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HOME > Exchange page > Post-Programme exchange reports > Post-Programme Exchange and Activity reports > "Asia" is not just the name of a region, but an aggregation composed of us - people
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Post-Programme Exchange and Activity reports

"Asia" is not just the name of a region, but an aggregation composed of us - people

Risa Arai
Participant in the JEMESYS2009 Japan-ASEAN Student Conference

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 'I never thought JASEAN conference would become this life changing experience.'
 'I know, at first, I just decided to participate because it was free.'
 'Yes, me too. But it turned out that we get these close friends and frequently communicate on the facebook and...enjoy being together in Bali!'

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 Some members of the Regional Identity groups of the Japan-ASEAN Student Conference gathered in Bali recently. The above conversation is what we talked about in the car in transit.

 Twelve members came from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Japan, and were reunited for the first time since November, 2009.

 All of us were together only for one and a half days due to a work or school schedule. But, having come together from all over Asia, we laughed and shed tears at our parting after the five-day period. Through this brief period we realized nothing had changed since the Japan-ASEAN Student Conference. We reaffirmed our friendship and happiness of having participated in the conference.

 I was not much interested in Asia until I joined the conference. I paid attention only to Europe and the US. I had a lot of European and American friends and felt very familiar with news about the UK, France and the US. On the other hand, I didn't know at all about Asian countries and people living there. They were "faceless people" to me (i.e. people whose faces don't appear and don't come to mind). What cultures they live in, what their living standards are, and what subjects they study... It sounds arrogant, but honestly, I was surprised to hear that students in Myanmar and Laos had high-tech personal computers. Also, there was a remarkable gap between the rich and poor among the participants. One participant wanted to buy a Chanel jacket, while another hesitated to buy one cheap plastic umbrella. Another said sadly, "I will never be able to come to Japan." I felt I saw the epitome of Asian society. Through the conference, however, I experienced firsthand that we were able to build a genuine and heartfelt friendship and work together in spite of differences in cultural and economic levels.

 I noticed that Asia is not just the name of a region, but an aggregation composed of us, people. Though it was a short conference held only for one week, these friendships became closer and more precious for me than my college friends in Japan. When I said in Bali,
 'In Japan, I have just a 'plastic friendship' but here, I feel like...we entrust each other and have heart to heart friendship.'
 they smiled and agreed with me.

 Because of our different cultures, sometimes we need to explain things in order to understand each other. Thanks to our different cultures we can accept our differences from the beginning. By accepting each other we have become friends who can smile when we are together.

 In August of last year, before going to Bali, a Singaporean member and a Laotian member from the same group got married. I attended the wedding ceremony in Singapore to celebrate the happy new life of my friend. In Bali, I also attended the funeral of my friend's relative. I'm very lucky and very proud to have precious friends whose family ceremonies we share.

 On this day, I feel the Japan-ASEAN Student Conference is an exchange program that should be continued. When Asia is mentioned, emerging countries with remarkable economic growth come to mind. But that’s not all. I want students to know about the interesting cultures and the devoted daily lives of the people living in other Asian countries and for this to be the first step to establishing a deeper relationship between Japan and ASEAN countries.

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 The above participant graduated from university in March, 2011 and passed the entrance examination for UCL (University College London *1 in the UK). She will study there from September.

 We wish her all the best for her future and look forward to her further development as a world citizen.

*1 A research and educational institution of the University of London