Malaysia: A multicultural experience hard at work

As Malaysians, we live in a multicultural country where differences across cultures visible through language, religion and festivals have long been accepted as national norms. Every culture is happily celebrated and in our diversity, we are thankful that the people of this country have come together to build a nation and a home for all Malaysians today and also for those in the future.

But how did we get here with our many different cultures and propensities? As a small country on the southern tip of the Asian continent at the crossroads of the spice trade between the East and the West, it was not by choice. A popular target for colonisation, it would be five centuries before the country gained independence to be joined later by Sabah and Sarawak in 1963 when Malaya was then renamed Malaysia.

From the Chinese, Indian and Arabic traders to the missionaries from Portugal and the Dutch and British trading companies who came from distant lands, familiarity with different communities and cultures was therefore not new to Malaysia when it finally became independent in 1957.

Yet, the journey towards nationhood was not always easy. As the core cultures remained separate and unassimilated in their original forms, there continues to be insufficient intercultural learning. While we celebrate differences, we don’t always understand how to include the diversity in a shared aspiration. National values are fast evolving and there is perhaps the need to start again. To reconnect, embrace similarities and strengthen bridges which have long been built by those seeking a common destination.

I believe that what keeps us going, however, is our strong sense of collective optimism and steadfastness. As Malaysia works on improving unity in diversity, I wish it much success in its economic recovery and hope that it will soon become the role model for strategic intercultural learning and convergence in this part of the world.

Salam Mesra and Selamat Hari Merdeka.

Datin Yasmin Merican
Yayasan AFS Antarabudaya Malaysia

Fashion Style Brand Mood Board Photo Collage

Stand Tall Through Challenges

“Happy Merdeka to Malaysia!

No matter what challenges we may go through, our Jalur Gemilang is always standing tall, supported by people who are truly proud to be Malaysians. We in AFS Penang will persevere through thick and thin. Positive thinking will pull us through. We can do it together❤️
We may encounter many defeats BUT we must NOT be defeated- Maya Angelou.

Merdeka Merdeka Merdeka!”

AFS Penang Chapter. 2021

Untitled design

Remember the Sacrifices

“As we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, let’s remember our past leaders who lost their lives in the battle for the freedom we are enjoying today. Have a wonderful Independence Day!”

Santheran Appasamy

WhatsApp Image 2021-08-27 at 2.47.32 PM

Together We Stand

“Independence does not come easily. It comes with responsibilities and we, as the citizens of Malaysia, must fulfill all our responsibilities to keep our nation safe and growing.

Let’s continue to fight against the pandemic in unity, for a prosperous and peaceful Malaysia!

Happy Merdeka day to all, have a safe and enjoyable independence day.”

Wong Jia Yan
YES 18

WhatsApp Image 2021-08-27 at 10.51.46 AM

Juan Salvador Sacchetti

Unity Above All

My beloved Malasia is turning 64 this year. I still cannot believe that it has been 17 years since I saw it turn 47 back in 2004.

Around this date every year there are two songs specially that still ring in my head..Negaraku and Jalur Gemilang by Pak Ngah & Siso Kopratasa. I always remember the tunes and go back in time to when I was trying to learn malay and the best way to do so was by translating the songs I knew fonetically with my little pocket dictionary to English and then to Spanish, since there was no google translate nor kamus melayu/sepanyol back then!

One of the things that fills my heart is the similarities with my Argentinian anthem in terms of sovereingty and unity above all. Such a young thriving nation should aim for not less than the stars and my journey back to Malaysia in 2012 showed me how fast in development Malaysia had achieved that currently it must be closer to the 31st century rather than the present!

Of course the world has changed and there have been ups and downs but i think that through them all, the values expressed in those songs lies the key to a prosperous nation and a better world. I simply wish that AFS Malaysia continues with the great work it has been doing so far, creating the best experience an abroad student can get staying in what I consider my second home with whom I still keep in touch almost regularly with friends and family. I simply wish I had contributed to that crucible of races that form Malaysia just as much as what they all meant to my life.

Happy birthday Malaysia, I love and miss you with every passing day that I wake up to.

Juan Salvador Sacchetti

Juan managed to see a fair bit of Malaysia during his exchange and upon his return trip in 2012
Rock n rollin’ and hamming it up for his host family
Can you spot the AFSer in this yearbook class photo?
WhatsApp Image 2021-08-27 at 6.13.12 PM

Martina Pissani

Spirit of One Malaysia

“Negaraku, I will miss you so much, tau!”

These words were in my head since the clock started to tick before coming back to Italy after an amazing 12 months experience.

Malaysia became my home, I felt part of the “Satu Malaysia”. Ke mana sahaja Tina pergi, Tina selalu dianggap sebagai sebahagian daripada ahli keluarga.

I was part of the Satu Malaysia, the local culture was incorporated into my bones and I felt proud of the country I was living in.

I am actually still very proud, after 10 years, to call Malaysia home.
Every time I balik kampung, I see how the country is growing, yet keeping the culture strong. The spirit of Satu Malaysia is still alive in the country, in the people of Malaysia and in me.

These uncertain times put us all in difficulties. “Connecting lives, Sharing cultures” is hard during the Covid19 pandemic. All I wish for Malaysia is to keep the Satu Malaysia spirit burning bright and to be a Home for so many other people like me.

Dear Negaraku,
I selalu miss you, tau!

Salam Sayang,
Martina Pissani
YPMAS 2011/12

Tina returned with her mum Daniela to attend a family wedding
With her host sister during Tina’s exchange year. Tina is now a flight attendant with Emirates and tries to book KL stopovers whenever she can.. although lately she has to spend them in her hotel room!
Tina and her large Malaysian family
WhatsApp Image 2021-08-27 at 6.03.40 PM

Daniele Speziale

Keep Merdeka Flame Burning Bright

On the occasion of your 64th “birthday”, here are my Merdeka wishes all the way from Italy.

The word Merdeka, “independence”, originates from Sanskrit “mahariddhika”, an adjective meaning “greatly prosperous”. Centuries ago, when this Malay word must have first been uttered, it is plausible that the idea of freedom and independence intrinsically implied a promise of future prosperity, self-sufficiency, and success that were to be pursued once free from bondage.

In times such as these, times of hopelessness and frustration for many of my Malaysian friends, my only Merdeka wish is that the ancient promise of prosperity in freedom be rekindled in every Malaysian mind. “Merdeka” and hopelessness cannot coexist: for the hopeless gives up on achieving social betterment, and the country’s life comes to depend on politicians, their fleeting coalitions, and profit-thirsty corporations. As such, in a formally “merdeka” country, the “kemerdekaan” becomes illusory.

Here too I would like to also thank AFS Malaysia for their vital service not only to the country’s “rakyat”, but to the global community as a whole. The “antarabudaya” programs have changed the lives of countless youths – and provided Malaysia with fresh, open, cosmopolitan minds, able to restore the belief in countrywide peace and prosperity. AFS Malaysia, in this sense, keeps the Merdeka flame of hope shining bright.

In conclusion, selamat hari merdeka to all my Malaysian friends, my adoptive family, and the ever-lovely AFS community.

Yang benar,

Daniele Speziale

Daniele and family in their Deepavali best
Acting as host to guests at his family’s open house
Because Daniele was quickly fluent in Bahasa Malaysia, he was invited to speak for AFS in a talk show at RTM
Read more about Daniele's exchange experience in Malaysia
WhatsApp Image 2021-08-27 at 10.43.56 AM

Daniel Obst

Message from AFS President/CEO

Dear friends in AFS Malaysia!

It is my honor to send you my greetings and best wishes on the occasion of your 64th Merdeka! What a special day this is to celebrate. I am sending all my best wishes to all the leaders, staff, volunteers and friends of AFS Malaysia. Thank you for the incredible work you do every day to advance intercultural understanding in your communities around the world. Without you, AFS would not be the same.

Keep up the great work and keep making an impact wherever you are!

With all best wishes

Daniel Obst
President and CEO
AFS International