Why We Do What We Do: International Communications Studies (ICS)

As an International Communication Studies (ICS) student myself, often people ask me what ICS is about. Is it mass communications? Or studying one’s culture? Even in UNMC, some don’t realize the existence of the School of Modern Languages and Cultures (SMLC) – they only know it’s the school that offers foreign language classes. This article recaps the thoughts of five ICS students on how it’s like to be an Arts student, studying a course with a purpose that not everyone may understand easily, as well as their future plans as a media student with a foreign language as bonus!

Olivia Yeoh


Third Year, ICS with Film and Television Studies (FTV) with Spanish

After SPM, Olivia was searching for Mass Communication courses and then came across SMLC which by far is a school only UNMC has. After finishing her foundation course, she was torn between International Relations (IR) and ICS, but ultimately thought that choosing ICS would ‘kill two birds with one stone’ as she would learn about both media and politics. She takes ICS with Spanish and these modules have broadened Olivia’s mind-set, especially in regards to how media are produced and how the industry works. She has become more critical towards the media she consumed, often analysing its content with a broader perspective. What she likes most about this course is that all modules are informative, and most importantly, the lecturers are knowledgeable and approachable, helping her much in her learning. There were always readings to be done before every class, and it has become a habit for her to read more to be informed.

“In university, most of the classes are theory-based. To get full understanding of the theories, one has to apply them practically in real life and venture around.”

Though at times one will question themselves whether they chose the right course to study or not, Olivia believes that one’s initial motive will encourage them to move ahead. As a person who loves making media products, Olivia thinks that joining media-related clubs gave her practical skills, such as writing in Ignite and making videos in Nottingham TV. At the moment, Olivia does not have plans to work in Spain, but is open to any opportunities that may come by. Graduating in a few months’ time, she hopes to work in a creative environment, such as film production, advertising, or broadcasting.

Stephannie Woon


First Year, ICS with Japanese

One of the reasons Stephannie chose this course was because “there are no calculations to be done.” To her, ICS modules are very broad and allow her to test the waters before deciding her future paths. Her initial plans were to either enter School of Education or Nottingham University Business School (NUBS), but none of them worked out. Despite having a harsh start off, what she likes most about the course is the foreign language options they get to choose, and she chose Japanese. Also, this course gives a variety of elective module options from different schools, such as psychology, political, and business modules. Moreover, what fascinates her most is how the Cultural Studies module helped her look at the ‘ordinaries’ with a different perspective.

“As a media student, we see a deep relationship between media and society and it tells how [this relationship] affects us unconsciously.”

As she didn’t take media modules during her foundation year, at times she finds it challenging to catch up with classes.“What we learn in class may not seem relevant and practical as compared to how we were brought up in high schools.” As a student learning Japanese, she hopes to make full use of her language skills in the future by joining Japanese companies. Stephannie also believes one should try new things and develop what they like. Instead of looking up to others’ expectations, one should venture on their interest.

Zamir Ariff Zainal


Second Year, ICS with French

Zamir developed his passion towards media since foundation back in 2014. Taking Foundation in Arts and Education, one gets to choose from many pathways, such as Education, Media, Politics, and English. As a person interested in advertising, media modules are the most fascinating to Zamir. One of the things he likes most about ICS is their foreign language options. He is currently taking French, and learning a new language is an eye-opening experience as one gets to learn a new culture. Of course, there is much coursework, along with the number of readings for every class. Yet cultural modules such as Cultural Politics, which talks about more political issues such as feminism, interest him the most. He confessed that the more you read, the more you know, and the more fascinating you find the topics.

One of the biggest challenges Zamir faced while pursuing this course was to understand the contents as they contain a lot of dense philosophical thinking. “It’s more about pushing yourself not to be lazy – once you start lazing around, everything piles up.” In the future, Zamir hopes to work in a creative working environment and advertising field to utilise his media, cultural, and business modules. It is the field of media that interests him – interpreting advertisements and understanding its implied meaning beneath. One thing Zamir speaks for all of us is that in Malaysia, many people focus on becoming a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or go into business. People have forgotten how important media are. If there are no Arts students producing media, there will be no television programs, advertisements, and all sorts of entertainment.

The world doesn’t function without Arts – people can’t communicate without medium and language. Thus, I hope people could realize its importance and be part of the movement to leave a mark on media production.

Chaniel Lum Bao Yi


Second Year, ICS with Korean

Surprisingly, Chaniel’s initial plan was to either take Medical or Mass Communications. She came to UNMC through her friends’ recommendation and took Foundation in Arts here. She was choosing between IR or ICS, and her curiosity, regarding how media are produced and why, pushed her towards this direction. What she likes most about ICS is that everything she learns in class could be related to everyday life. It adds more details into life as you will think deeper and see things more thoroughly and question them. As she takes FTV modules, she confesses that she can’t watch movies in a relaxing way anymore as she will think of the technical work behind the scenes and start analysing the film instead. In a way, Chaniel feels that she has obtained self-satisfaction when her own questions are answered by what she learned in class.

One of the challenges she faced is being not ‘political’ enough to understand some of the theories. After all, political issues cannot be separated from media production. What keeps her on track in studies is her passion – it gives her the initiative to learn and explore more despite the fact that they are 20 credits modules. In future, she hopes to work as an editor in fashion magazines, planning to start off in Malaysia, then head to South Korea or Hong Kong. As Japanese was her initial language choice to learn, Japan is still in her wish list to start off her career life.

Nadhirah Hamzah


First Year, ICS with Mandarin

Nadhirah had taken Diploma in Media Communication back in Singapore and is now continuing to pursue her interest in media studies. What she likes most about ICS is the variety of modules she could choose as electives. She took Global Psychology as well as audited a business module. She chose modules from different schools which at the same time could complement her main communication modules. Also, having to take a foreign language which weighs 20 credits is a bonus to her as one has an advantage at the workplace in the future. Nadhirah took up Mandarin last September and will be going to the Ningbo campus under the exchange program in Year 2. As many companies would hire Mandarin speakers, she believes it is a powerful language that would give her more opportunities in working.

Speaking about one of our core modules in Year 1, Cultures of Everyday Life, she confessed it is an eye-opening learning experience as what she learnt in class made her think about things around her every day instead of simply taking in what we are given. Despite it all, Nadhirah feels that one challenge ICS students may face in searching for jobs would be in telling people what ICS is actually about. Most people would assume that we learnt about communication skills, yet we are also learning about media and communication theories. In the future, she hopes to get an internship before getting a real job as she hopes to venture more and see which field interests her the most. With her past working experience in Singapore, she is considering going back to her home country after graduating as she is used to their working culture.

Living in a country where most would look up to professional jobs like engineers, doctors, and lawyers, Art students are often looked down upon as the lesser-paid ones. However, little do people know that without us, news coverage would be blinded by possible biases. After interviewing five ICS students, I felt more assured that what I learn from media studies would very much be useful in helping others analyse media, from news and articles to music videos; telling others to not just blindly accept what we are given, but to interpret them and make our own judgements too. One thing I learned from these interviews is that personal interest and motivation is what keeps a person moving forward in their dreams despite not being favoured or understood by everyone. I hope this article would help readers understand more about ICS – about what we actually learn, and that we’re not just the school that provides the ‘foreign language’ options.

Written by Wong Xeang Min

Featured Image Source: https://iamcr.org/congress/montreal2015/theme

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." (George Orwell, in Animal Farm, 1945)

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