The Covid-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges in various areas, from public health to the economy and world of work, to almost everyone around the world. To limit the spread of the virus, many countries have also imposed travel restrictions and lockdowns, reducing the possibility of physical travel.
Despite this, SUSS has built an increasing number of meaningful international engagements, with collaborations that have benefitted both students and faculty alike. Through our growing number of language and culture programmes, SUSS students have been given the opportunity to pick up conversational and business Bahasa Indonesia and Vietnamese from esteemed language studies faculty members from our regional partner universities. Complementary programmes such as the Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP) also unlocks opportunities for our regional students to engage in meaningful cross-border interactions.
Organised by SUSS’s Centre for Experiential Learning, CEP brings together undergraduate students from SUSS and other ASEAN countries virtually. Through this programme, students get to learn an ASEAN language, experience new cultures through tours, tune in to guest talks by faculty and industry experts, and engage in networking sessions with their regional counterparts.
Last August saw two runs of CEP taking place in collaboration with our regional partner universities. The first run attracted 40 students from The University of Social Sciences and Humanities (USSH) Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City, and 28 students from SUSS to CEP Vietnam. The second involved 59 Universitas Indonesia (UI) students and 55 SUSS students in CEP Indonesia.
Various topics, including self and identity, food and culture, socio-political issues and perceptions of working abroad, were addressed during the runs. Through the self and identity workshop, students explored the use of stories as a tool for effective communication, encouraging them to identify and articulate the values held close to their cultures and lifestyle.
CEP features expatriates from the respective countries to share insights on how work culture, attitudes and business interactions differ globally. In addition, they share personal insights on how they mitigate the intricacies of cultural differences in business and social contexts.
Ms Inditian Latifa, a lecturer from Area Studies Department and English Studies Programme of the Faculty of Humanities at UI shared with the participants how natural environments, local traditions, the movement of people and modern nation-states have all played a role in shaping Indonesia's food culture throughout history.
On the topic of socio-political issues, Dr Tran Nguyen Khang, from the Faculty of International Relations at USSH, spoke about the complexities of globalisation and regionalisation, using ASEAN as a successful case in how soft power is gained through integration and co-operation, with mutual interest the core of its focus.
Through CEP, undergraduates from the region are provided with a vital opportunity to sharpen their global citizenship – inter-cultural knowledge, cross-cultural communication and teamwork, which are essential in fostering a sense of global openness and agility.
Lively session during the intercultural breakout discussions between the Singaporean and Indonesian students.
According to USSH student Dinh Duc Anh Thu: “Everyone was friendly and eager to share their ideas regardless of cultural backgrounds and differences. I love the networking sessions in breakout rooms because we could share more confidently and get to know each other better.”
“I feel safe around new people because everyone were there to learn new things and were open to each other,” added UI student Ms Jessie Renata Angelique.
Ms Anthea Quek Li Yi, an SUSS student, shared: “I found the discussion sessions very useful to understand Vietnamese culture better as we could pose questions to the Vietnamese students and interact with them on a deeper level.”