The inaugural Singapore-Fujian Youth Leaders’ Exchange Program (SFYLEP) officially took place between 10th June 2019 and 20th June 2019. As the one-and-only lucky representative on Singapore University of Technology and Design, Ng J-Cyn shares her experience with us.
“They were very passionate and vocal leaders who came from all walks of life. There were undergraduates, those working towards their Masters, young working adults,… and we all came from very different fields of expertise – China Studies, Engineering, Physics, Horticulture, Education… No matter which individual I was talking to, I found it really enlightening. They had such unique perspectives!”
The exchange program consisted of two consecutive legs, or phases – the first one lasted for 4 days and was in Singapore, while the next 6 days lasted in China, Fujian province.
In Singapore, the delegates stayed in Furama City Centre and visited enterprises such as Quickdesk or Seedly, gained insight into the uprising enterprise district in Singapore when they visited Block71 NUS Enterprise, visited Bee Cheng Hiang’s factory, the Sustainable Gallery at Marina Bay Sands, the Hokkien Huay Kuan as well as the Changi Experience Studio at Jewel. Apart from these visits, Singaporeans, who were each individually tagged to one China buddy, had to bring their China buddies around in small groups to sight-see Singapore and were sometimes given a small budget to buy meals of their choice for themselves and their buddies to emulate the traditional Hawker Center dining experience.
The SFYLEP team even had the honour of having a dialogue with our Minister of Culture, Community and Youth, Ms Grace Fu. You may visit Ms Grace Fu’s reflections on Facebook here.
The responsibility was then reversed in China, whereby Chinese buddies had to bring their Singaporean counterparts around their own friendly city. The delegates stayed in several different hotels on different nights and got an extremely amazing, culturally immersive experience hiking up the Wuyi Mountains to TianYou peak, bamboo rafting down the Nine Bend River (Jiuqu Xi) and sight-seeing, tea-tasting or shopping around popular hotspots such as Kulangsu, Yat Sen Road and night street markets. They also had the privilege of watching the Impression DaHongPao Show and dropping by Xiamen University, the Fujian (Xiamen)-Singapore Friendship Polyclinic, the Fujian Museum and NetDragon Company. They travelled around with pre-arranged private buses, but also had the chance of experiencing the bullet train rides or short boat rides when travelling across cities or smaller islands. The list of sites and activities mentioned remain non-exhaustive.
“If I were given the chance, I would definitely do it all over again! It is a pity the exchange was only about 10 days long. The friendships we built over the few days was so strong come the end, and when we had to part ways, literally almost everyone was in tears. I forged equally strong friendships with Singaporeans and the China delegates. Even the big, strong, male China delegates (you typically would not expect to see in tears) and some working adults were tearing. Though the stares we attracted at the airport then did not come from joy but more of surprise, that moment was surely a precious and unforgettable memory etched in each and every one of us delegates’ minds and hearts – it seemed to give us the confirmation stamp that upon touchdown, our conversations would resume across screens, be it Whatsapp (which the China delegates who initially did not have quickly downloaded after this exchange) or WeChat (which the Singaporean delegates who initially did not have also quickly downloaded after this exchange). It’s been a week already, but our China buddies are still actively talking to us via WeChat. In fact, tomorrow I have a scheduled group video call with some of the delegates from both Singapore and Xiamen, and it would be our second video call since my return to Singapore.”
SFYLEP was part of Singapore’s Whole-of-Government approach to deepen bilateral relations with China. There has been an increasing effort for Singapore to engage China’s Fujian province which shares strong ancestral links with herself. Recognising the importance of regular people-to-people exchanges that enhance cultural understanding and promote personal ties, the National Youth Council Singapore and Fujian Provincial Foreign Affairs Office collaborated on setting up this annual joint youth leaders’ exchange program. The inaugural program had a theme of “Innovative and Enterprising Youths for the 21st Century” and was 100% funded by both sides; delegates only had to financially cover their additional personal expenses.