Salient: An organ of student opinion at Victoria University, Wellington. Vol. 23, No. 4. Wednesday, May 4, 1960
Victoria And The Asian Student — Part II
Victoria And The Asian Student
(The second article of the series in which Doug Waite describes the work of the Summer School for Asian students held in January and February of this year.)
The School sought to achieve its aims through lectures, tutorials and social functions. Tutorial classes were graded according to proficiency in English, and they were taken charge of by senior and graduate students chosen on intelligence, experience and ability in dealing with the questions likely to puzzle overseas students.
The classes met in the mornings, and the afternoons were occupied with sporting activities organised by Victoria's Physical Education Instructor, Mr Landreth, and with personal interviews of students by their instructors. On Thursdays visits were made to various places such as the City Milk Department, a dairy farm, the Railway Workshops and the Supreme Court. Sometimes the whole school attended, at other times the individual tutorial classes made the trip. In the evenings activities centred around addresses by members of the University staff on topics of particular interest to Asian students. Highlights among these addresses were "Education's Task," 'To be or not to be a Foreigner," and "New Zealand women." These were followed by informal discussion in which it was hoped that students would gain confidence in expressing themselves and in using English to do this. Matters not covered in discussion could and did provide material for tutorial discussions. However, the main emphasis in tutorials was on English language structure.
A feature or the social arrangements was a weekend camp held at Akatarawa. There people began to understand each other more intimately and worked together during that time, and afterwards, with renewed vigour and concentration. Panel discussions, dances,' films, parties at flats afforded overseas Students the opportunity of mixing and of gaining confidence in the atmosphere of New Zealand student life. The school was closed by the Minister of Education, and the Colombo Plan students organised a dance in the evening.
Lessening The Shock
It can be seen, then, how this first attempt was made at lessening the shock of settling down in a new culture. However, the understanding of a new culture can only come with time, and it would be ludicrous to pretend that in the space of a month a person who is really a stranger to New Zealand life and customs—and language—can be transformed into a person completely at home here. This adjustment is a personal concern and can only be achieved by means peculiar to each individual. There can be no model answer, but a scheme such as the Summer School does provide the Asian student with a foundation. He no longer finds himself, as many of his forerunners have, floating In a void with no landmarks except students of his own nationality, people often equally adrift and homesick. It does allow the student to air his difficulties in an atmosphere of tolerance and interest. He can organise his thoughts and attitudes, and he no longer has to rely solely on the reports of senior Plan students.
Getting To Know Us
But the Summer School lasted only a month, and the academic year had not yet begun. The foundation given by the School will rapidly be undermined if the overseas student cannot rapidly get into Victoria student life with New Zealanders. He has come with an Intense desire to know New Zealanders. Is he going to meet them at Vic? He would get to know a few at the Summer School, but not many. Most New Zealand students are working long hours to earn money during the vacation. Others are away on holiday. Again there are other overseas students at Victoria—students from Asian countries not associated with the Colombo Plan; students from the Pacific Islands and Fiji, for whom some course such as the Summer School is equally necessary. These students must not be excluded from further courses.
I am not agitating for a friendship campaign. But I would ask the overseas student to assert himself as an individual. I would ask New Zealand students to recognise the difficulties of an overseas student here at Victoria and to realise the opportunity, available to all too few for too short a period, for frank and open discussion. What is needed most is the tolerance which is the basis of friendship.
The following anecdote is told about one of the earlier Russo-Turkish wars: Ivan is about to leave the village, in which he was born, to join his regiment. His aged mother says to him: "Now, son when you are at the front, don't work too hard. When you see a Turk, take your rifle and shoot him dead—and then eat something Then take your rifle again and kill another Turk—and then lake a little nap When you wake up. kill still another Turk, if you absolutely have to; but then take time out for a cup of tea …" "But mother. Ivan queries, "what If a Turk fires at me?" "Don't be a" fool,' the old woman replied. "Why should the Turks want to shoot at you?"