1: Can you introduce yourself and where you went for your AFS exchange experience?
I’m Tiffany Chin (19) from Selangor and I recently came back from Switzerland (AFS SUI YP 16/17).
2: What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome the problem?
My biggest challenge was to understand the language in Switzerland. I was placed in Zurich, where they spoke Swiss-German (a German dialect and relatively difficult to understand at first). Although I completed the online German course offered by AFS before I embarked on the exchange journey, I still spent the first few weeks expressing myself through sign language. Other than hard work and much effort, I was lucky that many kind souls around me gave me full support and showed great patience while teaching me Swiss words. I’m glad I was able to overcome the language barrier (at the same time I learned a new language and a new culture).
3:Tell us about your favorite moment of your exchange experience.
I had so many but the most remarkable would be the New Year countdown I spent in Colmar, France with my best exchange friend from Thailand and her host family. They were very kind and invited me to tag along on the trip and we grew closer as the days went by. The view was great, the company was great, the food was great, everything was perfect.
We strolled the city on 30December and spent a lot of time laughing over some of the goofy pictures we took. The first day went by in the blink of an eye. On New Year’s Eve, we were extremely excited to put on our traditional costumes – I wore Baju Kebaya & my friend wore her Thai costume. Then we went to a fine dining French restaurant to wait for the countdown. The meal took us 5 hours to finish as it was served dish by dish. Despite the presence of policemen patrolling the streets in case of any riots or troubles, we waited until we saw the fire crackers before greeting everyone in the restaurant (it is considered polite to wish everyone a Happy New Year), and we went back to the hotel, amazed and in love with the entire experience.
4: In AFS we say, ‘Send us your student and we will send you back a Change maker’. How has the AFS Program and experience impacted your future?
I totally agree with the statement. Change makers are not only people who make changes in their own lives, they make an impact on the lives of others too. Personally, AFS impacted me (& my future) in many aspects. First of all, I grew to be more independent than I thought I could ever be. I learned how to manage my time better and socialize with other people during weekends (which I wouldn’t have done if I were to stay in Malaysia). Although I was already able to overcome big crowds when I was in high school, my social anxiety reduced drastically after I went on this program. I am able to express my opinions less aggressively and more confidently now.
I also learned to respect different cultures across the globe. In the multicultural society in Malaysia, I learned the importance of understanding and accepting differences. I am more curious than ever about our way of life, background and histories. We all have interesting stories to share.
In addition, my own personal development increased after I went on this program. There were many people that I came across, be it teachers, exchange students, classmates, family members or random strangers who all helped me to gain confidence and improve my communication skills.