Tuesday, July 23, 2024
31 C
Brunei Town

Unity in diversity

The ASEAN Youth Cultural Forum (AYCF) 2024 wrapped up on a high note, leaving around 142 delegates from 20 ASEAN University Network (AUN) member universities in ASEAN member countries and seven partners from ASEAN+3 brimming with new knowledge and unforgettable experiences.

Hosted by Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) this year, the forum spanned six vibrant days, during which participants dove into a kaleidoscope of cultural experiences.

From cross-cultural communication skills to leadership and artistic talents, the forum became a platform for participating youth to hone these vital skills all the while exploring Bruneian martial arts, theatre, traditional music and language diversity through engaging workshops and activities. Delegates from Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam shared their fondest memories from the event, highlighting the rich tapestry of experiences that made the forum truly special.

At the AYCF, every moment of the six-day event was a treasure, shared Muhammad Rifki Ivan Alfizar from Universitas Airlangga, Indonesia. He discovered an invaluable gem: cross-cultural friendships. “Amid the diversity of languages, customs, and traditions, we were united by a shared passion for building a brighter ASEAN future.

“Together, we explored our cultural riches and learned from each other,” he said. One thing that particularly caught his eye was the elegant and colourful traditional attire of Brunei.

These garments, he said, reflect the richness of Brunei’s culture and traditions, as well as the values of modesty and simplicity.

PHOTO: FREEPIK
ABOVE & BELOW: Muhammad Rifki Ivan Alfizar from Universitas Airlangga in Indonesia holds up the Indonesian flag; and Koyo Ito from Okayama University in Japan in a group photo. PHOTO: LYNA MOHAMAD
PHOTO: LYNA MOHAMAD
Minji Cho from Seoul National University and Kwon Sion from Daejon University in a group photo. PHOTO: LYNA MOHAMAD
ABOVE & BELOW: Muhammad Phaizal bin Sharifuddin of University Putra Malaysia; Yasmin Asyura binti Yusri from National University of Singapore; Phan Nguyen Ngoc Lan Vi from An Giang University in Vietnam; and Lee Ngoc Thao from the University of Science in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. PHOTO: LYNA MOHAMAD
PHOTO: LYNA MOHAMAD
PHOTO: LYNA MOHAMAD
PHOTO: LYNA MOHAMAD
ABOVE & BELOW: Delegates from Vietnam in a group photo; and a participant from Thailand poses for a photo. PHOTO: LYNA MOHAMAD
PHOTO: LYNA MOHAMAD

“Despite the cultural differences, I felt a sense of shared universal values that underpin human relationships. In Brunei, as in my own country, people uphold values such as family, mutual cooperation, and mutual respect.”

Meanwhile Koyo Ito from Okayama University, Japan, shared that they especially enjoyed showcasing their traditional cultural heritage through the tea ceremony and calligraphy.

“Experiencing other countries’ cultures and traditions is invaluable. For instance, we discovered new aspects of Japanese culture we hadn’t known before,” she said.

“We used to think we fully understood our culture, but we realised there’s always more to learn and appreciate.

“We should be proud of our heritage, and we want to convey this idea to others,” Koyo added.

Minji Cho from Seoul National University and Kwon Sion from Daejon University were honoured to represent South Korea at the AYCF 2024 in Brunei.

For anthropology student Minji, the forum was a dream come true, offering a chance to experience diverse cultures first-hand. She cherished memories from the cultural bazaar and visiting Kampong Ayer, and was thrilled to introduce Korean culture to an appreciative audience.

Kwon found the closing ceremony particularly moving, participating in Brunei’s traditional choreography and feeling a sense of unity among students from 10 countries.

Both delegates were inspired by the forum’s ability to foster deep cultural exchanges and appreciated the efforts of the organising committee. They left with a profound understanding of ASEAN’s cultural preservation and a hope to reunite with their new international friends in the future.

For Muhammad Phaizal bin Sharifuddin of University Putra Malaysia on the other hand, the highlight of his journey was learning to play the gulintangan, a traditional Bruneian musical instrument.

“The most memorable part was the workshop where I learned to play the gulingtangan and performed it during the closing ceremony. I was nervous, but my team members were so supportive,” Phaizal shared.

Yasmin Asyura binti Yusri from National University of Singapore expressed deep gratitude for her participation in the 19th ASEAN and 9th ASEAN+3 Cultural Youth Forum, highlighting the enriching interactions with fellow delegates as her most valuable experience.

“Experiencing Bruneian culture and traditions with them, and discussing similarities and differences in our countries was enlightening,” she said, adding that she admired the Bruneians’ soft-spoken manner and mutual respect.

Yasmin also valued her time with the Orchestra Gulingtangan Varsiti, where she glimpsed Brunei’s cultural traditions and felt inspired by the pride of the delegates.

Phan Nguyen Ngoc Lan Vi from An Giang University in Vietnam, cherished every moment of her participation in AYCF 2024 as a valuable experience.

From her warm welcome at Brunei International Airport by UBD staff to engaging in meaningful cultural exchanges, Vi appreciated the strong hospitality camaraderie among ASEAN youth.

“In terms of showcasing our country’s artistic beauty, we were well-prepared to deliver a captivating performance,” Vi said.

“During various activities, I witnessed the strong support and teamwork among ASEAN youth.”

Vi also highlighted the forum’s role in bridging cultural differences, fostering solidarity, and deepening connections within the ASEAN community through national arts and cultural identities.

Another Vietnamese student, Lee Ngoc Thao from the University of Science in Ho Chi Minh City, echoed Vi’s enthusiasm, aiming to share her newfound knowledge. She saw herself not only as a cultural ambassador for Vietnam but for the entire ASEAN region.

“Aligned with AYCF’s mission of ‘Futuring Together Towards Preserving Art and Cultures,’ I hope to inspire young people and promote ASEAN’s rich cultural diversity,” Thao said. “The programme’s emphasis on meaningful cultural exchange left us with lasting memories and a profound respect for our shared cultural traditions.”

As the curtains closed on the AYCF, delegates united for a finale, celebrating their collaborative efforts while highlighting the diverse and shared cultural heritage.

The ceremony culminated in a symbolic handover to Chulalongkorn University, who will host the 20th ASEAN and 10th ASEAN+3 Youth Cultural Forum next year. – Lyna Mohamad

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