“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” John Kabat-Zin
I must admit that I used to hate challenges especially those will astound you out from nowhere. I used to not buy the idea of “challenges are good for you” or “it makes you step out of your comfort zone, there’s where magic happens…blah blah” I honestly did not care. I mean it sucks (Pardon my language) because it messes things up. It causes frustrations, demotivation and all kind of negative vibes surface.
But looking back on every single challenge I had in my life up till now, even the ones that struck me hard and took me long enough to recover, I do agree challenges exist for a reason. It helps shape who I am today. Honestly, I do wish that I had embraced more challenges back to my high school days. More challenges are tantamount to more learning opportunities and that transform into growth. What I am trying to say is, do not wish for a challenge-free life.
Today, I am not going to talk about my story but Julia’s. Julia Wong is a student in Universiti Sains Malaysia and the Local Vice President for Finance and Legalities term 15/16 of AIESEC in Penang. Most importantly, Julia is a challenge seeker. We are going to talk about Julia’s exchange story in Indonesia, precisely what are the challenges she faced and what did she learned and how she grew throughout the whole six weeks process.
K: We know that it is not easy to volunteer abroad but why exactly did you go for it?
J : I am an AIESECer and an (EP)Exchange Participant’s manager. I was motivated by the experiences of the EP and the positive changes I see in them after volunteering abroad. But it is not enough for me to only get to know their experiences through words and pictures, I realize that in order for me to understand the power of such experience I must go for one and feel it for myself. I choose Indonesia because although it is close to my home state(Sarawak) but I never really knew it well.
K: What’s the biggest challenge you faced during your exchange?
J: I would say the biggest challenge was self-reflection on the experiences I had every day. It is never easy and the days can sometimes grow long and exhaustive when you forget what you are looking for to achieve.
K: Do you ever feel demotivated during the process?
J: Sometimes I get discouraged because I feel that I am wasting my time. It is the subconscious negative thoughts that I had in my head that made it extremely challenging. Nevertheless, the whole 6 weeks experiences I had in Indonesia is accountable to myself and it shapes who I am now. All the experiences, either good or bad, deliver a valuable lesson and realization to me.
K: What do you work on during your exchange?
J: I am working on an education-based project. It requires me to facilitate and come up with a new session on a weekly basis conference to improve the soft skills and interpersonal skills of university students in Indonesia.
K: Talking about education, is this the world issue that you are concerned about?
J: I choose this project because it concerns soft skills. It is something that needs constant improvement and growth. I’ve never really had much facilitating experience before. So while it is a challenge for me, I also take this as a chance to grow and learn by doing.
K: Do you work with other people in your project?
J: Definitely, the team I had was diverse. We had people from Australia, New Zealand, China, Taiwan, South Korea and of course from Indonesia itself.
K: How does it feel to work with a diverse team? Do you get something out from them?
J: Honestly, everyone is different and special in their own way. I learn about their cultures and background from their upbringing. I’d said I have everything to learn about the people I’ve met during my six weeks there. It’s amazing how you learn about something that you previously understand it from a different perspective. I often feel the world is very big and there’s a lot to learn and I will be always up for that challenge.
K: What are the values that you have taken away from your exchange journey?
J: I’ve learnt that there’s no limits to being self-aware, be solution-oriented and to be appreciative. My host family impacted me a lot in this journey. Their care and generosity touchemy heart deeply. The interactions with the people especially with other exchange participants and university students were truly amazing. I learn from one of the EP from South Korea about her caring and appreciation towards other’s act, even is a small one. I also learnt about how eager the delegates are to learn and develop themselves despite they are a little bit extrovert.
K: Despite being a challenge, what is the good side of exchange for you?
J: One great thing about it is you will meet new people and you become a part of their story and they become part of yours. So, when the days seems to spread far apart, I knew that I would not be truly lonely as I had the company of these friends.
K: What would you say to people out there to take up different challenges, to learn, to grow, and to be grateful?
J: Make yourself accountable for your own learning growth. Going for the exchange put me in a position far away from home, speaking in language that isn’t my mother tongue, making friends with people who have different ages and background. I have grown from this challenge and if you’re looking to push and to live to your full potential, I would say going for an exchange is a good opportunity.
The choice is yours. It has always been. – Julia Wong
Julia (Middle , blue shirt) and other exchange participants from all over the world!