Mid-Year Melaka: Reuniting

Guest article by Addie Schafer
College of William and Mary

All one hundred ETAs reunite in Melaka
At the end of June, all of the Malaysia Fulbright ETAs in our cohort gathered to reunite in Melaka, Malaysia. This is the first time we all came back together as one group since we left orientation. This was both a great and overwhelming opportunity for us since we could all catch up, collaborate, problem-solve, support one another, and continue where we left off. Not only that but now we were in a new place, exploring this new place (for most of us) while all deepening or creating new friendships. We had less than four days to accomplish all of this. Some of the ETAs living nearby or that I spent time with leading up to the mid-year set of meetings, discussed how we had mixed feelings anticipating this reunion. However, in the end, our expectations were exceeded, and based on whom I talked to, all seemed to have positive responses to mid-year.
We flew in Wednesday, June 24th in the midst of Ramadan, but that stopped no one from anything (except from enjoying ALL of the hotel food for those of us fasting). We were all very excited to greet each other with hugs and laughter. The big moment came where we all at once, over 100 people, tried to greet everyone right after getting off our flights or in from our various journeys, which was over-stimulating. I decided to quickly check in and have down time to take a quick breather before our first meeting. Once things began, the momentum kept flowing. People had positive, energetic vibes. The topics discussed in the various meetings, workshops, and presentations carried mixed subjects, sets of emotions, reactions, and items for our “Fulbright toolbox.” 

The 2015 Fulbright ETA Malaysia cohort
Now that we are half way through our year, we can bring in more context to both discuss and process this compiled incoming information. This I believe, helped us find both our differences and commonalities to help make sessions appropriate for as many of us as possible. Coming back from this week, we can hope to feel refreshed and ready to get things going for the second half of the year. The programming provided both a nice change of pace from our regular work week and was a way to remind ourselves of our support system. From a pure social perspective we could talk with people we did not get to talk with as much or even at all during our original orientation in KL, allowing us to meet more of our talented, smart, amazing cohort. This provided more motivation and inspiration, yet again reminding me of the privilege I have in being here.
It was also nice to see a different area of Malaysia, a part of the country where no one in our cohort is placed. Very few had visited this place previously and it gave us another historical context to this diverse, complex, unique country known as Malaysia. There were historical brick walls, preserved colonial ships, and relics in museums alongside upscale shopping malls, designer stores, hotels, and diverse restaurants. At the end of our meetings we managed to tour a bit of the city, celebrate five birthdays among the cohort, listen to Christmas music in a hotel cafe we rented out for an evening, witness several “hidden talents” in a cohort talent show, and make more “sweet memories,” as commonly said in Malaysia, with one another. Another adventure checked off the list for this year. 

Melaka today, back to Kelantan kampung (village) life tomorrow. Malaysia boleh!

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