London, United Kingdom - Over thousands of Bruneian students travelled across United Kingdom and Northern Ireland to the capital city of London on Sunday for the auspicious meet-and-greet opportunity with His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and other members of the royal family.
The meet and greet was also extended to privately funded students, government officers based in the UK and Northern Ireland as well as families and tourists who happen to be on a holiday in London.
The event was hosted at the prestigious ballroom of London Hilton on Park Lane Hotel.
As the event took place in central London, it was also an opportunity for students studying outside of London to experience the life in the city or go on a sightseeing tour before and after the event.
Proudly dressed in Brunei's traditional attires, students were seen catching red London buses to head to the venue and in a way it promotes Brunei's national costume abroad.
Some Brunei Associations outside of London also took the opportunity to organise a bus trip to London on the same day and a student from Newcastle stated that they had started off their journey as early as 1am.
Upon arrival, the students were told to queue for registration and members of the Brunei Students' Union in London were seen assisting in the better organisation of the event.
After registering, students and other guests were ushered to the ballroom where thousands of Bruneians congregated in the golden opportunity to meet His Majesty.
It was also a memorable day as it enabled Bruneian students from other parts of United Kingdom and Ireland get acquainted and exchange their and knowledge and experiences while studying abroad.
Noticeable among the massive crowd of Bruneians was Nor Alizulrainee Ali Yusof, 31, who is one of the recipients of the 2012/2013 Chevening Scholarship. He is currently studying MA in Inclusive Education and Technology at Kings College in London. Being visually impaired did not deter his patriotic spirit to attend and enjoy the event. "I am honoured to be here and I am always grateful towards His Majesty's government for giving me this opportunity to pursue my academic dreams abroad," he said. Relating his life experiences as a student in the hectic city of London, he serves as an inspiration for other students due to his determination regardless of his visual challenge.
Another student in the spotlight was Muhamad Bahri bin Bohari, 24, who was awarded a scholarship by Ministry of Education in Brunei to pursue a Masters degree in International Education in Leicester. Despite being born without arms, it did not stop him from stretching his mental abilities and fulfill his dreams to study in UK. "I love the facilities and accessibility for disabled persons here in UK. It is impressive how physically challenged people are prioritised and integrated into the normal daily lives here. Therefore, I would like to thank His Majesty for allowing us to be here and shape us to be a better citizen for the nation's progress," he noted.
Among the lucky holiday goers was Azman bin Haji Julaihi, 40, who happened to be on vacation to visit his wife in London with his two children. "I came to know about His Majesty's "junjung ziara'h only about two weeks ago. Fortunately, my wife told me to bring along my traditional Baju Melayu and Songkok in case I am required to attend any Brunei-organised activities here. Well, it turned out to be one of the memorable holiday experiences. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity not to be missed," he told Borneo Bulletin.
Two Bruneians, Ak Danny bin Tajuddin and Mohamed Suharizal Hj Mohd Suot, who happened to be in London for an eight-day vacation, were counting their blessings for having given the opportunity to meet His Majesty personally abroad. "I am so grateful that we are included in this event. Majority of the Bruneians here in UK are students. So we are extremely joyful that the event was not exclusive for students or officers working here, but invitation was also extended to family members and those who were on vacation here," said Ak Danny.
Prior to His Majesty's arrival, all guests were treated to array of buffet selections at the prestigious hotel.
His Majesty, Her Majesty and other members of the royal family arrived at about 2pm and the event commenced with the mass singing of Brunei's National Anthem and followed with the recital of Quranic verses and doa recited by the State Mufti to bless the ceremony A welcoming remark was delivered by the Brunei Students' Union President, Awg Radin Abdullah bin Radin Mas Basiuni, who disclosed that there are a total of 1, 857 students studying around UK and Northern Ireland.
After His Majesty delivered a 'Titah', the ruler consented to award the UBD Chancellor Scholar to three students who will be pursuing their PHD at their university of choice worldwide.
After presenting the award, the ruler mingled with all the guests where everyone had a chance to shake hands with the benevolent ruler. Everyone took out their smartphones for an opportunity to take a personal photo with the monarch. It was not an easy feat as massive crowd swarmed the king for a chance to speak, to shake hands or take a photo with their mobile phones as keepsake. Despite the crowd, His Majesty did his best to fulfil everyone's request, which just reflects the ruler's patience, thoughtfulness and kindness towards his subjects. "The fact that we experienced studying abroad on a government scholarship is a wonderful gift from His Majesty. To meet the ruler personally here in London is an added bonus," said a student. (The writer is a former Borneo Bulletin Senior Reporter based in Kuala Belait now studying in London)
--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin