-The Land of Malays- AsTW2020 Report by Shafira Aprilia

Asean in Today’s World 2020 (ASTW20)
Kuala Lumpul, Malaysia
February 23 – March 6 , 2020
By Shafira Aprilia, Indonesia

I had joined a program named ASEAN in Today’s World 2020. It was my first time going abroad, also marked my first time being an Exchange Participant.

Visited “Mini Malaysia & ASEAN” Cultural Park

then, I just wondered, “How does it feel to become an Exchange Participant once?” Then, I looked for opportunities. Moreover, if I don’t need to pay much, that’d be interesting. God heard my prayers, and so Universe helped me to achieve it. I applied with some requirements and voilà, I got accepted! Mom and Dad, I am going to Malaysia soon!

Wait.. What is AsTW actually?
Explanation about AsTW (Source:About ASEAN in Today’s World (AsTW))
They provided us the curriculum consists of ASEAN Studies (AS) such as Food and Environmental Issues, Current Affairs, and Multiculturalism and Asian Languages & Cultures (ALC) courses such as Japanese, Melayu, and English. I chose Food & Environmental Issues and Japanese Basic Culture & Language. AsTW also provided us with airport pick-ups and meals every day! Yeay, happy me!

Regarding the outbreak of COVID-19, the participants’ accommodation was initially in the Kolej Kediaman (University dormitory) but they moved us to Komune Living Hotel. It was the part of prevention so one person sleeps in one room. If in the dorm, we had to share the room with three people (if I’m not mistaken). Before we enter the hotel and the classroom, someone checked our body temperature first. If it is higher than 37°, then follow-up actions should be taken. They also provided alcohol-based hand sanitizer, they had it in malls as well 🙂

I put on minimum expectations towards this experience, except I can get many friends.
Because if by chance I visited their country, I already had friends to take me to stroll around their area. 😂 I didn’t put any list of wishes — on what to buy, where to go because this is a program — I trust the organizer on whatever the things they want me to do. LOL.

These are what’s happened there…
It’s always hard for me to make new friends. I didn’t make many friends back then. Of fifty participants, I only made a few. But hey, I knew a friend that has traveled around twenty countries. I told her about my insecurities and she said, “Well, quality over quantity.” IMO, 2 weeks feels not enough for me to know many friends better. I only have a few and I think that’s enough and fun to know them deeper.

First lunch, made friends with Japanese and Malaysian!

There, I learned many things. Each person has different characteristics. And by that, you need to learn how to cope up with that and how you can adapt to it. Not everyone has the same mindset and you can’t force them. I can also learn about the culture itself from the behavior of the people.
I also need to explain my religion to those who doesn’t know. Well, that’s quite hard, because I have to explain to them in a good way so they can understand. I also need to discuss it with friends so we have the same explanation. I learned a bit about marriage in Malaysia (Moslem) and in Vietnamese (Christian).

Talked with Malaysian friends, it turns out it wasn’t easy. Some of you (my Indonesian friends) might think that it won’t be that hard because our country is not that far from each other. But I found the difficulties 😂 Some of their topics I do understand, but some others don’t. Also, the fact that I respect their privacy when they talked to each other. Unless I’m being asked by them, I won’t join or I won’t curious about their conversation hehe. But when it comes to reading sentences, I think I can understand. Because it needs a slower response to understand, tho.

Me and Malaysian Friends. Left to right: Me — Pika — Shaf — Ayep — Yunyi.

By the limited number of friends I had, I met fellow bookworms! Or maybe I can call them the “guru.” They read many books. One had read sixty books per year. Compared to me, I only read eight. They bought around ten books in several Malaysian bookstores meanwhile I just bought one. I felt a bit inferior, but they said, “Doesn’t matter, we all know the truth, we only love to buy, sometimes not finish reading it.”

I visited many places! Muzeum Negara, Thien Hou Temple, Batu Caves, National Mosque, Istana Negara, Bukit Bintang, Mini Malaysia & ASEAN Cultural Park, Central Market, Melaka, Jonker Street, Chinatown, and eight malls (few places are from the AsTW program, but some of it I visited individually). I know some histories of humans, Malaysia’s colonization, the spread of Islam in Malaysia, their kingdoms, Malaysian’s race, and the establishment of Malaysia.

Left: Tried Laksa at Jonker Street, Malacca. Right: Rice with Squid (..I mean, look at that whole squid!) at Alor Street

Malaysia’s temperature was so hot it was a bit hard to adapt. Although it was only 3° higher than the average temperature in Yogyakarta, it felt harder because I walked much to the train station to go to places. They have cool public transportation, tho! Most places I visited are connected with MRT or LRT. I know how to commute (in Malaysia!) because Yogyakarta doesn’t have it (yet!). But Jakarta already had it and I’ve tried it. Both KL and Jakarta are cool don’t worry! #IndonesiaIsAHome #proudIndonesian. And oh, University Malaya is so big! Like a separate city. Malaysian’s portion of the meal is huge! It’s like one portion for two persons. But I managed to finish it to support #ZeroWaste 😜

For the closing ceremony on 5 March 2020, we had to perform Malaysian Dance such as Chinese, Indian, Malaysia, and Sabah & Sarawak. I chose Sabah & Sarawak dance named Rambai Dance.

People whom I meant: Isabelle (Philipinos) and Nhu (Vietnamese)

all dancers with the dance trainer — a man with the yellow top

I’m so grateful I had this chance. Thank you, Allah, parents, and friends that helped me through this process. Thank you, Kyushu University, Malaysia, University of Malaya, ISC Global Buddies, and new friends that I met in Malaysia! It was a wonderful experience. Please take care and stay healthy. Also good luck with your future. Looking forward to
meet you guys again, someday, somewhere! ❤ #blessed #grateful.