Before I get to my actual experiences in Malaysia, I think it's best I explain how I got there in the first place, and it all started when I joined this club called AIESEC in my university.

For those who don't know, AIESEC (Stands for something weird in French) is a worldwide organization run by youth in universities worldwide. It was kind of founded after World War II when a couple of guys realized that the reason for war was that people did not understand or disagreed or had the wrong impression about people from other backgrounds all because they haven't known them properly. So by giving the youth the opportunity to work together with people from different backgrounds would not only improve their own skills but would also let them understand the world actually is (or something like that, I did not pay much attention to the history slides :3 ). Anyways, how it works in the present day is like this. Being a member of AIESEC, you organize projects, either community service or even internships and in the process of organizing these projects, you are exposed to a lot of soft skills (things like leadership and teamwork) and gain a lot of experience on how to 'get things done' in real life outside of university. Once you organize these projects, you invite other students from abroad (even non AIESECers) to take part or you yourself can take part in a project organized by an AIESEC entity in another country, which is what I did.

Now I went on my exchange in July, but the actual process of getting accepted into it started all the way back around March when a spam-like email was being sent around asking students to sign up for exchange. Being an AIESEC member myself, I have heard a few stories of people who have gone on exchange before and thought it would be quite a cool thing to do. So I signed up and then completely forgot about it because the next application process didn't start for quite some time. At some time though, the current semester at university ended (and this being IIT, you have no clue whether the semester has ended or not because you have to work anyways xD) and it was around this time that the next stage began where I had to fill out the application form and pay the fee. Before that, though, I had to ask my parents, which is never an easy thing :D.

At first, I thought that they would not allow me to go on an exchange given how overprotective they are of me. But when I spoke to them, I was quite surprised at their response. I kind of knew my dad would support this; he supports me in everything. It was my mom that I worried about; she always turned down everything :3. And sure enough, the first time I talked to them about it, my dad was on board all the way with the exception of some financial issues, and surprisingly, my mom took it quite well. I had expected this big speech about how people get abused abroad that she has read in some newspaper or seen in the news, but her only response was, "How are you going to take care of yourself abroad? I can't even imagine." She actually had a point though. I am the kind of person who has very little awareness of what is happening around me. It was a common scene in our house for my parents to return home in the night to find that I had forgotten to eat lunch since I had kept 'working' in front of my computer all day xD. Anyways, it was with this kind of pending and partial consent that I submitted my application.

Next in the application process was finding a project and 'getting matched' to it, and it was in this stage that I nearly lost hope that this exchange will happen. I applied to over 10 projects within 2 weeks and heard nothing back at all. And being me, I assumed it was because I was missing some qualifications or skill. Meanwhile, several others at IIT had gotten matched to projects, and eventually, I was the only one left who wasn't matched. It was really depressing, but I kept on applying to other projects, even those that I wasn't much interested in because they seemed simple with not many qualifications required. My EP manager, the person who was in charge of my exchange, saw me going through this struggle and said let's try something different, and it was then that I realized that I have been doing this wrong the entire time. You see, there was a site for AIESEC projects (AISECers call it GIS) that lets you find projects and apply for them. All of the projects I applied to so far, I filled out the application form that was listed in the project description but could not actually apply on the site itself because for some reason my account had not been activated properly. She got it activated properly for me, and afterwards, I applied for 3 different projects, still not feeling very confident. To my surprise, I heard back from two, and this news arrived during an already hectic time :D.

Being an AIESEC member meant that I was part of a team organizing a project, and after several months of postponing due to approval issues, our project was finally underway, and the EPs (those are the foreign students) were scheduled to arrive in a few days. Our project was aimed at delivering 'soft skills' (communication, career management, and soon on) sessions to students who would not usually receive them but could really benefit from them. The only problem was we had no place to accommodate the EPs during the project because our budget had become more limited than we thought :3. After failing to find accommodation that could meet our budget, our team leader offered to let them stay in his family's old home, right next door to his current home, and that sounded like the perfect solution. However, he did mention that the house had not been used for several years now, and after seeing it in person... yeah, it's gonna need a lot of work :3.

At the same time, my university was having its annual exhibition (Cutting edge), and it was a part of our module to take part in it. To take part in it, however, you would need a 'unique' project which also had to be complicated as well and in Java (Those were the actual requirements xD). Moreover, we had to work in teams that were assigned to us rather than teams that we formed ourselves, and after some discussion, our team decided to work on a traffic control/monitoring application (FYI it was very complicated). This project involved 4 separate components: a video processing client, a server with a website, a mobile application, and a hardware component for controlling the actual lights. I was working on the video processing portion of the application, where I had to take a video of traffic and count how many vehicles there are in the picture or were moving through a specified point. Sounds simple, right? Well, anyone who has used OpenCV (The coding library used to analyze video) before would say that it's a bit tough for a beginner, but anyone who has used OpenCV with Java like I had to would say #$@$@$!#$!.

So to say that I was overworked during that time would be an understatement. On some days, I would take an hour bus ride to the old house, work all day with the guys on the house till night, and then take the bus back home, and on the other days, I would be at home pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to get the video processor to work. So coming back to the original story, I first saw the email reply for the project when I scrolled down my phone while traveling home in the night after a day of doing plumbing work on the house, and my hands were covered in PVC pipe glue :3. I didn't reply right away since I wanted to do things properly this time, so I waited till I got home to start on what would become a long email thread with a guy named Adrian (We got to know each other very well later on, but that's for another time).

Almost 10 emails later, it was time for the first interview over Skype, and understandably, I was quite nervous. So nervous, in fact, I said that I had trouble connecting my 'Webcam' on my laptop xD. That interview was entirely about me as a person, things like how I would handle certain situations and about leadership and teamwork. Afterwards, I felt like I did a good job despite not being able to get some of what he said due to his Chinese accent :3. He said he'll email me back if I was in, and those 3 days were the some of the most tense ever. Finally, an email arrived saying that I WAS IN, but before I could rejoice, though, it also said that I had another interview, this time with the co-founder of the company himself, and to make things even more stressful, this interview was on the same day as the exhibition!

So the day of the exhibition came, and kind of surprisingly, we had got all the components of our project working and were showing some really complicated-looking things on screen so that people would not think to ask questions xD. Now I was thinking of doing the interview in a quiet room in the university, but on that day, there were no quiet rooms. So when the time of the interview came and I just unplugged my laptop from the display and walked back home laptop in hand, leaving my teammates looking quite silly with no demo at the booth. (I don't usually do this :P)

For this interview, I was being interviewed by one of the co-founders of the company, Daniel, and one of the programmers at the company, Iman. Coincidentally, I was wearing a formal suit because of the exhibition, which I kept on wearing for the interview thinking 'It's an interview; might as well dress right, even if it's over Skype' :P. My interviewers were quite amused by this and said that they were the furthest people from formality, which was my first real clue that Incitement (that's the name of the company) was not a 'normal' company :D. Anyways, this interview was more technical than the last one and they asked to see some of the web pages I have created before and asked some questions about SQL and other languages. I was expecting all of this, but what I did not expect was the web server (The thing you need to show web pages)(Apache in XAMPP) being a pain and not working alongside Skype (which was something I knew about before, but never actually thought about the fact that I would have to use both at the same time during the interview). So I actually had to hang them up IN THE MIDDLE OF THE INTERVIEW, change a configuration file, and restart my computer. Awkward? Very xD. So I was all apologies once I reconnected, and after showing them the site and the code, Iman was quite surprised about the 'fact that a guy so young, knows so much'. But it was what Daniel said next that got me overjoyed, he said "I have this good feeling about you, so Prabash you can come join us!". I was just over the moon :D.

I kept on being over the moon for quite some time when it hit me, that this was real, that this was actually happening. All this time, especially during those application rejections, it was all so distant, something that never felt quite real. But it was real now; I was going to Malaysia for 2 entire months; it is the first time I would be traveling abroad and the first time I would be living alone, and I was leaving in less than a week!! So many things had to be done before then, the packing and getting the visa and the flight tickets. After the fiasco with the application process, I did not want to believe that everything will be alright and that I was going to make it when there was a chance that something could go wrong between now and me actually getting there. So I believe that until I am at the airport, with everything at the ready, this is NOT happening. So do I ever make it?

(To be continued)

Prabashwara Seneviratne

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Prabashwara Seneviratne