"Hello! I’m Kareem Jaber, and I am a student at Princeton University studying mathematics."
Outside of my studies, I enjoy hiking, rock climbing, and playing the piano. Through my school’s International Internship Program (IIP), I have had the opportunity to participate in an internship abroad over my summer break. My passion for education, my interest and experience with engineering, and my desire to explore East Asia, a part of the world I have not had a chance to visit, led me to choose Chumbaka in Malaysia as my host internship.
Over the past two months, I have worked at Chumbaka’s Kuching location, where I’ve primarily helped with teaching classes at both primary and secondary schools. I’ve also worked with some aspects of Chumbaka’s research and development (R&D) by helping make their materials accessible offline, and have helped with projects at the office (I programmed a TV outside the office to autoplay videos throughout the day, and designed a door authentication system that allows selected visitors and students to access the office during off hours). Finally, I served as the lead mentor for Hemo-ShockED, helping three secondary students create a device to help track important hemorrhagic shock treatment information in a chaotic hospital environment. With the feedback of two Sarawak emergency physicians, we designed, built, and programmed a prototype in four weeks.
I also had the amazing opportunity to join the Chumbaka HQ team at their quarterly meeting in Penang. I got to see first-hand how an education company is organized on both the business and R&D sides, and how discussions and reflections at HQ meetings can affect changes in the approach, values, and material of Chumbaka’s curriculum. I also got a chance to visit Cytron, Chumbaka’s electronics provider, and learn about how a breakout board gets designed at a professional level, from schematic to manufacturing. Finally, in the last week of my internship, I visited Sibu and Miri’s Chumbaka offices, and comparing the different teaching styles and mentor dynamics across three different Chumbaka locations has given me a much deeper insight into how students and mentors can effectively interact.
I’ve found teaching students to be very fulfilling, especially in more rural schools that wouldn’t have the opportunity to receive engineering education otherwise. Similarly, I’ve found my R&D work especially rewarding, as I’m helping provide a service to many schools that don’t have access to the internet. I’ve also found it very entertaining to see how students react to a “teacher from the United States,” but I’ve been warmly welcomed by all the students I’ve met and made friends with (and all the Sarawakians I’ve met as well, everyone is so hospitable here). Seeing the students saddened over my departure is challenging, but means so much to me that I have been able to make an impact on them in such a short time.
Outside of my work, I’ve had the opportunity to explore many of the things Kuching has to offer! I’ve tried a lot of Sarawakian food and have loved all of it (except for maybe durian), and got to try some of Penang’s food as well (the char kuey teow there is so good). While I can’t drive because people drive on the opposite side of the road in the US, I’ve found ways to visit hiking spots outside of Kuching and experience lots of great wildlife and views at places like Bako National Park, Fairy Caves, and Mount Santubong. I’ve spent a lot of time at the Klimb Zone rock climbing gym with all of the great people I’ve met there, and have enjoyed walking around Kuching’s parks, markets, kopi tiams, and shopping areas. Finally, I had the chance to go to the Rainforest World Music Festival, and had a blast participating in workshops, helping break the Malaysian record for the largest group of percussionists at a music festival, and watching all the performances at night.
I’ve had such a great time over the past two months visiting Kuching, being part of the Chumbaka team, and experiencing Sarawak’s culture. It’s sad having to leave Gula Apong ice cream and F&N Aiskrim soda behind (you can’t find these things in the US), but I’m excited to take everything I’ve learned about mentoring and engaging students back home and use it to reach my aspirations of improving mathematics education. A massive thanks to Nigel for helping me organize this entire internship, Martha, Steffi, Ambiaty, Lip Siang, Raymond, Clement, the rest of the Chumbaka Kuching staff, all of the Chumbaka Miri, Sibu, and HQ teams, and all of the amazing students I’ve had the privilege to work with here.