Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: student
Friday, 09 November 2012 13:53

Brain Food?

Imagine a service designed to help you acquire knowledge in the most efficient way possible. It goes straight to the source and organizes information in a clear, concise fashion that serves you key ideas from the titans of knowledge, bedrock concepts from various disciplines, as well as highly specialized interests, on a silver platter.

In short, that is Knowledge Buffet (KB). But the promise and potential of what you could find on www.knowledge-buffet.com in the future is even more exciting. Not only a platform for creating a customized program for your personal learning, but a more effective approach to constructing university courses or setting up multidisciplinary research.

We live in an age of informational overload. There is a reason why they say “knowledge is power” rather than “information is power.” It is because you have to sort through this information to arrive at the final station of actual knowledge. And as almost any student will tell you, this is not fun.

Almost everything you can think of is available online today. Information is largely free and readily accessible pretty much anywhere. And we can’t handle it. It is not about information; it is about the exact piece of the puzzle that you need. Anyone who has ever spent hours googling away like someone with OCGD (Obsessive Compulsive Google Disorder) knows exactly what I’m talking about. And this beast of a haystack is only getting that much bigger every day.

Did you think time was the only thing you spent during all those frenetic online searches? Think again, because whether you know it or it, you’re squandering ATTENTION as well. Any information requires some amount of attention and when you add up all those 30 second YouTube videos…death by a thousand cuts or a thousand bite-sized meals or a thousand tweets or…

Sometimes procrastination can be your worst enemy, so there appears to be a genuine need for a more effective way to find information and not only find it, but if possible, arrange it, sort it out and generally pre-digest it for goal-driven easy use.

I know what I’m talking about because long ago, during the dark ages of my university studies, this seemed to be an unattainable dream. Instead of peeling off layers of human understanding and the secrets of the universe to eventually add my shred off insight into the blend, I spent my time looking for a particular chapter from a particular book.

This experience is really the motivation that stands behind the creation of Knowledge Buffet and the desire to get rid of all the unnecessary clutter so that you can focus on what matters. It is imperative in any field to have solid basics, but wasting time and attention on figuring out what the basics are and where to find them is counterproductive.

Customization is the word of the future. Software and hardware today is inevitably speeding towards highly personal use. Finding the optimal way to acquire knowledge for any individual is what KB represents, whether it is designing a homeschooling curriculum, preparing for any type of exam, mastering foreign languages or simply helping you find your dream university major.


Wednesday, 03 October 2012 16:30

Panay Raranges: Tourism and Authenticity

My hometown is the Mulating tribal village in Fuli, Hualian, I belong to the Amis tribe and my name in the tribal language is Panay. I’m part of an aboriginal university society in which I’ve participated in a lot of debates with my other classmates concerning issues affecting aboriginal peoples, but mostly this is limited to discussion of Taiwan, it’s rare that we discuss foreign indigenous affairs. When I heard of this opportunity to go to Fiji as part of an international exchange program, I knew it was a rare opportunity that I didn’t want to miss out on. From another perspective, as Taiwanese aborigines and Fijians are both Austronesian, in the process of researching in preparation for the trip, I discovered a lot of striking similarities between the two, these similarities were the elements that I was most eager to explore throughout the course of the trip. Our team held countless discussions both in the selection process and in the days before we departed for Fiji, in the hope that we would learn a lot through this once in a lifetime experience, and be able to share this learning experience with other team members as well as our own tribes. The ten day trip was divided into three main parts: visiting indigenous villages, educational institutions and government departments. As everyone in the team had a different specialty, we were able to get different things out of the experience, and we would share these experiences at the end of each day, and more importantly, we were acutely aware that we were not just a group of exchange students, but that we were also representing Taiwanese aborigines, and each member of the group had a different aboriginal background and experience. With each scheduled visit, we would try to use our hearts to interpret all that we saw and heard, and relate it to our own experiences growing up, this is another important tenet of international exchange.

 

Navala and Koromakawa had a very touristic feel to them, both in their sevusevu welcoming ceremony and in their village tours, you felt that the whole thing was as a result of accumulated and experience, somewhat rehearsed.

Readers in Mainland China can watch it here

On the other hand, however, I discovered a lot about the background of the development of tourism in those villages, and how they struggled to preserve traditional culture at the same time. In Navala for example, all the buildings were traditional “bures”, not as a result of government grants or encouragement, but rather because the village residents took the initiative to preserve this tradition. The ceiling of the meeting house in Koromakawa village was covered in all sorts of totems, these were painted by the women of the village bit by bit standing on ladders. It’s possible that the conservation of traditional culture was an attempt to attract tourists, but even if the motives are suspect, the traditional culture is still being preserved, and it plays a very important role in the everyday life of the villagers. In Koromakawa we asked the spokesperson (the person who spoke for the chief) if they were concerned that the development of the tourism would contribute to the loss of traditional culture, he answered that they were; he told us that because of modern developments, that they had suffered cultural leakage, some ways in which the villagers lived their lives had long changed from the way they lived before, the young people leave the village to work elsewhere, there they came in contact with very modern things, and became accustomed to a new way of life. From the example of Koromakawa, I was able to observe that bringing the tourism industry into the village brought another advantage: that young people were gradually returning to the village to help in the development of tourism there.

The University of the South Pacific is one of the most important universities in the Pacific region, concentrating talented young people from all the different islands in one place. Several professors from the region made time in their busy schedules to hold a forum with us, sharing with us their research and their own experiences. What made the deepest impression on me was the response that we got after our dance performance, and the opportunity afforded us to attend Professor Morgan Tuimalealiifano’s class, and get to know his students who came from a wide variety of backgrounds. I was really moved when we got a rare opportunity to share the similarities between our languages, it was as if a family that had been separated by circumstance had been reconciled. Perhaps our life experiences were very different, but the links between us could be felt in a multitude of little similarities. I felt that the way Professor Tuimalealiifano brought the backgrounds and experiences of the students and the teacher into the discussion was different from the usual model of the teacher just feeding the students a string of impersonal professional knowledge, which really resonated with me and provided a lot of food for thought. When Professor Tumalealiifano was sharing his thoughts about Fijian identity he got quite emotional at times, which just went to show how much of himself he invested in each class, and led me to the discovery that the classroom can be quite an emotional place.

In the course of this trip, I was charged with observing of the legal and political system, in an attempt to understand what channels of communication there were between the government and the villages, how ideas were exchanged between them, and how the implementation of policy concerning indigenous people could effectively incorporate the opinions of the villages, enabling the compatibility of government activities and the expectations and demands of the indigenous people. What struck me most was the extent to which Fiji’s chiefly system was still so intact. This traditional leadership structure of the villages was developed by the British colonists and became the structure of governance for Fiji. The British even set up the Great Council of Chiefs, with the aim of more effectively governing the colony, although it later became an important safeguard ensuring the rights and protecting the interests of indigenous people. Each chief is like an elder of the village, dealing with everything within the village, and collecting together opinions from villagers; he acts as a spokesperson to the outside world for the village, the decisions he makes are a result of consensus amongst the entire village, encouraging close relationships between villagers, and good communication between a chief and his villagers. This interactive model functions within the Fijian government structure in the way the Great Council of Chiefs incorporates the opinions of all the villages represented by each of the chiefs who form its ranks, and through discussion and cooperation work towards a consensus, to influence government policy, and oversee the implementation of policy, creating closer links between the government and the villages, as well as clear channels of communication between the two. The application of the traditional chiefly system into the modern system is an accumulation of long-term experience, even though there have been several political upheavals in Fiji in recent years, the importance of the chiefs in the politics of Fiji cannot be overlooked, which left us with the impression that traditional knowledge and the modern system were not necessarily in conflict. With enough communication and discussion, the two can integrate with one another. Perhaps Taiwan’s situation is a little more complicated, but this makes a good reference point for us. We discovered that the sense of autonomy and initiative among the villages was very strong, although many young people leave the villages to work, you could still feel the presence of traditional culture in the villages was being preserved. Some of the mountain villages had preserved the traditional architectural style, elders and youths in the village took the initiative to teach the traditional building skills to the children in their spare time, hoping to pass on these skills to future generations.

The coastal villages continue to fish using traditional canoes, not only making use of traditional wisdom, but also preserving a sustainable balance in the ecology. The cultural similarities, are essentially that they are both engaged in a Fijian way of life, traditional culture is inseparable from their daily lives, which preserves it, and this again is a very good example for us to reference. To have just such an opportunity to get to know Fiji is, without doubt an invaluable experience, and we were burdened with an important mission, we were most likely a group of young people amongst Taiwanese aborigines who most understood Fiji, and we have a duty to maintain this important link between Taiwan and Fiji, and to share the things we had learned in Fiji with our tribes, this latter is one of the most important objectives for our group. We both belong to the Austronesian ethnic group, we were very excited about discovering the common features between us, using this to try improve our relationship, although the vast Pacific lies between us, but it is this very stretch of ocean that is what connects us, the ocean is not an obstacle, but rather it is a connecting bridge, connecting our languages, culture and even our history.

I haven’t lived in Hualian since I was a little girl, I was brought up in the city and received a modern style education, and was always in search of an identity of my own, but I had forgotten to turn my gaze to the world’s many aboriginal peoples who have never forgotten their own roots, living on with all their efforts for their selves and for their tribe, they told me that having heart is always important, going with one’s heart will always lead you to where you belong. This Pacific connection was not the end of the story, but rather it was an important beginning.

Translated from the chinese by Conor Stuart


Friday, 13 January 2012 12:23

University Life: Freedom or Responsibility?

University students Lisa Lo and Yu-Tang Hou (侯昱堂) tell us about their feelings and impressions on university life in the following two videos. They represent the youth of Taiwan, and have both had very different university experiences, but both agree that university is a place where one can simultaneously feel more mature but still enjoy the carefree hapiness of youth.

Lisa is a student of Graphic Communication at National Taiwan Normal University. She comes from Taipei and has found in university a sense of freedom and emancipation, in addition to an opportunity to meet lots of new people from all walks of lfe, which had previously been difficult due to her all-girls school upbringing.


Tuesday, 20 January 2009 03:57

New Zealand’s Multi-Million Industry: Overseas Student Recruitment

Though not as flamboyant as its counterpart Australia in advertising its foreign student recruitment, New Zealand may very well be one of the most popular and costliest choices of destination for education amongst Asian nationals.

Roughly the size of the UK, New Zealand is residence to over 350 000 Asians alone according to statistics taken in 2006. Not frequent yet ever so present, are the racial violence in New Zealand, which has otherwise done little to discourage wealthy parents from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan and Korea from sending their children half way across the world to learn English.

When Yi Ren, also known as Tina, a 30 year-old Chinese national from Beijing, was murdered in Auckland, New Zealand in September 2008- she became the fourth Chinese national to be murdered in the four weeks to 5 October 2008, where two Chinese men were also killed, and the body of another dead Korean was discovered.

New Zealand continues to be regarded as a generally friendly and racially tolerant nation. The plights of these foreign nationals, be it the repercussion of racism or other motives, can be mirrored in Australia but of a noticeably smaller percentage in the past years. Australia, on the other hand, has achieved a racist notoriety amongst Asian states for its overt ‘White Australian Policy’ and racial conflicts.

I was thus baffled as to why exactly foreigners, especially those from Asia, are bent on paying heavy sums of money in sending their children to study in New Zealand, where a year alone in high school and boarding costs approximately 30 000NZD (770 000NT), not including the expenses incurred by families visiting their children- which could amount up to a terrifying sum, unaffordable even for the wealthier middle-class family.

I am also speaking with personal experience that although not blatantly aggressive, racism is present to a large extent in high school to university life in New Zealand. From harmless name-calling, to vandalism of property to various degrees of physical abuse to murder, I have heard and seen all types of racial disputes during my stay in the country. The pricey cost of living and tuition in total for one year in New Zealand living there as a 17-year-old teenager has lead me to question: Is it really worth spending millions on secondary or tertiary education in a foreign country when one may face rejection in local social circles and face, from time to time, racial prejudice?

Were they, like myself, drawn by the praises of the country’s beauty through word of mouth, or recruited through the numerous profitable agents i.e. the foreign embassies, the so-called education attachés, other embassy staff, or their representatives? Recruiting international students is starting to look like or perhaps has always been a big business in New Zealand whereby the staff of foreign embassies and schools alike have an enormous stake; about 15 percent of all school fees paid by foreign students are claimed by these agents.
While these agents are more than willing to entice foreign nationals to study in New Zealand, promoting the multi-million ‘foreign relations’, the now increasingly negative behaviour of a significant number of locals beg to differ.

Christchurch became the first city to create a website for international students to address racial harassment in New Zealand. Christchurch is perhaps no more racist than your average city in a predominantly Caucasian country but the fact that it has taken action to address these issues show that New Zealand may still be able to abate the anti-Asian sentiments before it grows out of hand.

We often say ‘fear cripples our ability to learn’. Parents overseas too, may need to reconsider before investing million of dollars on education in an otherwise beautiful country. Much needs to be done on integrating the overseas students, and even more so on the young kiwi’s understanding of the Asian people.

Photo by A. L.


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