With travel restrictions amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, student mobility among international undergraduates has been inevitably disrupted. The advent of technological advancement in video conferencing provided an opportunity for SUSS to create a new normal for cross-cultural interaction.
#CONVERGE was a four-week virtual exchange programme organised by the SUSS Centre for Experiential Learning (CEL) in June 2020.
With a line up of fully-digital events ranging from webinars on global perspectives, fun games and thematic discussions, it brought different international communities together, facilitating conversations among 140 undergraduates from 50 universities across 16 countries.
The webinars featured academia, corporate professionals, community activists as well as entrepreneurs who shared how the pandemic has impacted various sectors such as education, businesses and vulnerable communities. SUSS speakers included Dr Jonathan Leong (School of Science and Technology), Dr Leong Chan-Hoong (Centre for Applied Research) and Dr Razwana Begum (School of Humanities and Behavioural Sciences).
Dr Razwana Begum (bottom right) invited Linda Klingman from USA for a webinar titled “A Restorative Justice Perspective to Social Disruptions”.
Participants were also divided into groups comprising different nationalities to work together on a project where they analysed a variety of issues such as 'Youth Mental Health' and 'Education Inequality' with mentorship from our speakers. Bernice Teo, a final-year SUSS Social Work student who was among the 45 SUSS participants, shared: “Going digital opens many possibilities, such as inviting international speakers as it redefines connection and bonding. Geographical limitation is no longer an issue.”
#CONVERGE participants posing for a virtual group photo
Vanita Shrikant Deshpande from CHRIST (Deemed to Be University) of India also agreed how virtual programmes like #CONVERGE gave them a common platform to exchange views on issues affecting international youth. She added: “I will continue to communicate with my new international friends through different social media platforms. I also look forward to meeting them in person!”