was offered a PhD position at the University of Essex.
We moved to the UK and I studied my A levels there. This experience really motivated me to continue my higher education in the UK because I could see that there were so many more opportunities available to me, especially in the science and technology fields.
When I first arrived in the UK, it was a cold January night (the opposite of hot and humid Malaysia!). We drove from Southend-on-Sea in Essex to Liverpool, where I would study my pathway course.
Taking a pathway course
On my first day, I was nervous and excited — starting the next chapter of your life is never easy, especially in a new city. However, I was ready to embrace the challenges, and the staff at the reception were very kind and welcoming, so that helped me to relax.
During my pathway course, I learnt the technical skills I needed for my undergraduate degree as well as valuable employability skills from working with people from diverse backgrounds. The courses at the University of Liverpool International College are designed for international students, which is great because we all came from different countries around the world!
Working together in this kind of environment helped me to communicate better and appreciate the complexity of working in an international team. It was a really fun experience, and I still keep in touch with people that I studied with at Kaplan.
Studying at Kaplan enabled me to earn my bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Liverpool. I struggled during my A levels and ended up failing them twice. It was a difficult time for me, but my passion drove me forward and I didn’t give up. Eventually I was accepted to study at Kaplan and I’ve worked hard to get to where I am today.
My hopes for the future
I am currently finishing my PhD studies at Cranfield University. My PhD research is on Cranfield’s bioCubeSat programme named BAMMsat (it’s a small satellite where biological experiments take place). The aim is to enable bioscience research in space that would help us to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars. It also helps us better understand the biology that exists on Earth.
I’m passionate about the space industry and I was recently named an Emerging Space Leader (ESL) by the International Astronautical Federation. I am truly honoured and humbled to have been selected to be part of the ESL programme. It’s great to stand side-by-side with fellow participants who have achieved so much in their respective fields.
My ambition for the future is to put man back on the Moon and to help send the first woman to the Moon. I am sure that one day we will be able to live on the Moon — biology remains one of the biggest issues since our bodies are not designed to leave Earth, but I believe it’s possible to achieve this goal — we just need to ask and answer the right questions.
I would say that it’s important to embrace any opportunities that come your way while remaining true to yourself. Most of the time, we have little control over our life’s path, but as long as you’re true to yourself, things tend to work out.
This is my path so far.