|Global UGRAD Malaysia||
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)