Student wins grand prize in 2013 international travel video contest

Mechanical engineering senior Khairul Kamarulzaman's video - Postcard - won’s grand prize and a viewer’s choice award in the website’s 2013 Travel Video Contest.

Khairul Kamarulzaman has taken advantage semester and holiday breaks at Vanderbilt to travel west and east, north and south across United States.

A short video that features some of his travel adventures and introduces a unique project recently captured’s grand prize – worth $4,000 – and a $1,000 viewer’s choice award for the most viewer votes in the website’s 2013 Travel Video Contest.

“I love photography and I always carry a camera with me,” said the mechanical engineering senior from Kota Bharu, Kelatan, in northeastern Malaysia, near the border with Thailand. “I’ve spent the last three years traveling as much as possible and I’ve appreciated every moment. Well, the six hours climbing up and down with a lot of equipment in Yosemite was tiring,” he said.

Kamarulzaman and friends on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

In his award-winning video – Postcard – Kamarulzaman shares his experience as a Malaysian student studying in America and includes a trip to Texas in January and a trip through several states on a journey to the West coast during the summer of 2013. “Always with several friends in a small rental car,” he said and laughed.

It also introduces a plan for two final trips before he graduates. It’s a project that will allow Khairul to connect with Malaysian children by taking their photographs with him on upcoming trips to New York City and Cancun, Mexico.

“I’ve asked kids to send me photos of themselves, or their friends or families. I’ll carry those photographs with me to New York and Cancun. Then, I’ll take a picture of a local citizen holding a kid’s photo. I’ll turn each of my photos into postcards, write some inspiring words to encourage the kids to study abroad, and send them back to them,” he said.

Creating a postcard to send back to Malaysia.

As this year’s winner, Khairul also will get his own blog on where he will chronicle his trips and his Postcard project.

“We are proud of Khairul and “Postcard,” and delighted to have him as this year’s winner. This is what it’s all about –experiencing a new country and culture, and then sharing it with the people back home. We look forward to following Khairul as he implements his project and connects with children in Malaysia,” said Keith Clausen, president of

To enter the contest, now in its eighth year, students from around the world submit a video no longer than five minutes long proposing a study abroad trip they want to take, or if they were currently studying overseas, any trip at all. “With more 100 amazing entries from all around the world, the first difficult task was to choose 15 finalists. The video quality was excellent, with many compelling stories, and it was difficult for the panel of judges to choose three winners,” Clausen said.

“Turning these two final trips into the postcard project is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Kamarulzaman said. He used email, Facebook and Twitter to introduce his project to Malaysian students. “My target is 100 postcards. If I receive more than 100 photos, I’ll pass them on to friends to continue the project. The idea is to expand and keep it going,” he said.

Kamarulzaman's target is 100 postcards and he hopes to expand the project and keep it going.

His friends and traveling companions are Vanderbilt students Azmi Moh, Azem Yusof, Khairi Suhada, Johan Jaafar, Afiqah Mohd, Alya Syamimi and Akmal Wahid. They make appearances in his videos, too.

Kamarulzaman is an accomplished videographer who started at age 14. “I made a year-end video for my class dinner … using a very cheap camera.” He watched lots of videos on Vimeo and YouTube, and took advantage of video tutorials offered on YouTube.

Before leaving high school, he was shooting event videos. At Vanderbilt, he began creating videos for Malaysian students organization events and upgrading his equipment. Now he uses a Nikon 7000 and he has added stabilizer, glider, shotgun mics and more.

“I’ll save most of the award money for expenses after graduation,” said Kamarulzaman, who will return to Malaysia and seek a job as an engineer.