Halo semuanya! In Bahasa it means “Hello everybody!” and it was the most common greeting I used during my Indonesian experience.
My name is Emanuela Zavarise, I am 22 and I come from a small town in the North East of Italy. In the past summer I left for a 6-weeks volunteering program in Bandung, Indonesia, with AIESEC association.
Bandung is a quite big city in the West of Java island, one of the over 17,000 of Indonesia. It was the first time for me leaving for an Asian country, and I must confess that the cultural shock I had to face at the beginning was really impactful, and bigger than I expected! Even if as a volunteer you know that everything is going to be different to what you are used to, getting used to Indonesian’s habits proved to be not so easy: the religious influence is very strong, as well as their culinarian tradition, and generally as the way Indonesian approach to life.
The program I took part in together with other 30 international and local volunteers is called “Malala Project”, and it is complying with SDG number 4 – Quality Education. We had a concrete impact in the lives of many young unprivileged children, teaching English and other basic subjects such simple math or geography in local orphanages. We also organized fundraising campaigns and talked on the radio to spread knowledge about our project and what AIESEC was doing in Bandung.
When I decided to take part in this project I had some doubts on what to expect from Indonesia and there were still a lot of question marks on both my leadership and adapting capabilities. I just knew I wanted to go out of my comfort zone to impact the life of other people; what I did not know, instead, was how much Indonesia and the people I met here could impact me in a strong and positive way.
Living abroad and sharing my knowledge with others made me realize a lot of things about myself. Through the perspective of others, and in particular of kids, I became more conscious of the true importance of basic values in my life. When something you have in your daily life starts missing, each single moment that makes you feel good becomes particularly important. This is how the best memories are made, and it is important to appreciate every single little moment to get the best out of the experience.
As a volunteer, I went to Bandung to share my knowledge and put all my efforts to improve the education level in the city. After 6 weeks, what I received back from all the kids is what made this experience so special for me. Their way of welcoming me to the school every day, their pure smiles, their big desire to learn and their reactions when I had to leave made me understand the big impact I had on each of them. Realizing how important I have been, despite the time constraint, will be forever the most heartwarming memory of my volunteering experience.
Getting to know the other participants from all over the world is the other memorable gift I had the chance to receive from this journey. The collaboration we achieved joining together our cross-cultural differences helped us in keeping the everyday focus, as well as in creating one big multicultural family to be proud of.
Besides, my host-family helped me to get the most out of the Indonesian culture, teaching me basic Bahasa words day-by-day and making me feel at home despite the 11,000 km distance from my home country. I shared with them a lot about my culture and my personal experiences: this allowed us to learn more about each other and to enjoy our time together at its maximum.
I wish everyone could live the same volunteering experience I lived during those 6 weeks – it really changed me for the better. My primary goal before this project was to come back more enriched than when I left. I can now proudly say that I made it, and there is nothing I could be happier for.