Being Lost

Posted on April 27, 2012 by

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Gap: June 2010 – January 2011
Education History: Form 1-5 – SMK Desa Perdana, Form 6 – SMK Taman Desa, Degree in Mechanical Engineering – Uni. of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, Working as an Associate Engineer in an Oil & Gas company.
Interests: Badminton, Volunteering, Doing random things, Making others laugh and cry at the same time (Tears of joy!)

“To lose yourself is to find yourself”. How can one find oneself when one is lost? To some, it may seem like a random statement. But to others, it rings true. I first got ‘lost’ during my one year study programme in the U.K., but this changed my whole perspective on things. The way I view the world changed because I saw how I related to it rather than how the world related to me. Lost in a sense that I was alone, I had only me to depend on, and the decisions I had to make were from my own head. It truly was an eye-opening experience to be ‘lost’.

I decided to do my gap year right after my final paper at university (I postponed my graduation with parents’ consent). My gap year consisted of two parts; the first was going to the U.S. for a work and travel programme and second, for a 10 weeks expedition in Sabah. I recall only having about a week to say to my friends, “See you all in 4 months’ time”. I went to work at the World’s First National Park, called Yellowstone. The park was magnificent; the scenery beyond comprehension and the view stunning. I was working in a fast food restaurant as a cashier and I did that for 3 months. Well, what can a cashier learn in a foreign country with people speaking a language that you only hear in movies? A lot.

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World’s most famous geyser, The Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park.

As a cashier, I had to be quick at taking orders, making sure that they were correct and food was served hot. Most importantly, I learnt the importance of great teamwork which eventually helped me greatly in my working world. Through teamwork, you get things done quicker, you achieve your objectives faster, and when your team is happy, everyone works like a well-oiled gear. In your gap year, you will realize things you haven’t noticed before about yourself. You may re-learn things that you thought you knew, or you may even discover some things that you didn’t know you could do.

Additionally, I had a pleasant opportunity to meet a lot of new faces, not only people from America, but also people from Bulgaria, Mongolia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. With such a smorgasbord of culture and people, it was inevitable for me to appreciate even more my own background, heritage, beautiful country, as well as all kinds of people. There were people that made my stay there interesting enough, those who seem to have all the answers and some who don’t. More so than just meeting new faces, it was all a learning curve, because as I interacted with them, I learnt about myself.

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I was the one taking the photo. Countries represented here: America, Bulgaria, China, Ecuador, Romania and out of the picture, Malaysia!

By the time I got back to Malaysia, I only had 2 weeks to say hello and good bye again to all my family and friends then I was off to Sabah for my 10 weeks expedition. The expedition was a voluntary programme that sends you to remote regions of some parts of the world (In this case, Sabah) and you will contribute to the economy and well-being of the people living in those areas. Raleigh expedition will involve a community phase, and I was posted to a village and tasked to build a community hall from scratch! We were looking at a piece of land and in 6 weeks it became a full-fledged building. It was a sight to behold, to build something from your brow and sweat; you take it in as one of your life experiences to be remembered.

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Taking picture on the half completed Community Hall during my expedition.

Sabah itself also has a very diverse environment and one of its inhabitants is the smallest bear in the world called the sunbear. Sunbears are endangered due to excessive poaching. I had the chance to be up close with some of these wonderful animals and help rehabilitate them back into the wild. The Sunbear Conservation Centre will be officially opened in the coming years. Another challenge was to complete a 12-days jungle trek. The thought of it at first scared me. Of all things that I was afraid of, this was the scariest of them all. Yet it taught me something new. It taught me that I had the mental capacity to face up to the challenge. Bear in mind, we had to carry most our food into the jungle with us and sleep in make-shift hammocks too.

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After my 12 days of arduous trekking in beautiful rainforest, we were greeted by rain fall.

My point here is this, getting out of your comfort zone is a challenge, yes, but like all experiences it can only be gained when you decide to take the step out of your own circle of fluffy clouds and cuddly toys. Raleigh has a motto and it says “Get Out There”. Truly, after that experience, I can really say that I really did Get Out There!

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Some of my companions during our 10 week journey. We were rejoicing for getting back to city life. Yay!

After such an epic story to my summer of 2010, what can top it? I don’t plan to top it, I just plan to add on to it. Since I only completed 7 months of my gap year, I am planning to go for another working holiday in New Zealand, to not only expand my horizons but to see the beautiful landscapes that has captivated millions in Lord of the Rings.

All in all considering my adventures out and back, the few humble words of advice I can offer are,

1) You are young, do it. You have more to gain now than later.

2) Play hard, work hard, eat more, regret easy. Do all you can in your time out there. Remember, you are out of your zone to discover your purpose, your heart, yourself.

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3) Go with an open heart. Let all that goes through shape you, heartaches or celebrations, hate or love, saddeys or smileys. Let all come, and filter away those that you can learn from and those that you can adopt.

A gap year isn’t just a holiday; it is actually more than that. It is life’s little detour that when embarked could change the course of your life. You would go through a lot and you would be walking blindly into new experiences. You might stumble, you might fall, you might wander off but through it all you would have been lost but have found…yourself.

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