Yap Min Hui, Cedar Point, WAT2013

Personally, there weren’t many terrfiying moments, hesitations or worries about coping in the States. Yes, parents were concerned about discrimination issues, working hours and whether I would be able to sustain myself at a foreign country for 4 months. Here I thought I am no girly girl, I speak decent english and I love burgers – I would do well ! =D As such, I invited a friend along and we were set for the 4 exciting summer months ahead. On that account, given that we have heard plenty of positive feedbacks on work and travel USA with Speedwing itelf, we decided right away to sign up with them.

You see, knowing a trip would be fun, unforgettable, rumoured to be life-changing until you eventually subsequently experience it yourself and find it to be true, was overwhelming for me. I had a pretty good start. Took me about a week to settle down, fadmiliar with places, get used to the food and started remembering names. I was fortunate and grateful for my job more than anything. It was a small group of us in charge of employee housing in Cedar Point. Thus, we bonded quickly, all shared a fair amount of working hours and had manageable working time frame as well. The working environment was better than I expected and I was trained in handling various disciplinary and safety issues in housing. For example, I learnt how to deal with different types of people, to give effective communication when conveying housing rules, managed housing issues, and handled troubled teenagers by recording events and contacting specific personnel. I also kept track of housing maintenance problems and ensured that the employee housing areas were safe and clean at all times.

Aside from all the excitement of a new environment, friendly colleagues, new cultures, getting to know more and more people each week, one of my most precious gift from US was having to work for a great manager. She is inspiring, fair, strict but never intimidating. I spent half of my working time alongside with her, non-stop learning on how she always seems so calm when handling difficult situations. Cedar Point has a tradition of celebrating July Christmas on the 25th of July every year. I watched how she spent hours in her office making simple souvenirs for each employee in the department. I offered to help and became the only one with her in the office making those cute little snowmen! Our relationship grew and she even mentioned she would buy a doll and named it ‘Ida’, how sweet!

Moreover, in order to ensure our experiences in the States are more enriching, hence once every week on our day off, my friends and I would visit some place different or try out something new. From there we visited the nearby vacation paradise Kelley’s Island, Columbus city (capital of the Ohio State) for their annual Ohio State Fair, did some cruising around Lake Erie, went to a local American football game, tried out indoor gun shooting, went outlet shopping in Pennsylvania and of course spent some time riding the world famous roller coaster rides in our very own Cedar Point. All and all, little trips like this encouraged me to leave my comfort zone, seek for the exciting opportunities around, build relationships with friends and technically, emotionally taught me how to plan and prepare for trips and travelling in the future. All these agree with the saying ‘There is no growth in the comfort zone, and there is not comfort in the growth zone’.

Throughout my 4 months in the US, not only did I increase my knowledge on American customs, experienced the friendly approachable culture of American people, this program also had ‘brought the world to me’. I met people from all around the globe, all with individual unique different background and passion. I shared about my country with them; we taught each other how to say simple phrases in our own mother tongue and in the process, I gained so much insightful knowledge about different way of living. The perspectives on life were widening. As such, I saw my own old habits were changing and even new positive ones are emerging. Experiencing how different the mind-set of each individual can be, I managed to discover different values, be more international minded and subsequently disperse stereotypical thinking. Besides that, working and living away from home had allowed me to be more resourceful, always ready to embrace change and trained my ability in handling problems. I improved my critical thinking ability, governance, planning and financial control skills. Understanding consequences, limitations and have an eye for opportunities and benefits at various situations were also one of the main rewards I gained from this program.

Furthermore, to top those experiences, I was among the top 10% of participants individually chosen for the first CIEE Civic Leadership Summit 2013 held in Washington, D.C. I took 3 days leave from my work and flew to D.C in an all paid event held in American University. Little did I know that it was in fact an event for passionate and talented young adults who were believed to have the potential to bring positive impact on their community, country and the world at large. I was so honoured to be selected and be among the only 2 Malaysians present in the event of 58 participants from more than 20 countries. Over the three days event, I discovered what it means to be a change maker. I engaged in dynamic discussions and activities surrounding the idea of culture, reflected on my own strengths and personal experiences and were deeply empowered and inspired to create change and launching my own social venture. I was also given the amazing opportunity to participate in activities that introduced the fundamental aspects of American government, including lessons on democracy and freedom of expressions. We had a close-up view of the U.S government by having a guided tour around Washington, D.C. Discussions about the rule of Law, the underlying framework of rules and rights that make prosperous and fair societies possible were also engaged. A rare and heart-touching documentary which spotlights the strength of human spirit and the power of education to change a girl, named Girl Rising was also screened. At the end, we felt so connected that we did not want to return to our individual jobs across the states.

ths of summer job was embracing and educating. I had a deeper appreciation on team work, improved communications skills and havean enhanced senseof values and civic responsibility.Civic engagement allows relationships to be strengthened and identity to be nurtured.As I am preparing to step into the working life, this trip had helped me tremendously. Last but not least, the experience that made this program remarkable was the one month grace period of travelling. I visited Chicago, Milwaukee, Niagara Falls, New York City and San Francisco.

I stayed slightly longer at each city, fully enjoying what it has to offer. Chicago is beautiful for its perfect combination of modern globalization and contemporary life. It isn’t as busy as New York City but is always lively and happening. Besides being named Best Sports City in the US at 2010, it also housed the infamous Chicago-style stuffed pizza and the only non-tomato sauce Chicago-style hot dog. Milwaukee is famous for its rich European history, brewing traditions and its internationally renowned Milwaukee Art Museum. I definitely had some relaxing and enjoyable time scrolling around the cultural city.

3 monTravelling to Niagara Falls, New York City and San Francisco were equally unforgettable. Central Park, Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, Union Square, Lambart Street, Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Penitentiary were no longer motion pictures I see on screens anymore. I truly am so grateful for all the opportunities and invaluable experiences! I believe if you are bored, you are not curious enough!