Cultural exchange a great experience for students

12 Feb, 2014
Cultural exchange a great experience for students
The AUT group in Taiwan late last year.

A group of AUT University students and staff members were lucky enough to travel to Taiwan at the end of last year for a film and cultural exchange, learning about the Taiwanese culture and sharing their Māori heritage and traditions too.

The opportunity

The group of nine from Te Ara Poutama, the Māori Development Faculty, were in Taiwan for three weeks as part of the Tap Root Cultural Exchange Programme and were invited to take part last year when they met Tony Coolidge, executive director of the Atayal Organisation, at the Wairoa Film Festival.

Urshula Ansell, one of the students on the trip, said the whole experience was exciting and interesting for her.

“I was really looking forward to meeting people and seeing a different culture,” she said.

All about the trip

Over the course of the trip the AUT group learned more about the Taiwanese culture through university and school visits, people from different Taiwanese tribes, site visits of historical areas, conferences and film festivals.

Learning about film and media in Taiwan was appealing for the students, most of whom are Bachelor of Māori Development students, majoring in media.

“We attended a conference about Taiwan and New Zealand’s relationship in terms of film and saw a lot of indigenous filming. We also watched some TV shows being filmed and produced,” she said.

Eru Paranihi, another student on the trip, said it was an “eye-opener”.

“We did a lot of performances for people and also got to see traditional tribes perform for us too.”

One thing the group found incredibly interesting was the tradition of face tattoos in Taiwan, not dissimilar to that in Māori culture.

“People don’t do it anymore,” said Urshula, “and only six people still have the tattoos. We were so lucky to have met one of those six people.”

Now they are home

For Eru, learning about communication through culture was something he will apply to his study here at AUT.

“People communicate differently and people think in a different way sometimes too,” he said. “It is so important to always meet in the middle.”

And for Urshula, a stronger appreciation of her culture will be what she takes away.

“It made me really upset that parts of their culture like their language and their traditions like the facial tattoos are disappearing. I want to continue to fight and support to keep my Māori culture alive.”

To read more about the trip from Eru's perspective click here