About the Author: Ann Stock serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs.
What I will remember most from my rewarding week in Jakarta and Kuala-Lumpur are the young Indonesians and Malaysians who shared their stories of how ECA exchanges change lives.
In Jakarta, I met with four English Teaching Assistants and two English Language Fellows who are finding creative ways to make learning English fun for local youth. From playing Justin Bieber songs and asking students to compose their own Indonesian lyrics to the tune of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" to poetry readings by Langston Hughes and screenings of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, our team is thinking outside the box to heighten the English language learning experience.
For the first time, I visited a class of 40 English Access students, who learn English through afterschool classes and intensive summer learning activities. It was a real treat. The students were excited to show off their English skills, and I even led a short U.S. geography class with them! Later in the trip, I had lunch with eight Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange Study (YES) alumni who lived in California, Minnesota, Florida and Pennsylvania. They spoke candidly about their experiences in the United States and how their relationships with their friends and host families transformed their perceptions of America and Americans (and vice versa).
In Malaysia, I attended a cultural event at Sutra House, one of the most vibrant art centers in Malaysia, and toured the National Academy of Arts, Cultural and Heritage (ASWARA).
I then met with leaders of the Malaysian-American Alumni Partnership and joined a youth alumni luncheon, hosted by our U.S. Ambassador Paul Jones. At the lunch were 25 Malaysia alumni leaders from various ECA programs, including the YES program and the Study of the U.S. Institute for Student Leaders (SUSI). Faisal Hassan, a SUSI and YES alumnus and the 21 year-old President of the Malaysian-American Alumni Partnership, made a presentation on the "Click! Alumni for Access" camp. Held last November, the camp engaged 50 Malaysian alumni with 200 English Access Microscholarship students and the Fulbright English Teaching Assistants. Over four days, the camp covered social media, community outreach, mentorship, as well as professional development workshops and a visit from Ambassador Jones. The Alumni Partnership has already held a follow up session to the camp: "Click Startup," a social entrepreneurship workshop.
In the afternoon, Ambassador Jones and I launched Malaysia's fifth English Access Microscholarship Program, which will provide 190 new students with two years of after-school English language lessons. The students and alums we met during our two days in Kuala Lumpur highlighted for us the positive impacts ECA programs are having with Malaysian youth and the great importance of cultivating and supporting ECA's alumni network.