Lessons I Learned During My Internship With An ADUN
Back in April 2015, I had two months to spare after SPM before college began
It was then that I decided to intern for YB Hannah Yeoh.
I’ve always seen hope for the country. It breaks my heart to listen to people grumble and lament that there is ‘no future’ for Malaysia. It’s difficult to ignore the topic of migrating to a ‘better’ country and even harder to not be bothered by the injustice we see every now and then.
I wanted to find a reason to stay, to be more hopeful.
Earlier that year, I heard YB Hannah speak at an event, urging the younger generation to rise up, as the future of the country was theirs to hold. I took a leap of faith and applied for an internship with her. I was excited to take the first step towards becoming a better Malaysian.
Let me share a few of the many lessons learned during my journey:
1. On leadership
Vulnerability is one of the most important traits of a good leader. I believe good politicians allow themselves to be vulnerable.
Vulnerability and humility go a long way. Always hear from people - someone of higher authority or lower. Value their suggestions, acknowledge that it's never a one-man-show. YB Hannah admits she's just like any ordinary person, encouraging people that if she can do it, so can they.
Most importantly, Hannah recognises that she is a child of God and she hopes to glorify Him through all that she does.
2. On priorities
Priorities? I've never really given much thought to what my priorities were as an 18-year-old. I mostly did what I wanted to without prioritising any of my commitments in any order of importance. I lumped sports, studies, church, family, friends, and community service together. I knew at that time that sacrifices were necessary although it didn't play a huge role in my life as an 18-year-old.
Nonetheless, during my internship with YB Hannah, my understanding on sacrifice was both reinforced and shown by example.
In the midst of busyness, spending quality time with people was key. She juggled spending weekdays at the Speaker's office in Shah Alam and visiting sites of residents in the Subang Jaya district, while her weekends were occupied with community activities and events. Taking up the role as Speaker and State Assemblyman cut her family time down, but she was still committed to her job.
Her deep-rooted commitment as a wife, mother, Christian reminded me to re-evaluate my priorities, to be ready to sacrifice my wants for what I needed to do.
3. On self-worth
Growing up, I never really had a healthy level of self-esteem. My self-worth was determined by my achievements and abilities. At least, that was what I thought. During my internship with YB Hannah Yeoh, my self-worth was challenged, questioned, and restored.
Challenged. This internship was my first ever experience in getting to know the world. I met a lot of people; powerful and weak alike, poor and rich, kind and nasty, educated and illiterate. I listened to stories, and testimonies and wondered: what defines people, really? Then, I thought to myself, what defines me?
Questioned. Am I really defined by my achievements? If yes, then am I worthless when I fail?
Restored. Reading the personal journey of YB Hannah in 'Becoming Hannah' and observing firsthand in the two months of internship, I saw that my self-worth should not be measured by how people perceive me, because I am not perfect and I won't try to be. I was vindicated by the reminder on how we should be in the world, and not of the world.
"...I do not measure my self-worth as a politician by votes or by how popular I am with constituents. I measure my self-worth by the fact that I am a child of God," YB Hannah said in her book.
That, is how I should measure my self-worth.
4. On politics
I've always perceived politics to be a dangerous and scary subject to be involved in. On the surface, it also looked pretty easy to be a politician in Malaysia.
I now know that there's nothing easy about being a good, honest, respectable politician. It takes an extraordinary amount of courage to put yourself out there, to strangers, to your opponents, to the people you're representing, and to handle threats targeted at you and your political career. This, I've seen with my own eyes from observing the life of State Assemblyman and first female Speaker, YB Hannah Yeoh Tseow Suan.
Interning with her helped me realise that while the reality of politics is as such, I was also reassured that as long as we are true to ourselves, to people and to God, there's nothing to be afraid of. Her response to a recent dispute was this, “I have no fear. Berani kerana benar. I sleep well at night because I have not stolen any taxpayers’ money and I am not corrupt.”
After YB Hannah and the team heard that I was interested to learn more about the process of law-making in Malaysia, they made sure I visited the Parliament and State Assembly at least once. Thanks to YB Wong Chen and his staff, Gillian for bringing me!
5. On our significance as a Malaysian citizen
"When adults talk, children don't masuk campur."
That's a famous Chinese saying, which was said to me a couple of times, growing up. This 'culture' may be instilled in our minds, thinking that our 'under-aged' opinions don't matter as young people. We may even think that only people who are of age to vote in the elections are 'important'.
I've now come to realise the importance of the voice of the younger generation and the importance of learning about the process of transforming a nation. A nation in which the young will be leaders one day. What CAN we do for this country?
Interning with YB Hannah helped me see the significance of every single citizen in determining the future of Malaysia. It helped me see the country through the lens of hope.
6. On people
The country is an assembly of people. As much as you might want to be alone, we were created to live in a community - no man is an island.
I saw YB Hannah listen, understand, and empathise with people from all backgrounds. It was uplifting to see how much change can happen when you consider the predicaments of others and willingly bear the burden of solving them.
It reminded me that faith without action is dead. We can talk all we want about riding a bike, or learning to swim but, we will never be able to unless we try.
Same goes with building a nation. A nation won’t build itself. Our own actions should speak louder than our judgment of what we think someone else could and should have done. Every Malaysian should work towards the betterment of the country through our speech and actions.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” -Ephesians 4:29.
My time with Hannah was a short but enriching 2 months
The experience and lessons learnt were definitely more than I could list above. I wish I had the superpower of using my eyes to capture and store ‘live’ pictures and videos of the amazing, heartwarming, poignant memories. It was truly life-changing and I thank God for the privilege given to share my humbling experience.
On a note of thanks, I’m grateful to have worked with the team behind the daily operations in YB’s office in Subang Jaya. They welcomed me with open arms and taught me many valuable lessons on work and life. I will treasure the memories and friendships made.
To Sharon, Amanda, and Khai Huei, thank you for your generosity in imparting both knowledge and wisdom to me. Not to forget, your kindness, patience, and grace you showed me despite the silly mistakes I made!
Here are more pictures of my journey: