So this is a long overdue blog update, but just thought I'd share a bit about my traveling experience. I realize that I haven't been updating my blog in a long time. Truth is, I've just been so caught up with classes and homework and the multitude of assignments that take up a whole big chunk of my time. The good thing is that I'm starting to like the American education system a lot more now; where more emphasis is placed on continuous assessment rather than exams. I find that I learn a lot more through actually doing work week after week than just cramming for finals. The stuff I learn also gets embedded in my memory much more effectively than the short time marathon cramming I usually do for classes in UM. Bad thing about this system though, is that my ability to memorize decreases significantly. Oh well, life IS all about trade offs isn't it?
Anyway back to the reason for this blog post. To share about my travel experience in New York ! I was there from the 6th to the 10th of October, representing Florida Gulf Coast University for the Columbia Model United Nations Conference in New York. Honestly I didn't think that I would go back to New York that soon, because I was there in May attending my brother's graduation from NYU, but as fate would have it, I joined the Model United Nations Club and heard that they were going to have a conference in Tallahassee (which I went to ) as well as one in Columbia University, New York, tried out for the conference in Columbia, and managed to get selected.
How MUN works is it's basically a simulation of the United Nations and participants role-play as diplomats representing a nation or an NGO or a specific person in a simulated session of a committee of the United Nations. You have to do research on a particular country and take on the role of a diplomat, debate and develop solutions to world problems. It's a really cool way to learn about the world, current events , international relations and problems that the United Nations have to deal with.
So this was my first time in Columbia University. I really liked the vibrant campus life : there was always something to see , activities going on around you and there was just something about the buildings that makes you want to stare at it. Because the university is one of the oldest in the States, the design of the buildings are a lot different than the ones you expect to see today, and there's a lot of history surrounding it. (Not to mention, those buildings are in a lot of major movies as well ! )
We arrived New York on Thursday noon and took the subway to the Hotel which was about 10 blocks from Columbia University, and registered for the conference. There were university students from countries like Bangladesh, UAE, Canada and from all around the US participating in this conference. We were in the committee with the topic "Ending the 30 years war : Peace of Westphalia, 1645." which in short was about the 30 years war in Europe between major forces in Europe that revolved around religious issues. Sometime during the conference, I looked at my partner Hadiza (from Niger, NOT Nigeria, she says) who by the way was awesome company because we were in a double delegation, and told her how funny it was that I'm from Malaysia, she's from Africa and we're representing an American university in a European committee. Talk about globalization !
This trip was a good one. Although I didn't really have much time in New York because the conference was for 4 days and I was there for only 5 days, I managed to go to a lot of places and met up with friends.
Was in times square twice, the first day with Hadiza and Rhiana and we shopped in Forever 21 which was awesome because it had 4 storeys and was open till 2 am ! The 2nd time on Saturday evening where I met Johan from France who studies at FGCU as well, and Chase, my brother's friend. Ayesha and Hadiqa (my two crazy pakistani girl friends who brings out the craziness in me) joined us later and then I met Wilson (fellow Malaysian UGRADer ) .Wanted to go to the Wax Museum but it was too late =(
Fulfilled my secret fantasy of watching the New York skyline from the Empire State Building on Saturday night ! The wait was worth it. When I reached the 86th floor, I could literally see people standing in awe and amazement at the sight of the lights below. I could see why people always have romantic rendezvous at the top of the empire state building and why so many guys propose to their girlfriends there, the views were amazing. Stayed there for awhile and met Wilson and his friend Trang from Vietnam at Korea town and then met my cousin Amanda for dinner at this secret hidden Korean place that had great food.The place was so hidden that I couldn't even describe where it was to my friends.
After dinner we walked along the Brooklyn bridge till around 2 am. Actually Ayesha, Hadiqa and Johan were walking on the bridge, I walked with Taha for 30 minutes to find a toilet because apparently there are no public toilets in NY for some reason (I know, right?), and by the time we got back to the bridge every one was tired and wanted to go back to sleep. So I traveled an hour to the Bridge and another hour back just to take a long walk to the toilets. Haha. Being international tourists with incredibly thick faces who didn't care what people thought about us, we fell asleep lying down on the Subway. Wholesome New York experience, indeed.
We also went to Grand Central Terminal and had cupcakes from Magnolia's bakery, walked along 5th avenue and saw a parade, witnessed the protests in Wall Street and went to the Ground Zero Memorial, a memorial to honor victims of the September 11 attack. Coincidentally this is also the 10th year anniversary of the attacks.
Tiring though it was, I had a wonderful trip with friends and the awesome MUN people. Would never have been able to be here if it were not for the UGRAD program. I've been here for less than 3 months and already I'm having so many memorable experiences ! This is really the best chance to get out of your comfort zone and to learn about the world (yes, you don't just learn about the US), to do the things you've always wanted to do and to travel. So if you're thinking of applying for this program ( I know you are), why not take a chance and try it? I've had some people tell me " No, I'll never get selected, I'm not good enough". Well , you never know until you try right? Every accomplishment was once considered impossible. Even Thomas Edison's teachers said he was "too stupid to learn anything". He was fired from his first two jobs for being "non-productive." As an inventor, Edison made 1000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, " How did it feel to fail 1000 times?" Edison replied, "I didn't fail 1000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps."
That's determination- the ability to pick yourself up and try till you accomplish something. Who cares if you fall down the first few times. What matters is the end product. So apply !
Just so you know, lately, I have a new hobby, it's traveling ! And with each travel I realize how true it is that the best time to travel is when you're young. You give yourselves opportunities to grow: you realize how much you don't know about the world. It teaches you to live your adventures, and when you look back in years to come, you'll remember how you felt when you saw the Eiffel Tower, or when the views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge took your breath away. You will be forced to make choices, to get rid of your fears , to immerse yourself in the local culture. You'll learn that the world is not what you imagined it to be, that people are not as kind and as good to you as your friends around you. Traveling allows you to embrace reality.
And so I've lined up a whole lot of traveling before I return to Malaysia.Am saving up my allowance from World Learning every month so I can cover more places. I just got back from the Bahamas (will probably blog about that soon) and will be traveling to Key West and Orlando in the next couple of weeks.
Can't wait to see what the world has to offer !
By: Nasha Lee (UGRAD 2011-2012)