Summer Camp in Sri Lanka
“During my two and a half hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sri Lanka, I literally had to pinch myself once in a while, wondering if this is all really happening,” said Teh Xin Jing, recounting her first overseas travel experience with fellow college friends, Sam Hui Li, Ng Soon Cheong, and Andy Huan Yee Sian.
“My parents and my two older brothers couldn’t believe it either, and were initially uneasy with the idea of me being so far away from home, alone,” she chuckled, mentioning how surprised and concerned they were after being told she had to attend an eight-day educational exchange programme abroad.
Everyone in her family is still traumatised by the missing MH370 tragedy (A Malaysian 282-seater passenger plane which went missing on March 8, 2014). "It was only when I told them about my three other classmates who will be coming along, and how we will be taken care of throughout the tour, that my family finally relented,” said Xin Jing, who is currently taking Management at Crescendo International College, Malaysia.
“My mind was still rummaging thoughtlessly when we arrived at Sri Lanka International Airport.” admitted Xin Jing. The whole group, though exceedingly excited, was also tired and slightly disoriented when Mr Ashita, Horizon Campus's Operation Manager, met up with them at the airport. “Hot and humid, Sri Lanka’s average temperature of 27°C definitely feels like home,” Xin Jing quipped, “and we also had our first ‘Sri Lankan’ breakfast at, ironically, McDonalds before journeying on to our cottage [laughs].”
She got her first glimpse of Colombo along the way. The city appeared very much alive and packed with people, busy going about their daily business – akin to sights often seen along Kuala Lumpur’s renowned Petaling Street. The presence of the Buddhist faith was prevalent throughout the city. Shrines and statues can literally be found at almost every corner of the street. Yet strangely enough, it was when she saw a great deal of Malaysian cars – Vivas and Wajas – on Colombo streets that her mind began to feel more settled. Everything’s gonna to be just fine from now on, she thought, after spotting familiar cars from her home town.
“The cottage we lived in faces toward the beautiful Indian Ocean. It offers an amazing view of Sri Lanka’s illustrious stretch of glittering clean sandy beaches. Behind the house, there is a bare, unfenced, double tracked railway that runs right through its backyard. You can see trains passing by everyday, and you can also walk alongside or cut across the railway track freely with no one there to stop you or getting fined for trespassing those tracks. Everything around us seemed surreal.
“We went to HCI’s City Campus the next day and were warmly greeted by Dr Ruwan and his team. Dr Ruwan is the Dean of International Programmes,” she added. “Over there, we were given a course on the practical aspects of Banking and Finance particular to Sri Lanka’s Financial System by an experienced banker.”
“All of us felt a deep sense of honour to be given in-depth insight into of one of the country’s most significant financial centre.”
Xin Jing said that one of her favourite stopovers was the Money Museum, which traces the history and usage of Sri Lankan coins and notes dating back to 3 BC. The visit to Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) centre, organised by HCI for the visiting BSc students, was a real eye opener which added “real values to our educational tour.” CSE officers gave a presentation on how Colombo Stock Exchange regulates and controls the buying of securities, and the students were later invited to tour the busy trading floor. “All of us felt a deep sense of honour to be given in-depth insight into one of the country’s most significant financial centres,” she said, recalling how the exposure helped her see where everything connects in the bigger picture.
“Meeting up with students of Horizon really helped us to connect deeper into understanding the social fabric, religion and educational system of Sri Lanka, which we find quite interesting,” noted Xin Jing about the strong and valuable cross-cultural friendship made during the trip which lasts to this day.
“During visits to various notable historical sites and temple shrines, we find the people of Sri Lanka, in general, very warm, extremely helpful, and greatly revere their customs and rituals within the religious sphere. On one incident, when we couldn’t find our way home during a town tour on free time, one of the locals even went out of his way to guide us back to our cottage safely, despite having to miss his own train. On another occasion, a guy literally ‘halted’ a bus for us by stepping out in front of the moving vehicle, after seeing us – tourists, who were oblivious to the peculiarities of local public transportation – fail miserably in our concerted attempts to catch our needed ride. We were told later on that public buses in Sri Lanka seldom ‘stop’ for passengers but instead ‘slow down’; giving just enough time for the passengers to jump aboard or off public transport.”
She paused for a while, pulling out her smartphone to show pictures taken on temple grounds: “Sri Lankan Temples are distinctively clean and tidy, visitors walked barefooted within the compound, no clamorous chatting is heard, and there’s a general sense of tranquility pervading throughout the holy places we go.”
Despite having to breeze through hot weather, captivating drums and mesmerizing dances performed at Ape Gama Cultural Village helped the group to absorb the overall feel of Sri Lanka’s existing multi-cultural ethnic lifestyles. “And some of us just couldn’t help but bask in the ‘joy of communing’ with the dancers through their tribal dance,” Xin Jing added.
“A visit to the ‘Sacred City of Kandy’, an acknowledged UNESCO World Heritage Site, to me, was a wonderful change of setting; away from Colombo’s hot and bustling concrete jungle. The last three days saw us having breakfast at Ambepussa avanhala (a famous stopover for tourists making their way to Kandy County), and visiting the legendary Tooth Temple (which houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha), as well as touring exotic places like Nuwara Eliya hill resort. This includes having a taste of the country’s famed Ceylon Tea at the renowned 4-star Heritance Tea Factory, which still practices its uniquely Sri Lankan way of growing and making traditional high quality tea. Houses within the vicinity are very much influenced by European designs and it was like going back to the Cameron Highlands all over again for Malaysians, where you can expect to have clean air, uncongested roads, and breathtaking Highland scenery, which also houses a peaceful community with a laid-back outlook on life.
“Despite the short stay, we were truly amazed to see so much similarity with Malaysia in terms of natural settings, economic resources and the willpower of its people,” she said. “With so many good friends having been made during this tour, we now feel safe and very much at home in Sri Lanka, and we hope to come back working on feasible development opportunities in this fascinating island country in the not too distant future.”
The summer camp experience, made possible through grants given by the University of London International Programmes, created opportunities for Xin Jing to experience life abroad; catapulting her personal growth in ways she couldn’t have ever imagined before. “I’m now more positive, my communication and interpersonal skills have improved, and I’m eager to complete my UoL management degree so I can help raise my parents’ family business to the next level, perhaps branching out or diversifying the business portfolio, to Sri Lanka,” she said, pointing enthusiastically to a map of the country on her phone.
“My parents too, seeing the positive impact it had on me, were glad they didn’t stop me from the summer camp. And because of that, I was able to share with them a more balanced perspective of Sri Lanka, as well as demonstrating the bountiful business opportunities available there. I’m proud of being a UoL International Programmes student.”