My 42 Days Experience in Myanmar

Goh Yi Jia 2
AIESEC in Malaysia

“Real change is when you decided to step out from the comfort zone.”
It’s my first time to travel to other country alone. Thinking about all those uncertainty, I started to feel anxious but excited for my project ‘Climate Awareness in Myanmar’.

Fun Fact in Yangon, it took me two hours to arrive Yangon Technological University from my house even though it is just 15km away! Imagine the traffic in Yangon. Also, motorbike is strictly not allow in Yangon due to there is too many fatal cases last few years. Well, culture shock! However, the people here are really nice and friendly. I thought I will cheat or charges higher fee by local taxi driver. But they don’t even though I am foreigners. I guess this will never happen in Malaysia right?

Most of the Myanmar people that I met are not systematic and organized compared with Malaysian haha. They admit this. Yet, they are simple and ordinary people that I wish to stay longer with them. If you manage to figure out their proactiveness, take ownership for their own learning, appreciate the speakers and their passionate. You will feel ashamed to yourself for not taking serious for your own life. Yes sometimes I did feel in this way. Even I’m their speaker for the workshop.

“Be humble. Learning is a process, not results.

Week 1
First workshop in Bago

Bago is two hours away from Yangon and I am having workshop at Noor Education Center (local community center) with freshly high school graduate about Climate Issues and Youth Empowerment. Picture below shown the bus without air-conditioner and the environment around the community center. A bumpy trip!

It’s the first workshop that I conducted in Myanmar! As a trainee of the day in Noor Education Center, my job is not only to raise awareness about the environmental issues but to empower the students as the potential leader in the future. Unleash the potential of every youth and driven the world to a better one, this is the thing that I believe in Global Volunteer which powered by AIESEC.

Students here in Bago are shy and polite. After ice breaking, they started to speak more in English instead of Burmese and become more active. It’s a breakthrough for them as they usually speak Burmese in their daily lives. When there is foreigner (me), they tried to speak with me and answered my questions in English. It was a good try and advantage as a foreigner! Feeling great after three hours workshop as I felt I made some changes in some other people life by raising their awareness and make them believe in themselves they are able to make some changes and to become a better one.

Yeah! The unique of this project is I can always explore the cities after we conducted the workshop.

Little things that happened when I visited the Pagoda : they asked for entrance fee. Haha but in the end I entered free, thanks to my AIESEC buddy he asked be to be quiet and told the administration that I am Mandalay Chinese ( states in Myanmar which is near to China)

Week 2
First Meet with Two Portuguese Exchange Participant

‘Eco-Myanmar Climate Awareness’ this project total have 3 Exchange Participants, Rafa, Bernardo and me. Finally met them in second week! You wouldn’t know how is the feeling being alone in the first week in a new environment. Language barrier, heavy traffic and raining seasons, I guess this is the external factors that shape me to have stronger adaptability.

Three of us came from different background and yes when the first time we worked together we did have different opinions. Portuguese style VS Malaysian style, it’s different but we cope with each other very well because we believe on the impact that we going to make it happen in the next five weeks! We worked and designed the workshop by our own and travel by weekend to conduct the workshop.

Second Workshop in NayPyiDaw

In NayPyiDaw, there are total 3 sessions for three different group of students which are Middle School students, high school boy students and high school girl students. Each session took around three hours and there are around 100 students for each.

The things that amazed me the most was the students attitude. Most of the students felt their country are lack of facilities and education system are still developing. Therefore, they appreciated every opportunity that will help them to gain knowledge and skill.

Topic that we discussed was “ Waste– A Worldwide Problem”. Waste is always the thing we can see in Yangon obviously. For example, in Myanmar strictly not to drink tap water so everyone of them are depending on the water bottle. Imagine how many plastic will be produce as waste for each day? Besides that , there are only recycled centre in only a few of the cities and citizens are not being educated in how to seperate the waste. However, plastic is just one of the example.

How can we help them? To raise the awareness why is it important to reduce waste in our daily lives and what can we do. The most important things is to let them understand what is waste and what is the waste normally human creating in their life. With this, they start to realize and make a promise and start to change. As our workshop message is “Zero Waste Start From YOU”.

The high school students approach us to get our contact number and signature. It’s new for them to communicate with foreigner! The private high school even welcome us with the banner. It’s really triggered me a lot.

I never conduct workshop in my own country, I never know I have such a power to bring a positive changes for Myanmar, I never know my presence for the private high school will receive such a grand celebration and everybody appreaciate us so much. And, I really hope to do more for my country.

Week 3
Third Workshop in KyaukSe

My third workshop was in KyaukSe together with 30 university students from KyaukSe Technological University for two days. They are all engineering students from Environment Club, Debate Club and Youth Leadership Club. For university level, we emphasize of action implementation and to improve their knowledge. To let them know more about Climate change and Waste topic, we have one open discussion during workshop.

Two days workshop was extremely tired as we need to take 8 hours overnight bus from Yangon to KyaukSe. Sunrise and we have to work for the workshop. No matter how much we have to sacrifice, hard work paid off when students are aware of the importance of environment. Still remembered I even accidentally slept on the table just simple because I am exhausted haha! It’s still memorable until now, the toilet that I could not adapt with, and when Bernardo borrow toothpaste from me! :p

Explore Around In KyaukSe

Students here brought us to hang around in KyaukSe after the workshop. Pagoda and KyaukSe Hill were the place that I loved the most! Listening to the bell, it kept my mind calm and peaceful. I guessed this was the unexplored beauty in Myanmar.

Of course! There were a lot of new experiences and first time I had in Myanmar. One of it was to ride a motorbike! Actually it was not so scary as what I think. See! You will never know if you never try it.

Yes! KyaukSe students were the students with best attitude ever I had in Myanmar throughout the six weeks! I believe with this, they are able to go far.

Week 4
Two workshop in One week
Fourth Workshop in Yangon

Yangon is in raining season during July. The fourth workshop was in Yangon University which is 22 km away from our living places. However, we took 2 hours to arrive the ‘destination’. Yes. It’s was the first time Rafa, Bernardo and me lost direction in Yangon. Most adventurous experience in my journey, as we are late due to heavy traffic in the morning yet we are lost. In the end with the assistant and help from one restaurant owner, we arrive safely.

The most touching part was even though we had language barrier but Myanmar local people were really friendly to offer help to us. Of course! Stuck in dilemma were the unforgettable memories!

Bernardo, Rafa and me three of us always make fun when there’s something unavoidable happened. Things doesn’t change, but our mindset and mood can be decide by our own. Trying to stay calm and be happy even we are stuck, this is the lesson that I learnt from two Portuguese.

Fifth Workshop in Lashio

Lashio is the largest town in northern Shan State,Myanmar and it is 1601 Miles away from Beijing,China. Therefore, when the time I arrived Lashio the weather was humid and cooler. When we are at township, I saw some of the Chinese words and the fun fact is the owner was watching China News in the TV! Amazing!

Stunning Temple and the food here was different with other cities. Their signature was ‘Shan Noodle’ which was sticky and the price is really cheap. Sticky noodles, it’s not bad but I really got a shock when the noodles seems like stick to my throat (that kind of feeling).

The project place is at Local Community Center. The audience are from different backgrounds and they are one of the ethnicities in Myanmar.

Taking ownership for your own learning. It’s weekend, but they are willing to attend the workshop because they are humble enough in receiving more knowledge.

Till now, I have a doubt. Flashing back when there were some speakers invited to my secondary school or university, we take it granted or even complained when it’s during weekend. I felt sorry for taking things granted.

Week 5
Sixth Workshop in Pathein

In Pathein, it considered as a rural areas which is not much developed compared with other cities. We conducted two days workshop with around 50 audience which came from different university. I even saw there were housewife attended our workshop! One topic for each day. Pathein workshop surprised me the most throughout the six weeks due to their low attention and awareness to the environment.

Sometimes I couldn’t denied that Myanmar students attitude is even better than Malaysia students, they are just lack of opportunity and facilities to make them realized and to help them to have a better platform to develop. After this workshop, it was really my pleasure in helping them and also a lesson learnt to myself teaching me to appreciate the thing I have now.

Thank you Pathein, you are beautiful with your imperfections.

Week 6
Finally the place we conduct workshop is a tourist place!

Mandalay is the second-largest city and the last royal capital of Myanmar. This is one of the tourist place in Myanmar! Visited Kuthodaw Pagoda, Mandalay Hill and U-Bein Bridge. Explore around with the organising committee of the workshop and special thanks to the lecturer of Mandalay Technological University for the arrangement of local transportation and accomodation.

Here come the end of of the workshop. It was the last workshop that we are going to conduct throughout the six weeks for our volunteering. Mixed feeling when it came the the last two days workshop in Mandalay. Last workshop, do the best, beat the rest and be the best.

Students here English level is a little higher compared to other cities, the open discussion was the best as from their perspective I gained new insight from them. A great workshop indeed, I am satisfied with my performance.

Reluctant to leave. There were so many up and down during this six weeks, and we were trying so hard to deliver the message that we really wanted to help the students and the environment. Food poisoning, fever, insufficient of rest happened but it never stopped us to achieve the things we want to in Global Volunteer.

A beautiful six weeks journey especially with Rafa and Bernardo. Thank you.

In AIESEC, we believe in developing leadership through practical experiences in challenging environment, and we do this by delivering cross-cultural exchanges. We have created thousands of stories ever since we started in Malaysia 50 years ago. Here’s just one of them.

Related Article

Related Stories