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A Catch Twenty Two…

Blog post from Innocent Rwamba Nyaga who is following the MS in market research at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Innocent is the recipient of the ESOMAR Foundation / MSRA Scholarship sponsored by WIRe and Unilever.

So, after a whole year, my course work is over! Thank God! Just putting things in place in order to begin my thesis. Well, I haven’t really decided on what I shall be researching on therefore I need divine guidance on this one but hopefully I get that part done soon. Any ideas kindly share them with me on innocentimon@gmail.com if any.

A lot has been happening in my country (Kenya) and I’m pretty sure many might have caught this on international news and as perplexing as it is to outsiders, trust me it’s even more so to Kenyans (maybe worse). Just got me thinking on the many ways our public offices (the occupants of course) fail us as a people. The University of Nairobi, where I am currently studying, is a high calibre public institution. My just concluded semester saw me running around many of the finance offices just to get something so simple fixed and I got so frustrated, raised a great hue and cry but still my issue went unsolved. I had to involve two of my lecturers to have anyone listen to me at all. Eventually I had my issue resolved but not in the timely manner I would have wished.

I should probably mention that I started, at a very tender age, working in a well-known hotel (Sarova Hotels) and if there was something that was drilled into me was excellent service! So I have a serious problem accepting shoddy services. The same way attorneys make for bad witnesses, I cannot stand bad service. I should also mention that I work for a public institution (The National Museums of Kenya) well isn’t that interesting! I see the small and big ways we could improve. In short I have an inside and outside view of our public institutions.

As I write this I want to record, for my personal use, an account of the experiences I face now and compare them to those I shall go through in my future and I pray for a great shift. I don’t know about you but how effective are your public offices? Are they run successfully? If so, then we need a serious crash course!! Don’t get me wrong, I love my country dearly and the potential here (and in Africa) is insurmountable. I think till you live here one would never know the treasures that lie in our continent and this is what I want to see for myself and the future generations.

So in my capacity as a public officer, I try as much as I can to infuse a better attitude when dealing with internal and external customers and as always change the little world around me. Can interpersonal skills be taught or is one born with said skills? Opinions here might differ but I believe that a love for people (yes people) is necessary to be exceptional in dealing with customers. And this is true even when carrying out research studies.

In the same vein, great things are happening here. We are currently hosting the largest East African Travel Trade expo that is seeing travel agents from all over the world having a firsthand experience of Kenya and all it can offer. The one thing that has been standard on their (travel agents) reviews has been how awesome the Kenyan people are, we do love people here thus the topic. You’ll have to experience it to believe it, so come all and sundry.

Qualitative Research for Not-for-profit organisations – Webinar Summary (part 2)

On 17th of October, ESOMAR Foundation hosted the third webinar of the series Qualitative Research for Not-for-profit organisations. The webinar showcased real stories of recent qualitative research, and how it worked to help NFPs to achieve their objectives.

The online event was hosted by Phyllis Macfarlane (GFK & Esomar Foundation) and featured Simon Patterson, Founder and CEO at QRI Consulting and Philly Desai of UK-based international development consultancy Turnstone Research.

Philly presented a case study from Voices for Change, a UK AID programme in Nigeria which focuses on challenging discrimination against women and girls. The study aimed to identify the key influencers and opinion leaders of young people using an innovative approach for mapping social networks, offering new ways to impact on young people’s attitudes and behaviours.

Voices for Change focused on shifting the attitude on gender discrimination in Nigeria 

The Voices for Change programme focused on 16-25 year olds in four States of Nigeria – Kano and Kaduna in the north, and Enugu and Lagos in the south. We used a range of approaches to shift attitudes on gender issues, including direct work with young people; mass media approaches; and working via key influencers, such as religious and traditional leaders. It was this last area – using social networks and influencers – that my session focused on.

During the project design phase, our literature review suggested that religious and traditional leaders were influential on both young people and the parental generations. However, we wanted to check whether there were other people who might have a greater influence on young people, so we conducted a series of workshops in Enugu, south-east Nigeria, to explore this issue. We convened eight sessions of around 10 young people aged 16-25 and we asked them who was influential in their lives and opinions. Each young person drew a map of their social network, and then they introduced us to some of their key influencers. We interviewed these individuals, to find out about their attitudes and their openness to partnering with Voices for Change.

Who were the influencers?

The young people identified a wider range of influencers than our literature review had suggested. Religious leaders were important, but these might be youth pastors, local religious teachers or leaders of fellowships at college, rather than senior leaders of the church or mosque. Traditional rulers, surprisingly, were rarely mentioned. Informal influencers such as college lecturers, older brothers and sisters, the peer group, employers and workmates were also important. However, they can be difficult to identify as they are not found within traditional structures, such as the Church, NGOs or youth groups. Those in university had wide social networks, whilst those who were working had a more restricted range of influencers. This showed that one-size fits all approach would not work.

Based on our research, we made several changes to our strategy for influencing young people. We partnered with specific networks focusing on youths, such as the Girl Guides and National Youth Corps; we moved away from commercial networks such as Unions, towards informal groups such as football clubs; and we introduced selection criteria for the young people who took part in face to face work, to ensure that a proportion was well-connected in religious or student societies.

What’s the key takeaway?

No matter how good your literature review and how sound your strategy, you need to talk to your beneficiaries directly to find out what they really think, feel and do – and qualitative methods can help you do this.

About the author

Philly Desai is a senior researcher with over twenty-five years’ experience working on communications and behavioral change projects. For the first twenty years of his career, Philly worked mainly on government research in the UK. Recently he has been involved in projects in Africa (Nigeria, Malawi, and Zimbabwe), helping to design and evaluate international development programmes. The projects he developed and implemented covered health, crime, transport, security, gender equality, and private sector development.

Following the presentations, there was a live Q&A session. The whole thing was recorded, so you can watch it on demand. 

ESOMAR Foundation will be continuing the series with a new webinar on 28th of November – so watch this space for more details!


Watch the full webinar


Qualitative Research for Not-for-profit organisations – Webinar Summary (part 1)

Last week the ESOMAR Foundation hosted the third webinar of the series Qualitative Research for Not-for-profit organisations. The webinar focused on examining and showcasing how different forms of qualitative research can be used to help support non-profit organisations.

The online event was hosted by Phyllis Macfarlane (GFK & Esomar Foundation) and featured Simon Patterson, Founder and CEO at QRI Consulting and Philly Desai of UK-based international development consultancy Turnstone Research.

Simon Patterson of QRi Consulting covered a case study on Education in Nepal, to answer the question of how best to support a public secondary school – he took a holistic view of the issues and identified real insights that have enabled the public schools to thrive.

Simon’s words

Over the last 70 years, Market Research has been so influential in helping optimise commercial brand and communication strategies, discovering consumer needs and providing Marketing with key Insights. Harnessing this knowledge and experience for the good of our global society is brilliant. I was also most grateful to be asked to do the webinar with Philly Desai, who I have known and respected for many years.

As Phyllis MacFarlane mentioned in her introduction to our webinar, people often underestimate the tremendous depth of insight that Qualitative Research can contribute to NGOs and NFPs in helping them get to the heart of a problem. It can also help identify solutions as well, which makes qualitative research doubly valuable.

As I mentioned in the Q&A, Qualitative Research doesn’t have to be hugely expensive either, so you shouldn’t dismiss it because the ROI can be huge!

The beauty of Qualitative Research, in its purest form, is that it is about exploration and discovery. It requires an inquisitive yet sensitive mind that can look at the world from different points of view, trying to understand the underlying reasons that people do things, what motivates them, what problems they have and so on, and then looking for ways to get over those barriers.

The example that I talked about in the webinar was such case. We went into the research with a broad objective to try to identify why pupil numbers were declining. By taking a holistic approach we discovered many important insights that have resulted in donations being spent in the right places and making a real difference to pupil’s lives, as well as helping the school grow again.

I have been lucky enough to work on some of the most famous brands in the world and travel to many countries, but this study in Nepal about secondary schools was one of the most rewarding projects I have ever been involved in, Simon concluded.

About the author

Simon is a Strategic Qualitative Researcher with a proven track record of 30 years experience; understanding what makes consumers tick, the influence of the socio-cultural context, and translating these insights into actionable recommendations. He moderates ECGs®, Focus Groups and IDIs in the UK and North America, and conducts projects around the world. He has written papers and presented at conferences on Country & Destination Branding, The Psychology of Branding and Communication, and the psychological origins of Qualitative Research. Above all, he is a hands-on Qualitative Researcher with a love of Brands, Culture, and People, and a particular fascination with Country & Destination Branding.

Following the presentations, there was a live Q&A session. The whole thing was recorded, so you can watch it on demand. 

ESOMAR Foundation will be continuing the series in the coming months with new webinars – so watch this space for more details!


Watch the full webinar



Guatemala – A country with the most supportive people

This is the sixth blog-post from Paola Loy Villagran, the recipient of the ESOMAR Foundation scholarship in Guatemala. 

Guatemala is going through very difficult times recently, because just a few weeks ago an intense volcanic eruption in the country sent lava flowing into rural communities, killing at least 500-600 families and leaving thousands homeless. Dangerous flows of lava, ash and toxic gases took many people by surprise, practically most of them ended buried because they were not able to get out that day. The scenes on tv were so sad, worse than horror movies.

Many of them stopped on the road to watch the advance of the giant ash plumes, but soon the panic began as they realized how fast the plumes were approaching the community. Hundreds of rescue workers, including firefighters, police, and soldiers, worked to help any survivors and recover any more bodies amid the still-smoking lava.

A firefighter helping an elderly woman the day of the disaster

Firefighters said they had seen some people who were trapped, but roads were cut by pyroclastic flows and they were unable to reach them. Photos from days after the disaster zone showed images of ordinary life frozen under a coat of dust. The national disaster agency of Guatemala said weather conditions and still hot volcanic material were making it dangerous for rescuers, so the search stopped soon, however many families are still looking for their relatives.

Buried houses

Businessmen, employees of companies, celebrities, media and even the humblest people of the country have agreed to help all the people who lost all their belongings and their families. I want to talk about the recent disaster in this publication for two reasons: The first one is that every human should know about these natural events (referring to volcanic activity) and that this could happen in their countries too, we have to identify the signs and take precautions in our house and work. And the second thing is that all of us should enjoy all the moments with our families because sometimes we just complain about what happens around us but we do not realize how lucky we are, just by having health, food, and people to love.

My family and I have been working and trying to help this cause. The contribution may be small but with little, we can help much.  With my studies everything is going well, I have learned much and have known new friends.

My friends and I eating after classes


How Different Qualitative Approaches can be used to achieve Various Objectives – Webinar Summary

Esomar Foundation continued the webinar series on Qualitative Research in Non-Profit organizations with a new webinar dedicated to the use of different qualitative approaches to achieve various objectives.

The webinar focused on examining how different forms of qualitative research can be used to help support non-profit organisations.

The online event was hosted by Phyllis Macfarlane (GFK & Esomar Foundation) and featured three participating speakers: Sonia Whitehead from BBC Media Action, the media giant’s international development charity, Georgina Day of London-based NGO Streetinvest and Edward Appleton from qualitative consultancy Happy Thinking People.

In her introduction, Phyllis stressed that qualitative research is of “such growing importance to the world of Market Research” overall.

Each of the speakers then talked about different qualitative tools relevant to Non-Profits in helping them and their donors better understand the lives of the people they are looking to support.

Sonia Whitehead’s talk focused on Group Discussions, In-depth Interviews and Ethnographies.

She stressed the importance of shaping a research design according to the cultural context anticipated, for researchers to ask themselves how important it was as part of the research to understand what is actually happening, i.e. beyond perceptions.

One fascinating example was given on how qualitative techniques can be used to get people to open up on sensitive topics: a project exploring sexual health issues amongst young people in Zambia. A technique was used whereby the moderator introduced a fictitious couple, John and Esther, and a fictitious story about an unfolding sexual relationship. Talking about “other people” in this way overcomes inhibitions. One size does not fit all, however – especially culturally.

Sonia contrasted the success of this technique with a similar topic/ project from Cambodia/Myanmar where the group discussion approach didn’t work, people didn’t open up so much. Paired-depths were instead adopted, participants were more comfortable, outputs were rich in detail about individual experiences, which incidentally isn’t possible in a group discussion where consensus is more important.

As an important take-out, Sonia stressed how perceptions can be different from behaviours, and outlined a mixed method research design in Phnom Penh and floating communities aiming to better understand the impact of climate change.

This involved interviews with community elders, observations and photos of the community itself, and finally a range of tasks completed by members in the community who were asked to draw community maps and seasonal calendars.

The message: triangulation is a powerful insight tool, gathering different viewpoints on one-and-the-same subject matter.

Streetinvest’s Georgina Day talked about how her Non-Profit organisation has been using simple but effective Video Ethnographies in both educational and advocacy work, to help correct negative and potentially dangerous perceptions about street kids.

Methodologically, she interpreted ethnographies as being about observing people in their natural settings, immersing oneself into their community.

Importantly, ethnographies also empower participants – allowing them to do research in their own time, in their own space.

Georgina’s case study involved her sharing the outcome of video ethnography interviews with 21 kids living on the street, conducted by 7 street workers, who she characterised wonderfully as “great ethnographers”!

A direct and moving summary video of this work is currently being used educationally amongst a range of stakeholders to great effect – in workshops with police forces for example.

Finally, she touched on an ongoing effort to capture a fuller picture by staying in touch ethnographically over time. A structured case study is currently in progress for a 1 year period, whereby monthly reflections are submitted quarterly.

Happy Thinking People’s Edward Appleton stressed how tools from the commercial world of research have increasing relevance for Non-Profits as digital penetration continues apace globally. He talked about the use of Insight Communities and Mobile Ethnographies, outlining what they are, how they work, what they are for, when and where they make sense for non-profits.

He underlined how cost and convenience were common reasons for adopting online qual tools – when face-to-face options are simply not feasible.

Mobile ethnographies are useful to capture life “in-the-moment”, as it happens, in particular out-of-home. These are full of visual details thanks to the video and camera functions inbuilt into smartphones. They also help plug memory gaps.

Edward touched on digital caveats: the need to check for both technical and cultural fit in a particular geography for example – in India it’s very common for people to get interrupted constantly, so executing Online Communities are extremely challenging; in Indonesia participant compliance issues are common, there isn’t a tradition of doing this type of research.

Following the presentations, there was a live Q&A session. The whole thing was recorded, so you can watch it on demand. 

Esomar Foundation will be continuing the series in the coming months with new webinars – so watch this space for more details!

Watch the full webinar

Social Dynamics – A Conundrum

Blog post from Innocent Rwamba Nyaga who is following the MS in market research at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Innocent is the recipient of the ESOMAR Foundation / MSRA Scholarship sponsored by WIRe and Unilever.

I have been thinking about how fortunate I am to have been awarded this scholarship by WiRE as I am a silent feminist (my apologies, I digress). But I am overly blessed as there have been so many doors opened for me whether directly or indirectly through the ESOMAR Foundation. I mentioned before that the Green Marketing class of 2018 has constituted a 47million trees project (for the 47 counties). This is a ginormous undertaking so we have to pace ourselves thus we have partnered with other individuals who did this unit a while back, PhD students, meaning there is a wealth of information in one seating. Besides that, we have taken it upon ourselves to categorize green companies in Kenya through measures like where they source raw materials. Are the materials sourced locally or imported? And many other such like measures. We have been meeting and so far so good.

Greema Secretariat

This semester has brought with it a favorite lecturer Dr. Owino. My classmates and I went to him last semester to request him to ensure that he teaches us Research Seminar unit. He is so passionate and he has truly honed his teaching skills I figure very few miss his classes. I’m a staunch believer in giving credit where it’s due and I want to appreciate everyone that has held my hand on this journey.

My main reason for penning this article is to share a fear most have but do not know how to overcome it, or does one really? This fear is the one that comes with meeting new people. I should know as I am very categorical in my thinking and voice it too! So how does one balance between staying true to one’s thoughts/opinions (and sharing them) and managing other people’s egos? I bring this up because for anyone who has entered a new environment, be it work related, social gatherings, school/university et al has experienced this. Like I said, I happen to be a silent feminist (not the chronic one, again I digress) and being born a female in a third world country, one has to know what they are about and learn to fight for what one believes in. So having joined the University through the scholarship, I have learned that I’m definitely not the only one that has opinions and most times these opinions differ. I have had some arguments here and there while in class so I tend to think that after a big disagreement, the person I differed with might want nothing to do with me. Most times this is true but not always. Having said that, I recently rowed with a certain gentleman during a Research Seminar class and I was so sure we would never see eye to eye again but I was pleasantly surprised (we now are working together on the green marketing project). This hasn’t been the case as there are those we cannot work together outside of sharing a class. We all bring unique ideas and opinions in the fold but we still respect one another which I think for any social setting, is crucial.

Also, when I started this program I made quite a number of friends, we shared the same classes so we saw each other quite often and kept up with each other. But as most of us are done with the core units and currently finalizing with the specialization units, most of these friendships have wilted and withered. What makes it even more awkward is when we meet unexpectedly and apologize for all the unfulfilled meetups (on both parties of course). But such is life!

My take away is nothing is set in stone and not everything I engage in will stand the test of time. Or that some of these things (or people) aren’t meant to have a permanent place in my life so I should enjoy the moments (and people too) as they come and go. That is such a cliché statement but nonetheless so true!

EF webinar 26 July: What different Qualitative Approaches can be used to achieve various objectives?



ESOMAR Foundation believes that a fair, just and peaceful society is deserved by all and recognizes the immense promise that the research community offers to those striving to achieve these goals on a global level. We bring volunteers and resources together to execute projects and provide financial support to help and support charities and NGO’s to achieve their aims. In this second webinar of the series, the speakers will identify and tackle different  Qualitative Research Approaches for Not for Profit organisations which can be used to achieve various objectives.

Experts from the NFP world and market research agencies will share their experience of using ethnography to bring to life the situation (e.g.) Street Invest’s work to change donors and the public’s perception of and attitude to Street Children. Using Focus Groups and In-depth interviews to develop the actual communications and get the best out of media strategy. Making the best of online qualitative approaches and present new opportunities that technology offers the NFP sector, whilst also mentioning the limitations.


The webinar will feature

MODERATOR Phyllis Macfarlane A lifelong market researcher currently working on the GfK Verein’s University Cooperation Programme to improve the quality of education in Market Research in Africa and China.


Sonia Whitehead is the Head of Research at BBC Media Action, the international charity of the BBC that uses media to inform, connect and empower people around the world. She has worked there for 11 years and has specialized in conducting media research to develop content and evaluate its impact. This work has ranged from understanding people’s perceptions of climate change across Asia and exploring gender-related issues with people living in conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, Darfur and Somalia. Before that Sonia worked in market research both in the UK and India.


Georgina Day joined StreetInvest in 2016, after six years in advertising and CSR communications, working on household brands including Dove, Ford, Virgin Media and Amnesty International. She made the move into the charity sector to see how she could apply her experience to driving positive social change. Georgina combines analysis, strategic communications thinking and creative execution, to tell meaningful stories about StreetInvest’s impact and to build the organisation’s profile.


Edward Appleton is Director Global Marketing and Sales with Happy Thinking People. Edward has worked for over 20 years in market research on both agency and client side. Prior to his current role, Edward was Senior Insights Manager with Coca-Cola in Berlin; before that he was European Insights Manager at Avery Dennison. His career started many moons ago with Mass Observation UK, which he left to join the Insights team at Nestle UK. He blogs regularly at www.researchundreflect.blogspot.de and for Esomar.


26 July 2018, 17:00 CEST


Nicolin is excited about what the future holds!

Nicolin Mamuya, who was granted the first ESOMAR Foundation scholarship in South Africa, works in the marketing department of a large department store and is on her mission to be a strong and successful female!

Seven months into the year and so much has happened. I finally moved out of the place that I last lived in with my mother. It was such a big step however; it was what I needed to remind myself that I am actually growing. After all, with growth comes change. I have gained confidence due to how far I have come and my future goals are only becoming clearer as time goes. I only have God to thank for all the opportunities I have been blessed with.

To recap, I work in the marketing department of the Builders organisation under Massmart-Walmart. I have been shadowing many of the employees in the department to get an idea of how the different roles and activities influence one another. I’m currently working on an event called Decorex, a common Builders event that provides DIY techniques as well as effective gardening techniques. The amount of detail required in planning events is more than I imagined. I’m also working closely with the public relations coordinator by assisting with the planning of other events and creating press releases as well as social media posts. With such good managers by my side, I attend many of the executive meetings and get the chance to listen to the strategy formulations. This makes me feel very much included and I love it!

The company culture is another amazing factor with a DNA in place to remind employees about the behaviour the company seeks to maintain. Everyone is very helpful, happy and patient which also gets me excited to actually go to work. The company has enrolled the graduates into a business school to study for a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Management as part of the graduate programme. The subjects include marketing, finance, human resources, operations management as well as organisational planning, strategy development and implementation. I wrote my first exam on the ninth of July. It wasn’t very good but I’m very hopeful.

I have also started frequently watching inspirational videos seeing as there really is no formula to this life. One of the interesting videos by Jim Rohn in 1981, provided great food for thought. He mentioned that unless you change how you are, you will always remain with what you have. He continues to state that success is something you attract, not what you pursue. Self-development is therefore important. You can start by changing your attitude and then after, understand all you can do through “childish curiosity”. Childish curiosity means that you should not be skeptical but rather be as curious as a child.

All of this adds to my mission to be a strong and successful female. I’m happy with how far I’ve come and I’m excited about what the future holds.

A year down.. 1 more to go!

Blog post from Innocent Rwamba Nyaga who is following the MS in market research at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Innocent is the recipient of the ESOMAR Foundation / MSRA Scholarship sponsored by WIRe and Unilever.

This semester has been one of the hardest and most enjoyable in equal measure. I have to admit I didn’t think I would have made it without dropping the ball but I am glad I’m at the half-way junction! Second semester exams are now over with the third semester beckons!

The units this semester have been great, especially Green Marketing. I don’t think I had ever thought of sustainable marketing before I interacted with this unit. The unit was taught at such a crucial time in Kenya, where as a people we haven’t been environmentally conscious. Kenya’s forest cover is less than 10% of total land mass and there are no initiatives to rebuild it and sadly so because we have been experiencing heavy rainfalls the last couple of months. So the Green Marketing class of 2018 in the University of Nairobi, we want to be the next Wangari Maathai’s and take care of our trees as she avidly had before her passing. Please check out Kenya’s Nobel Peace Prize 2004 winner for her “contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace’’.  She founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women’s rights. Isn’t that a fitting description!! I hope I get to make any kind of positive influence, change in the little world around me.

Wangari Maathai, Kenya’s Nobel Peace Prize 2004 winner for her “contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace’’.

I have been so inspired by the Green Marketing lecturer, Prof. Mary Kinoti. She has brought forth a yearning to be better, to dream and to see it through no matter what. We still have weekly meetings even when we have finalized her classes already but the fire in us to make a difference burns so hot for us still. She nurtured us and hopefully what she taught us will not be in vain!


Prof. Mary Kinoti

I look forward to a new year, there have been lecturers’ strikes still in this beautiful country of ours so hopefully it will not affect us this coming year.

It has been pure pleasure and hard work being honored with ESOMAR-WiRE Scholarship recipient of 2017-2018. I now want to branch out and work with you personally, I hope I shall be worthy of that extended honor!

How you can support

If you are a market researcher, a national market research association, an NGO involved in research or a university interested in a scholarship in your country please contact us at info@esomarfoundation.org

Partners & Sponsors

We are always on the lookout for partners and sponsors. If you are an organisation looking to understand more on how you can support us, please find more information here or contact:  info@esomarfoundation.org


My experience of being a first time traveller and alone!

Blog-post from Esther Tot, who received the ESOMAR Foundation Scholarship to study at the English based Bachelor Degree program in International Business at the National University of Management (NUM) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

This is how my new chapter of 2018 began! On January 8th I won a SHARE Scholarship to study in Myanmar for one semester and I have been there for three months from January 8th 2018 until April 4th 2018, which is the day I left, and I wish I could have stayed longer!

That is where God created a new chapter for my life on New Year Eve. I couldn’t be more thankful to him and everyone who leads my way including my family, my teachers, all the people who are working at the ESOMAR Foundation and WIRE who helped me reach one of my wishes that is to at least travel once in my life. But now after my first experience I actually want some more. This reminds me  of my teacher Ms. Kerry Slattery who once told me that you get addicted when you have traveled once! It’s never enough because that experience is changing you in some way like being more cheerful and happy in life, you meet new people and make new friends and your life would never be the same without making new friends and experience new things.

From that persuasive phrase from my teacher I started to view life from a different perspective. Then lately I started questioning myself, what is life without moving? It’s nothing without moving because you will be stuck in the same place, same zone, and probably your comfort zone. This experience has changed my thoughts and my perspective, as well as my view from being pessimistic and become more optimistic. Honestly, this is the first time that I really broke out of my comfort zone and stepped into a real world. Travelling alone is the scariest thing I decided to do and would like to thank my mom and my family for supporting me to reach my goal. Travelling alone at just 19 years of age has built up my confidence to step out of my comfort-zone and explore my life. These 3 months have been amazing and more than what I had expected!

During these 3 months I met new people, made new friends, and I survived in my new environment even though there were some difficulties at first with the foods texture, ingredients, and smell. I ate both Myanmar food as well as Indonesian food as I was staying with Indonesian students and they were like siblings to me. They always cooked me Indonesian food and I was quite ashamed as I rarely cooked for them any Khmer food (Cambodian food) as our ingredients are rare and hard to find in there even though we are Asian, but we are not the same because we are unique in our own ways.

It was more interesting when it came to religion because in Myanmar it is allowed to embrace many religions. I have now many friends from different religions such as Baptists, Catholic, Buddhists, Muslims. It is quite interesting to get to know and understand and observe the inner behavior of each of my friends from different places and different religions and different languages. This experience has been an important part of my exploring.

During those 3 months I haven’t really stayed in contacted with my family or friends in Cambodia because the Internet connection was really bad, so I wasn’t able to call home often and haven’t really kept up with what’s going on in social media, but it was a nice experience being able to stay away from social media and really connected to people around me physically. I’ve been spending time with my Burmese, Indonesian, Korean, and American friends, discussed about our experiences and exchanged our knowledge, we ate dinner together and cooked for each other and went out and explored Myanmar together which helped make me make new friends almost every day.

On the other hand, I want to talk about the difference between Cambodia and Myanmar in the way people worship Buddhism.  In Myanmar I have seen people going to pagodas to worship their gods everyday as we all know that Myanmar has thousands of temples. In  Cambodia people don’t go to worship in Buddhist temples everyday. I have a relative who practices Buddhism so I learned a little about this fact as I see my relative go to temple to worship his gods only on what is called the “holy day” or on special occasions such as Khmer New Year, Pchum Ben, or Visak Bochea Day and many other days, but as I have mentioned above that it is not every day as in Myanmar. It is my own observation and experience so only if you experienced it yourself you would know what I am saying is true or false, but based on my own experience I can prove myself 75% right at this point. Anyway, this is not about making a declamation about religion; it is just what I have learned from being there which helped benefit my knowledge in observation and understanding and seeing something different from my own country.

People in Myanmar speak many of their own ethnic languages which I can’t understand but I could still communicate (half of the Burmese now can speak a little English including some taxi drivers and food sellers at the supermarket). It is amazing how sometimes me and my Indonesian friends walked across the local food stores and the sellers were not able to speak English, but we could still communicate and buy food by using our body language and we have even learned a little Burmese! To pay we usually opened our phone calculator for the seller to type the price (because it is a local food shop, street food so there is no price tag). When I look back at those moments I feel amazing and proud of all people who are able to communicate to each other no matter how hard it is and this is the amazing fact about our human being that I admire most.

Lastly, I would describe Myanmar as an amazing country even though it has been through a hardship of political background and damaged but it never gave up and it keeps on growing and developing. I am full of admiration of the country and the people. They are so friendly and so hospitable and food is somehow delicious. The thing that I love most is the beauty of their nature. In some places it is the best thing I have ever seen!

I would like to recommend anyone who would like to visit Myanmar, to go to Mandalay, Bagan, Shan State (Innlay Lake, where they speak a language similar to Thai), Yangon, Chin State, and if possible also Kachin State  but a little dangerous as there is a conflict still going on and a small war in that region, so better do some research about the situation first before heading to visit there, but it is such a nice place. I have friends who live there and they told me that they also have snow in December. This place is on my bucket list and I definitely want to visit there some day not just for the snow but for many other beauty of nature they have there, including the Heart Shape Lake (can research in Google), some of the other beaches site which are really, really wonderful.

For this truly amazing experience I would like to thank the ESOMAR Foundation and WIRE who sponsor me in the first place to be able to study at National University of Management and so I could apply for the SHARE Scholarship to go to Myanmar. I would also like to thank all the teachers who helped lead the way. Without all of you I wouldn’t have had such an amazing experience. Thanks everyone so much for helping me to accomplish my education and help me chase my dream and get a better life. I really appreciate everyone and everything, and thanks God for everything.

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