Outside the comfort zone
Posted on March 17, 2013, Sunday
“THE trip does really teach me a lesson about life – that we should never expect the way it is.”
Wangsa Maju Fairview International School seventh grader, Mercy Eniola Oyedele from Nigeria, has always lived a comfortable city life.
She expects life to be always like that – no matter where she goes.
After visiting Kampung Haji Dorani in Selangor recently, she now has a different thinking.
“I thought I would get something which is going to be comfortable but then, when I entered the house, there were cobwebs and stuff, and I was like what is this? I can’t live like this.
“I thought we were going to stay in a hotel and all I got was wood. But then, I was okay with it because I had decided to go through with it and live like everybody else,” she said.
Mercy was one of the seventh graders who participated in the school’s three-day expedition to Kampung Haji Dorani, Selangor, on Jan 29.
The expedition was part of the school’s programme to enable the students to learn outside their classrooms by exploring the world around them.
The aims – to learn about life in a community and to strengthen this community spirit among the students.
Four campuses involved
Four campuses went on the trip – Fairview International School Kuala Lumpur campus, Subang Jaya campus, Penang campus and Johor Bahru campus, involving 150 students and 15 supervise teachers.
According to team leader Ravin C Suri, the expedition is part of the requirement for the school’s activities focusing more on social interactions.
“A lot of students, nowadays, are lacking soft skills and social skills. From this expedition, we take them out of the comfort zone – away from their family – put them in different situations and mix them with students from other campuses.
“Then, they would have to work together in this group to develop their communication, leadership and social skills,” he pointed out.
Although the expedition had been organised for a few years now, Ravin said the recent group was a first timer, needing lots of care and attention.
As the students were embarking on one of the ‘unforgettable’ trips of their life, they learned to mingle, expanding their connectivity and living a very simple life at a Kampung-style homestay.
Each team had its own foster family.
Sharing bathrooms, beds and meals, they learned to live together not just under the same roof but in their everyday life as well with support and concern for the community members.
A simple thing but could be one of the hardest to do.
The key point
While teamwork was necessary, the key point was learning to be a risk-taker and to foster such an endeavour, points were awarded.
Students risked points deduction if they were being irresponsible but gained points for taking risks, being cooperative and showing good moral values as well as good teamwork.
One girl, for example, helped her team earn 20 points for going to the shore walk fully prepared with boots.
Although she lost her boots in the mud, her example of “preparedness” was enough for the other teams to emulate.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about what they learned or the assessment but about themselves. When they leave, they should know themselves better,” Ravin said, hoping that the students could be stronger after the experience.
Mercy, who dreams of becoming a journalist one day, said she learned to be a risk-taker – independent, ready and not afraid, especially when she had to stand alone.
“I learned we should not give up on any situations. There were some kids who dropped out but I don’t like to be the one dropping out at the last minute,” she added.
Christopher Chin Zhi Cheng was known as the best camp student as he participated in all activities without complaints but full focus.
He said he got to acquire new knowledge and spend time with his friends.
“This is my longest time away from my parents – I really missed them. I learned to be independent and am going to join again next year,” he added.
The students were exposed to many new things, including watching the dying arts of wayang kulit and kuda kepang; having good time trying to do these dances; getting dirty in the mud catching catfish with their bare hands; eating local food on the floor with their hands and flying kites they made themselves.
They tried all these things with enthusiasm and excitement, especially when they had the chance “to get dirty” in the mud.
Like most students, Chris and Mercy felt the best part of the trip was the fish noodling (catching fish with bare hands).
Even watching from the sidelines, people could not help but laugh at shouting and screaming students playing in the mud.
One of the supervise teachers, Susan Brooke from Subang campus, felt the expedition was very important to the students.
She said it was the students’ first exposure to the real world and “what life is like for the future.”
“They must learn they cannot be number one all the time and that teamwork, cooperation, and community are of utmost importance.”
No special treatment
Unlike the expedition she participated last year, she said the one for the seventh graders proved to be rather challenging.
Brooke felt those born in 2000 upwards tended to be self-centred and often the only child in the family. And because of this, she added, they expected undivided attention from the adults.
“This is the lesson they would have to learn and they were quite shocked they had to follow what everybody else did. It was a revelation to them.”
Part of the programme was doing community service at the Fully Residential Intergrated School of Sabak Bernam, Selangor, to encourage the students to interact socially with those from other schools.
They helped clean the school, play together, and exchange ideas.
According to programme coordinator Salina Mohd Salleh from the Sabak Bernam School, the school held such a programme every year to enable its own students to interact with other students.
“It encourages interactions, thus helping the students to overcome the fear of communicating, especially with foreign students,” she explained.
While at first, the trip might be daunting to the students, on the final day, the teachers definitely saw some improvements in them.
For example, in the night walk on the final day, most of the students walked for almost one hour in absolute silence.
“Coming from 11-year-olds, that was absolutely amazing,” Brooke enthused.
Trying new things
If Brooke were to pick one favourite moment throughout the whole trip, it had to be the students doing down-to-earth things.
“These students are a computer generation. Everything is electronic. Now, they got to dig, catch fish with their hands, kick a ball around the padi field and fly kites, not very successfully but they tried.
“What I like about the kite flying was that the kites were left behind, and the next day, if the students had a bit of free time, they would pick up the kites and try again.
“You’ve never done it before, you might not be successful the first time and you come back and you try again, and you are more successful the next time – that’s why I have high hopes for the next expedition,” she said.