I can’t believe that’s it’s been 3 months since I last wrote a report like this and I am now halfway through my year in Malaysia. I can now completely confirm that the cliché is true, time does fly when you’re having fun! It seems like so long ago, but also just yesterday, I arrived at MRSM Mersing to completely new faces, smells and sounds but now I know these people as my friends and everything else is just my normal life.
The teaching side of the project has been going really well in the past few months. My partners and I have been taking on even more English classes with all year groups and are really getting into the swing of things. It was very refreshing when we welcomed new faces at the start of 2016, the form 1s are my favourite, so small and cute.
There is still very little structure to our teaching. We often get thrown into lessons 5 minutes before they are due to start which means we have to think on the spot of what to do. Sometimes I struggle to think of fresh ideas to teach with and I hate repeating activities or just doing a boring worksheet all the time. I have found that I definitely rely on the Internet for my creative side but when there are no computers or projectors in the classroom you have to be extremely prepared for every lesson and have all the resources needed beforehand.
Recently we have been getting more involved with preparations for language week, helping the students with poetry and storytelling and also helping out by taking night classes regularly. I still enjoy teaching, even if it can be particularly stressful at times!
At the end of last year we attended an MRSM English camp where a small group of students from every MRSM school across Malaysia congregated in KL for a camp. The camp focused on improving the students’ written English in order for them to feel more confident in this section of their exam. It was a fab few days where we stayed in dorms, participated in morning aerobics and enjoyed many creative activities such as treasure hunt, dialogue games and a drama activity focused on celebrities. It was great to meet students from other MRSMs and also see all the other volunteers again and see how they are getting on at their projects. I also learned a lot myself and now have many new ideas of writing activities to use in the classroom when I am teaching.
Our school often holds many programme sessions which often last one to two weeks for whole year groups. These are my favourite things to teach in as they are out with the normal classroom setting and are much more fun and energetic. Recently we did one of these with the form 4s where we tried to make grammar fun, a very hard task I must add! However I think we succeeded with a range of activities from sentence twister to a huge grammar treasure hunt involving grammar questions, riddles and anagrams. However the highlight of this programme was the closing ceremony. As a lot of the form 4s got good results they were leaving to go to a better school; so we wanted to do something memorable for their final moments here in Mersing. We decided that we would teach them a flash mob to surprise all the teachers and staff with in the middle of their closing ceremony. We had 4 days to teach them all the lyrics, choreograph a dance routine and get microphones and things sorted without anyone knowing. Don’t stop believing was the song we finally decided on and got cracking on teaching them the harmonies and pronunciation, which they definitely struggle with! After all our practicing the time finally came to perform but when the music started playing I think the nerves kicked in and everyone was out of time and it was a flop! However after lots of laughs we pretended nothing happened started again and everyone was up in time singing perfectly. I feel like this was very symbolic of my time here, things don’t always go right first time but you’ll get there in the end! It was such a fab end to a great programme and a memory both the students and I will cherish.
Another memorable moment from the past few months was Burns Night. We celebrated this during our big slot with form 4 and taught them all about the history of Burns and the legacy of his poems. The students analysed ‘My Love is Like a Red Red Rose’ and some of them even had a go at reciting ‘Tae a Moose’! Although their Scottish accents were rather questionable it was good to get to teach them things that I learnt at school and also a bit more about Scottish Culture and heritage- and the shortbread went down a treat!
Outside of the classroom it has also been hectic as we are helping with the debate team, drama club and also participated in activity week. The debate team have been doing really well; we followed them to a small debate competition where they managed to get to the semi-finals and considering many of the team had never debated before it was a big achievement. We have also been helping the drama team prepare for their upcoming competition at language week and I have high hopes for them too. Last week we took part in activity week which was 3 days of sport and 2 days of presentations and activities. The sports were really fun, I even won a few of the teachers races, which never happens, but it is only because I have so much longer legs than everyone else here! The students seemed to really enjoy a break from their hard schedule of lessons and studying and it was refreshing to see lots of smiling faces again having fun. I really like getting involved with the students outside of the classroom as I feel it connects you to them on a better level. We’re not just here to be their teacher, so we like to support them in and out of the classroom.
As much as I am having fun at the school and with the students, without a doubt the best part of my year so far has been all the amazing travelling we have had the chance to do. At Christmas time we had 6 weeks of travelling around South East Asia. Although this was definitely not the smoothest of journeys, one of my partners ended up in hospital on Christmas Day after a very serious motorbike crash, the things I have seen and experienced- I will never forget. Travelling is such a crazy thing, especially at such a young age, but I am extremely thankful to be able to see these countries and learn about their heritage. So far in our time here we have been to Vietnam and experienced the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City; Cambodia where we learned the cruel history of the country at the killing fields and marvelled amongst the temples at Angkor Wat; Malaysia where I saw the beautiful tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands; Thailand where the crash happened and I learnt the importance of having good travel insurance and remaining careful when travelling. Although it was a terrible thing to happen, we spent 10 days in a Thai hospital and my friend nearly died, I learnt the best life lessons in that time and thankfully we all managed to stay calm and get everything sorted. The crash definitely brought me and my partners closer and I saw the value of having a good support system around you especially when you are so far from home, we couldn’t have got through it without each other.
More recently we celebrated Chinese New Year in Singapore which was also amazing, it was a much different experience to the rest of Asia we have seen, so modern and updated but beautiful nonetheless. It’s so overwhelming getting to visit so many beautiful countries each one of them unique in their own way. I have definitely got the travel bug now and don’t know how I am going to manage staying in the same place for more than a month when I go home!
6 months gone in this beautiful country and 6 months left to go. I love everything about my project from the cute students to the grumpy taxi men to the spicy nasi to the blistering heat and can honestly say this is my second home now. I feel completely comfortable in my surrounding and that is down to the people who have made me so welcome here. Everyone tries so hard to speak to us and we appreciate everything they do for us. I have had 6 months of amazing memories it makes me incredibly happy thinking back on all I have done and I am sad that the road home is getting closer and closer every day now. As much as I miss my wonderful family and everyone back home, particularly at key moments like my 18th birthday, I know I will get to see them again soon and share all my stories with them. But I know I am living my last 6 months with the beautiful people in Malaysia, many of whom I will never see again when I go home. Now we have hit the halfway point my thoughts always go back to leaving Malaysia and getting to see my family and friends again which is bitter sweet because that also means I will be leaving my Malaysian family, who have taught me so much, behind. For now though I am just going to keep enjoying every day and hope the next 6 months don’t go by too fast!