Our first year student Khang Le Nguyen (Vietnam, UWCD’22) summarizes the Asia-pacific regional evening of UWCD.
Upon returning to campus in late August, a question was posted in the second year’s group chat. “Is it alright for us to hug each other at the airport?” Most people agreed and said it was ok. The Asian community, however, denied the ideas profusely. Some even showed up at the airport in full PPE.
In a conversation with Zac (who is one of my second years from Philippines) about the Asian Cultural evening, we discussed a topic that has been prevalent amongst the UWC movement; more specifically, how the movement was founded by a German, it’s first campus opened in the UK and a number of western values drive its social and academic life. Through these means, are we just being made to adopt and adapt western values through a UWC?
However, examples like this regional evening proved the thought wrong. The idea that each and every country is unique, even after a long colonial past (such as Vietnam by France, the Philippines by Spain, Malaysia by Britain, among a number of other interventions), their culture and traditions still hold strong. The Eastern set of performances and dances reminded us of how beautiful and diverse the international community is. We saw a light puppet show that told the story from (?) the rich history of Malaysian port cities, a gripping showcase of skill through Japan’s Fisherman’s dance, the small details between the different traditional Chinese bows, and many, many more attractive performances.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted the audience to ask themselves: who are the people being marginalized as a result of Coronavirus racism? The common answer would be the stereotypical Eastern Asians, with “yellow skin and small eyes”. During the cultural evening, Zac presented a personal example about his family members, many of them were Philipino health workers on the frontline. They were misinterpreted as Chinese people and harrassed internationally. Even if they were Chinese it is important for people to understand that they are not the virus, it just so happens to have originated from China. Zac dedicated his country’s time to speak about the meaning of wearing a mask to the Philipino as well as the international healthcare community. The fact that many other Asian cultures stood in front of the stage and made irony out of the COVID prejudice speaks volumes about it.
The cultural evening gave us a place, an opportunity where we could meet and interact with people from different backgrounds, a powerful effort to shatter false prejudice. It gave the second-years an opportunity to relieve themselves from the stress of daily life. Surrounded by IA deadlines and University applications, the regional evening provided students with a chance to take a break, as well as immerse themselves in entirely different cultures.
And most importantly, it gave the community a chance to unite in these troubling times.