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Seminarian Ziffyon Minsun of Telipok, first-year philosophy, shares his experiences at Penang College General.
It is a privilege as well as a challenge for me to share my personal testimony as a seminarian.
In 2015, three of us were sent to Penang College General: I, from the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu (Holy Family Telipok) and one each from the Dioceses of Sandakan and Keningau.
After completing two years of English Enrichment, I am now in my first-year Philosophy (2017).
How does one survive? The world has become more and more advanced, people are learning at a faster speed in a fast-changing environment. There is a need for priests to be more critical in their thinking, in their formation, and more open-minded in this multi-culture and multi-tradition environment of the seminary.
My first experience in Penang College was a steep learning curve of being independent. Leaving my comfort zone – studying and living far from home – was for me a challenging step to look after myself and having to sort out my own affairs. At this stage, I find changes in the way I think and begin to see things differently which I have previously taken for granted.
Entering the college was like entering into a new culture, and embracing this new culture has a tremendous impact on me. Living in the rather small community, but consisting of many people from different background, has helped me to develop social skills which I know I would need later in my life, for example, self-esteem in communication, self-knowledge, and solving of conflicts.
The openness to be immersed in the new culture is important as it helps to create unity in the community. It helps us to be transparent, to respect each other, and to be free to offer and embrace new ideas.
Coming from a traditional Dusun background which is typically less exposed, I find difficulty in breaking away from it, and in understanding the English Language and its slangs. By the grace of God, the openness to face the challenges has enabled me to face the fear of changes.
The daily struggle was like planting small seeds, and after a while, a tree emerged. After overcoming the fears through daily commitment, positive changes began to happen, which motivated me to keep moving forward. This, I believe, is the work of God. He has prepared for me the ways that I should walk during these formative years.
Despite the challenges of changes in a new environment, there are advantages of having peers from West Malaysia. It gives me the opportunity to understand their cultures and languages, and thereby enhances the quality of my learning by having a wider spectrum of opinion and expertise.
I believe in building a network across the different dioceses, which helps to build a stronger relationship among the dioceses, for today as for the future, to sustain the faith of the Church in the face of challenging issues.
In hindsight, living in a culture different from my own is both an exciting adventure and a challenging process. Regardless of which state one comes from, it is common for all students to go through a period of cultural adjustment. Understanding this adjustment process and getting support during the transition will help one to have a more fulfilling experience, spiritually, academically and personally.