“Congratulations! You have been officially accepted …”
I figuratively leapt out of joy like a kid who had just been given an enormous lollipop. I was chosen to join the ASEAN Youth exchange program 2018!
Let me briefly give an introduction to those who have no clue as to what this program is about. The ASEAN Youth Exchange Program 2018 was organized by ASEAN Studies Center, Chulalongkorn University, and was held mainly in Bangkok, Thailand. This year, the title of the program was “ASEAN: Shaping the Visions, Realizing the Impossible”. The program was conducted to provide a platform for 110 students from all over the ASEAN countries to learn about ASEAN in several aspects, mainly the three intertwined pillars. These aspects are commonly known as political-security, economic and socio-cultural pillars. I was lucky to be among the 11 Malaysians from a pool of applicants from 10 countries that were chosen to attend the program.
The conference was held in conjunction with the Chula-ASEAN week, and lasted a total of 4 days. Honestly, as an engineering student, I found the topic of the conference hard to follow as it was tailored towards economic and political issues. Regardless, for the students in attendance pursuing an education in international relations, I would really recommend that you attend the conference as it provides great insights into the political climate within ASEAN.
Other than attending the conference, there were a lot of in-house activities for us participants. The ice-breaking activity held during the first day was enjoyable as I had the chance to be a snail, a bird trapped in a cage and even managed to escape a time-bomb cabbage! There were team-building activities and all sorts of workshops with the aim of teaching us issues regarding ASEAN and connect all of us participants of distinctive culture.
On the 7th day, we had the chance to get dirty and muddy in a mangrove forest, where we planted mangrove trees and fed wild monkeys. Some participants even managed to try mud skiing! The lunch after the exciting activities was spectacular as we were served heavenly fresh seafood and a palatable warm tom yum. Later on the same day, we travelled to Cha-Am beach, where white sandy beaches and a clear blue sky greeted us. This day was most probably the highlight of the trip with the fun thrilling activities, the delight of devouring appetizing food and the breathtaking sight of a beach all combined to form what was a fantastic day.
Nevertheless, the most memorable activity throughout the program was held on the last day and was known as the cultural night, where representatives of each country in attendance had to perform their own cultural performance. Everyone was seen wearing their best traditional costumes. Compliments were given, pictures were taken and memories were made during that night.
What I have gained from this program was regrettably not the theoretical knowledge that was taught in the conference but something even more meaningful. I have gained true friendships and I have learned to understand what unity in diversity actually means.
On the first day, everyone came as strangers from different backgrounds. Progressively, friendships were made and towards the end, we were bonded like a family, the ASEAN family.
Deepest thanks to the committees of YLead18.
Personal gratitude towards my liaison officer, P’Meaw, and my remarkable teammates, Bank, Alice, Jonh, Sam, Rizal, Minh, Robin and Nuth!
With love towards my Malaysian friends, Wei Nee, Jing Xuan, Zai, Alya, Dayat, Siva, Naufal, Teyo, Vincent and Wen Shu!
Thank you, everyone, for all the memories!
Till we meet again!
Head over to CU Youth LEAD’s facebook page for more photos!
Photo courtesy of CU Youth Lead team