A Burning Passion to Learn and to Act

Posted on April 4, 2013 by

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Full Name : Rebecca Choong Shu Wen
Gap Period : 11/2011 – 09/2012
Brief Education History :
Primary 1-6- SK Taman Kepong
Form 1-3 –  SMK Kepong Baru
Form 4-5 (equivalent) – Singapore GCE ‘O’ Levels, Xinmin Secondary
Junior College – Singapore GCE ‘A’ Levels, Victoria Junior College
Undergraduate – Economics and Business with East European Studies, University College London
Interests : Post-colonial literature, politics, economics, outdoor activities
I didn’t quite take a gap year, it was forced upon me. Having ten months of almost complete freedom, I decided to make the most out of it.
In life, there are times we stand at the crossroads, knowing that whatever path we take will shape our future indefinitely. 20th December 2011 was my turning point. I turned down an internship opportunity with Zurich Insurance in Singapore and decided to work for YB Tony Pua instead. As I struggled to adapt to the expectations of the workplace, organising fundraising dinners for thousands of people with no prior experience, I learnt teamwork and communication skills, self-discipline and important organizational skills that would help me throughout the course of my other projects. And during my internship with YB Tony Pua, I met Edmund Bon who consequently introduced me to UndiMsia! and its many activities.
Through my involvements in UndiMsia!, I was also exposed to student activism and the concept of participatory democracy, democracy beyond the vote. I joined them, helping facilitate Idola Demokrasi workshops and organising student power lectures in the Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights (MCCHR).  Inevitably then, on the 28th of April 2012, I proudly marched the streets with 300,000 others, glad to do my bit for the country I so dearly loved. When tear gas and water cannons were being launched, my friends and I found ourselves running back to instead of running away from the centre of the action, armed with salt and water to help the unprepared.
Three days later, May came by, and I was on a plane to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where I would then be faced with my next project in a place completely out of my comfort zone. With no form of communication but emails alone, I had arranged with a distant cousin to help out with her non-profit school. Together, we planned an ASEAN scholarship preparatory course. As a beneficiary of the scholarship myself, I wanted to give young Cambodians the opportunity to study abroad and eventually contribute to its nation building. Aside from the Principal who was my cousin, the school was run entirely by Cambodian teachers. Moved by their dedication and passion for the school, I decided to help beyond the preparatory program. I created and ran websites and social networking platforms for publicity purposes, introduced cloud computing methods to staff and other technological tools to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the school’s operations.
The syllabus completely drafted, students enrolled before I headed back to Malaysia in order to get some, I thought – well deserved rest. I was proved wrong mere days after I landed. Sucked into a crazy whirlwind of events, I helped edit UndiMsia’s “D-I-Y Toolkit”, organised the Malaysia Public Policy Competition 2012, helped out in events both with UndiMsia!, DAP and even once the Kuala Lumpur Bar Young Lawyers Committee with their Strategic Litigation workshop. I enjoyed the thrill of working in various projects at once, knowing that every ounce of effort invested was towards a meaningful cause.
A mentor once claimed that Malaysia could be compared to an old, dilapidated house. It is up to you to make the best of your living in it. My intent is to do just that by utilizing the skills I learned to build and create something memorable and lasting.
I don’t claim to be particularly intelligent, or particularly talented. Most of what I managed to get myself involved in was borne out of initiative. If you have the passion to learn, to take up something new, in Malaysia or wherever else you find yourself in, bountiful opportunities await and you will soon find yourself involved in something meaningful. You just have to take the first step.
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