The Second SHARE ASEAN – EU Exchange Students and Alumni Summit
Connecting youth together by means of digitalisation, the SHARE Programme illuminates its objective through a Second Exchange Students and Alumni Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The European Union (EU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) celebrated their 45th year as strategic partners. With success in organising the Virtual Exchange Students and Alumni Summit in May 2022, the European Union Support to Higher Education in the ASEAN Region (SHARE) Programme invited alumni from across the regions to Jakarta, Indonesia, to participate in the 2nd SHARE ASEAN – EU Exchange Students and Alumni Summit with the theme of “Youth and Digital Connectivity” from 8 – 10 August 2022. In addition to the occasion, 2022 is designated as the Year of Youth, and this summit has brought together the youth of two different regions to foster stronger ties between their respective regions. It is essential for this summit to provide a physical platform that engages the young leaders of ASEAN and the EU to learn from each other’s alumni organisations and develop networks for collaboration.
The summit began on 8 August 2022, coinciding with ASEAN Day. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, participants were invited to watch the live streaming of the ASEAN Day celebration held in the ASEAN Secretariat. ASEAN Day officially began with welcoming remarks from His Excellency Dato Lim Jock Hoi, the Secretary-General of ASEAN. His Excellency mentioned the role of youth as an agent of change, saying that “[youth] will play an indispensable role in a post-pandemic recovery. ASEAN should expand the opportunity for young people to participate and contribute to policy-making as well as community development initiatives such as the first ASEAN Youth Dialogue as well as the ASEAN Junior Fellowship programme [which] are part of our [ASEAN’s] efforts to enable them to play a larger role and more meaningful role in building more equitable, inclusive, greener community.”
Day 2 of the Second SHARE ASEAN – EU Exchange Student and Alumni Summit started with panel sessions, joined by distinguished panellists from alumni organisations across ASEAN and the EU, namely OCEANS Network, Erasmus Mundus Association (EMA), Erasmus Student Network (ESN), GaragErasamus (gE), ASEAN University Network (AUN), Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Centre (SEAMEO RIHED), ASEAN Foundation and EURAXESS. The panellists included Md Ashiqur Rahman (President, EMA), Neringa Tumenaite (Former President, OCEANS Network), Olivia Parczyk (Liaison Officer for Asia, ESN), Gevorg Harutyunyan (President of garagErasmus4Yerevan, gE), I Made Genta Pramanasukma, (AUN-CTS alumni), Islaminati Anna Santika (AIMS alumni), Jazlyn Yu (SHARE alumni), Dr Choltis Dhirathiti (Executive Director, AUN), Ms Supansa Kajavong (Programme Officer, SEAMEO RIHED), Mr Mahmudi Yusbi (Head of Programme, ASEAN Foundation), and Dr Jenny Lind Elmaco (Regional Coordinator, EURAXESS).
The SHARE Team Leader, Darren McDermott and the SHARE Programme Director from Nuffic, Peter van Tuijl attended the summit to welcome all the guests. Darren McDermott highlighted key takeaways and the importance of students and youth participation in shaping the Future of Southeast Asia Higher Education during SHARE Policy Dialogue 15 in Ha Noi, Vietnam on the 27-28th July 2022. The two emphasised that student mobility and internationalisation are critical parts of this effort, amid the challenges faced by students and alumni. In particular, Peter van Tuijl warmly welcomed the Burmese students and alumni for their participation and attendance in Jakarta for the student and alumni summit despite the current travel challenges. SHARE’s commitment to connecting students, alumni, and the youth between ASEAN and the EU through events such as this one, becomes highly critical as the future of both regions lies in the potential of this group.
The first plenary panel discussion had two objectives, namely to share the experiences of student organisations and discuss how ASEAN and EU youth can cooperate with and involve their youth. In this session, alumni organisations from ASEAN had the opportunity to learn the benefits of alumni engagement in Europe. For example, the Liaison Officer for Asia of ESN, Ms Olivia Parczyk, mentioned that her work does not focus on establishing new organisations but rather on connecting existing student and youth-led organisations with similar aims, facilitating knowledge exchange and therefore improving the support for international students in both regions. As the biggest student organisation in Europe, ESN highly supports the implementation and improvement of the Erasmust+ programme and is always the first when it comes to representing the student voice in policy and decision-making. Ms Olivia added, “In every policy dialogue, we have been stressing the need for clear communication towards the students as the target group, and the necessity of assessing a representative cross-section of students’ opinions and needs.” Therefore, to continue the involvement of youth during the pandemic, ESN adapted their internal decision-making to the digital space and revised several statutory requirements regarding physical attendance, which improved their inclusiveness in the long term.
The second plenary panel discussion invited several Southeast Asian organisations to share with the audience how digital transformation affects the students’ mobility and alumni engagement. Ms Supansa Kajavong also introduced the Asian International Mobility for Students (AIMS) Programme in this session. The AIMS Programme focuses on digital literacy and proper technology utilisation for teaching and learning to promote virtual exchange student and alumni networks. Hence, Ms Supansa highlighted an initiative the AIMS Programme have in collaboration with their European partners; the “SEA-EU Mobility Programme for Sustainable Development”. This initiative is an example of an inclusive and participatory approach to a mobility programme that embraces the idea of sustainable development. This panel session was also joined by EURAXESS Worldwide ASEAN’s Regional Coordinator, Dr Jenny Elmaco, who supports the European International Research Action initiatives mandated to facilitate policy dialogue and scientific collaboration and exchange between Europe and global partners. EURAXESS itself has hosted over 40 annual networking activities, which will connect the audience to more than 10,000 scientists and researchers from ASEAN and the EU. In summary, EURAXESS can create synergies and initiate mutually beneficial collaboration. Dr Jenny closed her session by indicating that despite the provided opportunities and tools, youth would participate in an inclusive, resilient, and transformative form of learning in the digitalisation era.
The day was closed with a short group discussion. It was an opportunity for the alumni from both regions to communicate more intensely and explore the ways of cooperation to further promote an ASEAN Higher Education Space. Means to help achieve this goal varied from forming a centralised leadership, working with stakeholders, and mentorship programmes to focusing on a more specific target audience, such as students with fewer opportunities.
The final day of the summit was solely focused on group discussion moderated by the SHARE Key CoP Expert, Mr Andy Gibbs. For his sessions, each group was tasked to set up an International Mobility Student and Alumni Network Platform and create an action plan to encourage others to join the platform. With three different scenarios, groups were to identify their target audience, the purpose of the platform, and the responsibilities of volunteers on the platform.
This scenario-based presentation was a great exercise for the ASEAN participants and organisers to prepare the International Mobility Student and Alumni Network Platform, which will be utilised to foster ASEAN alumni engagement. Dr Roger Y. Chao Jr, the Assistant Director/Head of Education, Youth, and Sports Division of the ASEAN Secretariat, contributed to this session by highlighting the importance of youth engagement to the future of higher education in ASEAN and hence the introduction to the platform. The outcome of this session has led to the creation of a WhatsApp group which was joined by some ASEAN and European participants.
The summit was closed with a sharing session with one heartfelt declaration by a SHARE alumnus, Jazlyn Yu, who acknowledged the need for youth to work cooperatively to promote alumni engagement in each region, “We have to understand that one day SHARE may not be here, and we have to take a stand right now. I’m going to tell you that I will be with SHARE until the end because I know this has given me a lot. I would be giving back to this community because it gives me [plenty of] opportunities over the past few years. We just need people who would take a stand, with or without the resources. We need to make a move this time.”
The Second SHARE ASEAN – EU Exchange Students and Alumni Summit was participated by over 60 participants from Southeast Asia and Europe, and it was the first physical alumni engagement event ever since the pandemic. A few interview sessions with speakers and alumni will be published on SHARE Programme YouTube Channel.