Wednesday, June 4, 2014 | FEATURE
An unforgettable yet wonderful experience
Editors note: Mohd Shakirin is a Luck exchange student from Malaysia. To become an exchange student, he was one of 800-plus applicants for the 43 state-sponsored scholarships. In addition to an essay, he was interviewed at the local and national level. He has participated in a variety of activities at Luck including FCCLA, basketball, baseball and the After-School All-Stars program.
Mohd Shakirin | Special to the Leader
LUCK - I was a Malay College Kuala Kangsar student and, to be honest, the experiences that I am having right now are really priceless compared to my five-year experience back then in MCKK. I never knew what it is like to be apart from my family, to be apart from my home country, to be apart from my friends for such a long time, and so many more things I never knew before I came to the United States of America as an exchange student. Within the next few lines and paragraphs, I will illustrate my experience here for the past four months. Would it be amazing? Would it be the opposite? You judge. Being fully sponsored by the U.S. Department of State for the Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Scholarship has been so fantastic and remarkable for me. Do you wonder why I said this? You will understand this once you are done reading my story, so be ready for some awesomeness.
Most of my friends and my host family had no problem pronouncing my name, which is Shak. My real name is longer, but that is the best way to keep it simple. I am hosted in Luck, a very small town, and the people here are very welcoming. I am truly grateful to be hosted in such a small town, as it is easier for me to get to know almost everyone in just a short period of time. I’m living with another YES exchange student from Thailand whose name is Peak. He has been here since August 2013. To be honest, I had a lot of difficulties in speaking and talking with him because he’s a quiet guy and doesn’t talk much. But, mind you, that doesn’t stop me from having a splendid experience here.
So, would it be amazing? Why has this scholarship been fantastic and remarkable for me? Here’s the answer to your curiosity.
Engaging with young kids
As soon as I arrived in my school, I didn’t have any big deal to mingle and mix around with everyone, as it’s a small school. I got to know almost everyone in just few weeks. And no, I’m not lying, it’s the truth. Like I said before, the people here are really welcoming. I was selected by my teacher to spend time with elementary kids after school every Tuesday and Thursday. The program is called the After-School All Stars – Where it’s Cool to Stay After School. We did some beneficial activities for them such as organizing a reading class and teaching them how to cook some desserts. We did a lot of different kinds of desserts such as muffins and cookies. On top of that, we also teach them how to make healthy smoothies using fruits like bananas and strawberries. I had the chance to inspire them about living in peace and fulfilling life, and it’s important to nurture positive aspects in their minds as they are growing up. As future generations who will play important roles in the community, it is a good step to encourage them at a young age to treat people with respect, love and so forth. For instance, young kids don’t really have the ability to discriminate as bad as older people do. Be it Malaysian kids or American kids, most of them tend to have a fresh, beautiful mind that must be nurtured with good manners of living in this world.
From cricket to baseball
Cricket is a favorite sport I used to play for my school. But now it’s all different. They don’t have cricket in my school and so I decided to join the baseball team. I really made a good decision, I suppose. My teammates are really friendly, and though it did take almost three weeks for me to fully master the game, I still enjoy myself. Being part of a school sports team has given me chances to make more friends and to really live in the moment while I’m here. I managed to hit a ball during my first game and, yes, even though only one ball got hit, I’m proud of it! During my second game, I managed to catch a ball and all of my teammates, including my coaches, were really happy to see that, as I am the newest player on the team. I am grateful that most of my teammates are supportive and really friendly too.
My most important responsibility here is to showcase as much as I can about my beloved country, Malaysia. I have done a total of five presentations so far, ranging from the freshmen to the seniors of different classes. For the age groups, usually freshman are 15 years old, sophomores are 16 years old, juniors are 17 years old and seniors are 18 years old. Comparing to high school students in Malaysia, we will graduate at the age of 17, but American students will only complete their high school at the age of 18. Plus, they can try for their driving license at the age of 16. My personal aim is to do as many presentations as I can because, deep inside my heart, I know that the best way to get people to know more about Malaysia is through presentations. I have done it with freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors and teachers in my school. They are truly impressed with my presentations about Malaysia. I am really happy to see them applauding me every time after my presentation as that shows I have done a good job. Some of them even came to me and said, “Your presentation that you did was so amazing!” They asked many questions about the diversity in Malaysia, our customs and our delicacies. I am really glad to share with them. Some of them did ask funny questions such as, “Do you think Americans are weird?” But, then again, answering their questions with my wholeheartedly honest thoughts was such an honor to me. It will develop my presentation skills, which is definitely vital in the future, especially during my working career. They will remember about Malaysia and, for sure, they will gain more understanding about being an exchange student. I am the ambassador; it’s up to me whether to promote my country or to just keep quiet and not let people know more about it. I choose to be the first one so that people can learn more about my country’s culture.
Meeting students from all around the world
It was really an honor for me to meet other exchange students during a trip to Chicago, Ill. It made me realize that there is actually a world out there. A total of approximately 40 students from 19 different countries, including Malaysia, participated in the trip. Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Japan, Pakistan, the Netherlands, Germany, Indonesia, Thailand, Norway, Senegal, Spain, Kazakhstan, Egypt, USA, Croatia, Tunisia and Slovakia were among the participating countries. Even though we are made up of different religions and backgrounds, we still manage to unite and share our laughter together. The good understanding that we have gained is definitely important for the future. We, as younger generations, should implement a mutual understanding between one another. Thus, a better