Bangladesh-Japan Exchange Project 2021 was an exceptional journey.
This year’s program set a great example of how much an “exchange program” can impact a person’s life. Most of us have done exchange programs, then why do I say BJEP 2021 was exceptional?
What happens in a usual exchange program? People from different countries meet, exchange cultures, build friendships, learn from each other. And in this pandemic, people can’t even meet, which makes it more difficult to host a successful exchange program. I won’t lie, even I had doubts whether an online exchange program is going to work or not. But to my surprise, AAEE has always proved me wrong. And after engaging in 3 exchange programs back to back hosted by AAEE I can surely say that, yes it works!
Yet I would say, this year’s BJEP was most exceptional compared to my other experiences. Because of the theme itself! “Deep Culture”
In usual exchange programs, the culture we exchange it’s mostly surface culture. Surface culture shows us how different and diversified are we, how people have different lifestyles, different beliefs, and so on. This is great I would say because exchange programs are meant to break the myopic view where people consider their own culture to be more right or superior? It’s to broaden our mind that we can co-exist having cultures that are very different.
But there’s a loophole. We always brush off just knowing the surface culture and knowing how “different” we are. But what we don’t try to understand is “why” are we different. Just knowing we are different makes us accept the diversity but to “understand” each other which is very important to build friendship, we need to look into the deep culture.
So this year, in BJEP the participants, as well as the organizers, tried to understand the deep culture, what lies beyond this cultural diversity?
Although deep culture is very subjective and tricky to address, the program was well organized. BJEP 2021 started off with a 3-day pre-program where the participants and the organizers had an ice breaker and discussed the surface culture which was essential instead of going straight into the deep culture. It was done to make the environment friendlier so that the participants and organizers interact without any hesitation and feel free to express themselves. In the main 7 day program, the participants dived deeper into understanding each other’s culture.
What unsaid values do we follow in our society? How has our family and society had an influence in shaping our perception and standards? As an individual what is our own perspectives on these? How our experiences had influenced us to follow or reject certain values?
These were the questions we asked each other. And I realized, even being a part of the nation I never had the chance to really understand my own culture. These questions were thought-provoking. Because even with our daily life these questions are never asked, thus never answered. And through the conversations I had and the ones I listened to, Something struck me. I personally experienced something that I’ve never contemplated or thought about.
We are the same!
I realized that although our social structure, traditions, habits, even some beliefs are really different when we try to engage in deep conversation put our point of view, we have a lot of similarities.
And even the differences we have, knowing the origin of it, knowing “why did he or she think like that? what’s their perspective?” helped me to understand them better. It made me feel more connected to the other culture.
Hence I would say, this year’s BJEP really opened up my mind, it made me think about my own culture, values, as well as understanding and respecting cultural and ideology differences more.
Thus instead of getting bombarded with cultural shocks or overwhelmed by cultural differences, BJEP helped us to realize what’s underneath these differences. This is what I dare to say the world needs, to acknowledge diversity, to respect other’s views, and to understand and be more kind to each other. AAEE has done an excellent job creating a platform for the youth to get the opportunity to discuss such unaddressed topics and inspire them to build cross-cultural friendships, promote cultural co-existence, reduce conflicts, and hopefully in long run make this world a better place.