Can you please introduce yourself and why you chose Malaysia for your AFS Program?
My name is Daniele Speziale, I’m 18 years old and I’m from Savona, Italy. I like eating, reading, meeting friends, listening to music and learning new things… in that order! My interests include learning about other cultures, philosophy, religion and politics, but my greatest passion is languages, which I love practicing with native speakers. In future I’d like to study politics or international relations (I’m thinking about studying in Singapore) and using those skills to help those in need.
I chose Malaysia because I’ve always been curious about Asia, and I actually studied Chinese and Tamil on my own in Italy. I felt there was no better opportunity than Malaysia to pursue my passion: Malaysia has so much to teach and offer about cultures and languages. It is truly Asia after all! And since I’ve been here I have never regretted my choice. On the contrary I’m more and more in love with this country, and I can’t imagine leaving it to go back home.
Tell us about your school or CPO placement experience.
I’m currently placed in Kulim, Kedah, but I’m under the Penang Chapter. This is because my school is in Penang. SMK Penanti is located in a rural area near Bukit Mertajam. Penanti may not be famous, has no Twin Towers and I doubt it receives any tourist, but I swear I love that place. My school is awesome: I have many friends, some of whom I have become really close with; the teachers are all very nice and helpful to me; the canteen food is delicious (Italian schools don’t even have a canteen!); and many activities are available. I follow silat, Arabic language classes and I’m in the cooking club (though I only got to make cucur so far!). Penanti students are extremely curious and friendly with me, since it’s the first time the school is hosting an exchange student. Most of them don’t speak English but that’s actually a good thing: I picked up Malay very fast and also got to learn “Bahasa Pinang”, the pure kampung dialect, which I always impress the locals with. Now I have signed up for a Pidato Bahasa Melayu contest, against native Malay speakers so watch this space for updates!
What has been your toughest challenge as an exchange student / participant in Malaysia?
Something which was particularly difficult for me was adapting to my host family. At first everything was just fine, but slowly we realized the many differences between us. We had many arguments over them and at some point I was afraid I would be forced to change family, which was something I really didn’t want to do. After all I always liked my host family despite the differences, so I consciously made an effort to change my ways and my attitude. Now everything is fine. I’m proud of the changes I have made and of how strong I’ve been in some points of my experience, and I’m thankful to my family for having been so patient with me.
What has been your favourite moment of your experience in Malaysia?
I’m living my “favourite moment” right now. I’ve built beautiful friendships. I feel at home with my host family. There is nothing troubling me. I enjoy every day I have left, knowing that soon I’ll have to go back to Italy. And I feel a happiness which is difficult to describe, but you know, an exchange student’s feelings are always so complex!
Will you encourage AFS participants to choose Malaysia as their AFS destination? If yes, why? If no, why not?
Of course I will! Malaysia is the only country in which you can experience three different cultures, celebrate festivals of different religions and learn so many languages! No other AFS program in the world offers all of this in just one place. And then, I believe that a year in Malaysia will help many students grow up just like I did. There will be challenging times for sure, but if you are willing to compromise and change and see the other’s point of view, it is all worth it.