As a newly established student leadership body since November 2019, Sunway Global Friends Community (SGFC) has constantly brewed up multiple events and gained popularity amongst both local and international students.
Under the wing of Sunway Cultural Exchange Unit of Student LIFE, SGFC has organized an array of events ranging from public events such as ‘Lepak Without Borders 2.0’ to biweekly meetings for their members. The main goals of this body are to bridge the gap between local and international students in Sunway, to spread cultural awareness through teaching relevant topics and to form a community that is accepting and tolerant of others regardless of race, gender and religion. Thus, at the heart of it, every event was held to provide students with an opportunity to mingle around and understand each other’s culture and customs. Through such methods, cultures can be appreciated and valued.
But what makes SGFC a student leadership body? Not only does SGFC remain as a place to bring closer the community, but the student leadership body also has a “buddy” system that assists the exchange programs held by Sunway Cultural Exchange Unit. These buddies are responsible for hosting the new international exchange students, by welcoming them and accompanying them during their time here in Malaysia, so that no student feels left behind or alienated. These buddies introduce the international students to Malaysian culture and accompany them when visiting local attractions. Hence, SGFC recruits and provides training for their members to grow and shape them to be the perfect buddy for others.
One of the most recent events held by SGFC would be a training session to become a cultural buddy. This session was held on the 15th October 2020 (Thursday) from 8.30pm to 10pm. The goal of this was to educate potential members in terms of their knowledge on the importance of culture, cultural programs and what SGFC is.
The session started off with an ice breaking session where the moderator, Miss Celine, who is also SGFC’s advisor, asked the attendees to answer her questions and write it down on a piece of paper for everyone to view.
Once the crowd had gotten to know one another better, the sharing session began. Miss Celine started off by giving a definition for culture. Culture is the lens through which we see the world, the worldview. How we view the world from different perspectives
Furthermore, Miss Celine expounded on the Iceberg Theory which signifies what we see and what we cannot see. The visible portion of an iceberg is never the whole picture. Similarly, culture is viewed like an iceberg. Most people observe what they can see, such as food, language, music etc and categorize them as culture. However, the reality is that these are merely an external manifestation of the deeper and broader components of culture. What’s hidden beneath the iceberg are the culture’s core values which explains “the why”.
After explaining the Iceberg Theory, participants were given a chance to try it out for themselves in small groups. In groups of about 4-5 people, participants were given 15 minutes to draw out their own icebergs and observe other people in the group to come up with an iceberg for them too. Subsequently, the participants discussed their thoughts among each other.
Sample topics were also given to ensure the groups would not run out of topics to discuss.
One of our writers, Pei Zoe was placed in a breakout room with 3 other girls, namely, Dana, Hazira and Yee Ling. After a round of brief introduction, the girls started presenting their own icebergs. Dana began to share about how her family would eat mee sua on birthdays as it signifies longevity for the birthday boy/girl. She went on to explain that her family continues to celebrate birthdays this way because it is part of her family tradition. Next, Hazira’s tip of the iceberg was modesty. The reason behind her modesty was being brought up in a family that is half Malay and half Pakistani. On the other hand, Yee Ling’s family would carry out the act of Fang Sheng, which is the act of releasing fish and tortoises into temple ponds. Her family would also recite Buddhist scripture daily for 30 minutes to 1 hour together. All these activities are part of Yee Ling’s life because her family are devout Buddhists. Unfortunately, the discussion was cut short as participants were called back to the main room, however, the girls had an insightful time of discussions that left them not only more informed about other cultures and religions but also with 3 new friends.
The training session proceeded with a short briefing session on the role of a buddy and important things to take note of if one is considering becoming a buddy. First off, Miss Celine helped the audience to understand why someone would need a buddy. Among the reasons include culture shock, anxiety/stress because of new environments, the need for support, adapting, and familiarisation. A buddy is to try their best to help the exchange student navigate through the process of settling down in Malaysia. In order to do so, buddies must also clarify their role to the exchange students by letting them know the role of buddies and what a buddy can do to help them to understand and make sense of what’s happening. Being a buddy is described as a fruitful and wholesome experience of being able to understand one’s culture and new cultures the exchange students will bring. It also gives buddies an opportunity to improve their language and communication skills when making friends with different backgrounds. Ultimately, the goal of a buddy is to represent Sunway and Malaysia in becoming a helping hand and a friend to the exchange students.
Written by: Wu Wen Qi & Pei Zoe
Edited by: Shay Azman