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Sunday, September 01, 2002

Learning to bridge differences

In this second part on the recent 5th Hitachi Young Leaders initiative, HARIATI AZIZAN speak's to participants and the organiser on what made it a success 

RUBBING shoulders with prominent regional figures is one of the main plus points of participating in the 5th Hitachi Young Leaders Initiative, say the four Malaysian students who attended the gathering in Singapore recently. 

As Ang Hean Leng, a fourth-year law student at Universiti Malaya, puts it: “Where else can you get the opportunity to meet leaders of the region. There is so much that we can learn from them. We were able to pick up a thing or two even at meals and while mingling with these public figures.” 

Meeting people from other cultures, he adds, was another highlight. 

“You learn to adapt – some people love to hog the attention and some just want to have fun while others are really serious, so to work well together, you’ll have to adapt to the different situations and personalities.” 

The other students also attest to learning a lot during the five-day gathering. 

For Hean Leng’s university mate, Joanne Fernandez, the word “diplomatic” took on a completely whole new meaning.  

“I realised at this forum that everybody is opinionated and wants to present his own ideas, so if you are not diplomatic in presenting your views, you’ll not be able to achieve anything.” 

The forum, says the information technology student, has helped shape her views in many ways.  

“My experience at the forum and what I have learnt here have changed my view of things somewhat. I realise now the sheer magnitude of the responsibility of a leader. 

“If I were to become one in the future, I know that any decision I make would affect everyone,” she said. 

For Saifuddin Abdul Rahim, from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, the trip has made him realise how similar people really are. 

“I came with the typical stereotypes for each country but then I realise that much depends on the individual, too.” 

The third-year international business student says he has discovered how different approaches are needed for the different countries. 

“I learnt that the context for each country is different but with teamwork, sharing and compromise, we can bridge the differences. When we have fun and trust each other, we are able to get things done.”  

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) Siti Salina Mohd Din shares that she became more aware of the need to be tolerant and understanding when the group met up with their “buddies” from the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore’s (MINDS) centre during the two days given to team-building and community service. 

For the visit to the Singapore Zoo, each student was required to prepare activities to help their buddies learn about animals. These included games, drawing and learning new words. At the end of the visit, the HYLI participants and their buddies got together to present an item for everybody’s entertainment.  

Siti Salina, who chairs the USM Student Representative Council’s Welfare Bureau, feels heartened that Hitachi has ensured that they do not forget the less advantaged in their aspirations to be actively involved in running the region. 

She observes: “I’ve come to realise that we need to take one step back before we can take one step forward, and I’ve learnt that you need to consider everybody to contribute to the region’s growth.” 

© 2002 Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd