Academic and Research Cooperation(Case)

National Changhua University of Education-NCUE Virtual Camp Maintains International Ties while Following Pandemic Regulations

National Changhua University of Education-NCUE Virtual Camp Maintains International Ties while Following Pandemic Regulations

Exchange highlights

  • The live-streamed Lukang Township tour brings a highly-immersive experience of local life to participants.
  • Master craftsmen lead hands-on courses of lion-head painting, which remain high quality via adjusted course content.
  • Many participants find the Camp a valuable experience and plan to travel, study or work in Taiwan in the future
National Changhua University of Education-NCUE Virtual Camp Maintains International Ties while Following Pandemic Regulations
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact international academic exchanges, the Office of International and Cross-strait Affairs (OICA) at National Changhua University of Education (NCUE) has found innovative ways to work around the restrictions. NCUE promoted virtual exchange programs with partner universities and hosted the 2021 International Summer Camp as a virtual event instead of a physical one. The Camp includes real-time online guided tours of Lukang Township and a hands-on course on traditional Taiwanese lion head painting crafts. The new format is well-acclaimed among the participants. They have developed a great interest in local Taiwanese culture and were impressed by the thoughtful service provided by the camp staff so that they manage to study, travel, learn Chinese, or work in Taiwan. NCUE has maintained international interaction despite the COVID-19 pandemic and contributed to citizen diplomacy for Taiwan.

As of 2016, NCUE has started holding the International Summer Camp, an annual 1-to-3-week long activity offering lessons about the Chinese language and Taiwanese culture. The Camp invites students from global partner universities or those on UMAP (University Mobility in Asia and the Pacific) programs to join. This year, the Camp was altered to go virtual because of pandemic restrictions. The participants were students from the U.S., Japan, Germany, and Indonesia. In addition, a three-day-long online Lukang Culture Experience Camp was also launched, targeting students from partner universities in mainland China. Totally four sessions of the two camps were held with nearly 90 participants. Apart from faculty members of the OICA, “international ambassadors” consisted of NCUE students having been through training from OICA gave counsel regarding courses and daily life to camp members throughout their stay.

Traditionally, NCUE’s International Summer Camp activities feature the Chinese language and Taiwanese culture, hands-on courses as well as outdoor field trips. To give the students who were blocked out from Taiwan by COVID-19 an immersive experience, OICA invested considerable manpower and equipment and scouted locations and rehearsed for a walkalong tour that contains many of Lukang's most memorable attractions, including Old Street, Lungshan Temple, Mazu Temple, Half-sided Well, Lukang Artist Village, Jiuqu Lane, and traditional grocery stores. Professional tour guides led the virtual tour in both English and Chinese, immersing the students in the local culture and historical atmosphere of Lukang Township.

Additionally, it is worth mentioning that the hands-on course, presenting traditional lion-head painting crafts in Lukang, worked well though under the grim pandemic situation. Local master craftsmen shared the characteristics, history, and creative aesthetics of lion-head painting, and then students were guided to paint with materials sent in advance through online instruction. At the end of the course, students, in front of the webcam, shared the colorful lion head painting they had made, with their smiley faces filled with joy.

The two camps contained most of the participants who had not experienced the virtual events. Despite the challenging nature of the Chinese language classes, they found the camp activities informative, easy to understand, meaningful, and overall a valuable experience. Compared to a video-based introduction, many commented that the live-stream guided tour gave them a better sense of Taiwan's local customs and culture. Some students from mainland China said that it is their first time experiencing how Taiwanese education differs from that in the Mainland, remarking that education in Taiwan is more westernized, but still manages to incorporate with the traditional culture so that if it is possible, they would like to apply for an exchange program to Taiwan in the future. There were also Japanese students who enjoyed the opportunity to have cultural exchanges with students from other countries despite not being good at English nor Chinese. Also, some students had learned Chinese for two years and dare not to speak it out loud, but they built the courage to do it during the camp activities. Most of them were deeply impressed by the enthusiasm, patience, and kindness of the responsible NCUE international ambassadors, commenting that the experience motivates them to come to Taiwan in the future to study, travel, learn Chinese, or work.

Dr. Hon-Man Lee, Dean of the Office of International and Cross-strait Affairs at NCUE, is thankful that the camps and the exchange programs functioned normally despite the restrictions from preventive measures. During the virtual opening ceremonies of the camps and exchange student orientation, he expressed his heartfelt welcome and the wish that the overseas students can come to Taiwan in person after the pandemic is contained.

National Changhua University of Education-NCUE Virtual Camp Maintains International Ties while Following Pandemic Regulations
The camp staff is webcasting live from a traditional grocery store on Old Street.

National Changhua University of Education-NCUE Virtual Camp Maintains International Ties while Following Pandemic Regulations
Despite the challenging nature of the Chinese language classes, most of the participants find the activities informative, easy to understand, meaningful, and overall a valuable experience.

National Changhua University of Education-NCUE Virtual Camp Maintains International Ties while Following Pandemic Regulations
Despite the challenging nature of the Chinese language classes, most of the participants find the activities informative, easy to understand, meaningful, and overall a valuable experience.