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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.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The First Annual SMK PNZ English Magazine

The First Annual English Magazine Club and I posing for a group picture! 

        I have always enjoyed writing and I know it is a strong avenue for expressing ideas and thoughts. Before I embarked on my Fulbright stint, I knew I wanted to introduce a project to my students at my school that would engage the entire community. Thus, the SMK Permaisuri Nur Zahirah Magazine Club was established. The Club had thirteen enthusiastic members and our goal was to produce an English Magazine. It was a long and lengthy process that took a great deal of persistence. Creating a magazine is difficult enough, yet alone creating one that is a the club members' foreign language.

The flowchart we created during our first meeting.
We drafted our ideas.
I broke it into simple steps so as not to make it overwhelming or baffling for my students. During the first meeting, the students and I decided what themes we would feature in the magazine and throughout the rest of the school year, we met to edit work, organize the format and discuss logistics. Initially, the meetings were tough as students were shy to contribute ideas and speak in English. However, I knew that if these students were brave enough to even show up, they must have cared enough to try. So, every week from April to October we met, we chatted, we worked and we used creative energy to produce the school and community’s first English Magazine. As the months passed by, the students became more and more eager to contribute ideas and use English.

I took the students into their own community to challenge them to think of the stories within their own small, yet unique community. Together we interviewed tourists heading out to the famous Perhentian Islands and we spoke to restaurant owners, shop owners, teachers to develop stories about issues and establishments in Besut. We became a presence in the community and people were excited to share the stories about their lives, backgrounds and traditions. Students were surprised to discover that if they kept their eyes and hearts open there were many stories to be unveiled within one’s everyday life.

The English Magazine Club interviews my family
for an article in the magazine. Obviously, we had some
curious guest students attend as well.
Although the magazine was organized and developed by the club of thirteen students, the entire school became engaged through an art contest and literary contest we hosted. Over thirty students submitted work (in English), as well as artwork. To add, after several months, the teachers and administration became very interested in the project. Finally, in the classroom, I was better able to engage students by assigning them and helping them produce articles for the magazine. The students were hesitant at first but soon became eager to write their best in order for their articles to be featured in the first annual magazine.

The completed and printed magazine. The
 cover was completely designed and painted by a
student, as well as the body of the magazine.

By August, the English Magazine Club compiled, wrote and collected well over sixty articles, as well as artwork to be featured as the cover and title page. In addition, there were an array of photos and interviews to be included. After some long school days and a couple sleepless nights, the magazine was edited, finished and sent to print.

In October, the English Magazine Club and I presented the First Annual English Magazine to the school, as well as the community. Moreover, the magazine was presented to the U.S. Embassy, the Malaysian Ministry of Education as well as the Prime Minister’s Office. While turning the pages, students, teachers and community members were excited to see articles and pictures representing their country, their state, their community and their culture.

Similar to the “What Makes Malaysia Special” project (featured in my December 6th post), by allowing individuals to use English as a second language to express their own thoughts, ideas and backgrounds, it makes the language more personal. Through the magazine, I witnessed as my students came to understand the potential of English language as a tool. They discovered that English is
a powerful tool to connect their stories to the rest of the world.

The Chief Minister of Malaysia, the Director and members of the
Malaysian Ministry of Education and U.S. Embassy officials
at a dinner at U.S. Ambassador Jones home. On behalf of my school,
I presented copies of the magazine to them.
Although the magazine is not filtering around globally (yet), it went into the hands and offices of delegates, lawmakers, and expatriates around Malaysia. To add, the magazine was read by community members as well as foreigners. From their own little part of the world in Besut, they were able to share their own stories with many different places and people.

After all, Frank Smith once said, “Two languages open every door along the way.”

Enthusiastic English Magazine Club members before we unveiled the
magazine to the school and community.
Even more, the most powerful 
moment of the entire experience 
was witnessing students realize the importance of their own voice and opinions. They realized just how much they had to share with the world. That in itself, was already beginning to open up new doors that they never imagined.