More adventures with Fulbright Programme’s ETAs!
By Angelina Jefary
A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. – Confucius
A year older, a year wiser and here came another adventure!
Things had slowly changed since the 2014 batch of English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) went back to America. Change is hard but sometimes it’s what we need in life to keep rolling. I knew I was going to miss them so much but with news of a 2015 batch of ETAs coming, I got excited to meet them!
The first batch of Sarawak ETAs truly prepared and summed up what I would be facing for the next 10 months with the 2015 batch.
The 2015 batch of ETAs landed in Kuching on January 19 and began their state orientation from Jan 20-26 before their mentors brought them to their respective schools to start teaching us on January 27.
Here, I would like to introduce you to my ETA this year, Katelynn Kundrata, also known as Katie K. I was very happy and thankful to have her here for so many reasons.
A day before she came to my school, I spent the entire evening after school painting a welcome banner for her. The best part was I did not paint it alone. I was so amazed that some of my coolest friends came and lent a helping hand. We painted it with love and hoped our new ETA would love it too!
Then, it was finally Katie’s first day in school. Everyone was really excited and thrilled! It was amazing to see everyone coming together and welcoming her into the school community and life which I call ‘family’ now.
Things just got more interesting when my class was one of the classes that Katie would be teaching for the next 10 months. She taught us every Monday and she always chased the ‘Monday Blues’ away.
We would do a lot of cool and crazy stuff in class like play games, music, acting and more to practice our English. The number of English club members had also increased tremendously since Katie arrived. We even had special ETA guests joining us from time to time, making it more fun! We sang, we danced and we laughed till we cried.
Every day after school, we would usually ‘lepak’ (hang out) at the canteen, drinking Teh C Peng while talking about America and getting to know each other.
I was incredibly grateful to have the ETAs on my 16th birthday; they were absolutely the best presents I could have ever wanted. They made me realise that I was truly living my life surrounded by amazing and cool people and I would be having a great time with them for the next 10 months.
I was happy to show and welcome them into my culture, family and life. I have always wanted to be the one to show the ETAs around.
One of my life goals or things on my bucket lists for this year was to meet and talk to all the 2015 Sarawak ETAs, and I made it a point to complete my goal by the end of October 2015.
I did a pretty great job! I actually met and talked to 14 out of 15 of them in person. Yeah, I know, one more, and my goal would have been reached.
I started Form 4 this year. With no public exams on my way, I took this chance to be active in school activities and discover new experiences while making a lifetime experience.
On my count, I have participated in at least eight different camps and workshops organised by the Sarawak ETAs this year.
During the camps and workshops, I usually played the role as facilitator. I was even called a ‘Mini ETA’ by one of the ETAs.
I enjoyed going to different places or schools, meeting new amazing people and creating beautiful bonds with them.
Thanks to the ETAs, now I have a lot of friends from all over Sarawak whom I still keep in touch with. Besides meeting and making new friends, conversing in English through games, music and many more were absolutely one of the best parts during the ETA camps and workshops.
Things just got more amazing when my class was in the Borneo-Peninsular Pen pal and Culture Exchange Programme conducted by Katie and ETAs from Pahang and Kelantan.
Through this programme, we exchanged letters and videos with the students in Pahang and Kelantan. Now, I have a lot of friends from all over Malaysia and soon, America! At least, I hope so, hehehe! It was fun to be able to meet ETAs from other states while trying to reach out and learn from amazing adventures.
During weekends or on our days off from school, ETAs became my good friends, sisters and brothers.
We loved spending time together doing typical stuff like watching movies, bowling, taking a walk in the Cat City or just sitting at Starbucks talking about trivial topics or anything at random.
ETAs were the people whom I shared all my laughter, sassiness and even tears. They were with me through thick and thin, making me laugh at 2 o’clock in the morning and even making me cry with tears of happiness.
They deeply understood my interest and weirdness. They had always been my ’24-hour emergency hotlines’ and this just made them some of the best and my most favorite people in this world. They never failed to make my day with their kindness, enthusiasm and silliness. It has always been amazing to watch how each of them blend into Sarawak life even if they had only been here for 10 months.
I can frankly and confidently admit that I have improved so much in my English. I have a higher confidence in speaking, especially with foreigners.
Without the courage and support given by the ETAs, teachers, friends and everyone, I would probably not be writing this article either. To be honest, I was never a teenager who didn’t love or even care about my English. With the existence of some English-related programmes such as The Fulbright Programme, I really got into English.
I learnt how important and how far English can take you away, especially in this globalised world. Recently, I just read an interesting announcement and I am really happy to see this come into reality:
KUCHING, Nov 18 – Sarawak has adopted English as the official language of the state department apart from Bahasa Malaysia, Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem said today.
Time is definitely our biggest enemy. As the days passed, the final day of the ETA attachment had arrived. They completed their 10-month attachment on October 26, and thereafter all 15 ETAs flew to Kuala Lumpur to join the rest of the ETAs for the closing ceremony with all 100 2015 Fulbright Malaysia ETAs.
This year, I was lucky enough to bid farewell to the Sarawak ETAs at Kuching International Airport (KIA). I was so touched by all the love and bonds among the ETAs and everyone who had become their Sarawak family! Their Malaysian family!
You get a strange feeling when you leave a place, like you will not only miss the people you love, but you will miss the person you are this time and place, because you will never be this way ever again. – Azar Nafasi
The ETAs showed me how beautiful life can be in a foreign country and how it can quickly become a second home. Life is beautiful when you are surrounded by beautiful people. Appreciate this beautiful life because beautiful lives are worth living for.
I would like to express my gratitude and congratulate all the 2015 Fulbright Malaysian ETAs for taking and completing this huge challenge and making everyone’s life more beautiful.
Special thanks to The Borneo Post SEEDS for giving me this platform, US Embassy KL, Ministry Of Education, MACEE, The Fulbright Programme and everyone who has made this programme a success and given us the chance to experience a programme with a difference.
I hope this programme will continue in the future. Also, lots of love to all the 2015 Sarawak ETAs, their mentors, students and everyone involved. Thank you for being awesome and part of the Sarawak family.
How comforting it is to know that even as we all continue to grow older and begin our lives on our own all over this world, we are able to maintain our friendships and leave little pieces of ourselves in every adventure.
I was trying to find ‘myself’. I was lost. I went on this crazy adventure and I finally met ‘me’.