Yayasan AFS Antarabudaya Malaysia (AFS) recently celebrated the 60th Anniversary with an Intercultural Forum and Exhibition at Sunway University. In conjunction with the celebration, the AFS Club in Sunway was launched. The club was officiated by YAM Tunku Besar Seri Menanti, Tunku Ali Redhauddin Ibni Tuanku Muhriz, the Chairperson and Board of Trustees for Teach for Malaysia.
Puan Khalilah binti Dato’ Mohd Talha, the Chairperson of AFS Malaysia, Daniel Obst, President and CEO New York of AFS Intercultural Programs Inc., Dr Elizabeth Lee, Senior Executive Director of Sunway Education Group and Sunway University, Datin Yasmin Merican, Advisor of AFS Malaysia were in attendance.
Vice-president of AFS Club in Sunway, Quek Hon Seng, is a returnee from AFS Japan one-year programme. He is currently pursuing the Foundation in Science and Technology at Sunway College. For Quek, his stay in Japan for a year taught him to be more independent, more outspoken and have the courage and discipline to set foot out of what he deemed a comfortable and safe environment.
“I got to know AFS through a roadshow held in my high school SMK Tok Sera and through sharing sessions by the returnees from Japan, Germany and Brazil,” said 19 year-old Quek.
“I wanted to bring AFS into the Sunway community as I noticed that there were a lot of AFS returnees here, but we do not have a hub or society for everyone to gather and spend time together,” said Quek.
“Not many people outside the student exchange related community know about AFS Malaysia. Under AFS Malaysia there are many volunteering projects and activities to promote intercultural learning. This is why we having the AFS Club in Sunway,” said Lavania Somasundram, 20, the president of AFS Club in Sunway.
A returnee from the Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange Program (KL-YES) to Hawaii, Lavania explained that she was afraid when she was flying off to somewhere far without her family. She thought she couldn’t make any friends during her exchange period. For her it was a life-changing experience as she had stepped out of her comfort zone. From her experience she is now able to think critically.
“I learnt to be bolder in trying out new things,” said Lavania who is currently pursuing BSc (Hons) in Actuarial Studies.
By bringing in AFS into Sunway, the club will extend AFS Malaysia’s activities to returnees, facilitate AFS Malaysia’s event and camps at Sunway. The Club through its activities looks to help students develop intercultural skills deemed essential to thrive and succeed in the 21st century.
“AFS Malaysia will evolve into an intercultural education organisation that provides enriched intercultural learning experiences through global study abroad programmes, volunteerism and structured learning methods and reflection activities,” said Puan Khalilah at the forum.
At the forum, the topic of discussion centred around the local and global landscape of intercultural learning and AFS Malaysia’s role in providing international community, promoting diversity, inclusivity and unity.
The speakers at the forum included, Tan Sri Hamidon Ali, AFS Returnee and Former Permanent Representative to United Nations; Dr Irid Rachman Agoes from University of Indonesia Graduate School of Strategic and Global Studies; Dina Zaman, Founder of IMAN Research and Puan Norlida Azmi, Group Chief Human Capital Officer of UEM Group.
Since its inception, AFS Malaysia has sent out a total 4,000 students abroad and hosted 3,000 foreign students in Malaysia. It aims to build bigger, stronger and sustainable bridges between cultures, religious practices, aspirations and value system of Malaysia, especially for young people.