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What was it like to be a national of this country?
Being a Vietnamese citizen meant I only got accepted in three countries out of nine attempts. Most of the acceptants were asian countries located not too far from me. Nearly all the detainments or rejections came from European countries, which shows economic differences.
How did the exercise make you feel as a passport holder, then as a border control officer?
As a passport holder I felt frustrated and discouraged to travel as in this sense I wasn’t free to travel wherever I wanted. This made me realise that many people in the world are unfortunate to be born in a certain country, which gives them huge setbacks compared to some peers who may have been luckier. As a border control offices, I felt ashamed of rejecting some nationalities.
What did you take away from this exercise?
This exercise really made me think about the modern things we don’t even think about these days, which are as simple as the passport we hold. I value my passport greatly now.
Has this changed your idea of what it means to be ‘free’ at all?
Yes, my definition of free has definitely evolved after this. I used to think it was a simple word to describe the status of an individual. I now realise it is much more than that. Because being free is, as seen from this exercise, sometimes out of the control of an individual. This can be very sad as some people are naturally lucky to be born in a certain country, granting them access to some opportunities that unlucky people don’t have access to.
Do you feel gratitude in your passport?
Now I certainly do. This exercise really was an eye opener for me because it’s always nice to realise the everyday things we usually take for granted. In some way, guilt can be seen in people like me as they have really done nothing to be whichever where they are, it was purely luck.
I contributed a couple hours of my weekend to help a child orphanage centre in Hong Kong back in December 2017. During my time, I enjoyed communicating with the children via sign language since I could not speak Cantonese and they were from local schools. This can be seen as an area for growth seeing as sign language isn’t ideal in helping the children feel supported. Judging from my experiences, I think my willingness to help those in need is a strength because not everyone has the motivation to donate some of their time to help the less fortunate. I do it purely for the better of others, as I don’t like taking things for granted.
In helping the kids, part of the task included entertainment and caring. I think my general confidence was challenged at that moment because I am naturally an introvert, so trying to find activities to help them definitely developed my confidence and creativity.
Another community service action I undertook was an admin coordinator in MUN. This involved organising parts of the event and caring for the representatives that visited the school for three days. In this new experience, I learned to communicate better with others as this was a key component of this role.
My family and I discussed an activity we could undertake that would benefit others in our local community. After doing some research, we decided to help an orphanage centre and create activities for the children to entertain them. Although the specific activities were assigned to me by the organisation, I believe part of the planning was coming up with the idea.
The MUN activity was more advertised by the school and therefore I believe it did not come from me in the initial stages.
In the orphan activity, I think I was very motivated from the beginning to take part in the activity, probably because it came from me and so it felt natural. As this is a fairly new project, I have only gone a couple hours which were all in the same day. I enjoyed it so much though I intend on doing similar things more often in the near future because it’s fun and also makes me feel good about myself for helping those in need.
For the orphanage centre I only talked to kids which meant I had to adapt my approach as talking to children is not the same as talking with adults. This meant I had to adjust my voice, actions and speech to suit their needs, which is important as they are going through tough times that most children their age don’t even imagine exists.
During my MUN experience, I learned to meet with other team members and discuss various issues. This helped me learn communication skills and public speaking. I’m equally happy with this experience as I got to meet a lot of different people during the conference.
In the child orphanage the multilingualism challenge was to communicate between English speaking individuals and Chinese speaking children. This made me realise how important languages are throughout the world but also the cultural differences between both languages. Global engagement was also covered during this time as I was helping for a really great cause, even if it was on a very small scale.
The MUN organising activity was key to understanding the intercultural implications with an event like this. Hundreds of students all over the world join together to talk about important societal and economical issues. Each of them has different values and customs. This has raised my awareness in regards to the cultural differences of each country and current controversial topics around the world.
The ethics of my actions was actually one of my main motivations to participate in such an activity. I think the core principle of helping your community like this is greatly beneficial not only for others but also about reflecting on yourself. The ethical implications in helping orphans are plentiful, such as spending equal time with each child and also acting as their friend, or even like a parent they never had. These were all considered beforehand as doing this activity wrong can have destructive results to some children.