Budaya beat November - December 2016

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AFS World Congr Rio2016: Future AFS – Broader Reach, Deeper Impact


he World Congress in Rio de Janeiro last October saw delegates identifying 5 key recommendations to shape the future of AFS in the areas of Advocacy & Visibility, Education & Programs, Innovation, Reinventing Volunteering, and Active Global Citizenship. Themed “Future AFS: Broader Reach, Deeper Impact”, the Congress sought to address the rapidly escalating global demand for greater intercultural understanding and fulfil the need for more committed individuals prepared and empowered to work, volunteer and collaborate across cultural and other differences.


AFS International staff also chipped in with ideas and views

Brainstorming sessions were many and engaging

Key recommendations were creatively presented

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Line-up of the Board of Trustees in an interactive session with delegates

From the three-day intensive breakout sessions, delegates presented recommendations to the Board of Trustees for follow-up and further action. Under the first area of Advocacy and Visibility, it was recommended that AFS boldly advocate for increasing intercultural learning and global citizenship education as tools for building a more just and peaceful world. There is a growing awareness of the need for global citizens and AFS must position itself as a community of experts who can deploy evidence-based tools and techniques to foster justice and peace throughout the world. At an individual level, advocacy gives AFSers the tools and techniques to share the AFS mission with others. AFS creates a community of empowered global citizens and is a catalyst to link communities and change perceptions. On another level, AFS is also sought-after spokesperson for comment and opinion in the media and is a valued reference group for legislation and policy and works together with other organizations

Chair of AFS Argentina introducing a speaker


Focus (schools, NGOs, colleges) as an educational leader to create global citizens. Under Education and Programs, delegates proposed that AFS make a major effort to serve schools with ICL for selected age groups. The impact would be big and measurable. This makes intercultural education possible without mobility with a broader reach for intercultural training. AFS should develop diversity appreciation and awareness in young kids by influence the educational contents. Add-on benefits would include stronger school relations, increased AFS brand awareness and attracting more participants on AFS programs.

Ice breaking sessions were fun and loud!

For the area of Innovation, delegates recommended AFS foster a culture of innovation throughout the organization with the initial focus on creating a digital future and expand our reach beyond our traditional audience. In line with this, we must broaden service offerings, increase intercultural learning awareness and competency and inspire others to make change.

Adding her comments to a growing list

Captive audience at an AFS-USA presentation


Delegates Wishlist • Schools will adopt ICL as part of their curricula. • More future-ready, interculturally savvy and globally competent individuals, being more responsible and activist. • More intercultural awareness and less destructive conflict in our local communities. • Individuals are better prepared for a “glocal” world and modern workplace, can engage with people in their community and colleagues from diverse backgrounds and take on internationally oriented work. • More CSR (corporate social responsibility) policies will include a global or intercultural dimension. Earnest conversations took place offline

Under the Reinventing Volunteering, delegates recommended evolving the volunteer experience to strengthen our volunteer base and increase its impact on society through and beyond AFS. By attracting larger number of volunteers we increase the number of individuals who experience intercultural learning, improve volunteer satisfaction for broader reach and deeper impact, increase visibility through cooperation with other civil organisations, foster open inclusive and respectful communities where people live in peace together, develop highly qualified individuals who will be driving change in the world and increase the exchange of knowledge and experience with other organisations. Under Active Global Citizenship, AFS should offer a new set of high quality, diversityinspired Intercultural Learning tools for schools, communities, governments, individuals and businesses to enable active global citizenship and promote our learningto-live-together mission. One focus will be to leverage these tools to also generate new funding streams. Another focus will be to reach audiences that are currently not served by any of our existing products and who would most benefit from our mission, hence broadening our reach and accessibility, and deepening our impact.

AFS International Chair taking a question at the AGM

In her thank you message to World Congress 2016 delegates, Vishakha Desai, the Chair of AFS International, said that the recommendations will assist the Board in mapping the future of AFS. “Now it’s our duty to make sure we make these directions real as we try to define what it will take for us to become a more externally oriented, forward thinking and acting, impactful organization,” she added.


AFS World Congr AFS Brazil Celebrates 60 Years with Reach-out Forum


FS Brazil and AFS International jointly hosted a community impact event during the 2016 World Congress involving students from underprivileged areas in Rio de Janeiro. This public event connected the AFS global leadership with local youths and schools for a meaningful community intercultural learning opportunity. The event had two parts: an all-day Workshop on Sunday, 23 October and an evening Forum on Wednesday, 26 October. The Effeito+ workshop and forum allowed 50 Rio-area high school students and 10 local schools to connect with AFS Brazil. It leveraged on the principles of global citizenship education and intercultural learning to help youths address critical local social challenges and advance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their country.

National Director of AFS Brazil welcomes guests to the event

The workshop and forum will be replicated in different cities throughout Brazil in 2017 as part of ongoing efforts to advance AFS work in active global citizenship. The events also resulted in press coverage ranging from an interview in a leading Brazilian newspaper to a mention in the popular Caras website. World Congress delegates also contributed a total of 120 books to the National Library’s Global Affairs section where the event’s closing ceremony was held.


One for the record... and instant upload!

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AFS Germany Wins Best Overall Education Event


FS Germany received the Best Overall AFS Education Event for 2016 at the World Congress in Rio for its far-reaching initiative “Diversity is Everywhere”. “Diversity is everywhere” is aimed at connecting volunteers, NGOs and other institutions working with refugees, and politicians to discuss the current need of measures to facilitate the integration of refugees into German society. Since 2015 over one million refugees have sought shelter in Germany. AFS Germany’s project addressed the dire need for mentorship and integration support for under-aged refugees (16 to 19 years old) most of who came over without their families and are placed in “Integration Classes”. AFS Volunteers are trained as mentors for these integration classes. After the initial training, volunteers are supported through ongoing coaching and supervision over

the course of six months as they work with the refugee students and their school communities. Throughout the six-month period and beyond, AFS-Mentors remained in constant touch with the young refugees, supporting them in and outside of classrooms, through training, individualized advice, and group events. Additionally, AFS volunteers provided intercultural learning training to teachers of these refugee students and supported them in ensuring intercultural sensitivity of their curriculum. Another award, Most Relevant AFS Education Event for 2016, was won by AFS Belgium Flanders and AFS Belgium for their ICL Training for Oxfam Employees. The training which was delivered by AFS trainers in both Dutch and French aimed at providing Oxfam employees with theoretical knowledge and intercultural


Focus skills to discover and better understand their own cultural frameworks and to recognize and appreciate cultural differences they have with co-workers. Oxfam employees received valuable insights about their organizational and departmental cultures, and Oxfam’s HR department is already making plans to replicate the training beyond their headquarters in Brussels. The Most Sustainable AFS Education Event for 2016 was awarded to AFS Turkey for their “Intercultural Stories” initiative, which is a storytelling and journey-sharing event taking place every year on the last Sunday of December. AFS Turkey collaborates with a team of professionals to put together the TED-Talk type event which has gained increased public visibility and gathered more than 1500 attendees over the last four years. A very diverse group of speakers from various backgrounds share their stories with a large audience of students, teachers, academicians, families, school officials, volunteers, and the local community. Inspiring

Above: All outstanding partners were awarded during the night Right: Chair of AFS International, Vishakha Desai giving her speech


speeches from the event are also published on AFS Turkey’s social media channels and are used in intercultural training events. World Congress host AFS Brazil received the Most Innovative AFS Education Event for 2016 for its Language and Cultural Immersion Saturdays (SILC). Led by AFS Brazil volunteers, Language and Cultural Immersion Saturdays is a combination of intercultural learning workshops, practical classes, group dynamics exercises, lectures, musical activities, video viewing sessions and cultural food fair. Providing the students and the local community with opportunities to experience cultures and languages in an interactive environment, the event helps attendees develop their intercultural skills and cultivates a collaborative group learning environment. Global citizenship education, volunteer work, civic practices and civil society are explored through the workshops and through other educational activities during SILC.

The 2016 AFS Education Event Awards (formerly known as “ICL in Our Own Backyard� Awards) recognises AFS organizations around the world for public events addressing education and intercultural learning in ways relevant to their local communities on the AFS Education Events Portal. An international panel of judges representing UNESCO, the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), UN Global Education First Initiative, the European Federation of Intercultural Learning (EFIL) and the AFS Educational Advisory Council had a challenging task to review and select the most relevant, most innovative, most sustainable, and best overall AFS Education Events of 2016.

Above: Melissa Liles, AFS International Chief Education Officer presenting an award to AFS Turkey Chairperson, Mete Fanuscu

AFS Ghana was revealed as the next host of the Partner Network Meeting 2017 and other African nations are seen here celebrating the selection It is the first time a major AFS network meeting is being held in the African continent



VC2016: Sharing Moments,

Inspiring CHANGE


hange is the one constant in human history, said Wade Davis, a Canadian anthropologist, whose work focused on worldwide cultures. As AFS is an intercultural learning organization, it was only fitting that the latest edition of AFS Malaysia’s Volunteer Congress focused on the theme, “Love Our Differences.” The love and affection were evident right from the registration process when volunteers met and connected with each other almost immediately. The bond

was further strengthened throughout the weekend in sharing and teamwork sessions. What caught the hearts of most participants was the TEDtalk session when selected volunteers and returnees shared their experience on how AFS had changed their lives. From a fat banana virus reference to reading the diaries of host siblings to traffic awareness in other countries, and how diversity is a part of life, delegates gained insight into the personal journeys of the speakers and learned valuable lessons from each of

Above: Line-up of international delegates from AFS Hong Kong Right: Visually impaired, Celine sharing her experiences during the TEDtalk session


them. Similarly, other cultural sessions during Volunteer Congress 2016 including the provocatively titled “A Stranger In My Bed”, The Tolerant Way, and a Cultural Walkabout, helped delegates understand and appreciate better how issues of racism, bigotry and discrimination can be faced and overcome through respecting and understanding one another ‘s differences, keeping an open mind and being nonjudgmental.

*More stories on VC2016 will be in the next issue of Budaya Beat

VC2016: Simply Lovin’ It! By: Siow Li Yaw


recently attended Volunteer Congress 2016 as one of the delegates of the Ampang Chapter. The theme for the congress this year was “Loving our Differences”, which may sound simple but had a deep and compelling meaning for me after the weekend was all over. The theme traced back to the simple but effective concept behind the establishment of AFS, which is to promote peace and greater understanding through youth exchanges. We are all aware of the unprecedented problems relating to world peace that we face today, all due to a lack of understanding and acceptance of our “differences”. What gave me the biggest impact from VC2016 was the TEDTalk

session which kick-started the event. The speakers were all AFS volunteers themselves. Each one of them delivered a brief but impactful story revolving around the theme of accepting and embracing our differences. We were caught up in all the different stories and experiences, and each account affected me deeply. There was a particularly poignant moment when a speaker mentioned about how she sees life as a cycle, and how one must always “Relearn, Rephrase, and Reflect.” Those words resonated with me and I shall henceforth live by that same wisdom. At the end of that first day, some of us went out for a quick bite. It so happened that I started a conversation with one of the delegates from Hong

Kong. He expressed to me how truly enlightened he was from the TEDTalk session, as his experience with students was different from what he had seen and heard after just one evening with us. We continued discussing about the differences between the students in Malaysia and in Hong Kong and he mentioned that he was truly inspired to do more for his students back home so they could maximise on their AFS experience. VC2016 was a resounding success for me because of the bonds we made during that weekend, the lessons and best practices learnt and the fun and camaraderie we shared during a Cultural Walkabout aka treasure hunt event and an appreciation dinner.

Left: Signing up as an AFS member Above: Andy, representative of AFS Hong Kong sharing his #AFSEffect during the TEDtalk session


Chapter Chats

Damansara Chapter:

Building Relationships By: Amelia Abdul Rashid


amansara Chapter has been around for several years now. It was initially set up by Puan Zamrah, who served as President until she was appointed to the AFS MAS Board, whereupon Mdm. Susie took over and then on to me since last year. I have been a volunteer with AFS for around 12 years now, since returning from my own AFS experience (IP Spain). This has been by far the biggest responsibility given to me. To head a Chapter previously led by Puan Zamrah and Mdm Susie was a daunting task as both had set the standards high, but I took on the challenge, knowing I would have the assistance of dedicated volunteers to assist with the outgoing and incoming students. Above and left: Getting ready for a Skytrex Adventure

The chapter has done many prominent activities. These include Hiking Outings, Skytrex Adventure, Welcome Potluck Lunch, Day Trips to other states, festival exchanges and many more. We try to involve all our hosted students and as many host families and volunteers as we can in all our activities to build stronger relationships amongst us and truly live up to the AFS mission statement.


The biggest challenge for me ij running the Chapter would be time. As I have a full-time job, it is very hard to juggle work with my AFS commitments. However, I am aware all working Chapter committee members face the same challenges and the spirit of volunteerism in AFS is what binds us and runs the organization. I appreciate all the help I have received from everyone including the AFS National office staff, host families, my committee and other volunteers. They have been amazing, and provided me help whenever needed. Andor Nagy (Hungary) hosted student from Damansara Chapter giving his speech during a Sarawak Chapter Roadshow

We try to involve students in as many activities as we can, and get volunteers from all ages and races to take part in them too. Currently we are in the midst of getting the current hosted students some language lessons, to help them learn Bahasa Melayu. We are also planning more community service projects for these students as we want to ensure that, as future volunteers, they will always give back to society. AFS opens up a whole new world to everyone affiliated with the organization. It gives us the opportunity to grow as a volunteer and as a person. I look forward to helping Damansara Chapter grow further and contributing more to AFS.

Taking part in community events to further increase AFS visibility and presence


Malaysia Moments

SARAWAK SOJOURN By: Miyuu Hirayama


rom Japan to Kuantan, Malaysia…and then to Sarawak for a Short Term Exchange program. I chose Sarawak because I knew that there was a lot to be learned from this Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. I did the usual round of visits: the Sarawak state museum, cat museum, crocodile farm, Semenggoh Nature Park where I saw orangutans, fairy caves, jungle trekking, cultural village, orchid park, shopping and so on. To me, the best place of all was the Sarawak Cultural Village. There were houses of different tribes, traditional games, sports and pastimes. I could also see their different lifestyles, what they eat and do in their respective longhouses.

With my Malaysian family

I also enjoyed watching their traditional dances and clothes. Despite their differences in clothing and way of life, I could feel the bond of living at one with nature and their tribe dynamics. It was all very exciting and new to me.

In Kuching for my STE


Another memorable experience of Sarawak was its food. I couldn’t stop eating. Sarawak laksa, kolo mee, kek lapis, sea food, Chinese foods, and western foods, even sushi, fruits and so on. I must have eaten everything three times! But the best was my host mother’s cheese cakes. She likes to bake cakes, buns and cookies. I also

helped her to make them when I stayed with her for that short time. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to go to school in Sarawak, I still managed to visit one and play Japanese games with students there because my friend’s host father was president of the school. I was excited to see a lot of races in one class and the relationship between the boys and girls are close. I made a lot of new friends, spent fun time and learnt new things from this short-term exchange. I will definitely make a return trip to Sarawak soon!

Happy to be able to see a Rafflesia flower

Picture opportunity with a dancer in Iban warrior attire

Spending time with my host sister


Malaysia Moments

A Year of Discovery By: Frederick Schweden


oming to Malaysia was an adventure for me. At ďŹ rst I was shocked when I arrived here in Penang from Germany, because it was a totally different environment to what I had expected. When I applied for the AFS program, I intended to work in and around Nature, perhaps even stay in a small town or village. Penang, however, is a thriving island with all the hustle and bustle of a cosmopolitan city. My project placement was at Eden Handicap Service Centre. I have been working here for a year now with disabled children, which is a totally new experience for me. I slowly adjusted to the way of life in Penang. I met many new people, started going to the gym and playing football every Friday just for fun. I even joined a team to play every Sunday. In between all the days and weeks that passed, I was always thinking about the time. How long am I already here now? What happened today? What lessons have I learned? After six months, I got to know some neighbors who were very friendly. They invited me to hang out


With one of the children at the Eden Handicap Service Centre

with them, and just like that I was a member of their “brotherhood”. These guys gave me a completely different view of Penang, and changed my whole perspective as a result. After more than half a year in Malaysia, I also started to think about my holidays. Where should I go? In Chulia Street, I had listened to all the backpackers and their travel stories. So I just took all the leave days that I had and went backpacking. I still had not decided where to go at that point in time but I just bought a one-way ticket to Sumatra. I had not planned any itinerary. I was more excited compared to the days before the flight to Malaysia. This was the first time I had to decide everything on my own, where to go, where to sleep, how to get around. I met many friendly people. I saw volcanoes, mountains, jungles, animals. The most challenging thing I did was mountain biking over 42 kilometers. Everything went well and after a month, I got back safely to Penang. Now my stay here in Malaysia is nearly over and I have to look to the future. What do I want to do? I’m still

Receiving The Best Participant Award during AFS NH16/SH16 Farewell Dinner

undecided. But I do know that I want to collect more experience, work with nature, and go traveling. That’s all I know so far. But as long as I try to be like the water, I will always find a way to the ocean. I have learned a lot about myself, about other people, their cultures and their different ways of thinking. I also really enjoyed the time I had to think about the past, my own behavior and my strategies to survive in this complex world.

Eden Fellowship outing at M Mall Times Square, Penang

Horas! Fred


Family Highlights

Different Languages

Different Cultures One Family

By: Saidatul Kesuma Dewi Binti Ismail


aving a new member in our life was both refreshing and daunting. Of course some changes had to happen, but we were thankful that Matheo was a good person to share our life with. He spread good vibes to our family, the children enjoyed being with him and sharing new activities that made us all closer to each other. He became a big brother to my elder son, Safiyan. Though his stay was a short one, his departure brought great impact and sadness to our family, like seeing a son/a brother who is going away and never coming back…at least, not anytime soon. This is our first time hosting as a family. Before this, we had

two students from AFS Pahang Chapter staying for a few nights with us. We got to know them from our other family members who were hosting a short week with one of them. Since then, my husband decided to try to host a son as my two boys were so keen on having a big brother. However, due to our work commitment, we were unable to host for a longer term so when AFS Damansara Chapter confirmed that they had two short term AFSers awaiting family placement, we decided to give it a try.

with us. The first week of his stay, we set out all the ground rules for him to ensure there was no miscommunication among us. Surprisingly, Matheo was not timid and shy to ask if he did not understand and his own charisma made him approachable. He was an active person and got along well with all my children. That week, we did a lot of things together to make him feel he was truly welcomed and we introduced local foods to him as well. We also prepared a list of “do’s and don’ts” for his life in a local high school.

The first time we met Matheo, he was a bit quiet but my boys were good in the ice breaking session. He instantly felt comfortable

My daughter was actually facing a lot of challenges in school at the time but she was suddenly popular because of her

Matheo’s 16th Birthday, 28 August 2016


“handsome mat salleh� brother! The senior girls approached her to get to know Matheos better but she found the attention annoying as they were asking her so many ridiculous questions about him. However, the opposite was true for my son who enjoyed his new-found fame and attention as more seniors were nice to him. Yes, I recommend more Malaysians to host exchange students. However, there are pros and cons that need to be considered before adopting a new member into the family. The pros will give a long lasting and enjoyable experience but the cons of hosting an exchange student include facing a negative influence to our home environment if the new member is unable to adapt to our home life. We were lucky to have had a good, talented and obedient boy such as Matheo. He was focused on what he wanted to achieve and took the

Mother and son in a patriotic pose!

opportunity to improve his English and experience our Malaysian way of life, adapting fast to our culture and food. In just two short months, he spoke better English compared to his first day of arrival here. We exposed him to all the main races here i.e. Malay, Chinese and Indian. SMK Damansara

Utama is a mixed school and he got the good chance to know and understand different cultures. He stayed with us, a Malay family, his close friend, Daniel, is Chinese and we have Indian friends who kindly invited us to participate in their Indian culture including watching an Indian Theatre and Dance Show. Matheo is from Metz, France. He was brought up by his wonderful family in a good environment. Hence, his stay with us gave good impact to our own family and certainly we hope we gave him wonderful memories too.

Learning to eat with chopsticks


CPO Spotlight

AFS Making a DIFFERENCE By: Rajam Ramasami


he Children’s Protection Society has been running for 25 years now. Its aim is to teach and give displaced children a home and a place in the world. Our affiliation with AFS Malaysia began after Datin Teo Hwee Ai, the president of Penang Chapter, introduced us to AFS and its intercultural learning program. That was five years ago and since then, students


and volunteers have come and gone since the collaboration with Children’s Protection Society and AFS began. However, this year seems extra special as Mereta Looft, an 18 year-old AFSer from Germany, really fit in well and truly connected with the children and staff here. Every year, we celebrate different kinds of festivals

Celebrating Chinese New Year at Spice with the children

especially in Penang. The children under our care are from different backgrounds and religions. We accept and care for all, and this serves well for intercultural learning and a bonus for AFS students to learn how to communicate, adapt, and learn about these children. They have the chance to experience the children’s situation and impart kindness and love to them. Whether it is

Typical lunch time at The Children’s Protection Society

Christmas, Deepavali or even Hari Raya, all the care takers, teachers, the children and volunteers gather around for a day of celebration. Without these international students to help and cheer the children, this institute will be much the poorer for their absence. Minor issues such as communication, stress and workload are quickly overcome because of the bigger cause they are involved in. Activities and programs are

Above: Intel volunteer & CGL Guides helping to count coupons Left: Art and Craft time with Meti

developed by the international students and help build and strengthen relationships. Understanding children is the most fundamental aspect of the institute and AFS students who are culturally prepared, manage this with patience and understanding. Fundraising, concerts and even food booths were some of the many activities held here. More students and young people should experience the amazing feeling that we have in taking care of these children. AFS is indeed making a difference with this group.


Returnee Reflections Exchange Experience Like a Plush Cushion By: Chua Wei Qin


y name is WeiQin. I went to the United States through the YES Program in 2015. It has been more than a year since my return from a small town called Arnold in Nebraska. When I think about my exchange, the first thing that comes to mind is all the people I’ve loved in that small town and those who loved and cared for me back. The amount of warmth and comfort I felt in little, quaint Arnold always feels like a warm plush cushion. It was just so special.


Prior to leaving the country, I had various expectations that I harbored to myself. I was distracted by other people’s expectations of their exchange

and thought that I should have the same expectations too. Yes, I was one of those who used to compare my experience to others, even though I knew well enough NOT to do so. As a result, I was not too excited about the town I was going to be hosted in and I was very nervous about not being able to get along with my host family. Even before I departed Malaysia, I already had doubts. I carried those negative thoughts along with me into the early days of my life in the States. The advice that helped me the most was from my mom. She said, “Don’t expect anything, just go with an open heart and mind, experience it there, and when

it’s all over, then decide whether if this journey was a good one or not.” Surprisingly, that advice helped me so much and I am glad I snapped out of it before my exchange really started to take place, because I ended up loving my small, little town and my host family. I overcame it through some introspection and after that, things went so well. My own exchange took me to amazing places and brought me to meet so many beautiful people. I learned that if you let things take its own course and give your best, everything will always turn out to be better than expected. Despite my exchange being one of the most intriguing

experiences of my life, my favorite moment of all was when I went on a graduation trip with my classmates to California. To pinpoint the exact moment when I felt the fullest was when I was at Disneyland, Anaheim. I remember thinking about how I wished my host parents and natural parents could be here together with me to share the experience. It symbolized the close ties I had made with the members of my host family. I remember looking around in Disneyland, thinking how unbelievable this journey has been and how far my exchange has taken me, to witness places and lifestyles that I’ve never witnessed before. That euphoric feeling also reminded me of the relationships that I’ve made with the people in my town and how much they have lifted me up, the opportunities they’ve given me, and the

places they’ve showed me which all contributed to my vivid experience. Until this day I still recall my friends and family back in Nebraska and how much I want to visit them. All these experiences make me incredibly thankful. Not surprisingly, even after my exchange in

America has ended, AFS continues to bring life-changing opportunities to my life. It has opened many doors for me to expand as an individual and it has done the same for countless other individuals all around the world. The new things I have participated in with AFS has brought me to greater heights, opened my mind even more,

increased my flexibility and understanding of others. To me, AFS is a body of different people that share the same passion. Therefore, to meet and be in the company of those people makes me happy. The people that AFS has introduced me to are incredible and all of us are change makers in our own way.


Alumni in Action Volunteer Exchange to Indonesia:

Alike but Different By: Joyce Choong


n a Volunteer Exchange to Indonesia recently, the most daunting task we faced even before embarking on the trip was deciding on what gifts to bring to our hosts. Indonesia and Malaysia are alike in so many ways, even in the type of handicrafts each produced! We were determined to not only bring gifts uniquely Malaysian, but to bring back qualities that are uniquely Indonesian. And so it was that the three of us, Khoo Swee Lyn and Iskandar Azani from Ampang Chapter and myself from Negeri Sembilan Chapter, went on a short Volunteer Exchange to Indonesia. Having been exchange students previously, it was exciting for all

The send-off committee


of us to once again experience the “exchange student feel” as we would be staying with a local host family, participate in chapter activities and try to speak the local language. Upon landing at Jakarta’s main airport, we had our first taste of Indonesia’s very own refreshing and popular drink, Teh Botol. Nana from the National Office of Bina Antarbudaya, met us there and we were quickly transported into the city. And hence began our first experience with the much talked-about “macet” or traffic congestion. Needless to say, we all agreed that we would never complain about traffic jams in KL ever again. With swarms of cars and motorcycles weaving in and

out quite perilously close to each other, and on narrow winding roads that bustled with more vehicles than one can ever think possible, it was truly a hair-raising experience throughout the long ride. When we finally reached the Bina Antarabudaya office, we were warmly greeted and introduced to all staff and treated to a homely lunch, a daily affair where all members of the staff would eat together like a family. We were told that the board of directors wanted the office to feel more like a home, so that all staff and volunteers would feel like being in a large extended family and even stay overnight if needed. After being given a short briefing

Larking around at Bina Antarabudaya’s 60th Anniversary Gala Dinner

on the typical culture of Indonesia and a history of the organization, we were then chaperoned to our host chapter – Bogor, the City of Rain. And rain it certainly did, everyday over the course of the eight days we were there! Each of us stayed with different host families during our time in Bogor but we shared one similarity…all the families insisted on stuffing us with endless food. I guess that’s something both our countries have in common, our constant desire to share our amazing food. During our time there, we managed to take part in one of their YES Alumni community service activities, which involved teaching English to young boarding school children and exploring their creativity; we visited one of the more popular public high schools in the area, SMA Negeri 2 Bogor, which not only boasts of being an ecofriendly school, but also strongly emphasizes the preservation of local arts like dance and music. It was such an experience to have different classes perform classical dances from each region of Indonesia with such enthusiasm and dedication.

Speaking to students of a local public school

We also had the great honor to be invited to Bina Antarabudaya’s 60th Anniversary Gala Dinner where we witnessed great performances from volunteers and staff alike, and had our hearts touched by the video montages from volunteers, exchange students local and aboard who all shared their feelings and thoughts on volunteerism and how their exchange journey changed their lives. Nostalgia, tears and laughter filled the hall during that event, as guests young and old gathered to celebrate AFS. Time certainly passes swiftly when you’re having fun. At the end of our stay, with heavy yet hopeful hearts, we bid our host families and new friends goodbye and promised to meet again whenever our paths crossed in the future. As with all exchange programs, we realize that as much as we have differences, we also share much in common. But I am convinced that the way to becoming a true Indonesian is the ability to survive their notorious traffic without having a heart-attack! Mingling with teachers and students in Bogor





10 Tips for Dealing with Culture Shock


he minute you land in your new study abroad country, you’re busy taking in the newness around you. You’re smiling at the street vendors selling fruit on every corner. You’re captivated by the sudden openness of the people around you. Or perhaps you’re noticing a discreet segregation of genders, ages, or confused by why your host mother shies away from some of your questions. This, brave study abroad student, is called culture shock. Most people who have traveled more extensively than a brief vacation have heard the term. Whether you’ve just long ago been bitten by the travel bug, or are heading off on your first time abroad, you’ll need to understand culture shock and how to cope with it on your study abroad trip. Now, let’s get down to strategies and tips for dealing with culture shock. 1. Learn as much about your host country as possible Get to know as much as you can about what’s considered polite or rude (for example, did you know it’s rude to step over someone’s bag in Madagascar?) and prepare yourself for some of the differences before you go. 2. Ask study abroad coordinators for advice Specifically, ask them what other students have had a hard time adapting to and what they’ve done to cope. Each country has its own nuances, so you’re going to face a different situation in France as you would in Thailand. Ask those who know best! 3. Set learning goals for your study abroad trip This may be obvious, but make sure you have goals for your study abroad trip, and make sure they include learning about your host culture. Do you love food? Make it a goal to learn how to cook a local dish. 4. Write down what you love when you first arrive, and look back later During the honeymoon phase, write down all the things you love about your new host country (maybe even in your new study abroad blog?). Later, when you’re feeling frustrated or irritated, use this list to remind yourself of all the good things about your host country, instead of the things that annoy you. 5. Find a healthy distraction Especially in stage two, when you may have negative feelings towards your host culture, find a healthy distraction. Take some time to yourself, watch an episode of your favorite TV show, cook a meal from home, or have a solo dance party in your house. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed and need a break from your host country -- just make sure it’s a healthy distraction and you don’t spend your whole time locked up in your house!


6. Talk to other students about how you feel You’ll likely know other students who are studying abroad with you. Talk to them about how they feel about your host culture. Ask them about how they feel, strategies they’ve used to cope with cultural differences. Also, learn from them. They may have figured out something you’re still confused about -- like why everyone keeps saying a particular phrase or how to politely say “no” when your host mom insists you finish everything on your plate. 7. Push yourself to make local friends Of course, you’ll learn even more if you make local friends. They’re experts in their own culture and will be able to explain all the crazy little questions you have. And if they’re a truly good friend, they’ll pull you aside and tell you if you’re unwittingly doing something offensive or weird. *Phew*! 8. Try to see things through your host culture’s eyes Throughout every stage of culture shock, try to put your own worldview in your pocket and try to understand the world the way your host culture does. 9. Get involved with the local community Part of your feelings of culture shock may be because you feel like too much of an outsider, so get involved in your local community as much as possible. If you went to church at home, go to church there. If you volunteered at home, find a volunteer project in your host city. Join a sports team, go to major festivals, and make this new home a home! 10. Make an effort to learn the local language Even if your program is in English, make an effort to learn a few basic phrases (or more!) in the local language. It’s not just a way to understand more of the culture (language and culture are linked), but also to make friends, feel more included, and hey -it’s just fun!


Travel Tales - International

By K.Talha



ne of the spectacular natural wonders of the world, the Iguazu Falls are situated near the border of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. This Triple Frontier is formed naturally by the convergence of two rivers, Parana and Iguazu. At the convergence of the borders, each of the three bordering countries has erected an obelisk, painted in the national colors of the country in which it is located. All three countries can be seen from each of the obelisks. Of the three monuments, the most accessible is the Argentine side, because this landmark is very close to the

urban area of Puerto Iguazu, less than 2 km from the center. The Landmark itself is a pyramid painted with the Argentine flag colors, and dated 1903 (year of the border treaty with Brazil). The Iguazu Falls are arranged in a way that resembles a reversed letter “J”. The border between Brazil and Argentina runs through the Devil’s Throat, the highest of the falls. On the right bank is the Brazilian territory, which has just over 20% of the jumps of these falls, and the left side jumps are Argentine, which make up almost 80% of the falls.

Vista point for a photo opportunity that offers a panaromic view of the falls


Travel Tales - International

The Iguazu Falls was declared a World Heritage Site in 1986

Spray from the waters create a magical misty effect

The name “Iguazu” comes from the Guarani or Tupi word meaning “Big Water”. Legend has it that a deity planned to marry a beautiful woman named Naipí, who fled with her mortal lover Tarobá in a canoe. In a rage, the deity sliced the river, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall. The semicircular waterfall at the heart of this World Heritage site is some 80 m high and 2,700 m in


Located on the border of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, visitors have the opportunity to visit three nations at one go!

diameter. It is made up of 275 cascades producing vast sprays of water. The surrounding subtropical rainforest has over 2,000 species of vascular plants and is home to the typical wildlife of the region: tapirs, giant anteaters, howler monkeys, ocelots, jaguars and caymans. Visitors are advised to wear practical shoes as there are some slippery embankments to negotiate before reaching wooden walkways that lead to panoramic lookout points.


Travel Tales - Domestic



angkawi Art in Paradise 3D Museum, hailed as the largest 3D art museum in Malaysia and second largest in the world, features more than 200 impressive artworks that appear almost lifelike when photographed. Accessible within a 20-minute drive from Langkawi International Airport, this unique attraction is situated next to the iconic Langkawi Cable Car in The Oriental Village, Burau Bay. A three-storey building with an exhibition space that covers 2,000 square metres, Langkawi Art in Paradise 3D Museum is divided into nine interactive The intriguing entrance

zones including optical illusion, aquatic, safari, fantasy, classic, castles, landscapes, Egyptian, and Malaysian zones. There are more than 200 beautiful and meticulous artworks, all of which are hand-painted by 23 leading Korean artists in collaboration with talented local artists. Presented in three-dimensional forms, many of these paintings seem to spill out from their framed canvases, offering a fun way for visitors to interact, photograph, and blend with the artworks. One of the highlights of the Langkawi Art in Paradise 3D Museum is the stunning panoramic painting of the gleaming Kuala Lumpur Have you ever dreamt of becoming an angel and spreading your wings? Here you can!


Travel Tales - Domestic

Featuring a wide variety of marine life images visitors can ‘dive in’ to explore the diversity of the oceans

Have fun with the many optic illusions here

city skyline, featuring the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, Menara KL Tower, and Sultan Abdul Samad Building. The massive Egyptian theme zone is another must-visit for memorable photo opportunities, where visitors are transported into the mystery-filled ancient civilization. Images of the majestic Sphinx, pyramids, and pharaohs are painted in detail, and seem to come to life in photos. While Langkawi Island is usually


Test your photography skills at 3D Art Museum Langkawi

frequented for its excellent duty-free shopping, island-hopping and diving opportunities, Langkawi Art in Paradise 3D Museum at Oriental Village also offers a uniquely fun-filled activity for families. The entrance fee for foreign visitors is RM38 for adults and RM28 for children, while locals (with MyKad identification) are required to pay RM30 and RM20 respectively.


Here & There Spreading the Message


FS Malaysia was given a slot to promote awareness about its mission and programmes at a two-day motivational seminar conducted by Change Management consultant and AFS returnee, Dr Victor Tan. Participants comprising the sales team and senior management of Worldwide Resins & Chemicals Sdn Bhd were introduced to The AFS Experience by AFS Chair Khalilah Talha and National Director Atty Sulaiman and many expressed interest in becoming host families and volunteers after the one hour talk. Dr Tan felt the spirit of volunteerism and intercultural learning in AFS would add “completeness” or “wholeness” in the development of an individual and family. “Having something to motivate us beyond money – like a noble cause in our lives – gives meaning to our existence. Developing our children and hosting children from other countries make a difference in the lives of all involved and should therefore be encouraged,” he said.

Book Donation


hile on a personal visit to Manila in July this year, AFS Malaysia Chair Khalilah Talha visited a public school, the Makati Science High School to meet with volunteers of AFS Philippines who are promoting the AFS vision to educators and students there. Its newly opened school library was in need of internationally themed books so when Khalilah attended the recent AAI ICL Level 1 Training programme in Manila recently, she took the opportunity to bring books published by AFS Malaysia as well as some personally contributed coffee table books on Malaysia and Batik Making for the school library. The books were handed over to the National Director of AFS Philippines, Mae Ayub and her team.


Dr Tan is a returnee from the United States. He is a prolific writer whose articles have appeared in The Banker’s Journal, Malaysian Business, The New Straits Times, The STAR, The Executive Today and the Malaysian Tatler. He is also the author of six management bestsellers and his latest book, The Secret of Change, has been accepted by the Malaysia Book Of Records as the First Motivation Book In Rhymes.

Accolades for AFS Perak Chapter


n a ceremony to recognise the excellent achievements of students of the Datuk Panglima Perang Kiri High School, AFS Perak Chapter received two awards for their outstanding contribution to intercultural learning. Accepting the award for Perak Chapter was Madam Premah who was accompanied by four AFS participants then being hosted in Perak. “We are happy Perak Chapter has been acknowledged as a positive influence in this school. Through the foreign participants, our local students have an opportunity to learn more about other cultures and countries so AFS is essentially bringing the world to them. This is especially significant as not many of them, if any, have the means to travel or study abroad,” said Madam Premah. Hannah Green from USA was also named Best Dressed Female at the event.

Japanese Women’s Council Visits AFS Malaysia


FS Malaysia recently hosted visitors from the Japanese Women’s Council to its National Office. They were greeted by AFS Adviser Datin Yasmin Marican and National Director Atty Sulaiman and held a fruitful discussion on not just AFS matters but also issues concerning women faced by both countries. Despite statistics from Zenger Folkman, a Leadership Development Researcher, showing that 51% of leadership effectiveness come from men and 54% effectiveness from women, many organisations still deny women opportunities to serve as top management or on the board. Datin Yasmin shared how women in Malaysia continue to face these challenges and the difficulties in raising the glass ceiling due to the still traditional thinking prevailing in many organisations today. The visit by the Japanese Women’s Council was the first by an external party to the new headquarters of AFS Malaysia.


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