By TAY KHYE VERN
It took a mere 4 days and 3 nights, a group of the most extraordinary peers, and a team of professional news journalists and editors to fundamentally change the way I perceived the world.
I received the acceptance email into the BRATs Raub program in late February. I vividly recalled I was at my friend’s Sweet 16 birthday party when the screen of my phone lit up. I truly felt a rush of euphoria, and simply could not wait for the day of the camp. I eagerly counted down the weeks, days, hours until finally, March 18th had arrived.
Decked out in simple track pants and my customary hoodie, I stepped into the gates of Casabrina and from there on, proceeded to have the time of my life.
It was incredibly bewildering to behold so many friendly faces at once. Our first task was a unique form of ice breaking, where we had to interview one another. This way, not only do we get to know each other on a personal level, we also benefitted by having our journalistic skills tested, as we were also charged with introducing our interviewee later on.
The atmosphere of our ice breaking sessions was comfortably warm and light-hearted. It was quite impressive, as we all took to each other almost immediately. The success of any event is set by the mood of the participants at the start, and this was indeed a start that exceeded expectations. I absolutely have to dedicate this to my fellow Casabrina BRATs, as they instantly made me feel at home.
Once we were all settled and given our own BRATs shirt, cap and tag, we were brought up to see the beautiful Casabrina resort. It truly lived up to its reputation as a six-star resort, as the view of the mountains was breathtaking, and the comfortable beds were as soft as a cloud.
We were split into three teams, each team under an editor. I was under #TeamMayLee. Suffice to say, my team was undoubtedly the best among all, though the other teams did put up a decent competition.
Yes, competition, for if the BRATs are anything other than Bright Roving Annoying TeenS, we were also bred to have a competitive spirit in us; to chase our stories to the ends of the earth, to fiercely hound our sources until we get the truth, and to never give up in our passion to report the things that matter the most.
In the short span of three days, we visited the multiple self-sustaining farms (fish farm, vegetable farm etc.) of Mr Felix Tee, the passionate owner of Casabrina, the village of the quietly proud Orang Asli, who were undoubtedly some of the nicest people I’ve met; and the oft-talked about elephant sanctuary, where, other than being illuminated about the daily routines of the sanctuary, we got to touch ELEPHANTS!
I have to take a moment to really commend and be thankful to the editors Ian, Kenneth and of course, May Lee, who not only painstakingly helped us in our tasks, but also treated us as young adults, trusting us to properly deliver the stories.
We had numerous tasks to do, from interviewing to writing to photographs to video-recording to editing (and for me, to perform an embarrassing amount of outtakes to get my stand-upper right), but it was all incredibly fun.
The process was exhausting to be perfectly honest, but the end product made all the pain go away. Truly, it felt like a different world there. I was cut off from any contact with my friends (the WiFi, unfortunately, was terrible) and all my day-to-day worries were replaced with new responsibilities: the responsibility of being a journalist.
That didn’t mean it was all heavy shoulders and clouded heads though, as we were given countless opportunities to explore the world beyond our limited understanding and were also granted a myriad of benefits.
The last hurrah was the night before we were set to leave. We had a barbecue dinner under the beautiful night sky. The stars were shining as we all took part in a traditional BRATs game: Ping Pong Piang! The game was childishly simple, and yet, it was one of the most fun experiences I have ever gone through.
The dawn of our day of separation was upon us all too soon, and there were tears shed as we bid our mentors and new family goodbye. I went to the camp as someone who was excited to become a journalist, and now, after learning what it meant to be a journalist, my passion burns ever brighter.
This was my BRATs, Casabrina experience, and it was indeed a very fun experience.
To read the stories by the BRATs Raub participants, click here.
For more info on BRATs, Malaysia’s awesomest, most successful young journalist programme since 1993, click here.