It is difficult for me to articulate my experience in Sarawak, Malaysia, and how it impacted my life. As fresh out of college, I knew little to nothing about being an effective educator. Staring at the piece of paper that stated the placement of my school, SMK Lake, in a small town called Bau. I knew very little about the community just that it was anything but the majority in Malaysia – it was indigenous and Catholic. I looked away in the space of my hotel room in Kuala Lumpur, unsure, yet satisfied of what was to come in 2017.
For the next year, I would juggle multiple roles as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant – friend, teacher, counselor, ally, and housemate. The essence of Fulbright is to promote mutual understanding between the United States and another country. And I had that exact experience. When else would I know about the Bidayuh and Iban people? When else would I know what ayam punsoh was? When else would I know how much Malaysians love zumba and karaoke? I wouldn’t if it wasn’t for my Fulbright.
The end of my Fulbright was the extension of my current career. I gained a better understanding that in order to be a good educator one has to be a good student as well. My Fulbright made me realize how important teaching is for me. Currently, I serve as a community health educator at a teen pregnancy prevention nonprofit.
I haven’t forgotten about Malaysia, nor have I forgotten about my community, my students. Fulbright served as a true and tangible impact for my life. Whenever I hear “Malaysia” in the states my eyes widen. A real impact indeed, as I plan to visit in the near future and continue the relationships I created. My time will never end in Malaysia, only continue.