Interviewee: Myda Abla Nenorkplim Klutse, 17, is a graduate of Aggrey Memorial a.m.e. Zion Senior High School. She became the first AFSer from Ghana to the Philippines. Her exchange program lasted from July 2016 – May 2017, supported by a partial scholarship from AFS. Fresh memories of this treasurable experience is now available to read in this Q&A.
Interviewer: Jasmine Hong is a journalism student at the University of Hong Kong. She is currently working at AFS Ghana as a communications intern.
1. Interview with Myda
J: Do you remember your first day and last day in the Philippines?
M: Upon arrival in the Philippines, I was down because that it was my very first time to be really far from home. When we got to the hotel that night, I was warmly welcomed with smiles from everyone and they were all saying “good evening ma’am, welcome to the Philippines”. My first thought was that it was part of their job to be nice to customers. I went to bed still sad that night.
The next day, I strolled around the capital with some of the AFS staff. On the streets, everyone smile and said, “welcome to the Philippines, ma’am”. Although it was the same sentence as the previous night, I felt happy and safe that day.
On the day of departure from my chapter Tacloban, I was sad leaving my host mum and the AFS family I had there. They were really supportive and wonderful throughout my stay. It was equally tearful when the friends I made from other countries and I had to part. But we got to think about the good days we all had together and stayed hopeful of seeing one another again soon.
J: What have changed from the start to the end?
M: Less timidity and higher confidence level have been the main changes. Being there, I had to speak for myself, step up for myself and take responsibility for my actions. Also, I could pick up some words in “waray waray”- a local dialect spoken by people of Tacloban in the Visayas region.
The experience molded me. I keep an open mind and am ready to learn more. This experience doesn’t limit the interactions you have to just the people of the hosting country. I got to mingle and live with other exchange students from Europe. I got to realise that I know nothing. There’s a lot to learn from other people if only you’re ready to learn. Learning the reasons or motives behind one’s doings help to acquire more insight rather than being judgmental and knowing nothing.
J: What do you regret most?
M: I regret not inquiring more about my grade placements before going. (I was placed 2 years behind my normal grade.) I also regret not travelling around the Philippines. They have beautiful beaches and islands, caves.
J: What would be the most important suggestion that you have for incoming participants?
M: Keeping an open mind and heart to accept other people’s way of life is a great factor for enjoying your stay during the program. Be curious, adventurous and less judgmental. Filipinos are beautiful and nice people. They smile through everything. They’re very sensitive and really hospitable.
2. Interview with Myda’s Parents
We decided to let our daughter go abroad to give her an exposure of the outside world, developed or not. We also wanted her to have the opportunity to live with other people as a family, learn and interact with other cultures, learn and understand some of their norms, practices and behaviours, make some comparisons and pick up good attitudes of a different world too. At this age of hers, we equally wanted her to have the chance to feel independent and have self confidence.
Initially, we were very apprehensive and naturally worried about her because this was her very first time to be extremely far from home or family. Later, through communication with host family and herself, we became happy and relaxed knowing she was happy with her new family too.
Changes we’ve observed are that firstly, she looks more mature and smarter than she used to be. She has built a level of confidence and that’s really good for her. She equally expresses herself better and eloquently. She is no longer timid and she freely expresses herself and has become more sociable.
We are excited and very grateful for the experience and its effects and we’ll have her give back to AFS by volunteering. And we are strongly hoping when it’s the right time, her younger sister will equally take this opportunity.