January 13, 2016, marked the inauguration of a two credit hour exchange program held in collaboration by Tzu Chi University (TCU) and University of Science Malaysia (USM). Prof. Chen Peixuan of USM mentioned in her address that Taiwan and Malaysia share as many similarities as dissimilarities, and only by visiting in person can one truly comprehend and appreciate these complex cultural dimensions. TCU and USM signed a sister university agreement back in 2004. This exchange program is the third short-term exchange between the two universities, and the first to be held at TCU.
Last year Sept., 16 TCU students visited USM to attend full English lectures, said Dir. Huang Sen-Fang of Center of Physical Education, TCU. One of the lectures worth mentioning was Lifestyle & Cultural Impact on Health, he said, where all the participating students were arranged to live with families of local Malaysian community. The course was designed for the students to closely observe the Malaysian traditions and culture, and identify its potential long term health impacts.
Dir. Huang is looking forward to building a solid model of collaboration between the two universities, such as exchange at USM during summer vacation, and at TCU during winter vacation. The credit hours would be recognized by both universities as an incentive for students to travel abroad, to expand their horizon, and also to facilitate their motivation to study English.
The winter vacation exchange program at TCU is titled “The humanities in folk activities in Taiwan”, which entails the cognition of Tzu Chi culture, and taking part in Taiwanese folk activities. To facilitate sharing and mutual bonding among students of two distinct cultures, TCU arranges a presentation at the end of the program that requires that efforts from the students of both universities to accomplish.
Among the attendees, there are 13 students and 2 teachers from USM, and 30 students and 11 teachers from TCU. There are 3 TCU students assigned as translators to assist the USM visitors with their daily needs. A fascinating
fact is that, among the TCU students, there are Taiwanese, Malaysians and South Africans, creating a more diversified congregation than originally anticipated.
Out of the 30 students from TCU, 7 of them had prior experience in the exchange program at Malaysia. “I have received a warm welcome at USM during summer vacation,” said Lu Guan-Yu, a 2nd year medical student. “I have come to realize that without engaging in dialogues with people from certain cultural background, what we read in books are just words. Islamic people, for example, are very hospitable and cheerful, which was quite different than how I imagined.”
The students from USM had their first earthquake in life earlier this morning, and now they are looking forward to more never-before surprises in Taiwan.
Text: Lee Chia-Yi
Translator: Fang Kai-Ping