It is quite common for Malaysian students to continue into their tertiary education after the SPM examination, which basically marks the end of their secondary school life.

Some might still be undecided as to what career path they want to pursue, so they either enroll into Form Six, take up A-Levels or go for pre-university courses to help them make the choice for their future.

However, there are also a few people (including myself) who just cannot decide where their true passion lies. I think this indecisiveness has something to do with how our education system is structured – we seem to focus more on academic excellence, and not enough on developing a student’s natural talent.

Roxanne Low Pau-Ling's host family in Germany, (from left) Cornelia, Alicia and Horst.

This is the reason why I decided to do things differently at this point of my life. Hopefully, doing something out of the ordinary will help put me in the right direction in terms of searching for my passion.

When I was still in Form Four (I am 18 now), I heard of students who went on a student exchange programme under the American Field Service ( after finishing secondary school.

I thought about it for a bit, and shortly after I decided to be a foreign exchange student, too!

Applicants were iven a list of programmes and destinations to choose from. There’s the Intensive Programme (three months), Semester Programe (six months) and the Year Programme (12 months), and you could do any of these in either the United States, Switzerland, Austria, Argentina, Italy, France, Japan, New Zealand or Germany.

As interesting as every country appeared to me, I was required to narrow my options down to only three choices of destination on the application but I settled with only one – the year-long programme to Germany.

Germany really caught my eye because of its advanced green technology that I was very much interested in. It is also a very beautiful country with an interesting history, colourful culture and unique language and I wanted to see and experience all that for myself.

Despite the language barrier that I would face in the country, it didn’t scare me because I knew that a year would be sufficient time for me to learn German. Surely there will be problems in trying to communicate in German, but I wanted to take on the challenge and I’m sure it will be fun and well worth it.

Upon submitting my application, I pictured myself enjoying the opportunity of a lifetime – discovering another corner of the world, learning about a new culture, and at the same time, searching for my true passion.

Big organisation

Malaysia became one of the partnering countries of AFS, a non-profit organisation, in the year 1958. Today, AFS Malaysia has given more than 5,000 Malaysian students the opportunity to participate in these student exchange programmes and have also welcomed exchange students from all over the world to our country.

AFS always believes that global peace and unity can be achieved through these intercultural exchange programmes as participants from different countries and culture get the opportunity to meet, learn and understand each other better.

Roxanne (in white T-shirt) hanging out with the other seven youths who will also be going to Germany.

Many AFS participants return after their programme and share their experiences. “I became more independent, mature, open-minded and aware of many things around me,” said Adila Mazlan, who went to Germany for a year in 2009, and to Japan (for the Jenesys Programme) in 2007.

This year, 34 lucky students have been chosen to be the young ambassadors of Malaysia promoting this intercultural exchange programme and at the same time building strong friendships with the people from different corners of the world.

I am very grateful and thankful to be one of the lucky eight students from Malaysia who will be going for the year-long programme to Germany. I am also grateful that my parents, brothers and teachers have been very supportive of my decision to go on this programme.

Apart fm that, I am looking forward to meeting my host family who will be hosting me for the first six months of my stay in Germany. Though we have only been contacting each other via e-mail in the past two months, they make me feel like I’m so much a part of their family already!

I will be placed in a small town name Itzehoe in the state of Schleswig Holstein, which is only an hour’s drive away from Hamburg.

Deutschland, wir kommen! (Germany, here we come!)

q Roxanne has safely arrived and settled in her host family’s home in Itzehoe, Germany. She rides a bicycle to school everyday now, which she says takes some time to get used to.


Head over to her blog (, where she will update regularly about her experiences in Germany. Roxanne, who is a BRATs, will also be sharing her stories and pictures with R.AGE each month, so do look out for them!

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