Hi, I am Michelle Wong. I was born in a small town in Sabah. There are not many opportunities or avenues to further develop and enhance one’s skill sets, and even speaking the English language is not considered a necessity. As such, I was always known as the top student and this paved the way for me to create an impression for people to always think of me as a good, obedient, smart kid, etc. People would always compare me with their own children. This then made me think that I would not be sure if people would still like me nor would my parents be proud of me if I one day ‘failed’ to be a good kid. This formed me to be more cautious, fearful of how people judge me, and not willing to voice out my real thoughts. I approached life very carefully, so as to not fail. However, I am most grateful that I have supportive parents who allow me to spread my wings. 

When I turned 13, I decided to move out and pursue one of the top high schools in Sabah located in a bigger city. As it is a very competitive school, I was no longer the top student anymore. I, then, began to lose my identity as I did not know who I was anymore and my confidence decreased daily. As time progressed, I moved to East Malaysia for university, pursuing Psychology.  Looking at the 18 year old me that has not done anything meaningful, I decided to join a non profit organization, AIESEC, and that is where my life started to transform. 

A senior in AIESEC once told me to treat the place as a playground – where I can feel free to explore, try and make mistakes, and have fun in the process of learning. I started taking up many positions in AIESEC and allowed myself to take risks and embrace failures. Through the ups and downs, I finally know that it is okay to fail, and I am actually capable of doing a lot of things. I regained my self-worth, confidence, and the trust in myself that I can be the change maker. 

During the MCO Lockdown, I joined a pitching competition organized by a social enterprise in Sabah. There, I found that there are a lot of talented Sabahans too, it is just that we are severely lacking a platform to showcase our talents, to be seen and heard. Most of the time, for those who can afford it, will leave Sabah and find a better opportunity elsewhere. This led me to think, what about those who cannot afford it, will they even be seen and heard anywhere? 

Since then, I have been dreaming of going back to Sabah to be someone to create opportunities for the talents, to develop them, to build their confidence, and to provide them a safe space with resources so that they have the ability to dream big too. Thus, I have been sharing my dream with like-minded people, engaging with the Sabah’s community and doing things I might not feel comfortable with, so that one day, my dream becomes a reality.