Hi! My name is Nor Aqilah, JENESYS returnee 2010. I will start my story from the very first moment I know about AFS.
One afternoon, my 2nd sister was surfing the internet for information on student exchange programs because she wanted to apply for it. She found AFS, but unfortunately she can’t apply for the AFS program because she was already beyond the age requirement. So she asked me to apply instead. At first, I don’t want to apply because I know I am not qualified. But everybody in my family supported me. So I just applied.
A few week later, after I came back home from school, I found a letter from AFS in my mailbox; I was so happy that I was jumping around with my sisters. I read that letter and it asked me to go for an interview at JPN PERAK on 7th Jun 2010. I went there with my sisters. The best part was that I was the first person to enter the interview room. Luckily, I’m not a nervous and panicky type of person, so I went inside the room with confidence. In the room, I talked about myself and answered their questions. I did some syair since I’m not really good at dancing and singing. Then I went back home, relieved.
About 2 months later, I got the letter for the Selection Camp in Kuala Lumpur. And I got a place in JENESYS Program. This is where the real story begins.
Before departing to Japan, we had to attend a pre-departure orientation for 2 days and 1 night at Hotel Maluri Cheras Kuala Lumpur. We did games and some sessions to prepare ourselves in Japan. It was fun.
On 4 Dec 2010, at 11.50pm I boarded the Malaysia Airlines flight MH52. It took about 6-7 hours from Malaysia to Kansai Airport in Japan. We arrived in Japan at about 6.30 am. As we arrived there, we were welcomed by the JTB people. We then took a bus and travelled to Osaka, about an hour’s journey. When we arrived in Osaka, we had to attend an arrival orientation. In the hall at Otsu Prince Hotel, more than 400 JENESYS scholars from other countries were gathered. We took this opportunity to introduce ourselves and make friends. I met people from New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, and more. In that orientation I was in the group called Country Mix 9 or also known as CM 9. We stayed one night at Rhiga Royal Hotel.
The next day, we went to Kiyomizu-dera (temple) in Kyoto. The view at the temple was really nice with the variation colour of the leaves, red yellow and orange. It was a view that I’ve never seen in my life. The weather was cold; it’s about 9°C. I learned about Japanese beliefs when they come to this temple. For lunch, we went to Arayashima to eat udon. The udon was served in a very unique way. It was really delicious. I ate all of it and nothing was left behind except for the meat, because I’m a Muslim.
After lunch, we started our journey to Hiroshima by shinkansen or in English, the Bullet Train. It is a very fast train, travelling at about 300km/h. It is the fastest train in the world and is considered to be never late. It took about an hour and the half from Kyoto to Hiroshima. When we arrived in Hiroshima, they brought us to Okanomiyaki Restaurant for dinner. It is one of my favorite food in Japan. I love it so much. We stayed at Rhiga Royal Hotel and my room number is 2705. We stayed for 2 days and 1 night.
Dec 6 2010, our first study trip in Hiroshima was the Peace Memorial Park. I learned about the Bomb-Dome, Cenotaph and Children Peace Monument. We cannot make noise while we were there. We ate udon again for lunch, but this time we ate it in a traditional Japanese style. After lunch we went to the Hiroshima Reduction Centre. Here, I experienced man-made earthquake at the size of 7 magnitudes. I also learned about how to escape from smoke when a building is on fire and rode the fire truck. After that, we went to the Hiroshima Memorial Museum. I didn’t have a chance to explore the museum because it is the time for me to do my prayer. So, I have to search place to take ‘wudu’ and pray. I decided to pray at the bus parking lot, I prayed between two buses.
Dec 7- Dec 12. This was the time when all JENESYS scholar would spend our 5 days at our host community and family. My host community was in Kumamoto. My host parents live in condominium. I shared host family with one Indonesian girl named Ferralda. I’m the only Malaysian in that Kumamoto group. I tried my best to be a good ambassador of Malaysia. My school was at Kumamoto-Kita High school, we spent 2 days there. There, I explained about Malaysia culture, food, education system and our flag. I also brought a replica of the PETRONAS Twin Tower and showed it to the Japanese student. I also explain what I know about it to them. The Japanese student was really nice and friendly. Time flew really fast, I was reluctant to go back to Tokyo and I cried a lot at the last night.
We went to Tokyo from Kumamoto Airport by flight. When I arrived at the Tokyo Airport, I was so happy to meet my fellow Malaysians, you won’t know how much I miss Bahasa Malaysia. Dec 14 was our last day in Japan. That day, all 559 students from all the different countries were gathered in a big auditorium for a closing event which is the JENESYS Festival 2010 and Pre-Departure Orientation. There were a lot of dances from about 10 countries. It was a happening event. After the event, we travelled from Tokyo to Narita and stayed at Marroad International Hotel Narita.
The next day, we went to Narita Airport. Our flight was at 10.30 am. And this is the time all of us from Malaysia felt sad and happy at the same time. Sad because we had to leave Japan, happy because we are coming back to our country, a land where we belong. The conclusion of my experiences is this, I learned to be myself and confident. I appreciate my country more and wish to bring changes. I gained a lot of wonderful experiences that helped me to be matured. I made a lot of friend from many countries, which is better than chatting with them. These are the experiences that I will never forget and wish to share it with people. Thank You AFS Malaysia and Japan for giving me these unforgettable moments.
NOR AQILAH BT SEDEK SHAH,