It was the year I took my SPM and boy, was it pretty stressed up. However, it was also the time when I applied for Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) to go on an exchange program in America. How I came about this most life-changing experience was when I was watching the Field Trip USA Program on television back in 2008. It certainly captured my attention because this was the kind of program I wanted to be engaged in; living with a host family, experiencing high school over there, to increase my social skills and of course, life survival skills such as being independant, being able to solve my own problems and to broaden my horizon by viewing life differently as before when I was always in my comfort zone.
So, somewhere in April I had filled in an application form and mailed it over to the AFS office. I had to go for the state interview (Selangor) which was held in Shah Alam. There were so many activities going on during the interview period. Since we had to wait for our turn to get interviewed, the facilitators (who were the alumni of the afs program) got us all involved in playing games, talking individually in a group of people and explained why we wanted to go for this prestigious program (I forgot to mention, the program I was applying for was a full scholarship exchange program to the United States of America for 6 months). What captured my attention the most was how the facilitators were confident as they conducted the session. It got me thinking that they must have sharpen their skills as they were abroad. Anyway, my interview lasted for about half an hour. The questions that were asked ranged from politics to history to my personal life. It wasn't all too bad but I knew it was competitive to be getting one of the 40 places that were available.
Alhamdulillah, with a say of prayer I went through to the second & final round, the national level interview. This part of the interview was the most competitive because students all around Malaysia were to be interviewed during the 3 days interview camp. If I'm not mistaken, there were almost a thousand of us gathered for the camp at Quality Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. I was interviewed on the first day of camp, wearing my baju kurung school uniform in the panel judge room. I guess being honest during an interview would be the key ingredient to you getting what you want because at that point, I knew I wanted to go for this program but at the same time, I wasn't putting much hope into it. I knew it was tough but I did give it my all during the interview because I told myself "hey, you've gone this far and you've always wanted this. why don't you just give it your all for one last time?". And I think I did give it my all because a few months later, I got an email and a formal letter stating that I had gotten one of the 40 places to go for the exchange program in America. I was definitely thankful. Those years of waiting, to finally apply for this program was worth it. My dream came true.
It was in December when I finally got to meet the other 39 participants for this program during our dance practice & visa interview. We had a dance practice because we were supposed to perform it during our end-of-stay orientation in Washington DC. All I can say is, my YES'12 batch rocks. They were different individuals with different characteristics and it was what made our batch special. I am certainly glad I got to meet each one of them. They were a lot like family, even though it took time for us all to be bonded together as a team.
My 2011 year was definitely a learning process. I had to juggle between SPM and AFS but at the end of it, I'm so glad I went through it all. I'm glad I applied for AFS and met new people, I'm glad I concentrated much on SPM but at the same time had loads of fun with my friends as well, I'm glad I was mature enough to think that I was able to manage things even though it might look difficult from the outside and most of all, I was quite happy that it was the last year of my high school. I knew it was time for me to venture the world and be out of my comfort zone :)
p/s: this post has gotten a bit too long so I might as well just continue in the next one!