Author: Putri Nurdivi
Published on October 24nd, 2019
Creating harmony and good relationship through exchange of cultures. CONNEXT - ASEAN is an international student based organization that educates cultural awareness of ASEAN countries to Japanese through educational camps and volunteer activities.
Connext ASEAN is a non-profit organization established by students from different South East Asian countries at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University back in 2014. The objective of this organization is to build a greater generation of ASEAN youth that is actively contribute to the development of ASEAN countries. Muhammad Ihsan Ananta (Ihsan) from Indonesia, the former leader of Connext ASEAN 2017, gladly explained more details of the organization to us.
“To achieve that, we always try to spread awareness and a good understanding of ASEAN throughout the projects by building a community of young leaders who share the same vision with us,”
Within the past 5 years, Connext ASEAN has successfully held many projects, one of the most attractive ones is the annual Indonesian Camp and Thai Camp. It is designed to all nationalities of APU students to participate as a volunteer teacher in local schools.
Moreover, many exciting activities also listed in the camp program. Participants could taste the local cuisine on the culinary tour and explore the famous sites of the country. For the past two years, the Indonesian Camp has received a precious opportunity to visit the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. Ihsan is pleased to share how Connext ASEAN has built and managed partnerships with many prestigious institutions, schools, and NGOs in many countries.
“Most of the time we build the networking from the ground up by approaching them through online communication from 6 to 12 months before starting the project. Then we follow it up by visiting their office with our representatives in each country. After the project has finished, it is important for us to always report back and express gratitude to our partner in order to stay connected. We hope this meaningful relationship will last longer for the next generation.”
TEACHING JAPANESE PEOPLE SOUTH EAST ASIAN CULTURE AND VICE VERSA
We interviewed two APU students who were participating in the previous Connext ASEAN Camp, Hinata Oiwa (Japan) from the Indonesian Camp 2017 and Ayane Nakahara (Japan) from the Thai Camp 2018 to share their experience. Through the Indonesian Camp 2017, Hinata has made new friends with fellow participants from different countries such as Vietnam, Taiwan, and Indonesia.
“I was beyond excited since the Indonesia Camp 2017 marked my very first time visiting the South East Asia country. It was truly a fascinating journey as I could experience new things, for instance had a chance to interact with local people that were unexpectedly really welcoming foreigners and gaining valuable experience through the cultural exchange activities with high school students.”
On the other hand, this camp was Ayane’s second time visiting the ASEAN countries. Though she realized that she has gained more confidence to communicate by using the universal language, English, with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
“I am very enthusiastic in local culture especially the ethnicity which is really different from Japan. I will definitely find more opportunities to visit more parts of ASEAN in the future”
Both of them realized that the program further spark their interest in exploring South East Asia countries. As for Hinata, she could comfortably travel around ASEAN countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, and lastly had an opportunity to do an internship in Cambodia.
“After the camp, I decided to visit Indonesia again and in total, I went there three times already! I also took the Indonesian language class at my university. Furthermore, I have begun to explore the working opportunity in ASEAN countries which led me to the internship program in Cambodia last summer.” Hinata recalled her delightful journey.
MESSAGE FROM LEADERS
Managing such big and international camp would not be easy for college students. A solid team has to be built from the beginning to ensure that the project goes fluidly to plan. As a leader, Ihsan was facing numerous challenges and difficulties throughout the process.
“The biggest struggle was the challenge to manage such a diverse and multicultural group. In our team, we had many talented people from different countries with their own perspectives and interests. Therefore, it’s important to deliver our message in a concise way that is easy to understand by everyone.”
This moment was also experienced by the former leader of Connext ASEAN 2018, Natsamon Slub (Kathi) from Thailand.
“I learned how to manage my schedule alongside to prepare things in advance. In Connext ASEAN we tend to work hand in hand with the core members coming from different countries. As we conducted weekly meetings and works with all of them, there might be disagreements or miscommunication among each other. But I believe, if we plan it together, we could make it happen by listening carefully to their ideas and discuss it together”
Kathi said. Every year, each of Connext ASEAN leaders would have their own expectations and hopes for all participants who willingly contributing and help them to reach the goals of the organization. Kathi hoped the participants could gain tons of valuable insights and joyful moments from throughout the journey of the program.
“We work as a platform that promotes people to people connectivity and brings social project life. Hence, we would like the participants to have a mutual learning experience, for instance, when you teach someone you need to learn something from that person too. From that, we can make a great connection between people to achieve our goals together.”
Ihsan emphasized that Connext ASEAN is a platform to build a new family and therefore, maintaining relations with the committee and fellow participants is necessary.
“By the end of our projects, we hope our participants would gain new perspectives and interests of the people in South East Asia, and how it could relate to their life and future goals. And most importantly, we hope their friendship will last forever and cherish the beautiful moments they have experienced together from the beginning to the end of the program.”