My involvement as a participant in the ASEAN in Today’s World 2022 online exchange program can be described as one of the best experiences that I have had this year. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the AsTW was held virtually this year, jointly held by Kyushu University in Japan and Mahidol University in Thailand. Despite the fact that it was held virtually this year, there were still a lot of interesting and invaluable things that could be learned from this two-week international exchange program.
During the program, we had to complete two courses and participate in cultural exchange classes as part of the curriculum. The two courses include Asian Language and Culture course and ASEAN Studies course. There were also some options for each course. In Asian Language and Culture course, students can choose either Japanese Language and Culture course or Thailand Language and Cultural course. The same options applied to ASEAN Studies course. We can choose either the Multiculturalism in Asia course or the Social Innovator Incubation course. Aside from these courses, there were also interesting cultural exchange classes such as Traditional Thai Dancing class, Muay Thai boxing class, and Thai cooking class which all seemed appealing to me even before I joined the program.
On the first day of the program, we enjoyed Traditional Thai Dancing class, and Thai cooking class. In Thai cooking class, we cooked Som Tam and Pad Thai together and then tasted them together. Before the program began, a surprise box containing Thai instant food such as dried Som Tam, Pad Thai, and other program-related materials was delivered to each and every participant of the program. So, students do not have to worry about finding the necessary materials that they might need during the program. I think most of my Japanese friends prefer Pad Thai to Som Tam, mentioning that Pad Thai is similar to their popular Japanese dish which is yakisoba (Japanese stir-fried noodles). Here is a photo where we tasted Pad Thai and Som Tam together.
For the courses, I joined the Japanese Language and Cultural Course and the Social Innovation Incubator Course during the program. In our Japanese class, we had Ms. Hitomi Siewwuttanagul as our professor and overall 26 students from different backgrounds.
We learned about basic Japanese language such as number, day, food, places, and so on in Japanese. In the Japanese class, I had a lot of chances to communicate with other participants in Japanese, especially in breakout-room discussions and it was encouraging that everyone is enthusiastic, keen, and motivated to learn the Japanese language.
One thing that I love most about the class is that all the participants are really supportive. There were some students who had learned Japanese before, and students who were learning Japanese for the first time in the program. For me, although I had learned basic Japanese in the past day, it was still challenging for me to speak and communicate in Japanese since I rarely had opportunities to practice my Japanese skills. However, with the tremendous help and support of Hitomi sensei and my friends, I was able to cope with daily Japanese conversations and fully enjoyed the class.
We also learned about the unique culture, well-known landmarks, regional cuisine, and basic dialect of Fukuoka prefecture in Japan. This is the photo of our Japanese Language and Culture class.
On the final day of the class, we had to do a final presentation and a pair-worked conversation in Japanese. The presentation was about each participant’s home country such as local cuisine, notable places, well-known restaurants, and famous festivals of each participant’s home country. It’s exciting to get to know and learn about diverse cultures and places from different participants.
Among all, I learned that my home country Myanmar and Thailand have quite similar cultures. For example, we both celebrate the water festival in April in which we pour water on each other with the intention of bringing good health, prosperity, longevity, and good luck for the year ahead.
Apart from that, I discovered that in Vietnam, people greatly enjoyed street food which is the same as people in Myanmar. Many local Burmese also enjoyed street food since they are cheap and delicious.
As a result, tourists can easily find many kinds of street vendors in Myanmar.
From these cultural similarities that I have learned, I realized that the ten ASEAN countries are strongly connected by one way or another – culturally, socially, or economically.
In ASEAN Studies course, I chose the Social Innovator Incubation Course as I have a keen interest in entrepreneurship. I would describe the SII course as a superior course as the course itself is beyond my expectations.
During the course, I learned about social issues and entrepreneurship skills such as design thinking, creative thinking, entrepreneurship mindset, and pitching techniques which I believe would surely assist me to accomplish my dream of becoming a social entrepreneur in the future.
In our class, we had Asst. Prof. Jong Dee To-im as our main facilitator and other special guest speakers- professors from different prestigious universities in Thailand. This is the photo of our Social Innovator Incubation class.
For me, the most exciting part of the class is getting to know more about different social-assisting projects of the professors.
It was awe-inspiring to learn the unique social projects of the professors that help the community and society in a variety of different and innovative ways.
On the final day of the class, we had to present a prototype that we had to work in a team using the pitching technique that we have learned during the class. I felt like I have improved my communication skills and team-working skills more than before since I had to work with students from different countries for our final project. It was awe-inspiring to see and learn the unique, innovative, and inspiring prototypes of each group.
Moreover, everyone is keen, respectful, and supportive when a group is presenting their ideas. This photo was taken on the day where we shared and presented our prototypes.
We also had Muay-Thai boxing class during the program. During the class, we learned about the tradition and history of Thai boxing and learned the basic Muay-Thai movements.
I found this class fun and fascinating as we got chances to move around together with the instructors and practice each movement of Muay-Thai boxing.
All in all, the ASEAN in Today’s World program has allowed me to make many new friends around the world and broadened my international network. We have learned together, worked together and had a wonderful two weeks. I believe that ASEAN in Today’s World, AsTW 2022 was a great opportunity that I grabbed which broadened my horizons and exposed myself to numerous opportunities.
It was a program that equipped me with skills and knowledge that I would require in the future. The invaluable knowledge that I gained from Japanese Language and Culture course such as the tradition, cultures, and daily lifestyles of Japan including those from different ASEAN countries, and the entrepreneurship mindset, designing thinking and awe-inspiring innovative projects that I learned from Social Innovation Incubation course will be the force and the strength that I believe will assist me how I can best adapt the approaches towards my goal as a changemaker and to benefit our society as a whole.
Thank you very much.