Share

Unexpected Lessons Learned in Malaysia by Kaitlin Liszka, Agricultural and Extension Education Major

Tags:

Posted: May 29, 2019

The greatest take away that I gained from this trip was not a lesson that I expected to learn. It was not a lesson about education systems or agriculture, but a lesson about love.
Some of the students that we taught our aquaponics lesson to at the first school

Some of the students that we taught our aquaponics lesson to at the first school

A month in a foreign country with different languages, different foods, and new people. A month packed so full of different learning opportunities and experiences that I still struggle to wrap my head around them and everything that I learned. We planned and taught lessons in groups with American and Malaysian participants, we toured schools, we toured agricultural facilities, and we spent time exploring and leaning about their culture. Every memory that I have from this program with the AgEd2Malaysia, USDA Fulbright Hays Grant is special to me in its own way, but there are a few that really stand out.

We spent a lot of our time staying in hotel rooms during this experience, but for a few days we were welcomed into a community to stay with host families. This community was a FELDA Community, which the best equivalent that I can think to describe it to in United States terms, is the FELDA Communities are kind of like homesteading towns. They welcomed us into their homes and not only gave us somewhere to sleep, but provided us with food, gifts, and lasting friendships. They showed us where they worked, threw us celebrations, and taught us games. They showered us in love and taught us not only about who they are, but also taught us more about ourselves. They showed us how to welcome and accept those who might look different from yourself. The most amazing part of all of this part of the trip is that most of our host families did not even speak English. We gained all of this knowledge and made all of these memories without even speaking the same language.

Another experience that stands out in my mind is the day that we visited Harmony Street in the city of Jahor. On this street the multiple religions represented in the country were coinciding peacefully beside each other. We were able to visit a Chinese Temple and then go across the street to a Sikh Temple, and then walk another block and see a Hindu Temple. The most amazing part was that it really was Harmony Street; everyone got along. Everyone had respect for each other, even those who practiced their faith in a different place of worship. The best example that I can remember is when we visited the Sikh Temple. We originally were not going to get to go in because there was a wedding taking place in the temple. They then decided to let us in anyway and explained to us how their religion worked and the different aspects of the temple, including sharing some of their meal with us. Seeing the interactions of everyone together peacefully opened my eyes to ways that I can improve myself and become a more respectful and accepting person.

Another memory that I have is from when we were teaching a lesson at our first school. We had a class with students that were probably around 10 years old and we were teaching them a lesson about aquaponics. I very obviously did not speak Malay, their native language, so did not really attempt to at all during our lesson. They were quiet and reserved throughout the lesson. Then at the very end, the Malaysian participant that I was teaching with told the students in Malay that I had something that I wanted to say to the class. Then, I said “Terima Kasih” which is Thank You in Malay and the room of students exploded. It meant so much to them that I attempted to use their native language as opposed to me asking them to use mine as I had done the whole lesson. In that moment I really learned how even taking a little effort to connect to someone can mean so much to them.

The greatest take away that I gained from this trip was not a lesson that I expected to learn. It was not a lesson about education systems or agriculture, but a lesson about love. I learned how to understand different cultures, how to have empathy for people when you can’t even speak the same language, and how to show others that you care. This is a lesson that can transcend into any aspect of my life, whether a future job, my current time as student, my role as a daughter, and my role as a friend. Part of my heart will always be in Malaysia because Malaysia helped teach me how to use my heart.