It’s important to learn from disappointments and turn them into an advantage.
It had been a childhood dream, not only of mine but of many others, to pursue my tertiary education overseas. I scored 9A1s and 2A2s in the 2006 SPM. With my active co-curricular involvement and the fact that I was a government pensioner’s daughter, I was confident that a Public Services Department scholarship would be mine.
But my hopes were crushed. I became one of 10,697 scholars who were rejected for a scholarship that year and I was not offered a matriculation placement or any other scholarship awards. Dejected, I enrolled at a private university following my parents’ orders to pursue a course of their choice and I couldn’t have cared less about my studies in my foundation year.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t make studies my first priority. Strangely enough, I met people through my involvement in various activities at college that planted this seed of thought ... never let go of your dreams and make the most of what you have. I became a changed person, clear on my direction and determined to give it my all.
They say success is 99% hard work and 1% luck. My 1% of luck came after completing my industrial training in my junior year of college. I was awarded a scholarship to undertake a year of studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia (Mizzou)! That convinced me that if you want something badly and you work really hard for it, the opportunity will present itself.
I learned to walk boldly into challenges. I represented Malaysia in a presentation competition among young engineers in an Asia Pacific regional meet, was the driver for my college’s eco car teams in local and Asian region competitions, worked at a call center during the summer holidays and was involved in musical performances annually. When it came to academic projects, I always made sure that I knew every aspect and meticulously checked through the video, presentation slides and report.
My year in Mizzou proved to be the most amazing year of my life. When I stepped off the plane at Boston Logan International Airport, which was my point of entry, I couldn't believe that I had actually achieved a lifelong dream.
It then became second nature to me to always be on the lookout for new things. Hence, in the first week itself I decided on my compulsory internship in the states – to help build a hydrogen fuel cell car and compete in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas (SEMA) 2012. One of my teammates introduced me to the Mizzou Fermentation Sciences Club, an activity you could hardly find in Malaysia. Never have I tried so many varieties of beer and stout that included red pepper and pumpkin!
Academically, I took up one of the most challenging courses –Introduction to Nuclear Engineering. Our class was small yet diverse in nationalities and ethnic origins. There were military and marine personnel who were on sabbatical, former nuclear plant workers, physicists from India and Vietnam and a handful of undergraduates who were wet behind the ears like me. And we would all huddle together to share notes and discuss after class hours, study previous exam questions together, something that didn’t happen in the other classes.
I made many friends from all around the world during my year abroad. It was initially hard to adapt to another’s culture and decipher each other’s accents. It was tempting to stick to Malaysians or other Asians but that would have defeated the purpose. In the end, my best friends were from Serbia and Montenegro.
Putting aside the compulsory involvements, my other fun attempts included fencing, speed dating, making a potato gun, couch surfing and swing dancing. Eventually I graduated in mechanical engineering, yet found myself drawn to journalism.
Despite the obvious financial drawbacks of such a move, my experience taught me that a degree is just a pathway to the working world, and that it is more important to do something you are passionate about. Most of all I learnt that when life knocks you sideways, you should use it as an opportunity to carve a new path.
> The writer is grateful for the chance to live the American dream and hopes to see those lucky ones overseas make the most out of their college life.
By: Christine Cheah (UGRAD Alumni Malaysia 2011/2012)
When the e-mail from MACEE stating that I have been given a chance to undergo an exchange programme to U.S. arrived in my mailbox a year ago, little did I know that I was on my way to embark on a journey of a lifetime… a journey that would eventually change my entire perspective of life.
Being raised by baby boomers, I have always been taught that I have to excel in studies, or else I’d probably end up as a ‘pisang goreng’ seller (banana fritters seller) or something like that. It also didn’t help that the people around me were constantly telling me that the only thing that matters is getting a secure future which options consist mainly of medicine, law, accountancy or engineering.
But, I was never one to sit still and just focus solely on studies. I was actively involved in extra-curricular activities and I loved doing community service. I love learning new things and being involved in charity events, home visits, cleaning up zoos… but how much more of these could I do? Over time, I started to realize more social issues happening around me. But I felt helpless. I mean, unless I married a filthy rich husband, how am I to dedicate my time and effort towards these causes? That was, until I went to the U.S.
I was excited at the thought of going to the U.S. Excited to see new things, learn new things, meet new people and I did have my fair share of fun and experience while being there. I got an opportunity to work with driving simulators and eye trackers (something I’ll never get to do in Malaysia), met lots of awesome people, watched Wicked on Broadway (total dream come true!) and lots more. But the best experience I had was being exposed to an entirely different culture and seeing life in a different perspective.
Being in the U.S. has taught me that there is more to life than just studies, getting good grades and getting a secure job. There are issues that needed to be addressed… issues that are bigger than you and I can ever imagine. I was SO amazed by how socially conscious my American friends were. Many of the people I met dedicate their lives and future to be full time social workers or be in public service or spend their free time volunteering in hospitals, soup kitchen or wherever that requires volunteers. It was amazing to see how selfless they were even during their pursuit of education. I was determined to take heed of their examples and hoped to make a change when I head home.
But as I set foot back home again, fear started creeping up on me. Fear of my passion dying off. Fear of not being able to cope with studies. Fear of thing not going my way and eventually becoming complacent. Slowly, these fears were starting to cripple me… until I volunteered for TEDxKL 2013. Listening to the 12 speakers as well as working with a team of highly passionate, goal-oriented youths has proven to me that nothing is impossible as long as you set your mind on it. So I decided that I had to be more alert and look out for more opportunities. Before I knew it, more opportunities started coming in. From being one of the 500 plus delegates at the Global Startup Youth (where I got to meet and learn from amazing people and youths who are creating impact in their respective countries) to working with a team of highly motivated individuals in Malaysian-American Alumni Partnership (MAAP) to working with fellow Malaysian UGRAD-ers and the U.S. Embassy on a community project, I have not looked back ever since.
All this would not have been possible had I not had the opportunity to go abroad. I will forever be thankful to the Department of State, World Learning and MACEE for this opportunity and all the guidance they have given to me. I am also really thankful for my family and friends who have shown so much support and help while I was in the U.S. Last but not least, my utmost gratitude to the wonderful UGRAD-ers who are not just my friends but are now family to me.
I may not be Mother Teresa, heck, I’m a FAR cry from who she is and what she has done. But I believe in doing my part in giving back to the community. I am well aware that I need to be realistic. There are things that I can and cannot do, but for as long as I live, I will continue to contribute and work with like-minded individuals on giving back to this community I live in.
Robert F. Kennedy once said, "Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation."
By: Carolyn Cheong (UGRAD Alumni Malaysia 2012/2013)
Despite being a person who was not afraid to try something new, I had never been out of the country prior to the Global UGRAD Programme. In fact, the first reason I applied was because my sister was planning to further her education in the US and we thought it would have really been fun if we both got to go at the same time!
During the application process, I started thinking deep about this possible adventure and what was in it for me. I had chosen not to further my studies abroad just yet since I wanted to better understand the Malaysian landscape as a young woman breaking out of her teenage-hood so that I wouldn’t be considered someone who never knew her roots or understood her nation well enough. I believed that when I was confident enough, I would take that plunge and travel.
This opportunity forced me to step up to the plate. I had to believe that this was the right next step for me so that I could handle the application well. Only if I believed whole-heartedly in taking that step would I have been able to give it my all. My journey prior to being accepted into the Programme was not short of challenges. I even almost had to forego the Interview but I was determined to get into the Programme and with the right emotional support from my family, I successfully got in. I was accepted into the Fall semester at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities.
I was overwhelmed! I didn’t even know where Minnesota was! I got more excited when I learnt how huge the campus was. Imagine the possibilities at such a thriving city where you could grow without being judged.
The UGRAD Alumni of Malaysia were a supportive group who went all out to ensure that us newbies would not feel too out-of-place and disconnected. They organized a Retreat prior to our departure, also serving as a Reunion for fellow alum to exchange and network. It was comforting to have many helping hands extended and the words of wisdom exchanged better prepared us mentally to face any challenges during the Programme and beyond it i.e. after we had completed it.
I have to admit, the first week was challenging; to be in a foreign land, having to understand the coin system!, learning that even amongst Americans there were different accents and slangs, sign boards completely in English (believe me, it can be quite shocking to the senses when you’ve subconsciously been reading them in Malay all this while). During this time, meeting UGRAD scholars from other countries was such a comfort. Although none of us had met each other before, we felt an instant connection, a bond that is surprisingly formed with any other fellow UGRAD. We had added each other on Facebook prior to leaving for the US so we somewhat had an idea who we’d be meeting the day after our arrival. In doing so, I met Thai UGRAD scholar, Warisa, during immigration clearance! Little did I know that it was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.
Speaking of meeting friends before actually meeting them, I had had a head-start with my roommate as well. We did not know much about each other, but we quickly bonded over how similar we were although we lived half way across the world from each other! We had much knowledge and laughter to offer each other, like how I made a distinction between dinner and supper while she considered them the same, or how we would spend an evening watching Jersey Shore and rattle on about how ridiculous it always was.
I was also excited for classes. I had taken two classes in Politics, one in Contact Improvisation (a relatively new dance form) and American Sign Language (one of my long time wishes!). I was intrigued at the amount of reading that had to be done in such a short time. I got worried sick until my Uncle gave me a call and gave me some advice: It is about knowing what the big idea is, what is the author saying at the end of the day. I pondered on this and immediately stopped a page-to-page reading and started thinking in a new perspective. My discussions in class improved as I now knew that in order to understand a new field, it wasn’t in the details but in the main idea. Once the framework is right, the details easily fell into place. This is something I was going to carry with me for the rest of my academic studies back home.
I loved the fact that the Residential Hall I was placed in housed many International students. The Living Learning Community: Students Crossing Borders was a two-floor area in the Hall that placed one American with one International student per room and catered for an enriching global learning experience. Not forgetting the Minnesota International Student Association (MISA) at the University that frequently hosted events and opportunities for students around the world to meet and share. I had participated and volunteered in their events, the most notable being the Fashion Show that I was coaxed to join by Warisa.
Not wanting to restrict myself to any particular type of volunteer activity, I decided that I would join one-off events that would show me different aspects of volunteerism. I met up with the TakeAction Minnesota group off-campus to learn about local social issues that were dear to Minnesotans. I had the chance to join them in an economic forum that saw people of all ages and backgrounds share their opinions on what needed to be fixed in the system. I was surprised at how similar some of the issues were in Malaysia. I also joined the Al-Madinah Cultural Centre, an Islamic group at the University, to a ‘gotong-royong’ event organized by two Christian groups. A thought-provoking and intellectually-stimulating inter-faith discussion was held after everyone had returned from their assigned tasks.
With work comes pleasure, right? I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to a few cities. It was a new experience, having to learn about booking tickets, watching the weather and being prepared for the unknown. Travelling in itself is a pleasure. Each city I visited had an identity of its own. Some were quieter and others were bustling with life. Travelling can inspire you to reach newer heights, like when I took up the challenge of travelling to New York City on my own right before my departure back to Malaysia. A short trip it was but a highly fulfilling one it proved to be.
While I would have loved to stay on, I also know that I have a duty towards my nation. I have big dreams to be part of a better nation, and those dreams were made bigger through this adventure.
My little nugget of thought: Dream big, put your plans into action today and keep that spirit up because you may never know whose life you would someday touch.
By: Kalainilaa Kalaiyarasu (UGRAD Alumni Malaysia 2012/2013)
This article appeared in the UM Law Faculty's annual magazine, VOX.
“Eh, remember to show the hot chicks there that Asians are just as good. Oh, and don’t forget our souvenirs, or no notes for you!”
Yes, true to the spirit of the uber cool legal profession, even a law student’ parting words to a friend shall never escape from tongue-in-cheek sexual innuendos and a scheming slice of what we call - a contractual exchange of “consideration”. And so, armed with my mates’ motivating mission for the manhood and the electrifying libido of a young man’s dream to travel the world, this clumsy lad boarded the next flight across the Pacific Ocean to a bizarre land where: everything seems twice as large, cars run on the right lane and millions watch a game called “football” when they obviously use hands.
I was posted to a state named South Dakota, where the only thing significant to the world here would be Mount Rushmore; the famous hill where the faces of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt were carved. (And no, I’ve been there, and there’s no legendary city of gold called Cíbola like you saw on National Treasure, so snap out of it) The other fitting description of the state would be: grassy plains, corn, cows and…more grassy plains. No kidding. Anyway, my designated institution was Augustana College, (fondly known here as “Augie”) a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the sleepy town of Sioux Falls. Yes, I know, even comparing Hitler and Gandhi wouldn’t resonate a larger contrast than Augie and the University of Malaya – the irony of experiencing this in a so-called first-world and liberal nation like the USA was painfully obvious at times.
Because some genius at one point decided that American undergrads couldn’t handle the oh-so-complex dexterity of the law, the next closest major I could register was Government & International Relations. The liberal arts education was a particularly exciting concept for me – the belief that a maximum lateral-based academic exposure, instead of focusing on a few, produced the finest graduates. Yes, I took classes for my major such as American Government, Humans In Conflict and Politics In A Diverse World; but I also gave the cocktail some pizzazz by adding Microeconomics, Psychology and (to my Mum’s bellicose laughter) Social Dancing. Thus, my foray into the (to my Mum’s suspicious dismay) very un-Asian style of education begins.
Even though I had to slog my way through bone-chilling -10 degree Celcius cold from my dorm to classes every day (while looking in astonishment at random white dudes wearing T-shirts and shorts), I was thrilled at the challenge of steep learning curves ahead. I loved the devilishly intellectual plays of Socrates and Greek philosophers of the ancient times. I loved the heroic battles for the freedom of man in the American Revolution. I loved the unorthodox predictions a real-life Sovietologist had on Russia under Putin. At every nook and corner, refreshing perspectives and stunning facts were barraged into what would seem like an increasingly empty vortex of my mind. Yet, in peculiar jolts of connectivity, your brain subsequently form neurotic linkages between the subjects here with the far-reaching realm of the law: price-discrimination control via the Sherman Act in Economics, mental state of criminals in Psychology, separation of church and state in Philosophy, the rule of law post-Arab Spring in International Politics and ground-breaking Supreme Court decisions in American Government. Lessons in Law & Society classes back home come rushing back, as I appreciated the tremendous role a legal education can help you manoeuvre through other complex disciplines – and even guide the mind to new directions.
As nerdy as I might sound, wicked adventures outside the classroom were a norm during my stay. Augie has a very lively performing arts and musical scene for students to chill out. Almost every week, you would either have the Theatre majors tickle you with dark humour at the Edith Mortensen Centre or the Northlanders Jazz Band playing some soulful blues at the community hall. Celebrations here are such a blast too: home-made turkey during Thanksgiving, white-faced vampire at the Halloween Party and snowball skirmishes during Christmas. Sports being a big thing in American college culture, I had the time of my life trying out (and getting my sorry butt kicked) in Dodgeball, Laser Tag, Mud Volleyball, rock climbing and snooker with my American counterparts. As to why I don’t even look a tenth as drop-dead hot as Matt Damon upon coming back, go blame the dining hall staff for that sumptuous orgy of pizza, fries, buffalo wings, milkshakes, spaghetti and other calorie-generous American cuisine has to offer.
On weekends, I volunteered myself to participate in community service. The first place I devoted my time was at the Refugee & Immigration Center of South Dakota Lutheran Social Services. Unknown to many people, thousands of refugees like the Burmese, Bhutanese and Sudanese here were forced to flee their country of origin due to either political persecution or war, leaving their loved ones behind. In a move to ease their transition to a new life in the Midwest of America, I was part of a team that taught them how to operate a laptop, create an email address and speak English. When you take the effort to speak to them personally, their eyes show a sunken acceptance of God’s fate; yet you cannot miss that sparkle which reflects genuine appreciation and a desire for a better tomorrow.
The second place I volunteered was at the Royal C. Johnson Veterans Memorial Medical Center. Here, former American soldiers who had served in World War 2, the Korean War and the Vietnam War undergo medical treatment or seek social support groups. It was truly an honour listening about their combat missions abroad, yet it was also particularly heartbreaking to see some veterans having lost a leg, gasping for air or clinging on to a life-support machine. Yes, the media out there often criticizes American military involvement in many geopolitical combats abroad, but we don’t often remember how thousands of American families are prayingevery single day for their sons to return safely and the role of past warriors that fought bravely for the free and democratic world we now inherit. It is as raw and real as it gets, and I often felt extremely humbled at the presence of these people who had gone through so much in life.
Ultimately, it was the relationships with new-found friends in America which contributed many happy adjectives inside my daily diary. My friendship family was the Mullins, the father being Professor Michael Mullin of Augie’s History Department. I truly miss his intriguing stories on Western civilization, horse-riding lessons at his farm house from his beautiful wife Carol, as well as talking Mandarin with his daughter Rachel (confusing her with a smattering of Cantonese, Hokkien and Bahasa Malaysia here and there) who recently got back from China. That aside, Augie has an amazing array of 95 international students from more than 30 countries. Being a small and tight-knit campus community, I always manage to have amazing chats with people of diverse origins across the globe. Be it the stories of the Arab Spring from a Jordanian, Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratic struggles from a Burmese or how a German friend’s grandfather killed a hundred Russian conscripts with a machine gun, every conversation was like a missing page of history.
And then, there were the travels. A passion of mine, where no amount of words could describe how it shaped me in so many ways. I’ve sung campfire songs in the eerie dark amidst wolf howls at the Black Hills. I’ve participated in ghost-hunting missions at creepy Old Salem with Ms. Dian Shah, with no weapons but the undying belief that even the supernatural fear lawyers. I’ve entered the very first Starbucks in the world in dear old Seattle, realizing that it tastes the same anyway. I’ve biked across the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco, and wondered how it would look if painted purple. I’ve drove to Googleplex and Stanford University in Silicon Valley, but smacked my head in regret as the dark eluded me from seeing what I expected to see. I’ve set my foot on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, ecstatic with the handprints of Harry Potter casts yet bewildered as to why they even have a space for Twilight actors. I’ve spent a whole day at Universal Studios, and couldn’t believe it when I passed through the set of Desperate Housewives, War of The Worlds and the Jaws series. I’ve been to Las Vegas, and realised amidst the aura of lust and greed that the title of “Sin City” is merely an understatement. I won’t pretend I hadn’t experienced my fair share of ups and downs. But hey, you’ve got to have both dejection and joy; or you might as well have never travelled at all.
At the end of it all, rather than feeling glorious that half your bucket list has been ticked, the awareness that this huge world has so much to offer really dwarves you to tiny proportions. My time in America has been, more than anything else, a lesson in humility and humanity. Humility because I’ve stepped in awe into the best universities in the world, met the most intelligent professors ever and appreciated the wonders of a capitalistic-driven intensity for innovation in American society. Humanity because I’ve discovered that we all crave for a love and a peaceful world; regardless of whether you are Latino or African, young or old, refugee or non-refugee, handicapped or able-bodied. I’m truly grateful for both the liberal-arts exposure which really does hone the critical mind, as well as valuable life lessons from the school of hard knocks and travels.
Here I am, back in Malaysia, reminiscing of the good old times. It still seems too surreal for me, at times. Out of the blue, I would miss tomato sauce and call the toilet a “restroom”. I still avidly follow the Republican primaries, hoping that Obama trashes whichever Tea Party fanatic that gets chosen anyway. Occasionally in Constitutional and Administrative Law classes, a delusional guy at the back would shamelessly throw an American concept or two in the air. I guess, the United States has indeed occupied a special place in my heart, something which will remain for a very long time.
Oh, my mission? Well, my friends still ask disturbing questions on virginity and sex. But at least I had pre-planned my retaliation - by buying them symbolic purple LGBT shirts and uniforms of Alcatraz Island prisoners, which they’re too self-conscious to wear as souvenirs anyway.
And that’s how lawyers play the game, even when you’re on break for 5 months.
Wei Jiet is a proud recipient of the Global Undergraduate Exchange Scholarship 2011-2012, an exchange program funded by the US Department of State for a diverse group of emerging student leaders to undergo a semester or a year of study at a U.S. College or University. He just might be an FBI agent secretly funded by “Western organisations” to infiltrate and topple Malaysia’s government through undemocratic means, as claimed by certain sources recently.
By: WeiJiet (UGRAD 2011/2012)
Closing my eyes and carefully straining my earlobes to listen to every sound around me; out of the window of the Engineering Library I am in was the sound of heavy machinery, the monotonous block of typing sound of the Chinese girl beside me and the mumbling of the Arabs in the discussion table a few feet away. I wander off in my dreams…
I have been leaving this ‘Passionate’ blog for quite a while now, not blogging on the umpteen travel adventures I have had during my 7 month stay in the US which makes me feel kinda bad. I still write my journals though, from time to time in various locations from classrooms to a coffee shop to the bench at the park. If you know me well enough, you will know that I value the moment of peace and solitude very much despite the crazy character that most of you might have seen from me before.
I like to be left alone yet I always feel insecure. I hate being lonely yet I am reserved. All these contradictions always makes me reflect on the person I am now – on how I have improved in terms of relationships. And God no, its not the ‘relationship’ you are thinking of. Its the family and friendship relations that I have learned to value when I first left home 5 years ago. Yes, it has been 5 years.
From the ups and downs I had in college with my roommates, from not having a close confidant nor any girl friends to the people around me now. I think I have learned the right ‘blend’ of friendship. Though I still have so much to improve on, hopefully I’ll have a bunch of ‘ji mui’ when that time comes? Haha.
Ok, let’s stop dwelling too much in the past and have a look at the present. 7 months here and I have traveled all that i can, definitely replacing the ‘travel dreams’ that i had drooled for 17 years. So I’ll share this part of my blog to my travel buddies – 2 unique and special people that I have met and bonded through this passion to travel.
When I first met Wilson more than a year ago at MACEE for the Global UGRAD interview, I had just came out from an argument with my dad on the phone. If you have known my past, you would know that I am quite a failed Penangnite. Now meeting someone that is from the same hometown at a point where I just dread of thinking of that place just sucks as bad as having an egg drop on your head right before an interview. Not to mention, my stereotyping of Chinese-ed people at that time. His usual networking attitude prompts up as I sat down on the couch and he started introducing and asking questions. To recall what he asked, I can’t remember but as he had told me before he asked me 3 questions and I only replied 1. To me, my thinking was ‘Why in the world would I need to talk to you? I am just here for my interview and that’s it. It not necessarily you will get the program nor I would see you again.’ A few weeks later, the nominated list came out and when I saw the list on the Global UGRAD Malaysia group – Beh Wei Chean was right below my name on the nominated year-long program. F***. That was the first thing I thought of. Of all people that I met during my interview at MACEE (I met about 6 -7 people) this guy is going on the same program with me for a year despite the number of year long participants being reduced to 3. How ‘lucky’ can that be? It was not because I hated him. It was because the first confrontation with him wasn’t good at all and the least I expect from a conversation with people was my hometown.
So what progressed later on in a nutshell would be going on a trip together with the rest of the alumni, pre-departure orientation and also the visa interview at the US embassy. Now, I know that it was impossible for me to travel alone during my winter break and the 3 year-long participants have agreed to travel together. I didn’t have quite a good feeling knowing that I would be travelling with him for a month and he would definitely think the same of me too (it would be obvious from our first meeting that i showed a sense of dislike towards him). But what to do? You want to travel and save money at the same time, so I just told myself ‘we’ll get on with it somehow, if he can be selected for a year long program; maybe he isn’t that bad…’ and so, I did the planning for the winter break and distributed the tour itinerary to the rest to work on. I did the planning for Seattle and Wilson was in charge of San Diego and Las Vegas.
I would have to admit that in the first week, things didn’t go as smoothly as planned. There were some beneath the line struggle in taking charge of things when we were in South Dakota which was still fine as we give and take, taking turns. The major event that happened was in Seattle. As I have mentioned, I was in charge of planning for Seattle and one thing about me is that, when I am in charge of that thing, I particularly dislike HATE it when people try to interfere in what I am supposed to do. I can accept other people’s decisions or certain taking-charge situations only if I am sick (if i am the lead), unable to do so or when it is YOUR turn to take charge. In sum, I am willing to be a follower when I am supposed to be one. I would not mention here what is that particular event that happened in Seattle but the summary of the story was he tried to take charge of it and I straightaway refuted that in front of the shop owner. I could see his face turning black the moment I said that but I kept my feet on the ground. I had wanted to do this. Other parts of the trip, I do not care but Seattle was my heart and soul in planning – I just had to say it.
Now if you are thinking that Seattle didn’t go well, you are wrong. Though I am quite a person that remembers things in detail, if you talk nicely to me after that; I won’t bear a grudge towards you. We had fun at Mulkiteo, Tulalip (too-laa-leep) and climbing Kerry Park singing Feliz Navidad on the slope.
Our next part of the trip was San Francisco and the tour guide for that trip was Nasha (her story will come later on). There was a similar situation in SF. However, as I have held my principles not taking charge when i am the follower, I stayed true to it and I let him do whatever he wanted as long as Nasha is fine with it. He could sense that a similar ‘lose face’ thing would happen and actually hinted it to me a day before the situation. In fact, even if he hadn’t mentioned that, I would have let him take up that part. It was his turn anyway.
That was the last ‘unhappy’ confrontation (if you consider that as one) of me and Wilson. In return, of the 22 days of travelling with him, I have seen another totally different side of him. He has this energy that not every person has. His passion and enthusiasm together with his caring attitude gives me a hats-off to him. In the days when our trip was ending, what I have seen has made me realize that I was indeed very wrong to stereotype him in the first place which I apologize now. To those reading this, if you haven’t met this amazing person; don’t worry because if ever a small-eyed 5’9 Chinese guy comes to introduce himself to you and greets you so warmly with a good sense of charisma, you have met him and you will never regret knowing him.
Filipino??? John and Mac, if you are reading this, I am not referring to any of you. Don’t worry. haha. The last person would be none other than my dearest Nasha. Knowing her was a great pleasure. My first impression on her was really good and we never had any arguments even till now. So why Filipino? Well, she was mistaken to be a Filipino more than once during our trip so the Filipino joke has been on her ever since.
If you have never met me before, try meeting Nasha or vice versa. You will find us pretty similar. Honestly, I have never met someone that similar to me before. Here are the similarities that I could think of :
1. Fashion sense (same blazer, same parka, same hoodie, same sneakers and maybe a same Kate Spade bag?)
2. Tam-chiak (the eating capabilities we have will certainly surprise you)
3. We are products of tiger moms, making us value our upbringing alot and sharing stories of the ’harshness’ we went through
4. Appreciation of religion (its rare enough to find a Malaysian Catholic chinese girl on a same program for the same duration)
5. Value of friendship (somehow, we tend to appreciate friendship alot and we do put in a lot of effort in showing our appreciation and gratitude)
6. Siao siao ah… (we laugh very hard and embarrass ourselves alot making our presence very significant. Do not be surprised to see two different looking Asian girls in the same outfit laughing crazily or singing in the metro)
Despite all these similarities, one thing fortunate is we do not have the same taste of guys. So, I think we won’t fight over a guy? haha.
Nasha has been a close confidant of mine. I’m so glad i found another maid-of-honor candidate. (sounds as though i’m gonna get married soon right, but nah, not in the next few years as I can see) So to this dear bestie i have, thank you to our God for meeting us. Thank you again for every moment we have spent having fun, the pillow talks, the embarrassing moments, the laughter and joy we share. Looking forward to seeing you again in May for the last part of our adventure before heading home!
By: YuPing (UGRAD 2011/2012)
Today's been a good day! Finally got the chance to sleep for awhile in the afternoon. I've been sick for quite awhile now and been coughing for a month. But no fear, I've got my antibiotics and will be recovering very very soon.
Today I had a meeting with the director of International Services together with two of my bestest friends in FGCU, Hun from South korea and Lina from Uzbekistan. She wanted to talk with us about public service and to get our opinions regarding public service in the US especially since we come from different countries with varied opinions about serving the community.
We talked about how it was much easier to volunteer here as compared to our home countries because there are many platforms available and many chances for us to come in and serve, and people are generally much more supportive when you say that you want to start a project or work on an initiative.
What I like a lot about FGCU is the fact that service learning is incorporated in our education and that graduating students must complete a minimum of 80 service hours before they can graduate. On top of that, they have to take an environmental colloquium class regardless of their major. It seems like a lot of additional requirements: 80 hours over 4 years constitute to about 10 hours per semester or roughly an hour per week. Not every student has the luxury of having free time, especially here in the US where most students work part time. People see it as a waste of time, and its hard to convince them otherwise. Now it may seem like a burden, but somewhere down the road you'll be thankful that your education wasn't just about reading a bunch of textbooks, and that somewhere out there, someone's life became just a little bit better by your service.
Public service is on my mind a lot these days. Going to the Clinton Global Initiative University conference in Washington D.C. last weekend really inspired me, especially when you meet such wonderful people who have committed so much of their lives to making other people's lives better.
I don't know what my plans are for the future yet, but I know one day I'll dedicate my life to public service. People always say that financial success and living a life of public service rarely go together. We all want to live a good life and money is important that's for sure. But it is not everything. All the money in the world won't be able to buy you happiness.
I read this somewhere:
Money can buy a house, but not a home.
Money can buy a bed, but not sleep.
Money can buy a clock, but not time.
Money can buy a book, but not knowledge.
Money can buy food, but not an appetite.
Money can buy position, but not respect.
Money can buy blood, but not life.
Money can buy insurance, but not safety
Money is not everything.
Because at the end of the day, when you leave this earth, people are not going to care about how much money you made or how successful you are. That's all just for your own benefit. But if your heart was big enough to give back to the community, people will remember you for the legacy that you left behind.
That's my ultimate goal in life - to make the world a better place, even if it's just for a little bit.
By: Nasha Lee (UGRAD 2011/2012)
Let's face it. There aren't a lot of moments in life where you can point at and say, "That's when my life changed". Moments in life are fleeting, they fly by, and if you don't pause for awhile and bask in the glory of it, it goes away. Most moments aren't significant enough to be remembered. The ones that do get remembered get pushed back further in the space of one's memory, when other events take center stage.
If there's one event in my life that I can safely say changed my whole course of action, it would be studying abroad. It's a lot to say that these few months of my life could change so many things, but I do believe that I have learnt a lot of valuable lessons, many of which will never be replaced.
Since arriving to the US on August 2011, I have had many happy moments, excellent personal development experiences, made many wonderful friends and gotten the chance to explored my full potential that could never be realized back home.
Perhaps the most important lesson that studying abroad has taught me is the lesson of being independent. Although I've been away from home for two years while studying in Kuala Lumpur, it didn't feel as though I was away from home at all, with occasional visits back home and the assurance of knowing that my family was looking out for me and my friends were always there. Coming here, not knowing a single person in Florida did scare me, but I was at that stage of my life where the mere idea of embarking on a new adventure excited me. I am still at that stage of life now, and great adventures keep appearing. For the first time in my life, I learnt to manage my own finances and my daily activities. I learnt to depend on myself for everything and to do things on my own. Being a very people-oriented person, I love spending time with friends, but being here has given me a new found appreciation of being quiet and being alone.
A few months into this exchange and I already I can see how much the US has changed my thinking and opened my mind to many possibilities. I am starting to think critically, questioning what people tell me, especially in the educational field. The fundamental difference in the education system between Malaysia and the United States is the element of critical thinking. In Malaysia, your knowledge is transmitted from your teachers, and what you learn is what your teacher offers to you. More often than that, it is what he or she knows, and nothing more. In the US, you learn to study independently, relying not just on your the knowledge gained your professors impart, but also on other sources of information. I learnt to maximize my most loyal companion, Google, and to utilize books as well as online platforms of information, learning more than what is expected of me. The assignments and projects here require you to search for information on your own rather than to depend on your text books. That's what I believe learning should be- a process of thinking and discovering. Learning is an adventure on it's own. Yes, that is the nerd in me talking. It's a great feeling when you get your results back and you see the row of straight As, knowing that all the effort you put into studying and doing your work was worth it. It's nice to know that you are judged on your capabilities here rather than your ability to correctly predict what question will be on the next test, or on your "luck".
Studying abroad is changing the way I look at the world. My knowledge of people, of culture, of history, of places has been transformed. It's one thing to see pictures in text books and scenes in movies. It's another thing to actually be at a place, to see something, to touch it and experience it. At that moment, you realize that those photos and those movies could never justify the feeling that when you see it in person. Studying and living in a difference culture gave me the chance to see the world from a completely different perspective. Talking with people from different racial backgrounds and different countries makes you think and question your stands on certain issues. I learnt how to talk to people who may not think or communicate like me, learning to understand their culture and sharing my values with them. Even boring things like shopping for groceries with them becomes a fun (and funny) educational experience! My stereotypes towards people and cultures are dispelled every day as I meet amazing people from all around the globe.
My travelling experience here has given me a new perspective of Malaysia. Being in one country alone gives us limited views of our world. Upon taking a step out to a foreign place, I am starting to learn more about my own country and am starting to see how Malaysia fits into all of humanity. I am learning to see my own culture through the eyes of someone else. Margaret Mead sums up my whole experience perfectly in this single quote: As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate lovingly, our own.
Now, I think that I am officially able to think in a global perspective and finally step out of the box.
Studying in the US has given me a lot of things. Confidence, passion and determination are probably the ones that are the most unforgettable.
And the countdown to returning home begins. Six more weeks before classes end, and another 60 days till I bid good bye to the United States, a place that will always hold a special part in my heart.
And though I know that I will be sad when I leave, I am not afraid anymore, because I know that the future will still shine brightly for me, as long as I keep this passion to succeed burning in my heart.
By: Nasha Lee (UGRAD 2011/2012)
Last Saturday was one of those free-er Saturdays. Quite a rare occurrence since coming to the States, with all the activities here and the travelling and all. A few of us got together to do a short video for the Asian Culture Club after hanging out at Moe's Southwest grill at the town center, but most of the time we just had fun walking around FGCU.
Sometimes I take FGCU forgranted and I forget how lucky I am to be here. Then I see these photos and I am reminded to take time to breathe, to appreciate the amazing views I get to witness everyday and to be grateful for the wonderful friends that have come into my life ever since arriving in the US.
I learn something new here every day. Talking to people with such varied opinions really gives you a chance to ponder about a lot of things. You learn to see things in a different light AND you learn much more about yourself too.
There's so much more to America than I expected. I have just two more months left here before I finish my classes, so I'm going to make sure every day passes by meaningfully. Going to miss this place very much!
All photos were taken in FGCU. My temporary home.
By: Nasha Lee (UGRAD 2011-2012)
After visiting Sioux Falls and South Dakota, UGRADers Wilson, WeiJiet, YuPing, and Nasha continued their journey to: Seattle --> San Francisco --> Los Angeles --> San Diego --> Las Vegas --> Grand Canyon.
Thanks to all of 'em for taking time to share so much about America and their journeys with us through videos and photos. Kudos to Wilson for putting all these videos together and Christine, Nasha, and Wei Jiet for being such great 'casts'!!
Credits to Wilson, WeiJiet, YuPing, and Nasha for all the contents below...enjoy!!
Our journey in San Francisco - my most favourite city in the US so far. Beautiful views, unique terrain and interesting small winding roads. From the historical Chinatown to the famous gay district of Castro, to the Italian district of North Beach, the heart of San Francisco lies in it's culturally diverse neighbourhoods. Nothing quite beats the feeling of biking the Golden Gate Bridge with the wind in your face and magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean at sunset next to you. - Nasha Lee
"Had the most amazing 3 weeks of my life travelling with awesome friends. So grateful and blessed to be able to have this chance. Will remember all the people I met on this trip, all the moments the 4 of us had together, and all the laughter shared. Time to go back to Florida ! :)
In the past year I learnt that the that the journey is much more important than the destination, and that life is a one way street, no turning back. New year's resolution for this year: to stop being afraid , to live life as it comes and to trust God for all the plans He has for me. Life is wonderful :)"
~ Nasha Lee
"Determination and perseverance of human being amazed me the most in this trip:
From the ultra challenging sculpture engineering at Mt. Rushmore, successful Starbucks story that first started in Seattle, manufacturing of Boeing Dreamliner 787 that revolutionize flying experience, amazing architecture work of brilliant red Golden Gate Bridge completed in the 30s, Silicon Valley that changed our way of life, glamorous Hollywood which makes our imagination goes wild through motion pictures to the booming city of Las Vegas in the middle of dessert; the will power of man made the impossible possible.
If we ever doubt of our own ability, look back on what we've done. Not just in the US but all other great civilizations in the world. Internet alone makes so many things possible. So let our imaginations go wild, even the sky is not the limit. Dream. Achieve. Share. Live. Love."
~ Wilson Beh
Woohoo...exam's over and winter break has started!! =) As 4 Malaysian UGRADers embarked on their big winter trip around the US, we'll also keep you guys updated on their 1-month journey across 7 cities. They've visited South Dakota and are currently touring Seattle - the home of Boeing, Starbucks, and Microsoft!
"This is going to be the most exciting & adventurous trip so far. Life is a daring adventure or nothing. " - Wilson Beh
"Trip of my life starts today ! can't help feeling excited. Hope everything goes smoothly." - Nasha Lee
1st stop: Visited Professor Michael Mullin's house & fed horses at his farm! It's the Wild Wild West!
2nd stop: Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Wall Drug and Rapid City.
~ Global UGRAD Malaysia wishes everyone Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!!! ~