Coming on an exchange program was my decision. No one really influenced me or persuaded me to go for an exchange program. I still remember when I asked my parents if I could go for an exchange program, I was so nervous but all they said were, “If you want to go, we will support you.” I know that I’m very privileged as well because not everyone can afford to do so.
But why? Why did I want to go on an exchange? I guess just like a lot of other questions, there’s just no concrete answer to this as well. All I knew was I wanted to leave, to get away from everything in Malaysia, it was a rash decision indeed.
For one reason, I did not know or I was not sure of what I wanted to study after finishing high school in Malaysia. I knew so many people who did a foundation program for a year or two, only then realizing they wanted to do something else which was a total waste of time and money. That’s why I thought to myself, why not get away, explore the world, widen your perspectives, experience new things, probably this way you would be able to find your interest. And that’s what I did.
In my opinion, I left at the perfect timing. I was 17 years old, a kid who just finished high school. I would have to leave my parents, my safe haven, sooner or later. Why not right after high school? It is true that there was a lot going on in Malaysia, my friends, my family, relationships etc, but I knew I had to leave, I had to take a break no matter how hard leaving was.
Teenagers are now living in a world where everyone demands everything to be quick. A lot of my friends look for the speediest way to finish tertiary education in order to start working. I too sometimes hope I can get my education done with so I could start working, but what next? Continue working for the next 30 or 40 years of my life with my values circled around materialism? No, I didn’t want that, what then? I wanted to learn how to love myself, how to appreciate the little things and to believe that there’s still love and hope in humanity or in the world considering so many terrorist attacks lately. I wanted to forge my values around these things and I can say I did.
Looking back at the two months being here in Germany, my values have changed. I remember when I arrived on the first day, I met with some of my host brother’s friends and one of them asked me, “What do you think of Angela Merkel?”. I knew it was about Germany’s refugee policy considering that the United States of America recently announced their Travel Ban. “I think she should focus on the German people first, before focusing on the refugees.”, I answered. I didn’t know better.
Today, thinking about what I had answered back then, I’m not proud of it. Having walked the streets of Berlin for two months now, everyday I see people from different parts of the world. Some might say, “This is Berlin, it’s not Germany.” because Berlin is simply so diverse but then again, so is the world. A lot of people worry that Germany’s open-door-policy would invite more terrorist attacks, but is that really true? I don’t know, I just know that generalizing all refugees as terrorists and shutting them out isn’t a solution either. I also happened to come across an article, “How Germany’s open-door refugee policy helps fight terrorism” which was quite an interesting read. What is wrong with shedding some light and hope for the refugees when the whole world is shutting them out?
“That’s what you do when you see someone in need, you help them.” – Ellen
(Sorry, got a little bit carried away, back to why I wanted to come on an exchange program)
Being someone who likes to challenge myself (most of the time), I didn’t want to go to an English speaking country. I wanted to learn something new, perhaps a language, so I chose German, considering it being a language used by quite a few countries in Europe, so why not? Of course, learning a new language is never easy, different pronunciation, different grammar. A lot of times I feel like giving up, but at the same time, it makes me want to try harder as well.
I don’t regret coming on an exchange, I will never regret it, despite how tough things get. Choosing to leave at the age of 18 was the right decision too, because I can experience everything to the fullest and forge values and memories that I will treasure dearly for the rest of my life.