Friday, 17 February 2017
Our first-year BSc(Ed) student, Koh Hui Li shared with us on her recent meaningful service learning trip to India, Arunachal Pradesh, with a group of eight students from NIE.
Why did you embark on this trip?
I wanted to join this Nalanda trip because I felt that I should pursue opportunities to go overseas before workload start to pile up after Year 1. After meeting my Nalanda group members, and getting to know them better, it added on to my motivation and excitement to go to this trip with this group of enthusiastic and motivated teachers-to-be.
More about the Nalanda trip
This trip is part of an Overseas Community Involvement Programme with eight of us embarking on a service learning trip to India, Arunachal Pradesh, to teach primary school students and teachers English language. We see this trip as an opportunity for cultural exchange and learning between Singapore and the Chakma community. We also shared with the teachers and the students about our resources and lifestyle in Singapore while getting to understand their lifestyle and language.
What are the activities that you engaged in during this trip? Describe one of the most memorable thing / moment in this trip.
During our time in the village, we taught the students English language through slides, songs and games. We also acted out a story that we wrote to engage the students so that they find learning English interesting. We included camp cheers in our lessons to boost the class spirit. We taught for consecutively nine mornings and held a sports carnival on the last day.
We gathered after lessons to plan for our next lesson, and we also took part in home visits and trekking for the rest of the days. The Chakma community was really very hospitable, especially with the amount of food they provided us during home visits. They also shared with us the history of the Chakma community and their stories.
Personally, I like trekking the best! I remember crossing the river with the water level reaching our knees. Rolling up our pants and supporting each other while we crossed the river is really an once-in-a-lifetime experience! While we enjoy and relax by the river, we met some local students and we introduced them to some Kpop dance movements. Seeing the smiles on the faces of the students, I felt that they really enjoyed this spontaneous dance tutorial with us.
We also did some morning trekking as a group on the last few days as we try to catch the sunrise and the setting of the moon. It is amazing to trek through the narrow paths and be guided by our sense of where our destinations will be. That morning is really unforgettable
During our last two days in Kolkata, we went on a Rest & Relax trip for both days. We visited Mother Teresa’s Home and the Victoria Memorial Hall. We strolled through pavements with street hawkers and European-style buildings and went shopping in a mall for our secret Santa mission. The streets in Kolkata are quite developed but I feel that the time spent in the village is the best!
Even though we had no wifi for consecutively ten days, and our activities may seem kind of simple and boring, but these activities are really new and interesting to me, as a girl who grew up in the city. I learned to enjoy and appreciate happiness in its simple form, from the simple and relaxing lifestyle over there.
If you had to use one word to describe the entire experience of this trip / activity, it will be ________ (Insert a word and give us a reason why).
Unbelievable. Initially, I was afraid that I would not be able to get used to the food there. I was proven wrong as the food they served was beyond my expectation and was really delicious! Their night sky is beautiful beyond words.
In addition, given my limited pedagogical knowledge, I managed to pull off the nine teaching sessions with great help from my capable and supportive team members.
Describe one of the challenges that you faced during this trip.
The life there was a huge difference from Singapore, where we walked around at night using our torchlights as there weren’t street lights, bathed in cold water and experienced a sudden cut of electricity/light/water during our showers, we slept without heater, and hand- washed our clothes. I am truly amazed by how we managed to stick through it as a group without any complaints.
Despite language barrier, it is unimaginable how we can communicate to the adorable kids over there, play around with them and teach them, even without the help of a translator. The bond which we formed with the Chakmas from more than 4000km away from Singapore is incredibly special. Even after we left India, we continued to maintain our ties through Facebook. All in all, the entire experience felt like a dream to me, a very simple and healing trip that I participated without much expectations and yet received overwhelming gains in return. It was a truly fascinating, rewarding and unbelievable trip which I am so grateful to be part of.
What is one of the most meaningful takeaways from this trip?
For me, I guess the relationships that we built among team members, the villagers and students are the most meaningful takeaway for this trip.
I have also learnt to be grateful that I am born in such a privileged city and became more appreciative towards what we have. I have also gained some teaching experience while spending time with the kids.
Through this trip, I get to interact with people outside my social circle and learn precious lessons from all of these unique and kind individuals. The relationship with my teammates is really a great takeaway that will last for years as we promised to visit this beautiful place again in a few years’ time.
Also, the relationship with the villagers and the kids taught me how strong, simple and sincere they are. Despite facing harsh living conditions and not having the luxury to possess a lot of necessities like shoes and stationeries, they still lived their life to the fullest. They worked hard and earned through agricultural work, the children start to help out with household chores and take great care of their baby siblings when they are as young as five, six years old. I saw how simple yet strong-minded they are. They wholeheartedly embraced us with dance performances, gifts, delicious food and took great care of us especially when some of us were not feeling well. They treated us with great sincerity and appreciated our efforts by thanking us profusely. All this small and simple gestures are unexpectedly heartwarming.
How have you changed as a person over this trip?
I get to know myself better through this trip, such as discovering my teaching style and getting to know my strengths and weaknesses.