Salient: An organ of student opinion at Victoria University, Wellington. Vol. 23, No. 3. Monday, April 11, 1960
Victoria and The Asian Student
Victoria and The Asian Student
(We are planning two articles giving a brief survey of the activities of the Summer School for Asian Students held at Victoria between January 18 and February 19 this year. In this article Doug Waite outlines the position of the Asian student, as he sees it, at Victoria.)
We all know that a Colombo Plan student is an Asian student living in New Zealand. He receives a certain amount of money and is required to do some sort of study. Newspapers contain headlines like 'Outstanding Benefits of the Colombo Plan Scheme', 'A Further Link in the East-West Relations' and so on. But if we forget all this for a moment, drop the tag 'Colombo Plan Student' and inquire into the attitudes and experience of an Asian student arriving in this country, then self-satisfaction disappears and a certain uneasiness develops.
What factors affect the Asian in his New Zealand environment?
He has lived in a social and cultural atmosphere totally different from ours. His whole mode of thought is often different; his ideas of friendship, hospitality, family life, recreation and, in many cases, worship, are different from ours. His language is different. He will very likely have grown up under the threat of acute social disturbances. Thus he may be more aware of the real needs and desires of people and of the opposing political systems offering satisfaction to those needs than the New Zealand student is.
This is probably the overseas student's most distressing and deeply felt problem. He has lived in a land of varied races, with large Asian or European foreign communities. He is aware of racial conflict, of the privileges a man can receive because of his race, and of the misery which the exercise of that privilege can bring to others. His land is probably one where the European, and particularly the Englishman, is looked upon with distrust. No doubt he has heard that this is a land of racial equality, and so he will come here with conflicting thoughts; is there really equality here? Have these people anything in their way of life to give my people? Do they want to receive anything from us? Is racial equality and harmony really a mirage?
Of course, people of whatever race ere individuals and cannot be categorised. The extent to which the individual is affected by the above considerations varies enormously. However, language difficulty, in my opinion, is the worst obstacle to successful adjustment. Language development is governed by the society in which one is raised, and its standard of reference is limited by the surrounding emotional and other conditions. Consequently the Asian probably finds difficulty in expressing his deepest thoughts while here in New Zealand. He finds he must use a language unable to convey the emotional fibre of his character. The student whose English is poor prefers to withdraw into the shelter of his group of Asian friends, while the student whose English is good is amused and disgusted by the condescending English with which New Zealanders often address him.
But the Asian student has problems common to all students. The emotional upheaval caused by the sudden transference from one society to another often blinds both Kiwi and Asian students to this fact.
Approach To External Affairs
It was this realisation that drove New Zealand and Asian students already resident here to think about a possible Summer School for new arrivals. As a result, the International Affairs Committee approached the External Affairs Department, which promised its support and sent members to an organising committee. The director of the School was Victoria's Dr. Arundel del Re, and other members of the Committee represented the Colombo Plan Students and the Students Association. There were about 50 Plan students present during the course, with a large number of non-University people also present—Government service students, medical and dental nurses, and practical engineering students, for example.
The aim of the School, to quote from an article prepared by the Committee, was "to assist Asian Students in particular to improve their knowledge and command of English, both written and spoken, to provide a means for discussing problems specifically connected with their studies and to give them the opportunity to gain a closer appreciation of New Zealand and New Zealanders."
(Next issue—Doug. Waite describes the work of the Summer School and tells what he thinks its achievements were).