By VIVIENNE WONG
NOW, how many 18-year-old Malaysians can tell you that they’ve met United States President Barack Obama? Well, Aiman Ahmad Marzio can.
Currently a theatre student at the Interlochen Center For The Arts in Michigan, the United States, Aiman starred in Hello From Malaysia, a short film directed by her friend Kira Bursky for the 2014 White House Student Film Festival.
And with nearly 3,000 entries, Hello From Malaysia wasThe film beat over 3,000 entries to be one of the 16 videos that were selected and screened at the White House’s first ever Student Film Festival on February 28.
As it was one of the requirements to talk about the role of technology in classrooms, the film saw an American girl (played by Maddy Boveri) befriending Aiman, who had troubles adjusting to her new life in the US, by learning how to speak Malay through the Internet.
“We didn’t expect it. We thought even if we got selected, our film will be screened and that’s it. And if someone got to go, it would be Kira, not me. But I got the chance to go and it really was a blessing,” said Aiman.
Although the entire journey from Michigan to Washington DC was one heck of a ride, due to flight delays, it was all worth it when Aiman, who has been studying in the US since August last year, walked into the East Wing of the White House.
“We got to look around the rooms in the East Wing that were opened to us. We went into this little library, and after that, Kira and I along with others who we were invited for their films, were ushered into the State Dining Room where we were supposed to meet Obama.
“We talked to Bill Nye the Science Guy, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and to the White House staff. Then he came in,” said Aiman with a huge smile on her face as she reminisced the moment.
Of course, we just had to ask – what was he like?
“I’ve always had a lot of respect for him. When he came in, there was no pretentiousness in his character at all.
He was just so open and he gave us all his attention, on us even though like two hours after meeting us, he had to deal with the Russian troops entering Ukraine.
But he gave us all his attention and he talked to us for 10 minutes,” she recalled.
Having been able to meet Obama, however, isn’t the only thing fascinating about Aiman, who is something of a child prodigy.
She spent her primary school years in Chinese schools, completed secondary school at Cempaka International Ladies’ College on a full scholarship, and received another scholarship for her current theatre studies at Interlochen.
There was nothing about my conversation with Aiman that wasn’t fascinating as she continued to wow me with her stories.
She spent her primary school years in Chinese schools, completed her secondary school at Cempaka International Ladies’ College on full scholarship, did a year of International Baccalaureate (IB) and later, she applied to Interlochen where she was accepted with scholarship.
And that’s not all.
She was recently awarded a full scholarship for Global Citizen Year 2014, a bridge year programme that sends participants to rural communities in countries around the world for seven months.
It’s only open to American citizens, but Aiman wrote to them persistently, and was finally allowed to apply.
So, Aiman’s next adventure will, hopefully, be in Senegal, where she hopes aspires to be involved in education or women empowerment initiatives.
The other options were Brazil and Ecuador, but Aiman applied for Senegal because of her “fascination with African culture”, and because it’s a French-speaking country, which would allow her to improve her French.
But before that, Aiman will have to raise at least US$2,500 (RM8,200) for the Global Citizen Year Fellows’ Fund, and attend a leadership training programme at Standford University in August, before they send her to the country they’ve chosen for her in September.
When asked if she has any advice to those who are or will be heading abroad for their studies, Aiman suggested to “staying true to our identity” because based on her experiences, “people respect that and are really intrigued by our rich cultures and values”.
“Be yourself but try to learn about other people and their perspective. I think seeing the world and meeting people is just such a blessing. You get to learn so much about others and yourself. And that, to me, is life!”