Budaya Beat July - August 2017

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YES Alumni Digital Storytelling Workshop Enhances and expands participants’ technical skills in video and photography By: Amrin Amar YES’12


rriving in D.C.’s International Dulles Airport to attend a YES Alumni Digital Storytelling Workshop, waves of nostalgia hit me and I quickly started to get flashbacks of my exchange year. Everything just felt like “home”. This feeling became even stronger during the ride to the hotel. I felt everything was so familiar to me but also new at the same time as there were many new buildings I could not recognise and a lot of construction going on. Settling into our rooms, we quickly got to know each other. We were 20 participants from countries such as Turkey, Kenya,

Ghana, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines. Our ice-breaking session was interesting as we had to interview our partner and they had to interview us. This really gave an understanding of what was to come as it showed us it wasn’t easy to be interviewed or conduct an interview session. It became evident that some of us were more comfortable at conducting an interview while others felt more at ease in front of the camera. On the second day, we were introduced to ‘The Dramatic Arc’. This is fundamental to any good story telling. The Dramatic Arc starts off with a hook, then

Participants utilizing all the skills they learned in the sessions and receiving guidance from trainers


“It was definitely eye opening to watch all these stories and getting to understand how by the simple change of music, a simple change in facial expression or even a change in lighting can heavily influence the whole story.”

goes to the conflict of the story, after which the climax is next and finally a resolution. We analysed movies to better understand what The Dramatic Arc is and how it affects a story. It certainly was fun because all we did was watch movies… and of course take notes. It was definitely eye opening to watch all these stories and getting to understand how by the simple change of music, a simple change in facial expression or even a change in lighting can heavily influence the whole story. Sample

Having a short break before continuing the session

videos of other YES alumni were shared as well. All participants were impressed with the work and effort done as the videos gave strong impact even though they were only two minutes long. Watching all these videos inspired us and excitement grew when we realised we were going to be making our own videos soon.

The workshop explored storytelling and interview techniques, also focused on creating accessible messages for both local and international audiences

True enough, we were split into groups of four to come up with a two-minute video. This was when we applied interviewing skills that we had learned before. It isn’t easy to get stories out from people. For some, we really need to ask specific questions to get a good story out but with others, they are happy to share. I couldn’t help but think about what I learned during my ICL training back in Malaysia and merge it with my new interviewing skills. After some



Brainstorming session among group members

deliberation, we decided on a story that we would really like to do and started to plot out our own Dramatic Arc. The next day, we had to start on our video. We discussed plenty of things. From how the flow of the story should be, to the narratives even the shots that we were going to use. By now most of us had realized it really wasn’t that easy to convey a specific message through the means of digital media. A lot of thought was put into the script and we had to make many decisions to smoothen the story. We experienced writer’s block quite frequently and had to seek help from our mentors. My personal favourite time was of course the video shooting


session. We were allowed to walk around Alexandria to shoot. It was a warm summer day, the leaves were green, the sun was shining, and people were taking walks with their pet dogs. It definitely was the perfect day to take videos and pictures. Once we had all of this done, the video editing process could begin. For the next day and a half, we concentrated on getting this done. It was stressful because of the lack of sleep, the confusion on what materials to use in the video and what songs to put in the video for maximum impact. On the final day, we had a mini screening session where everyone presented their final product. It was incredible to see everyone’s finished work of art!

All of them were incredible and fun to watch. We had this sense of pride and accomplishment when we saw our video up on the screen. To think that when we started this workshop all the stories were just stories, but now at the end, it has become a reality. All that hard work had really paid off. After the workshop, we were given the opportunity to facilitate a YES End of Stay Camp. We assisted students returning back to their home countries. It felt good to see some familiar faces returning home to Malaysia. I could see how they’ve grown as individuals and it was a proud moment for me to welcome the YES’17 participants to the camp.

Participants of the workshop are presenting their ideas and insights

Through the workshop students not only sharpened leadership skills, gained new digital media and social media skills, but also began building a regional alumni network



Independence Day: 60 Years Of Nationhood


alaysia got its independence from the British on August 31, 1957 in what has often been described as a bloodless coup ie in a very peaceful manner through talks.


On that historic day, Malaya’s first Prime Minister Allahyarham Tunku Abdul Rahman proudly declared the independence of Malaya (now Malaysia) by shouting out ‘’Merdeka’’ seven times at the Merdeka Stadium. He proclaimed Malaya as ‘a sovereign, democratic and independent State founded on the principles of liberty and justice, and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations.’ He went on to say that Malaya had been blessed with a good administration forged and tempered to perfection by successive British administrators and called for Britain’s legacy not to be forgotten or spoiled in the future. A message from the Queen welcomed Malaya to the Commonwealth and numerous Commonwealth premiers sent goodwill wishes. The Union Jack was lowered and the Malayan flag hoisted in its place, while elsewhere

Independence ceremony in Merdeka Stadium. August 31, 1957

The Federation of Malaya gained complete independence from Britain in 1957 and later became part of the nation of Malaysia

in the country there were fireworks, bonfires, dances and concerts. The history of British involvement in Malaya goes back to 1786, when the East India Company established a trading post on Penang Island. Sir Stamford Raffles founded a British settlement on the island of Singapore in 1819 and by 1830 the British Straits Settlements

also included Malacca. From the 1870s the sultans of the small Malay states began accepting British ‘advisers’, who were effectively rulers. In 1896 a federation of Negri Sembilan, Perak, Selangor and Pahang was established with its capital at Kuala Lumpur. Heavy immigration from China and India was encouraged to supply labour for British rubber plantations and tin mines.

Invading from the north, the Japanese rapidly overran Malaya and took Singapore in 1942. After the war, in 1948, a Federation of Malaya was created under British protection, but British and Commonwealth troops had to put down a Communist insurrection, which lasted into the early 1950s. It was by now agreed that Malayan independence was the answer to the Communist claim that they were fighting to free the Malayan people from the British yoke. An election in 1955 was won hands-down by the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) by running Malay candidates in Malaydominated areas, Chinese candidates in Chinese areas and Indian candidates in Indian ones. The UMNO’s leader Tunku Abdul Rahman became prime minister when the independent Federation of Malaya came into being in 1957.

The biggest celebration of the event takes place annually at Merdeka Square, or more commonly known as Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur

The federation was renamed Malaysia in 1963, when besides Singapore and all the Malay states, it also included two areas in North Borneo – Sarawak and Sabah. Singapore opted out and went its own way in 1965.



Johor Chapter:

Connecting Lives, Sharing Cultures

By: Irene Leong Chooi Ling


May is a day of reflection for the nation but for AFS Johor Chapter, it was a day of celebration. On this day, a fun and meaningful event called “Johor Bahru Cultural Walkabout 2017” (JBCW) was held by AFS Johor Chapter with the aim of exposing participants to the amazing, exclusive and genuine culture that can only be found in Malaysia, especially in the Johor Bahru area. The idea was mooted when a group of volunteers from AFS Johor Chapter joined Volunteer Congress

2016 in Kuala Lumpur. The amazing and unforgettable experiences gained from the cultural walkabout event during Volunteer Congress 2016 had inspired the Johor volunteers to organise a similar event in its own state. The main target audience of JBCW were the three exchange students placed in the Johor Chapter and also AFS volunteers. At the same time, JBCW also encouraged non AFS members who had no idea what AFS is all about, to join the event. Within two weeks, 20

Stretching is a must before the game! 10

participants from different cultural backgrounds had signed up for the event. Participants were divided into groups of four. Each group was given 20 clues that would lead them to different places that consisted of different cultures in Malaysia. Some of the clues were tricky whereas some were funny. For example, what comes to your mind when you have a question like this, “Can you find a batik for us and bring back the batik on your hand?”

Some participants brought back actual batik pieces and placed them on their hands whereas others took pictures of batik. But there were two groups who were able to answer the question correctly by having batik-inspired ‘hena’ drawn on their hands in an Indian beauty salon. Through finding the answers to these tricky questions, participants gained a deeper understanding and wider view point of the cultures inherent in Johor Bahru. “I got to know more about the differences and uniqueness of each race in Malaysia better through this mindopening event,” said one of the volunteers. In closing the event, Chapter President Madam Irene Leong thanked all volunteers for their support and participation in making JBCW 2017 a success. “We hope that it will become a yearly event for AFS Johor Chapter in future as it is a fun and effective way to introduce, discover and understand the many aspects of Malaysian culture,” she added.

Teamwork leads you to success!

No matter who you are, let’s learn 24 festival drums together!

A lot of laughter when the answers were revealed



All of Asia In One Place By: Chihari Tamashiro


y name is Chiharu Tamashiro. I’m 17 years old, and I’m from Japan. I came to Malaysia in February this year, and I’ve been staying here for almost 6 months. There are three reasons as to why I joined this exchange and chose Malaysia. Firstly, I like to go to places where I’ve never been before. I had already participated in an AFS short summer exchange program in Canada. It lasted only one and half months but proved a great experience for me that I wanted more…preferably a longer exchange. Secondly, Malaysia was suggested to me by my mother. We did some research about this country and after learning more about Malaysia, I decided this was the place for me due to its dynamic variety of people and culture. Now I’m based in Ampang chapter. We have activities every month which keeps me occupied. One day, we had a presentation about weddings in school; Chinese, Indian, and Malay weddings. At that time I wore an Indian traditional wedding dress, lengar and some accessories. It was a nice experience. I wanted to wear a sari but unfortunately, I’m not used to wearing it, so we chose a lengar instead. I stood on stage for 10 or 20 minutes. I was quite embarrassed to stand there but my friends helped me to relax and just enjoy the moment.


My toughest challenge is obviously to accept the cultural differences of daily life like food because I don’t eat spicy foods at all in Japan but here, I have no choice but to try. In the beginning it was so stressful, but now I can eat them a little more than before. I have already had a lot of great memories but the best so far occurred during iftar. It was during Ramadan and my chapter had arranged for some exchange students

to experience a mass iftar hosted by Ministry of Tourism in the city’s Merdeka Square. Before iftar time, everyone around us was talking but when the azan or call to prayers began, everyone stopped talking and the place became suddenly quiet. I was taken aback but was nevertheless, just moved by the beautiful moment. I would like to encourage new students to come to Malaysia, especially for

students from single race nations like Japan. Because Malaysia has many races, it is a bonus to learn about the many different cultures in just one place. It is also a good experience to see and understand how Malaysians work, live and play together and how the different cultures complement and respect each other through their many celebrations, festivals and foods.

Left: Iftar with friends and Ampang Chapter President, Nuriah Manap at Iftar@KL Left below: Hanging out with fellow AFS friends Below: Taking part in the school traditional clothing contest



Lost And Found in Translation By: Luna Michel


onjour! I am currently under the 18+ Volunteer Program in Malaysia. Malaysia was the first country on my list because it fit all my requirements: I love Indian culture, I have been learning Mandarin for a few years and I wanted to learn about Malay language and civilization, hence this country presented the perfect combination of both my interests and my studies!

Me and my colleague at an event we organized


Learning traditional tenun

I am placed in Selangor under the Klang chapter, in Creative Media & Technology Hub within University Technology MARA. My CPO project is related to textile and design, a field I have never explored before. I had the great opportunity to be immersed in the world of fabrics through projects with prison inmates, which was an eye-opening experience. In addition to that, my CPO gave me a lot of exposure to the various traditional ways of weaving within Malaysia, taking me to different states in the country. I was assigned diverse projects that I had to manage without training or background in that area,

and quickly learned on the spot. It has been such a great learning experience, especially thanks to the team of people that I work with. My colleagues showed me patience and kindness in times when I made mistakes or didn’t understand. Thankfully, the language barrier is no longer a problem toward the end of my stay. Personally, I think the toughest challenge I faced in Malaysia was letting go of the control I used to have on my life. I had to question everything that I would normally do in France, from the way I interact with people to the way I dress. All these

“There is no one particular moment that would be my favorite but rather the feeling of being part of a community. When I realized I had a life here: a home to go to, a family to talk to and friends to accept me.� 15

MALAYSIA MOMENTS uncomfortable situations led me to understand better what I feel passionate about and what I see myself doing in the future. Living in a completely new environment, I had to leave behind my daily routine, as well as the comfort zone that came with it. That’s when being with AFS comes in handy because you already have amazing local friends willing to show you around. It is such a heartwarming feeling, and reminds you to choose the people you surround yourself with wisely because they will directly impact the way you live your life. The lessons I learned will always benefit me in life, both in terms of work and personal life.

Above: Spending time with host siblings Left: I had the opportunity to be the emcee at one of our new projects about Science and Film Left below: My host family and I on a

trip to Sarawak There is no one particular moment that would be my favorite but rather the feeling of being part of a community. When I realized I had a life here: a home to go to, a family to talk to and friends to accept me, that feeling when the people around you know you well enough to the point where they don’t ask you anymore why your face is always red or if Paris and France are one and the same thing, that’s when I felt I truly belonged, I am so grateful for the love and smiles I received during my stay here. 16

I would encourage AFS participants to choose Malaysia for their exchange experience. Fellow AFSers I met here didn’t put Malaysia as their first choice but I guarantee you they are glad they ended up here. Without any doubt, the best thing that Malaysia has to offer is its diversity of races, cultures, beliefs and ideas. All brought together to form one united Malaysian community. This multiculturalism can be portrayed by the magical moment when I went to take an Indian dance class with Chinese people while speaking Malay! Malaysia is truly unique, enriching and beyond comparison. Also, Malaysian hospitality and Roti Canai are two of the greatest things on earth. I am constantly in awe of all the friendly people I met while I was trying to fit in. They never failed to brighten my days.

Hari Raya photoshoot

At an exhibition we organized

Holi Festival with AFS



Food Is The Music Of Love

“Being in the program also increased my confidence because the experience that I gained made me more mature as a person.” -Syamil 18


y name is Muhammad Syamil Muhamad, and I am from Terengganu. During my exchange to the United States, I was hosted in Fountain, Minnesota. For me, the biggest challenge that I faced was adapting to American food. We know that the food in America is different compared to Malaysia. I love to eat, and I was not afraid to try new foods. Eventually, I fell in love with American food, especially with my host mother’s cooking. She cooks really delicious meals! My favorite moment was definitely playing in the snow! It was my first time seeing and touching snow, and I was so excited! I went snowboarding with my host brother too and it was a great experience!

Participating in AFS Program has definitely been an eye-opener for me. I learned something new throughout my exchange. Being in the program also increased my confidence because the experience that I gained made me more mature as a person. I made new friends, have a new family on the other side of the world and have more courage to try new things now. I am not afraid to fail because failure is a teacher and makes us learn, grow and improve. It has also made me a fan of American food! 19


An amazing cultural journey... without leaving home By: Mr. Saifunaza Sobian


irst and foremost, a big thank you to Budaya Beat for this opportunity and to AFS Malaysia for providing us with many treasured moments with our AFS children. My heartiest appreciation goes to Madam Shoba Devi, the former President of Johor Chapter for her endless belief in us, supporting and guiding my family into this hosting adventure. My hosting journey started with a “case to case basis” hosting as we called it…. having Szonja Hovart from Hungary during the long school holidays early in

Family picture during Hari Raya Aidil Adha 2016

Memorable moments while hosting Michela Pozzato (Italy) and Szonja Hovart (Hungary)


November 2015 until 1 January 2016. During her stay, we travelled throughout the peninsular for three weeks on a road trip. We had so much fun. She celebrated Christmas on a beach in Langkawi, for the first time ever. The love we shared remains till this day and we continue to stay in touch with each other. When she came back to visit her host family last April 2017, she visited us as well. Then we hosted Natalia Nogueron Bosch from Spain a few times as her transit family when her own host family was occupied. From being a quiet, reserved girl, she became more open as time went by and we did many activities together.

By now we had become addicted to hosting! During the STE 2016, we hosted two students, Ayat Ben Yaacob from France and Sebames from Italy. The house was never quiet during their stay. They got on so well with not only my children, but also with us, the parents. It was such a memorable stay and two weeks flew past. We visited a few places in Johor Bahru with them and managed and a quick visit to Singapore too. During this STE, we were introduced also to Sophea Sagombal, a sweet girl from Costa Rica. Even though it was just a two-week STE stay with us, we became so attached to each other that we still miss each other even now and are still keeping in touch

Sara Montelatici (Italy) helping at mamak shop (our neighbourhood) regularly during her free time over the weekends

with them. That’s the beauty of doing this hosting, the love and affection you have with these students continue long after their stay with you. You are making your family grow by adding a number of people into it and they are adding more color and joy into your life and you cannot gain such strong bonds anywhere else in this world. Then came the new batch of 2016/2017! We fastened our seat belts, took a deep breath because our real long-term hosting journey was beginning at last. After hosting several students on a short-term basis, you just cannot get enough. Finally, on 31July, 2016 we attended an AFS student handover ceremony and became proud instant parents of an Italian girl, Michela Pozzato. Unfortunately, we only hosted Michela for 8 days‌.it was so frustrating and the whole family was broken hearted! But we accepted the fact that it was the best for her but she stayed long enough to have a place in our hearts forever. But God is great for not even a month later, in the middle of the night, we received a phone call from Madam Shoba informing us that we were to become a host family again! Hence from 22 August 2016, Sara Montelatici became the latest addition to our ever growing international family! She was only 16 but oh my goodness, we grew to love her so much that we wanted AFS to create a new program 21

FAMILY HIGHLIGHTS of “forever stay” so that she can always be with us. Since she was our first long term hosting student on a year program, we shared many happy moments together. She welcomed every new cultural experience with open arms. Sara called us Mama & Papa, and would always find me to have serious discussions on any topic and will go to the mother if there was anything more personal. She carried herself very well. Sara attended 5 Science 1 at SMK Skudai, Johor and became a Prefect during her time there…and apparently a strict one too! Sara was the type of child who managed almost everything on her own at home. From waking up for school, washing and ironing her own school uniform and daily clothes, arranging her schedule for study and helping with house chores even though she admitted she never did this back home in Italy. She was actively involved in school activities and participated in her school theatre club as Costume Designer and Stage Manager. She participated in a Johor Student Leaders International Conference and was announced as the Best Presenter of the whole event. She took her schoolwork very seriously, even gamely taking up a History paper for her exam. She put in the effort to study, to understand the content and recite back in English from what she had read in the text book. She also became adept 22

Sara Montelatici with her host sisters

A group photo during one of family members wedding ceremony

in conversing in Bahasa Melayu. She always wanted to improve her Bahasa Melayu not only by talking with us at home, but also with teachers and school friends and the people around her. By chatting in the local language, she got great discounts at the shops and eating stalls! Seeing her interest in this, we encouraged her to the fullest. On weekends, she would spend her time helping at a kedai mamak, becoming the waitress, taking orders

and communicating with customers in Bahasa Melayu. She learnt how to prepare drinks and even make roti canai by herself. The owner of the shop became her “bapa angkat’ and as a result, was much recognized in the neighborhood. Besides adapting to the culture here, her role as a mini ambassador of her country was never forgotten. She made Italian food famous and even sold “Arancini” to residents of our surrounding neighborhoods.

Sara Montelatici being a Costume Designer for her school’s theatre club

They sold out real fast too! She also prepared Italian foods like Spaghetti, Pasta, Tayatella & Gnocchi for us at home. She is a good cook! Sara loves Malaysian foods, all Malay, Indian and Chinese cuisines! She was always trying out new things and enjoying everything. She ate using her fingers just like the locals here and when it came to sambal tumis, asam pedas, kari, sambal jambi, masak lemak cili api and all things spicy, she would always ask for seconds and dieting soon became her enemy!

From the first day she came into our family, she understood well the demands of Malay culture. She shook hands by bending down, always wore modest clothing, and approached the elderly with great respect. She attended Malay & Indian weddings, celebrated Chinese New Year & Deepavali, Hari Raya Aidil Adha and experienced fasting in Ramadhan and the ensuing celebration of Hari Raya Aidil Fitri. She arrived with already some good knowledge of the religions here, especially

Islam. It showed that she prepared herself well when she decided to come for this exchange. She followed us in fasting from dawn till dusk, just for the sake of trying to understand Muslims better. I would say that she fit the criteria of a good exchange student as she embraced all new experiences with an open mind. She was always very positive, helpful, highly disciplined, willing to learn and generous. Communication is key in ensuring you get along with your host student. This is what we practiced with Sara, we always communicated with each other. We would always correct her if something she did was not right and we would also listen to her if things were not aligned to her understanding and we took the time to explain to her our perspective. By constantly communicating, we complemented each other and this helped with our relationship. Sara left us for her home country in June at the end of her one-year stay but long before her departure date, we were already planning for a reunion. This is what AFS has given us, a new family member who we love and miss and hope to see again very soon. The hashtag “afs effect” now has a deep and profound meaning for us!



Intercultural Experiences Help People Develop Important Skills There is a common factor that helps young people become more flexible and adaptable, be more innovating and better at speaking foreign languages. According to a recent research study, this factor is intercultural experiences! This study has found that school exchange programs, volunteering abroad, independent travel, university study and work placements abroad have a profound and positive effect on individuals, employers and wider society. But what role do these experiences have on future career choices of young people and what can we, as providers of intercultural learning opportunities do better?

Participating in study abroad programs is a life-changing, challenging and rewarding experience for many young people who take off on this journey every year. One of the important aspects of study abroad programs is the longterm impact they make on a person’s life and future career choices. Previous studies have shown that extended international experiences help people develop skills which are highly valued by employers. 24

There are three aspects of international experiences which are particularly important for the development of skills. Depending on exposure to cultural difference, its length and extent of engagement with a different culture, your intercultural experience can help you navigate different cultural contexts and thrive in a global world. This study confirms that facilitated and well-supported immersive intercultural experiences make a significant impact on becoming more flexible, adaptable, innovative and a better communicator. People who have had extended and meaningful intercultural experiences abroad confirm that these have helped them develop a number of skills important to the contemporary workplace and shaped their career paths by helping them find a job that interests them or getting them involved in innovation within the workplace.


INTERCULTURAL Among other reasons why people choose to have international experiences, having a previous international experience within the family stands out as an interesting incentive which can be used to promote home hosting for study abroad students. Having had such an international experience in their own home may nudge many host siblings to later start on their own intercultural journeys and explore all their benefits. Finally, this research brings important recommendations for policy makers, researchers, providers of intercultural experiences and all other stakeholders involved. For AFS, three of these recommendations stand out: 1) Recognize and promote the benefits of intercultural experiences 2) Broaden access to intercultural learning opportunities 3) Provide a better understanding of the benefits of intercultural experiences.


AFS is committed to conducting further research, forming meaningful partnerships and advocating with the relevant institutions to advance intercultural exchange and learning opportunities and bring them into the lives of an increasing number of people around the world. With initiatives such as #RecogniseStudyAbroad and our commitment to the IIE Generation Study Abroad, new educational curricula, training events and scholarships, AFS will continue supporting people around the world in developing the 21st century skills.

This article is based on the research project from December 2015 A World of Experience undertaken by CFE Research and LSE Enterprise on behalf of the British Council.



Florence: Disneyland of the Renaissance


Known as the cradle of the Renaissance, Florence is a culture-rich city in the heart of Tuscany, Italy. Its skyline is punctuated by the iconic rooftops of historic buildings. In fact, Florence contains a quarter of the planet’s UNESCO world heritage sites, which can be overwhelming for first-time visitors!


ver the centuries, it has been home to Renaissance masters Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto, Michelangelo, Dante and Brunelleschi, who have left their legacy in a trove of art and architecture that is world renowned.

Michelangelo’s famous Statue of David stands guard over the city

It is this rich legacy that inspires artlovers to visit, and museums and galleries are everywhere. Reminders of Michelangelo’s famous statue of David are also imprinted on tourist merchandise, sometimes done tongue-in-cheek! Florence’s pride must surely be the cathedral, The Duomo (Piazza del Duomo), whose teracotta-and-white dome dominates the city’s skyline. The building’s ornate façade, is decorated in pink, white and green marble. By night, it looks like a huge stage prop, or paper etching!

The streets of Florence are dominated by the massive Duomo


TRAVEL - INTERNATIONAL Within walking distance is the Ponte Vecchio or Old Bridge, spanning the Arno River at its narrowest point. It is noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. Butchers initially occupied the shops but the powerful Medici Grand Dukes in the 16th century prohibited them to continue selling there to enforce the prestige of the bridge. Since then, the tenants have been jewellers, art dealers and souvenir sellers. Gold leaf carefully placed on handmade scented candles

Do you love to visit places that are famous for their architectural work? Then, you must make a trip to Florence


The refurbished grand salon of the Santa Maria Novella perfumery

Another must see is the Santa Maria Novella pharmacy where the city’s best scents are made. Started in the 16th century by Dominican friars, this is more like a museum than a perfume shop since it stocks an awesome range of perfumes, herbal elixirs and soaps based on, of all things, vinegar! As Florence has entered the top 50 fashion capitals of the world and is home to Gucci, Ferragamo, Cavalli and Puci, a visit to this city would not be complete without taking at least one luxury item home. For factory outlet bargains, The Mall is the most famous shopping outlet in Tuscany

Vintage Perfume Lockets and Compacts



and one of the first ones to open in the region. Here, you can go shopping at Gucci, Ferragamo, Cavalli, Armani, Valentino and Tod’s for the Italian houses. Among the international fashion designers, there is Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Stella McCartney and Yves Saint Laurent and much more. At Space, only clothing and accessories by Prada and its other labels such as Miu Miu are found. The Space is open only to those with numbers that you get when you walk in - since there are only about 100 given out per day, you want to make sure to get there early in the day. Alternatively, you can just visit the Museo Gucci in the heart of Florence. Housed in a 14th-century building in the Piazza della Signoria, the museum is designed to honor the company’s leather goods legacy. There is also an internet-friendly café and a bookshop housed in the building.


Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) with shops selling jewellery along it

Getting there: Fly MAS to Amsterdam and from there, catch the many daily connecting flights to Florence. Best time to travel: October/November (fewer tourists!) Note: Florence airport check-in staff strictly enforces the 20kg baggage allowance and 12kg carry-ons so make sure your bags are not overweight.

Above: Love locks on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence Left: San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale... Florence’s fabulous food market



Pulau Bodgaya: P Best Little Crystal Blue Island


ulau Bodgaya is the largest island of the Tun Sakaran Marine Park. It is 8 kilometres long and 1.5 kilometres wide and covers an area of 796 hectares. It has three peaks between 366 and 455 meters in height, where the ground slopes steeply upwards from the shore. The three islands of Bodgaya, Bohey Dulang and Tetagan form a semicircle that was originally part of a big volcanic crater but is now a beautiful turquoise lagoon fringed with coral reefs.

There are no coral sand beaches here, as there are on the other nearby islands. Beaches on Pulau Bodgaya are formed mainly from cobbles of volcanic rocks believed to be of late Tertiary (Pliocene) and Quaternary origin (up to 2.58 million years ago!). There’s an abundance of flora and fauna in the sheltered slopes and valleys of the island, where the richest vegetation and tallest trees in the area may be found. A number of freshwater streams flow along its northern end. Bodgaya has forest and the coastal areas are fringed with mangroves.

Most visitors to the island come to catch a glimpse of the Bajau Laut settlements set amidst the majestic backdrop of the mountainous Bodgaya and Bohey Dulang islands



Birds-eye view of Tun Sakaran Marine Park in Sabah, Malaysia

Visitors seldom make a trip exclusively to Bodgaya. They generally club it up with visits to other islands of Tun Sakaran Marine Park, especially to Bohey Dulang. The dive operators in Semporna and the nearby islands run regular diving and snorkelling trips to Bodgaya island.

Pulau Bodgaya is home to the legendary Bajau Laut (Sea Gypsies), who lead a nomadic, seafaring lifestyle residing in houseboats and stilt houses built atop coral reefs


The Sea Gypsies, also called the Bajau Laut, inhabit the islands of Bohey Dulang and Bodgaya, and are a cultural attraction to visitors. They are stateless, nomadic people, who traditionally lived all their life on water,

cooking, sleeping, trading, and entertaining themselves inside their special type of boat called Lepa or within waterhomes built on stilts. But their way of life is nowadays threatened in this changing world and many of them try to find work on the mainland. There are no hotels or resorts on Bodgaya Island or any of the other islands within Tun Sakaran Marine Park. Most visitors to the island stay in the coastal town of Semporna, where hotels and dive packages are generally cheaper. Alternatively, visitors also stay in Mabul, Pom Pom, Mataking, Bum Bum or Singamata, where day tours to the marine park are frequently organized.

The islands are hilly with three peaks. The highest of the three (455m) is called Mt. Bodgaya

Explore the terrains of the Bodgaya Island to see rich flora and fauna set amidst crystal clear, emerald-blue waters





oard members, national office staff and Past Chair Dr Yahya Mat Hassan held discussions recently with the Director-General of the Ministry of Education, Tan Sri Dr. Khair Mohamad Yusof and senior officials of the Daily School Division to resolve issues related to the issuance of high school student visas. Tan Sri Dr. Khair and his team assured AFS Malaysia that the Ministry viewed the intercultural learning programme as beneficial to not just the participants but also the host schools and their students. The Ministry would do their best to facilitate expediting the visa approval process for the incoming batch. However, a long-term solution will also be looked into so that future applications can proceed smoothly and AFS Malaysia will be invited in discussions on new policy changes that involve intercultural exchanges.



hapters in the Northern Region through their cultural experience activities garnered media attention and publicity for AFS Malaysia. Terengganu Chapter brought their students to a Chinese Opera show and not only did they witness the elaborate performance but they also had the opportunity to be dressed in the intricate Imperial costumes. The students, Misato Shibune and Riki Oishi both from Japan, found the experience an enriching and memorable one.




S ambassador to Malaysia, Her Excellency Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir graced the welcome home ceremony for 44 Malaysian students who had returned from the YES 2017 programme after a sixmonth intercultural learning experience in the United States. She called upon the students to become change makers in their respective communities after overcoming cultural challenges of their own during their stay abroad. She also thanked the sending parents for entrusting their children to American host families. In her opening address, AFS Adviser Datin Yasmin Marican welcomed back the students and reminded them of the enduring legacy of AFS which they must now continue and help to spread. Yasmin also expressed hope that ties between AFS Malaysia and the US embassy will continue to strengthen in the years ahead as American volunteers started the AFS movement which has today become the oldest and largest intercultural learning organisation in the world.



erlis Chapter also involved their students in the distribution of bubur lambuk during the recent Ramadhan which delighted locals on their way back from work and from their farms. Villager Rosli Mat Amin said he was pleasantly surprised to see foreigners distributing packs of food to passing motorists. “This is a wonderful effort to involve these students in typical activities that we do but which are totally alien to them. Perhaps they will get better insight into our culture through such first-hand experiences,� he said.








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