Volunteer Spotlight: Mutiara Mohamad

Volunteer Spotlight: Mutiara Mohamad

Meet Mutiara Mohamad, a volunteer with the New Jersey Area Team for over five years. Learn more about her AFS story here:

How did you learn about AFS and what prompted you to get involved?

When I was in secondary school (high school) in Malaysia, there was an American AFS student in my school.  It intrigued me to apply the following year especially when I found out that students in my tiny, rural state have not been participating much in such a program and the person before me who did participate was around 10 years before that. So I am a Reverse Returnee from Perlis, Malaysia to Missouri, U.S in 1979/80.

What keeps you coming back to volunteer each year?

I have been given opportunities to utilize my strengths and interests to volunteer for AFS NJ and AFS USA.

What’s a typical volunteer “shift” like for you?

My typical responsibilities are as one of the orientation co-facilitators at different stages of the AFS orientations organized by AFS NJ and AFS USA.  I sometimes get tapped to help with interviewing candidates for special scholarships as well. I am currently also a member of the Orientation Advisory Group (OAG).

What have you learned or how have you been personally affected by your experience with AFS?

The year I became an AFSer opened up my world to think more globally. What I learned was when we get to genuinely know people at the human level, we are essentially similar and where we are not similar, that is also fine.

My professional life trajectory has been closely linked to AFS principles as well. I pursued my terminal degree in International Education Development. I now manage a department in my university that supports international students. So AFS opened the opportunity for me to personally and professionally pave my transcultural journey.

Please share the best or the funniest thing that’s happened to you while volunteering with AFS.

The best thing that has happened to me is I am always impressed, humbled, and inspired when I meet the many dedicated host families and/or volunteers.

What do you want to say to people who might be interested in volunteering with AFS?

I have never hosted because my life circumstances have not been possible for me to do that. I only intermittently volunteered when I was living in Malaysia for 10 years in between pursuing the different levels of my tertiary education in the U.S. I did not start actively volunteering in the U.S. until I was completely done with my studies and all my 5 children were already adults. Whenever the time is right, there are bound to be a variety of tasks that you can volunteer to do for AFS.

What’s one thing AFS volunteers and staff don’t know about you?

I was the last group of students in Malaysia to attend a bilingual government (public) secondary school.  All throughout my schooling years i.e. from primary (elementary) to secondary school, I studied all the Math and Science subjects in English and the rest of the subjects that I studied were in Bahasa Malaysia (our national language). When my children were young, I struggled trying to help my children in Math and Science when we were in Malaysia because I did not know the Bahasa Malaysia equivalent terminologies for the English terminologies that I knew and there was no internet yet then!