FB's Exchanges Forum strengthens interaction between local and overseas students

Audrey Chung

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The Faculty of Business (FB) at City University of Hong Kong has pioneered a series of sharing sessions entitled Exchanges Forum 2005 that facilitate intercultural communication and provide social networking opportunities for overseas

exchange students and local students.

 

Starting from mid-September to early November, 15 students who make up the FB’s Exchange Student Club coordinated seven sharing sessions for exchange students from Denmark, Germany, Canada, the US, Holland, Norway and Sweden. The exchange students shared stories about their culture, traditions, language and way of life.

 

The Forum exemplifies CityU’s internationalized campus and its student-centred activities enrich students’ whole-person education and broaden their international exposure.

 

“In addition to learning about different cultures, my initiatives in starting a conversation and offering help to exchange students have been a great personal breakthrough,” said Sam Lau, External Vice-President of the Club and final-year student in the Department of Management.

 

Mr Lau completed a student exchange at AoyamaGakuinUniversity in Japan in August. He said it had been difficult making friends with Japanese students because of the lack of appropriate activities. Thus he supports the Forum because it is an interesting and interactive way to facilitate communication between local and overseas students.

 

“By organizing the sharing sessions I am more confident communicating with others in English and I have more opportunities to get exposed to a multicultural environment,” he said.

 

According to Dr Mary Pang, Associate Professor and Director of the International Student Exchange in FB, the Forum illustrates and supports FB's commitment to internationalization. 

 

“Our goal is to encourage integration and create and foster an environment, in which both overseas exchange and local students interact, share and learn from others. We hope that all students in FB can derive benefits from our drive to internationalize education,” Dr Pang said.

 

To establish better rapport during the Forum sessions, the overseas students

encouraged the participating students to take an active role in various activities. In addition to PowerPoint slides and photos, they introduced commonly used phrases in their mother tongue, performed cultural dances and sang traditional songs.

 

Milena Margaritova, a Year 3 student from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, said that the Forum helped bring students together and establish friendships. She said many CityU students were extremely helpful and friendly and that her time at CityU had been fruitful, both academically and socially.

 

Rutger Van Halder, a final-year student from the University of Erasmus in the Netherlands, said the Forum was a great initiative. As far as he knew, he said, there

was no comparable activity at his university back home.

 

“In our presentation three students from Erasmus introduced general information about the Netherlands and its culture, and we discussed our way of living and thinking,” Mr Van Halder said. He added that the Forum helped acquaint local students with a better understanding of life in the target country prior to an exchange and enabled students to get in touch with their counterparts from other countries.

 

Michael Ake and Martin Hjerpe, two of the nine students from JonkopingUniversity in Sweden spending one semester at CityU, agreed that the sharing session was a useful platform for both overseas exchange students and local students to expand their social circle and get to know the differences in culture

.

“This Forum is a fun occasion for us to make friends with local students,” Mr Ake said. “I am happy to share my personal experience with local students and tell them what people do and how people live in Sweden.”

 

Mr Hjerpe said the Forum had jumpstarted his interest in exploring more about Chinese culture. “I’m going to stay in Hong Kong for the Chinese New Year because I want to find out how my CityU buddies celebrate.”

 

Samantha Shum, a Year 2 student in the Department of Marketing, joined the Forum to gather more information about Jonkoping University in anticipation of her exchange trip in January. She said she relished her experience learning about a new country and making new friends. “Now that I know more about Sweden and have some Swedish friends I am less afraid of cultural shock. We will keep in

contact through MSN and emails,” Ms Shum said.

 

This year the FB is playing host to more than 90 overseas exchange students in the first semester. In addition to organizing the Forum, FB held an orientation day, a welcome lunch in August, and a boat trip during the Mid-Autumn Festival to familiarize overseas exchange students with local culture in Hong Kong.

 

Through its connection with overseas partner institutions, the FB will continue to open up more opportunities for its local students to have a taste of different cultures.

 

“Given the warm relations that the Forum has generated between overseas exchange and local students, and the great attendance by FB and non-FB students, we consider the Forum a great success,” Dr Pang said.

 

 

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