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Hello, Ciao,안녕하세요, Hallo, Hola, Selamat tengahari! My name is Rachael and I am a travel enthusiast. Ever since I can remember, my parents have taken my brother, sister and I on good ol' American road trips. It's safe to say that was where my interest in new places, people and experiences was ignited. As my parents always encouraged my siblings and I to explore and ask questions, I developed a sincere curiosity for new adventures. In addition to seeing much of the United States with my favorite travel companions (my family), I had the opportunity to spend a semester in Rome, Italy, as well as a semester in Seoul, South Korea during my college career. Now, I am honored to be taking part in a Fulbright ETA Scholarship to Malaysia for a year! My family's favorite motto is "Life is all about the journey, not the destination." I invite you to join along in my journey of cultural exchange and mutual understanding in Malaysia! After all, the more, the merrier.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Leader to Leader English Camp

Christina and I with some of my students at
Leader to Leader English Camp

During my term as student body president, the Student Services Commissioner, Laura Glaub SMC 12’, initiated a campus wide event called Love Your Body Week. Love Your Body Week focused on self-esteem, self-love and well being. Moreover, it strived to bring awareness to the community about issues affecting both adolescents and adults alike. All in all, the experience was incredibly empowering and successful. The campus tremendously enjoyed the fulfilling week of events. Laura’s idea did not stop there, as the event was hosted again this year for the Saint Mary’s campus, as well as The University of Notre Dame. In addition, the program earned national recognition. To learn more about Saint Mary’s College Love Your Body Week:

Similarly, since I was a young girl, I have been encouraged to take on leadership roles inside and outside of academic settings. Furthermore, I have always had a community to support me with new challenges and opportunities. Due to this positive atmosphere, whether in my little league soccer team, youth group, high school student council, college student government and now as a Fulbrighter, I have always felt inspired to take on leadership roles and test my limits.

My experiences have allowed me to recognize that leadership is nurtured and facilitated from a positive atmosphere, a support group and through generating self-esteem, self-love and well-being.  The opportunities I have had and the people who have impacted my life still hold and will always hold a special place in my heart.

As my blog title suggests, “Take it With You When You Go,” I brought these experiences here to Malaysia with me. These experiences motivated me to set a goal for my Fulbright experience, “host a girls’ leadership camp," in order to pass on what I have acquired, learned and experienced. Consequently, since the first day I arrived at my school, I knew I wanted to make a girls’ leadership camp a reality.

From September 5, 2012 to September 8, 2012, I hosted SMK Permaisuri Nur Zahirah’s First Annual Leader to Leader Camp in Penang, Malaysia for 34, 14 to 16 year old girls. In May, I started drafting proposals and planning, and with the suggestions of my mentors, we decided to host the camp in Penang. Penang is a historical, British city  located within an island in the northwest corner of Malaysia. 

Ready for the eight-hour bus ride to Penang sporting their camp t-shirt!
Despite the eight- hour bus ride from Besut for the students, the road trip across the country made it even more rewarding of an experience. Although Penang is in Malaysia, it is home to customs and culture that are quite different than Besut. Therefore, some of my students faced culture shock, which added tremendously to this leadership experience. For example, the strong Chinese presence in Penang means that people dress different than in predominantly Islamic Besut. In addition, are many dogs in Penang, while dogs are practically non-existant Besut for religious reasons. Finally, Penang is a busy city, which is quite different from the more rural, fishing community found in Besut.
The students on Penang Hill!

The two-day, three-night camp, consisted of many activities focusing on English and leadership. Each student was given a journal to fill out throughout the course of the camp. The journal consisted of reflective questions to challenge them to think deeply and independently while using English. What are the qualities of a good leader? Who is your hero? What are ten things you want to do in your life?

A student trying to think of what to write for the
"I Love Me" activity

Students working on their "I Love Me" project at the
Penang Botanical Gardens.
The questions were challenging for the young female students, but it was amazing to witness the power of thinking. As students thought deeply about questions, I realized many of them were never asked these questions before. Along with the journal, we played charades and other fun English games. Furthermore, we conducted a “I Love Me” session in which students had a friend trace their body on a big piece of white paper. Then, students had to draw arrows to perspective body parts and answer complementing questions. For example, on the right side of their head they had to write something they were
good at, and on the other side, they wrote something they wanted to be good at. For their mouth, they had to write down something they loved to eat.

For our wrap-up activity, every student got a little, rectangular sheet of paper. On the paper, every student wrote a word that represented what they loved about themselves. The word could not be anything to do with looks, rather something deeper. After every student decided on their word, we all formed an inclusive circle. Every student had to smile proudly and step forward. Each student had to say “Hello, my name is __________ and I love that I_____________.” For example, one girl from my 4A1 class said, "Hello, my name is Mimi and I love that I am so happy!"

Two students from Class 2A proudly showing what they love about themselves, patience and pride.
Students from Class 4A2 proudly showing what they love about themselves!
Of course, it is easier said than done. Surprisingly it is not easy to share with the world or even your friends, what you love about yourself. More often, it is easier to critique yourself. However, by being proud of themselves, they allowed their light to shine. What started off as being a somewhat awkward activity, had every student sincerely beaming by the end. After, each young woman traced their hand on a big, communal piece of paper to represent that they loved themselves and that they promised to support other young women as well as their friends.

Students tracing their hands on our camp poster! 
Sight seeing, activities and relaxation were a few of the many highlights of the SMK PNZ Leadership Camp. The students, as well as myself and fellow teachers, had a memorable time. Looking back, the camp did not consist of many words, as there were no lectures or speeches, and that is because it did not need to. Actions speak louder than words, after all. The camp merely opened up my female students to reflective thinking and goal setting. Most importantly, it demonstrated the importance of young women supporting and encouraging one another. Obviously, one weekend cannot produce self-esteem, self-love and well-being. However, I know this camp was a step in the right direction towards leadership and empowerment for these ambitious young women!

I look forward to seeing where these young women lead their lives. 

Students striking a pose for the camera and sporting their cards stating what they love about themselves!