The ASEAN in Today’s World (AsTW) 2018, a two-week international study program, was co-organised by the Asia-Europe Institute (AEI), University of Malaya and Kyushu University from 22 February to 7 March 2018 at AEI. Now in its tenth year, the AsTW 2018 with strong support from the ASEAN Secretariat and ASEAN University Network (AUN) sees the University of Malaya playing host to this event for the first time. Previous co-organisers of the AsTW program include Fukuoka Women’s University, Mahidol University, Thailand (2009-2011), Ateneo de Manila University, the Philippines (2012-2014) and Vietnam National University, Hanoi (2015-2017). The program has been successfully hosted since its inception in March 2009.
The two-week program focused on ASEAN and East Asian affairs with participation from 32 undergraduate students from Japan and ASEAN countries; 12 from Japan, 3 from Malaysia, 5 from the Philippines, 2 from Vietnam, 8 from Indonesia and 1 each from Thailand and Myanmar. The AsTW program was officially launched by YBhg. Datuk Ir. (Dr.) Abdul Rahim Hashim, University of Malaya’s Vice-Chancellor on 22nd February 2018.
The AsTW curriculum consisted of ASEAN Studies (AS) and Asian Languages & Cultures (ALC) courses and supplemented by co-curricular Study Trips, which provided the students with rich and unique learning opportunities.
The program started off with a special lecture from Abigail C. Lanceta, Assistant Director for Education, Youth and Sports Division from the ASEAN Secretariat. This was followed by courses on ASEAN Studies and Asian Languages & Cultures conducted by lecturers from the University of Malaya, Kyushu University and Fukuoka Women’s University.
The three ASEAN Studies courses were; i) Current Affairs of ASEAN and East Asia, ii) Food and Environmental Issues in Asia and iii) Multiculturalism in Asia.
The selected issues touched upon the current situations affecting the ASEAN+3 relations. The diversity of students in the classroom made the AsTW a valuable experience, allowing for the interaction of different perspectives and led to a vibrant and enriching discussion on issues that were relevant to ASEAN+3. The discussion enabled the students to broaden their knowledge and gain a deeper understanding of ASEAN+3 cooperation and the opportunity to approach ASEAN and East Asian topics from different viewpoints. Activities throughout the two-week program allowed participants to work together as a group, learn and exchange ideas and experiences related to the course’s theme.
The Asian Languages & Cultures component provided participants with an intensive Asian languages study experience. The three courses offered were (i) Basic Japanese Language and culture, (ii) Basic Malaysian Language and culture and (iii) English as a Communication Tool in the ASEAN Context. The courses were designed to build proficiency in the chosen language and to aid with the acquisition of basic knowledge concerning the related culture in an integrated approach. The language and culture component provided the participants with a general understanding of the culture and sociolinguistic context of each language. It also assisted students in developing fundamental listening and speaking skills as well as an understanding of daily conduct in the appropriate cultural setting.
Aside from attending courses, the participants were also taken on excursions and study trips to experience the Malaysian culture and heritage. The included trips to Batu Caves, Tean Hou Temple, the Royal Selangor Visitor’s Centre, National Textile Museum, Merdeka Square as well as an overnight stay in the historical city of Melaka.
The excursions and field trips included in the program were relevant and consistent with the courses taught during the program. The participants had the opportunity to immerse themselves in various cultural activities such as mencanting Batik (Batik printing), kompang playing and pewter making. The variety of activities allowed the students a chance to increase their awareness and enhance their appreciation of the history, culture, and social life of the host country, Malaysia.
The program concluded with a Farewell Dinner with cultural performances by the students from each country and a certificate awarding ceremony to signify their completion of the AsTW program.
Programs such as this showcase AEI’s commitment to increasing the flow of foreign students and spurring balanced mobility within the region. The AsTW program hopes to be an avenue for future young scholars in the region to engage in rich discussions, critical debates and participate in knowledge exchange beyond the classroom walls.