When a student finds himself in a new environment, oftentimes the struggle is to adjust. To adjust to the people who may be perceived as individuals who do not share the same culture and general appreciation of life with you. So you locate that corner in a large room where you can fully be yourself, conscious that from that point on, as you are to the world, you are but a component of that large room. In the process, you find yourself blurring demarcation lines. While aware of boundaries, you reach out, blend in, and engage as much as be engaged. You gradually come to a point of maturity where you contemplate on your experiences in relation to others — to the rest of the space of that room where you thrive in one corner. You then realize that in the same way that you want your corner to be no different from the rest of the room, they, too, want the rest of the room to be no different from your corner.
“A Filipino’s Search for His ‘Chinese’ Soul” tackles insights that build around the value of relationships as an enabling factor in one’s struggle to overcome roadblocks to learning and living a whole-rounded life. It discusses the dual-headed intent to be as much a learner as a source of learning. It highlights how this complementary appreciation of learning on a person-to-person level reinforces perceived institutional culture of the university you belong. Because the university comes across more like a “home” than an “ivory tower”, the motivation to grow with others in order to be one becomes stronger. You then naturally want to excel, not at the expense of others but in being able to provide a platform on where you see them grow with you, and you, grow with them. You then imbibe that soul and live it out as yours; your corner then becomes part of the room, and the room then becomes part of your corner.
This is the “soul” in academic learning. The soul in campus life that bolsters one’s sense of pride of being a student of The Education University of Hong Kong — one born of an appreciation of one’s self in relation to others (a Filipino to a Chinese; a Chinese to a Filipino). At least to me, this is the Education University. To the audience, the affiliations (Filipino and Chinese) that the topic refers to could very well be replaced with any other nationality (i.e. a Malaysian to a Filipino soul; a Burmese to a Bangladeshi soul). In this context, the “soul” then becomes borderless, distinctive yet inclusive, evolving within the prevailing setting.
It is in this Filipino’s search for his Chinese soul— and him finding it in, with and through people, majority of them with strong Chinese heritage— that he pushes himself further out of his comfort zone in learning more about the prevailing setting. He calibrates his learning according to his growing interest to generate more knowledge within that prevailing context (Hong Kong and the Greater China Region) where the Chinese soul can best be embraced. Thus, he nurtures a greater interest to now view the Philippines and the world in relation to what in his case are Hong Kong and the Greater China Region. The Filipino then becomes a conduit of his little corner to the larger space within the room, and of the larger space to his little corner. ###
(Presentation brief for the conference during the 2017 Learning and Teaching Festival of The Education University of Hong Kong in March 2017.)