Intercultural Exchange Program: “Will it be fun?” – Sarah Daran

Intercultural Exchange Program: “Will it be fun?” – Sarah Daran

Initially when I found out about this program, I was scared, meeting new people, talking about our culture and making new friends. All this sounded scary. It has been almost 3 years since we left home, we all have gotten used to the comfortable environment of staying home or at least some of us have. I too didn’t want to leave my comfort zone, I had so many questions like “is it okay to go?” “will it be fun?” or “Am I wasting my time?”

Eventually I got over my fear and applied for the program. This was my first time, I didn’t really know what to expect. But now I definitely don’t regret it.

This was a music making for the youths suffering from COVID 19 and cultural exchange program. It was held by a Korean Organization called “Better World.” This program’s main plan was to make youth come together from different part of Asia through different activities. 

These sessions were for 3 weeks, only on Saturdays and Sundays, total of six sessions for 1 hour 30 minutes. It was something to look forward to during the weekends. We had many participants from different part of East Asia, places like Malaysia, Hong Kong, Philippines, Korea, Indonesia, India and Vietnam. In the month of July, the Korean participants got together and composed the melody for the song, and they had done a great job. The lyric was done by all Korean as well as international participants.

DAY 1: The first session, we got to meet the members or the participants. It started off with everyone introducing themselves and talking about their hobbies or majors. The Korean participant came with an icebreaker (Icebreakers are usually games or some topic to talk about. This was always done in the beginning of the sessions, so that we can get to know more about the members of the group and get along with everyone). We played “PICTIONARY.” We came up with different ideas and names such as teddy, watermelon, peach, and even BTS. We had a lot of fun. After the icebreaker we got divided into our group. They were total of 3 groups and in the end, we had 3 songs made by each of these groups. My group was less in number, it was only 4 of us. In the beginning we all were scared, thinking we might embarrass ourselves, but we got along very well. It was easy and comfortable environment.

And again, we played icebreaker in my group. We played “WOULD YOU RATHER.” Playing this game was real fun but we changed the rules, whoever’s turn it was before they had to talk about themselves and choose a person for the next round. After this we made some rules together and we voted what rules need to be followed by all the members. We all spoke about our fears and motivation. By the end of every sessions we use to take a group picture. One with all the participants and facilitators. And one with my own group members.

At the end of each session we all were supposed to write our feelings or experience during the session. Everyone had amazing things to express. The evaluation was also a way of enjoyment. We used GIFs, stickers and some just commented.

DAY 2: Back again to meet with amazing people. The second day icebreaker was, talking about online classes and what was everyone’s major. First I spoke about how the online classes and online exams are being held in India. And all were of course shock with the idea of online exams and how some of us got a free pass to the next grade. As for the other Asian countries they have to attend online as well as offline classes, but for some of them its online classes. Prisha from India came up with a game called “MEMORY” so we all can get to know each member’s names and where they are from. In the beginning everyone was able to remember the name and tell in order, as the numbers were increasing it become hard. Before it was their turn they used to write everyone’s name on a paper, we called it “THE CHEAT PAPER.” Once this was over, we got divided into our groups.

We spoke about our episode or story with COVID-19. We first posted our stories on the post board. Everyone shared their stories with us. All of us had one thing in common and  was “we miss our friends and little get togethers” or “we miss going to school” “we want to hear that pandemic is over yay!”. We had more questions like,

  • “What was the most uncomfortable about COVID-19?”
  • “What do you want to hear the most right now?”
  • “What I want to say to COVID-19?” .. And some more.

Like always we had so much to share with everyone, that we never realized the time was up. 1 hour 30 minutes felt like 20 minutes. By the end everyone wished we could stay longer.

DAY 3 and 4: The ice breakers for these days was mostly talking about our cultures and currency. It was lot of fun seeing different currencies and trying to relate its value with Indian value. During these sessions we had to make the lyrics together. Which was not as easy as I thought, but in way I enjoyed it. The week before we were given assignment to write down the lyrics according to the melody. In my group Anne (Korea) composed the music. When we first heard the melody, we all shared our opinion about the music. I felt the melody was about “HOPE” “NOT GIVING UP”. And everyone felt the same. My group decided to have a narration in the beginning as well as ending.

We kept listening to music again and again so we can get used to it and come up with suitable lines. We all had a really hard time but in the end all made amazing lyrics. Before our next session we were assigned to record our voice singing and send it.

DAY 5: Like every other session, we had icebreakers and like always it was real fun! This day we had to decide the title for our songs and came with “TOGETHER LET US HAVE HOPE”. Yinglee from Malaysia and myself from India, volunteered as presenters for our group. The next day we would talk about the meaning and how we came up with lyrics. We all got to hear our final result of the song. I think we had given our best but on hearing our voices everyone felt a little shy and unexpected to how it had turned out. Our facilitator even joked about it, saying we should keep this as our alarm or cellphone ringtone, so we are reminded that we made a song.

Since music making was done, so we all spoke about our cultures. We even spoke about K-pop, K-drama, Animation since most of us had similar interests. The hype for the K-culture in different countries. Like in India we all know how much the K-culture has influenced on teenagers like me and million others. On the 5th session we all were getting used to each other and we felt these sessions were like our regular meet ups, but sadly the sessions were coming to an end!

DAY 6: This was our last day at the program. We spent 10 hours together and it was everything for us. The last day we had two icebreakers, one was a Talent Show and Kahoot quiz. Kahoot quiz were a set of16 questions about different countries who were apart of the program. This was an amazing way to learn about the cultures. I had so much fun and it was super exciting to answer. The next was the talent show we had, Korean participant singing a song from BTS in different voices, Indian participant showcasing her drawing which spoke a lot about the Indian culture, then we had participants from Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines singing songs. We had one more Korean participant sharing her fashion design ideas and what she had made for herself. I showed my crochet items like a bag, small wallet, and a baby sweater that I was working on. Everyone was super amazed and I was really happy to show my work.

We had our final group picture, in which we all looked so happy and didn’t want this to end. The last day was when our songs got released on YouTube, we had many family members and friends attending our last session to listen to our songs and also to boost our energy. Throughout the sessions our chat box was filled with words like “WOW!” or “LOL” or “FUN”. And one thing we heard a lot was “Oh times up!”  which was really funny at times.

By the end we had a small video from the Korean participants, a word of thanks and messages to all international members. Which was really sweet and amazing, this was a surprise to us.

I have made wonderful memories with everyone. I learnt a lot about different cultures, we spoke a lot about topics related to food, fashion or even how the education was different to all of us. I even made a lot of good friends. From this program I carry a lot of wonderful memories and also learned to have confidence in myself. Now all I hope is to meet these wonderful people one day.

I got to know FSL India through a friend, they are an organization giving opportunities to youth to be a part of workshops like cultural exchange programs and many others. It also gives us the opportunity to have our own workshops. I would really like to thank FSL for giving me such an amazing experience.

By Sarah Daran.

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