By Susma Rasaili, YAMEN Alumnus 2016-2017
Carrying too many feelings of excitement, nervousness, imaginations and doubt, I flew to Cambodia exactly 12 months ago. This was my first ever experience of leaving my country for a long period. I had just finished university, and the YAMEN (Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network) program was something that I was really looking forward to participating in.
I took a long deep breath when I finally landed on Phnom Penh International airport. Suddenly my body felt something different because the climate there was very hot and humid, but that climate didn’t take my excitement for long as I met my coordinators and fellow exchange participants. There were 8 of us who were from Canada, Costa Rica, Kenya, U.S, Zambia and of course, myself from Nepal.
First, we had a great orientation for about six weeks where we learned history of Cambodia, its language called ‘Khmer’, MCC’s partner organizations and other different interesting places. Later, we all were shifted to our host families and started working in our host placements.
My host family was in the northern part of the city and my workplace was 20 minutes away on a bike ride. I worked as an International Communication Advisor at Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC).
1. Picture with my host family
My 11 months of stay in Cambodia has given loads of memories which I will always cherish. Learning a new language was fun. There were some Khmer words which would be inappropriate in my native language, but the giggles that I used to get listening to those words are unforgettable. I remember learning to ride a bike, and to my surprise, I did that within 45 minutes. I valued the importance of my family, church and friends more when I felt their absence. And I experienced that people become more patriotic when they are away from their homeland. But at the same time, I must say that Cambodians are very warm & welcoming, always ready to help and care for expatriates. My host family was amazing; they showered tons of love on me. Regarding my work, I got to learn many professional skills which helped me in my personal development too. The staff of FEBC were very supportive. I miss all of them so much!
2. Pictures with co-workers at FEBC
“Living life in abroad is not easy”, I felt, but this is how I grew. Despite several challenges like food, climate, language, culture and belief, I learned that ‘difference is not our barrier but it is what makes us unique from each other’.
Before, I used to have so many stereotypes regarding certain groups of people and places, but living there made me feel that one person can’t and will never represent a whole group of people. It is important to respect others culture as we want our culture to be respected. Seeing another person as a human being first, rather than labeling him or her based on gender, race, religion or caste, is what has made a deep impression in me this year.
Overall, I praise God for His safety and strength through which I was able to accomplish my mission. There were also times when I was spiritually dry, but in the dryness I felt the power of God pouring in me.
Last but not the least, this year was a year of learning for me. I learned about myself, about a new country, about life and the unseen work of prayer. But learning doesn’t end here… there is a long way ahead waiting for me…
Stay tuned for information on the application processes for the 2018-2019 IVEP and YAMEN programs!