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Written by Jason - Share your student exchange programme experience with us too!
I’m Jason, originating from Batu Pahat, Johor - a lovely state with primitive nature beauty. Being the eldest in my family, I’m so fortunate to have loving parents and two sensible younger brothers. Having passed all my major exams with flying colours, I never take this for granted and I still adhere to my basic principle- be humble all the time (How true it is!) While pursuing my Bachelor Degree in Biochemistry, I found my calling- I have a knack for writing, without being realised for my first twenty years of education. For the sake of the satisfaction in my future undertakings, I choose to follow my calling. Contradicting and a little S-T-U-P-I-D my choice may look, but isn’t it the real look of life? Somehow, we need to be TRUE to who we really are, don’t we?
Ten years down the road, how will you feel about your education life? Is there anything that you can’t wait to share? How pathetic it is if we bear this regret “How I wish I could try this if time can reverse”!
Bored of living in the same environment for 23 years, first time of my life I raised a challenge to myself- travel overseas to see the world on myself- and I did it! Wanting very much to put a meaningful ending to my 23 years of studying life, I approached AIESEC in my university to join the Developmental Traineeship Program (DT) under Student Exchange Program in Beijing for six weeks.
Guess what, this short stint in Beijing gave me more than what I expected!
I worked as volunteer in Beijing Haidian District Autism Training Centre. I couldn’t remember how many first time attempts I had there. For the first time I represented Malaysia to stand in front of China people, waving our national flag, humming “Rasa Sayang” in shiver; without any prior experience, I had to approach Beijing local authorities and enterprises for sponsorship in conducting awareness program; never did I have any teaching experience, yet I challenged myself to help the trainers to teach autistic children.
Beijing Haidian District Jintian Autism Training Centre, surrounded by lush greeneries, is absolutely a good growing environment for the autistic children
Mentally-prepared for the worst, I anticipated for the “serious culture shock”; however, things turned out to be smooth to me ever since the first day I came to Beijing. First, Directors of autism centre, Miss Tian and Mr. Dou treated me with great hospitability and warmth, providing me free food and lodging. Second, all the local people speaks the same mother tongue language as me (except their strong local accent), and this lubricated our communication a lot. Third, Beijing AIESEC Local Committee played a good host to show me, including other foreign interns around. Taking my own sweet time to dive into the local culture- the historical sites, ancient buildings, traditional cultural shows, local food- I discovered that Beijing truly lived up its name as “Capital of History”. There, I hardly find myself lonely or homesick, as there were just too many wow’s keeping me busy!
Another noteworthy point, I found myself constantly bombarded with some of these questions by the locals: “Are you Malaysian Chinese?”, “How come your spoken Mandarin is so fluent?”, “Is it true you can speak more than three languages?” Well, these may seem to be redundant to us, but when we pondered about it in deep, being able to speak so many languages is our uniqueness and strength, yet we have been taking it for granted all this along. Since then I always pride myself as Malaysian Chinese for being brought up in this multi-cultural environment.
My fellow AIESEC friends from Malaysia and me (the guy in the left hand side) conquered the Great Wall of China!
Apart from that, I gained a lot of insights, especially about special education, during my internship in the autism training centre. Undoubtedly, “simplicity is a blessing” is the most important lesson I had. Fortunate enough to be part of the autism trainers, I was able to understand who the autistic children really are. To them, making simple requests like “Can I have my lunch?” can really be the “Mission Impossible”. Only after receiving proper intervention therapy, in conjunction with consistent sensory integration therapy (SIT), most of the children are barely able to convey their message using non-verbal language. Still vivid in my memory, in my first class, Jue Xiao, one of the autistic children, “welcomed” me with a harsh slap on my face, leaving me totally dumbfounded. Miss Wang, whom I worked closely with, patted gently on my shoulder with a pleasant smile, “Just get used to it! All of us had gone through this as newcomers. They don’t mean it; they are just too excited yet don’t know how to express themselves properly.” At that instant, I deeply felt sorry for these children. They have to live on with this imperfection, risking themselves to be mistaken as misbehaved kids, or even “freaks”, if we don’t understand who they really are.
In spite of the hard time we had when these children threw their temper, I truly enjoyed being with these children, for who they really are. Sometimes they can be very cute. They never hide their true emotions-sadness, anger, frustration- and they usually vent their feelings by shouting, breaking things or even running away with all their might. They know who are good to them and will reciprocate with thoughtful acts. Alberto, a hyperactive boy with autism, had been taken care of by Teacher Xu for more than a year. They were almost inseparable from each other most of the time, as though they are father and son. Sometimes after Teacher Xu bathed Alberto, Alberto would immediately get Teacher Xu’s towels, helping him to dry up his hair. “Taking care of Alberto is really by no means easy, but his thoughtfulness sometimes makes him so much adorable as well. I know he may have to live with his imperfection for the rest of his life; however, seeing him slowly making improvements, indeed gives me energy to continue growing with him.” said Teacher Xu.
My favourite babies in autism centre - Wang Yue (leftmost), Alberto (middle) and Jue Xiao (rightmost).
This experience opens another door to me. Having realised that it’s time to awaken the public about the real purpose of education, I’m now more goal-oriented by carving my writing career in advocating wholesome development of individuals as ultimate objective of education- a combination of passion and commitment.
If there is anything, possible, that can make our life fulfilling, my advice would be: “Set your foot out of the class, engage with the real world”. AIESEC Students Exchange Program is one of the best choices for you to expand your horizon. Do grab hold of the opportunity! Liked this post? Subscribe now to read more post like this one! Tweet