Hi there! My name is Bokhim Sunu. Although I’m Nepali by heritage, I was born and raised in Hong Kong. Despite spending my whole life in Hong Kong, I’ve always felt a strong desire to travel and experience different parts of the world. That’s why I joined AIESEC two years ago, where I’ve been promoting exchange programs and other opportunities for young people to broaden their horizons.
But as much as I believe in AIESEC’s mission, I also wanted to put it to the test. Was I really going to experience the personal growth, self-reflection, and leadership development that AIESEC has always valued? I was determined to find out.
Join me on my journey as I explore Sri Lanka and determine whether my exchange aboard was worth it.
1. The 12-hour train rides
Picture this: a group of six travelers, cramped in a crowded train for a 12-hour journey to a project destination. With only two chairs, we were forced to take turns sitting and even resorted to sitting on top of one another’s laps.
It was really unfortunate that people have to travel in this kind of situation. In Hong Kong, you would stand about 30 to 40 minutes during rush hour, but here it was for 12 hours! It was kind of sad as there were so many elderly people standing and it was a very common sight there.
This journey taught me to appreciate the privilege of having basic amenities like air conditioning and personal space back home. It also made me realize that we can all learn from the resilience of those who endure difficult circumstances every day.
2. Picking up plastic pellets
I was one of the 31 volunteers collecting at least 25 kg from the Ngombo beach. A few years ago, a ship spilled tons of plastic pellets into the ocean, which kept getting swept up on the beaches in Sri Lanka.
The person in charge was very inspiring. He told us about how volunteering is a selfless act and that it was something that you should encourage your friends to do too. Volunteering was not only to give back to the environment, but it was a fun way of doing so.
It was a fulfilling day too as we got to help remove a lot of plastic pellets from the beach. After helping with the beach clean up, we watched the sunset and the view was beautiful.
3. The love & hospitality of the people
This family that I met on the train was lovely. The kids were really entertaining and cute! Even though they didn’t speak English fluently, they tried their best and my EP buddy helped translate. We took some selfies and they even offered me some food. I even taught them the Korean heart pose!
Sri Lanka is a country of contrasts, where people struggle with a lack of government support and welfare. However, what struck me most during my travels was the kindness of the locals. They always welcome tourists with open arms and are quick to offer help whenever needed.
This experience made me reflect on the fast-paced lifestyles of Hong Kongers, where we often forget the importance of small and kind gestures. It’s easy to get caught up in our own lives and become indifferent towards one another. But in Sri Lanka, I realised how a simple smile or helping hand can make my day so much better.
4. The temples
At one of the temples I was visiting, I was helping my friend take a picture with the Buddha. However, the security guard stopped us and told us never to turn our backs on Lord Buddha as it is disrespectful. This is the corect way to take picture with the Buddha!
During that time, there was a festival called the Poya Festival, which occurs every full moon to celebrate the Buddhist history. We went to a lot of temples to expeience the culture and traditions.
5. And of course, my AIESEC exchange team!
During my exchange, I met wonderful people who taught me valuable life lessons. One of them was a team member who came from Germany. She had decided to continue studying and pursuing a career that she was interested in, so she took the long route and has only recently begun working. Despite her circle of friends getting married and the societal pressure, she was going at her own pace which was inspiring. She is quite the adventurous type of girl, despite her appearance.
Lougein, who came from Canada, also taught me to be true to myself. She wouldn’t get swayed by others’ opinions or comments. As someone who always wanted to make everyone happy and comfortable, I learned from Lougein that it’s okay to prioritize my own happiness and well-being.
I realized that taking care of my own well-being is essential to helping others effectively. It’s easy to get caught up in the needs of others and neglect ourselves, but by prioritizing and learning more about ourselves, we can become more empathetic and effective helpers.