Short-Term Mobility Programme in Tzu-Chi University, Hualien, Taiwan
The Short-Term Mobility Grant 2016 was provided by USM International Mobility & Career Centre (IMCC) and the Ministry of Education (Higher Education Division) with the aim to provide an outbound higher education experience for Malaysian university students. School of Health Sciences (PPSK) was one of the five schools in USM that was awarded the grant to execute a short-term student exchange programme with Tzu-Chi University (TCU) in Hualien, Taiwan.
Assoc Prof Dr Hanson Huang and Dr Vina Tan Phei Sean teamed up to arrange a 15-day course with a minimal of 26 contact hours for a 2-credit course entitled ‘Sustainable Practices & Humanistic Activities in Taiwan’. Application for the programme was opened to all PPSK students and a total of 15 students were selected. There were two final year Dietetic students, five 3rd-year and seven 2nd-year Exercise & Sports Science students and one 2nd-year Nursing student that took part in the programme. Assoc Prof Dr Mohamed Saat Ismail and Dr Vina later accompanied the students for the first and second week of the programme respectively. All students had to hand-in two individual reports and conduct group presentation with their TCU student partners.
Tzu-Chi University is located in Hualien, about a 2-hour train ride from Taipei City. In TCU, USM students had classes that exposed them to the humanistic nature of Tzu-Chi Foundation and the way of life in Taiwan. In classes, students learnt about the principles behind volunteerism, respecting nature, compassionate and loving-kindness actions by visiting the Silent Mentor programme, Jing-Si abode, Tzu-Chi Foundation Museum and Museum of Taiwan Native Tribes. Then, USM students also practiced those principles in tea ceremony class, flower arrangement class, recycling work and also as part of their daily activities in TCU campus. TCU campus serves only vegetarian food to reduce the pollution provided by rearing animal for food. Waste was reduced by encouraging diners to bring their own bowls, cups and utensils and providing soap, sponge and sinks to wash their own utensils after meals. Food waste was collected for compost and trash was always separated for recycling. Even within their 15-day stay in TCU dorms, USM students had to separate and throw their own trash. Initially new to these practices, USM students now hope that the same sustainable practices can be conducted in USM Health Campus. Furthermore, TCU encourages sports and physical activity to everyone on campus including the lecturers and volunteers. This was highlighted in their annual Sport’s Day and fitness facilities on campus. Finally, the biggest impact as reported by USM students were the kindness, generosity and helpfulness from the TCU students towards them regardless of race, religion or cultural beliefs (and even language barrier!). USM students on the other hand encouraged TCU students to converse in English, shared Malaysian Islamic and Indian practices and gave their TCU friends confidence to present in English.
Based on the student reports, the programme was a great success as USM students not only learnt but practiced sustainable practices while in Hualien, Taiwan. USM students also experienced the discipline, thoughtfulness and healthy behaviours in a tertiary education setting.
Figure 1: Opening ceremony with the 15 USM School of Health Science students and Assoc Prof Dr Mohamed Saat Ismail (standing behing USM student in blue T-shirt) and Tzu-Chi University students and faculty members including Assoc Prof Dr Hanson Huang (first person standing on the right).