Its been almost 3 months since I landed in Malaysia now, which is crazy, and I am loving my time teaching, living and experiencing this wonderful country. I am in Malaysia for a whole year teaching English at a boarding, secondary school. I live at the school, situated just outside a small Malaysian fishing village, in the girls hostel with my two partners in a small flat. Living with new people, surrounded by the noise of 300 girls and being awoken at 5.30am each morning by a prayer call was certainly an adjustment for me but I am now comfortable in my new setting which I am glad to call home, especially because I now sleep right through the Morning Prayer call!
Over these past few months I have had some unforgettable experiences and I think I have already matured and grown in myself so putting this all into a brief report will be difficult and I am certain to miss something.
My job at the school is to advance the students and teachers English language skills. I take classes individually, and with my partners, of all age ranges but focusing on Form 1,2 and 4 (13, 14 and 16 year olds). When we arrived at the school we had no idea of the level of English we were going to be faced with but I was definitely pleasantly surprised with how well the students spoke on arrival. My first few classes were a struggle with lots of blank faces staring back at me. It wasnt until I learned to slow down my speech and make my pronunciation clearer that they started to become interactive. However I still find myself asking Do you understand? multiple times each lesson, at least I get more responses now!
I really enjoy teaching the younger classes as they are much more enthusiastic and willing to learn. The older classes are a bit more challenging and trying to get them to stay awake for a whole lesson is still a daily struggle. Finding things to teach was also hard at first as we were given no guidelines or syllabus to follow so pretty much just went off our own backs. The students responded well to games and kinaesthetic activities to begin with, as they dont seem to get to do that a lot here, but as time has gone on I have been able to do more advanced activities focusing on their writing- which is definitely their weakest area.
Other than teaching lessons we also get involved with the many activities the school has to offer. As it is a boarding school the students are given very little free time as they have packed timetables from very early in the morning until late at night. This means there are many clubs which the students take part in. During my time here I have tried to participate in as many of these as possible including archery, basketball, debating and robotics club. These have died down a bit as we are now in exam season here so the main focus is studying and exam preparation but Im sure will pick up again next year.
In the last few weeks we have had the chance to participate in the form 3 programme which happens after they finish their exams in October until the school holidays in December. This is set up to ensure the form 3s have something to do as it is too early to go home. For this programme we have been given slots to take them and do fun, educational activities. So far we have done an apprentice style activity where they designed, made, advertised and pitched a brand new chocolate bar, drama activities, talent shows, played lots of British games and even taught them how to ceilidh dance- which they were surprisingly good at! Both I and they have thoroughly enjoyed doing some fun, light hearted activities which encouraged them to speak in English, increased their confidence and was a well-deserved break after their tough exams.
Before arriving at the school I was definitely apprehensive about how we would be perceived, especially being western girls going into a Muslim school. However ever since our arrival, where we were greeted by waving students who took our bags to our room, we have been overwhelmed by the friendliness of everyone weve met. All the students, staff and locals have welcomed us with open arms and have offered to help with whatever problem we have needed. When I go home it will be strange not being stared at and talked to whenever I walk down the street. Even though many struggle finding the confidence to engage in a proper English conversation with us they all try so hard and I can definitely see their English getting better as a result.
One thing I have noticed since arriving in Malaysia is how many holidays they have. Since there are so many cultures and religions to celebrate we seem to always have a day off and Im certainly not complaining. This is great because it gives us a chance to explore more of Malaysia. We have already had a 10 day break where we went to some Malaysian Islands- Penang and Langkawi. This was some well needed time of rest and relaxation but also a cultural experience going to temples and mosques. The best part about travelling around Malaysia is that no matter where you end up there is always amazingly tasty food to keep you going! In the next few weeks we begin our long end of year holiday where we are going to 4 different countries in 5 weeks across South East Asia. I am very much looking forward to this and seeing more of what the rest of Asia has to offer. Travelling can be daunting at times, especially as we are away for so long at Christmas, but it is definitely worthwhile for the amazing things you get to see. I have gained so much independence as a result and my haggling skills have never been better! One thing I have learnt is to never say no to an opportunity when I am out here; the last thing I want to come home with is regrets.
Overall Malaysia has been a tremendous experience so far and I am extremely thankful to be here and for all the amazing opportunities I have had since. I still dont think it has really sunk in that I am living 6,500 miles away from all my friends and family as I have been too busy to get homesick and when you are surrounded by 600 students it is very difficult to get lonely as there is always someone to talk to. However there are obviously times I think about my family and how long it has been without them, the 8 hour time difference is also a struggle, but that just makes me appreciate them more and receiving parcels filled with chocolate and love is the best feeling ever!
I love my new home and Malaysia and cant thank everyone enough who helped me get here. So far I have made some friends for life and hold cherished memories: and Im only 3 months in. I am super excited for the next 9 months as Im sure it will only get better.
SelamatTinggal (goodbye) for now!