Saturday, June 29, 2013

The PDO, the Blog's Name Change, and my Host Family Details

Selamat petang, Kawan-kawan!-Good evening, friends! This past week has been really busy! I began my journey to D.C. to attend the YES Abroad Pre-departure Orientation this Wednesday afternoon. That evening, I was reunited with some of the most interesting people I've ever met! From seeing old friends from the In-Person Selection Event to making new friends, the PDO was an amazing experience.
On Thursday morning, a lot of the learning we had to do kicked off. We had some workshops over specific information for our host country. Each group of kids with the same host country had a group leader who formerly participated in an exchange program to that country. Our group of 7 was lucky enough to have Lauren, an alumna of YES Abroad as our group leader. She was able to answer a lot of specific questions regarding Malaysia and Bahasa Melayu (the national language, a.k.a. Malay). Then, our group took a bus to the Malaysian Embassy and had lunch with 44 inbound students from Malaysia. These kids were on the YES program that brings kids to the U.S. from countries with significant Muslim populations (another excellent program that anyone interested about living in the U.S. should apply for!) and were the nicest people I have ever met! They told us stories about Malaysia and its people, festivals, and traditions. Next, we said goodbye to our new Malaysian friends (by this time, both on Facebook and in real life) and took a bus to the Department of State. In the building, we listened to an amazing speech by Rick Ruth, senior advisor at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. After Mr. Ruth's inspirational talk, we were allowed to ask questions about our countries to experts working in the Embassy!
Then, we headed out to the Lincoln Memorial. It was here where my dad texted me that he had received my host family placement! I have a host family in Chemor, a suburb of the major city of Ipoh in the northern half of western Malaysia! I have a host father, mother, grandfather, and 4 host siblings between the ages of 9 and 14! As I talk to and meet my host family, I will add a few posts about my host family, house, and city!
Evidently, my blog is now titled "Journey to the Silver State." Ipoh lies in the state of Perak. Literally, the word "perak" means "silver." So, I will be an American student studying abroad in the "Silver State."

Anyways, the rest of Thursday concluded with dinner and a session on how to be an effective ambassador. Friday was a day of workshops regarding effective communication with host families and with different faiths, "cultural baggage," and digital storytelling. Saturday brought some sadness, as many of my friends are leaving for their respective host countries, and I will not see them for at least a year. However, I am excited for them, and I know that blogging and Skype make instant communication possible. I wish them the best, and I am now ready to make my final preparations before leaving Houston for almost a year on July 10.

YES Abroad Malaysia Group outside the Malaysian Embassy in Washington D.C.
Me with the speaker at the embassy
Outside the Lincoln Memorial
YES Abroad Malaysia Group at our Table during Workshops
Terima kasiah kerana membaca!-Thanks for reading! Keep posted for more posts soon!


Monday, June 17, 2013

Pre-Departure Orientation Getting Closer!

As June 26 approaches, my excitement is rapidly growing! That Wednesday, I will depart from Houston at 11:54 and reach the nation's capital later that day. For three days, I will spend time with my friends and fellow travelers from the IPSE (see earlier post) while learning about the specifics of our journey and our mission. We will stay at the same National 4H Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland that we stayed in during the IPSE. However, our agenda will be much busier and specific to our host countries. In addition to workshops at the 4H center, our group will be visiting the Department of State and the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday!! Moreover, I will get to visit the Malaysian embassy on Thursday morning along with my fellow travelers to Malaysia. I really cannot wait until the PDO!!

I've also started to pick up on some terms, vocabulary, and grammar in Malay. The language is actually very fascinating and uses the Latin alphabet (which makes learning the language a lot easier). Also known as Bahasa Melayu, "old Malay" dates back to about the 4th century, when Sanskrit influences from India brought about a new style of language. Anyways, I've learned vocabulary regarding family members, common household objects, colors, qualities, quantities, and sizes.

Finally, I'm "patiently" anticipating my host family info, which I expect to receive in the next week or so. Once I learn who my host parents and siblings are, I will also know what my host parents do, where they live, and what my host siblings are like. It's unbelievable, but my international departure is a month from yesterday! I will be leaving from Los Angeles, California on July 16 around 11:55 P.M. and will reach Hong Kong on July 18 around 5:45 A.M. (due to my crossing the International Date Line sometime in between). Then, I will leave Hong Kong around 8:40 A.M. and reach Kuala Lumpur International Airport around 12:30 P.M. Needless to say, I'm so excited to learn about and meet my host family and school!

I will post about my host family if I learn about my host parents and siblings before the PDO. If not, I will post sometime during or after the PDO. Jumpa lagi (see you later)!

Monday, June 3, 2013

How everything started...

Hi guys!

My name is Anirudh Suresh, and I will be a sophmore next year. I currently live in Houston, Texas. Sorry I haven't been blogging much yet; I've been really busy with school and other matters. Anyways, on April 12, I received an email from YES Abroad that stated that I had been accepted to study in Malaysia for a year. I was so excited when I heard the news: an entire year in a new country in a region of the world I'd only dreamed about visiting. I've always loved traveling and learning about different cultures, and this experience will allow me to learn so much about several cultures and languages.

Basically, I applied for the experience during fall of 2012. I remember choosing the countries that I was interested in and describing myself and my interests. In March, I received the news that I was a semifinalist for the program. On March 22, I traveled to the nation's capital to attend the In-Person Selection Event (IPSE). There, I met some of the coolest people and made so many new friends. I also learned a few card tricks..., but that's another story. On March 24, the event came to a close, and I returned to Houston, nervous but infinitely more excited. Then, on April 12, I received that all-important email. I am glad that so many of my friends from the IPSE are able to go on the trip. Every single one of us at the IPSE definitely has a desire to learn more about the world and become involved in issues outside our communities.

The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Abroad Program is funded by the U.S. Department of State. The program allows U.S. high school students interested in 
the world and the different cultures in it to spend a year studying abroad in countries with significant Muslim populations.

I'm very excited for my trip. I've read up on Malaysia and its people, and I've started looking at a couple resources to help me pick up on a small part of the language (Malay). I still am not sure which city I'll be living in or who my host family consists of, but I cannot wait until the pre-departure orientation in D.C. starting on June 26. I want to see my friends again and prepare for the journey ahead. I will continue posting as events come and go, and I will make sure to keep everyone up-to-date on everything that happens. Until next time, however, selamat tinngal (goodbye)!