“Apart in Distance, But Never in Heart” – Virtual Exchanges amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

“Apart in Distance, But Never in Heart” – Virtual Exchanges amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

14 May 2021

Students can usually look forward to the post-examination period filled with activities; one of the highlights being overseas exchange programmes. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, these exchanges had to be moved online. Nevertheless, the students still made the best out of their situation by preparing engaging presentations to share their respective cultures and traditions.

On 10th November 2020, students from Hwa Chong Institution (College) and Bugil Academy, South Korea got together on Zoom for a virtual exchange. 

Our Virtual Exchange with Bugil Academy, South Korea.

Our student facilitators from Hwa Chong introduced the Korean students to unique Singaporean habits, such as the use of Singlish, the kiasu mindset, and even our chope culture! The Korean exchange students had also recorded eating shows, more commonly known as mukbangs, to showcase several of Korea’s iconic dishes, including patbingsu (red bean shaved ice), and tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cakes). Without a doubt, everyone was left hungry for both food and knowledge! 

When asked about her thoughts and feelings about the exchange programme, Wong Yan Rou (20A12) enthused, “Now, I know a lot about Korea through their presentations that they prepared meticulously. Overall, it was a very enriching experience.” 

Yan Rou also reflects on her thoughts on the unconventional way the exchange programme was conducted. 

“I certainly was not the most confident as it was an inaugural and unprecedented attempt to plan for an exchange programme that was held virtually. However, I was still able to make some Korean friends, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how enthusiastic and participative the exchange students were, which contributed greatly to the success of this exchange programme.”

A second exchange was held on 17th November 2020, with Japanese students from Kansai University Senior High School and Tsukuba University Senior High School. 

Our Virtual Exchange with Japanese Peers

To break the ice, email addresses and self-introduction cards were exchanged beforehand. Our Hwa Chong student facilitators also filmed a video explaining some unique aspects of Singaporean culture – such as local food, iconic landmarks, our education system and more.

During the session, the students split up into breakout rooms to discuss the effects of Covid-19 on their countries. The sharing was honest and insightful, with the students discovering both similarities and differences in the ways the pandemic had affected their lives. 

A student from Tsukuba University Senior High School reflected on her experience during the exchange: 

“Having a proper discussion with someone around my age was a new experience for me. In Japan, we don’t have much opportunity to discuss a certain topic at school, except for the random talk with friends. I was surprised how well [the Hwa Chong students] facilitated the discussion and took notes at the same time!”

The two exchanges turned out to be a success, with many new friendships made and much knowledge acquired. Despite not being able to meet in person, the discussions still allowed the students to gain a deeper understanding of each other’s culture, and gain new experiences from interacting with our peers. 

Written by Kelly Tan Yi Hui (20S70) and Isabelle Hakim (20A14)

(This is a continuing series to capture the vibrancy of Hwa Chong life in 2020.)