Before moving to Cambodia, I spent more than a year living and working in Malaysia, arguably South East Asia’s most diverse nation. So when one of Ayana’s key university partners, the Australian Catholic University (ACU), approached us about the possibility of running their annual Immersion Experience Program in another country additional to Cambodia, I jumped at the opportunity to pitch Malaysia.
Every year, we run month-long Immersions for ACU across Cambodia for their International Development Studies students. We explore hidden corners, connect with inspirational development workers, and soak ourselves in local culture. (Learn more about our Educational Journeys) These experiences are our most transformational study tours, without a doubt.
Despite being declared a ‘middle-income country’, Malaysia’s poverty gap remains one of the greatest in the region, and the country continues to face a range of social and environmental challenges. A year in the making, I have been so excited about introducing ACU students to Malaysia’s colourful cultural landscape, its breath-taking beauty, its complex developmental challenges and those working to address them.
It was truly a life-changing experience – Georgia
Throughout the month of April 2017, 12 ACU undergraduates travelled across Peninsular Malaysia and the Borneo state of Sabah – here are our highlights!
- Meeting experts in the field – We learned everything from understanding Malaysia’s immigration challenges, to LGBT rights. We explored issues facing indigenous peoples and undocumented communities, to citizen science and wildlife conservation. We were fortunate to spend time with UN agencies, social enterprises, community organisations, and even under-the-radar centres working with the most marginalised.
- Wildlife conservation – Home to some of the world’s most spectacular biodiversity, we spent much of our time in nature. We trekked through jungles searching for wildlife snares, and spent the night on an isolated beach protecting turtles from poachers. Importantly, we engaged with leaders in the field and began to understand the sheer complexities of these issues – namely, infamous palm oil.
- Cultural immersion – We learned to speak the local language, ate exclusively local cuisine by hand, lived with host families, and prioritised supporting Malaysian home-grown initiatives to learn from. Supported by background reading, we discussed Malaysia’s multiculturalism and diversity, and its role and impact on social development.
People we have been introduced to in Malaysia has truly enhanced my experience and will have a lasting effect – Grace
For more impressions of our educational adventure, follow our images on Instagram with #acumalaysia2017!