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An eye-opening experience leading a big group of students

Cabita Selvaraji has recently completed her studies in Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, with a major in Biodiversity Conservation and Management. She joined TCS in a 3-month internship, and one of the activities that she had participated in was in leading a group of secondary school students in a 2D1N “Turtle Excursion and Beach Cleanup” activity.

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Before my internship with Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia, I’ve never planned, organized and conducted any programme with a big group of students/participants. But since my internship began in end of June, I’ve had the opportunity to not only assist and conduct TCS’ weekly Turtle Discovery Trips, I’ve also had the chance to assist in the planning and execution of a 2D1N “Turtle Excursion and Beach Cleanup” with students and teachers from S.M.K. Seri Nilam, Kuala Terengganu, last week.

A day before the 2D1N programme, I had a fear of facing the big group of students and I was worried that I might forget any of the duties that were assigned to me. I kept thinking to myself, “Cabita, you can do it. Do it with full confidence and always be aware of the critical situations that you might face during the programme.”

A group photo at the entrance to the Turtle Sanctuary in Cherating.

A group photo at the entrance to the Turtle Sanctuary in Cherating.

On the first day of the programme, the students were taken on a first-in-a-lifetime trip where they learned about sea turtles, freshwater turtles and tortoises. After visiting the Turtle Sanctuary in Cherating, a few of us left for Kg. Pasir Gajah ahead of the students to set up the merchandize table, chairs and banners. I later learned that it was necessary to be prepared at the next destination in order to avoid any delays in our itinerary.

My fellow student intern, Lin Wei, with a few students from S.M.K. Seri Nilam.

My fellow student intern, Lin Wei, with a few students from S.M.K. Seri Nilam.

Students and teachers from S.M.K. Seri Nilam about to release newly emerged sea turtle hatchlings into the sea.

Students and teachers from S.M.K. Seri Nilam about to release newly emerged sea turtle hatchlings into the sea.

On the second day of the programme, we organized a beach cleanup where students cleaned up Pantai Teluk Mak Nik, the highest-density sea turtle nesting beach in Peninsular Malaysia. Prior to the start of the activity, a few of us arrived at the beach ahead of the students to make the necessary arrangements, i.e. to set up or TCS logo, prepare plastic bags for the cleanup activity, etc. Some of us joined the students on the beach, and within a short 30 minutes, they managed to collect plastic bags full of trash, which consisted mainly of plastic bottles, styrofoam food containers, ropes and shoes within a short period of time.

Many bags of trash were collected in just 30 minutes!

Many bags of trash were collected in just 30 minutes!

Although we faced small challenges such as the students being late for about 30 minutes on the first day of the programme, and the lack of manpower to manage all the students, we did our best in educating and sharing our knowledge and experiences with the students.

I thank my internship supervisor, Miss Chen Pelf Nyok, my fellow intern, Lin Wei, Madam Lai and fellow volunteer Xiang who assisted me throughout this programme. It was an eye-opening excursion for me too, because through the programme, I had the opportunity to learn new things such as advance planning and leading a big group of students. This programme also helped me to see and understand my mistakes that I should not repeat in future.

I thank the English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) who accompanied the students throughout the trip. They ensured that the students behaved themselves. Special thanks also go to Ms. Dominique Beaudry for constantly reiterated knowledge about turtles (even when we were in the bus!) to the students by asking questions and prompting them to think and analyze a situation critically.

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