Graphic Communication students take once-in-a-life-time trip to Taiwan

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Two BA (Hons) Graphic Communication third year students have returned from a once-in-a-life-time opportunity in a student exchange to Taiwan.

After winning a BCU competition run in partnership with Yunlin University of Science and Technology in Taiwan, Natasha Hira and Wadeeah Hageb won the opportunity to study at the Taiwanese university for ten days. Taking part in student classes and activities, they also experienced the Taiwanese culture and way of life with fun trips in the evenings and at weekends. Exchange buddies and Taiwanese competition winners Yuki Ho and Emily Wang guided our students along in Taiwan, then took their turn to experience life on the other side of the world when they accompanied Natasha and Wadeeah back to Birmingham for their own ten day stay!

Being totally immersed in a new culture was something new to both sets of students, especially with Waadeah from the UK side and Emily from the Taiwanese side having never left their respective home countries before! There is not a lot that remains hidden when spending a total of twenty days living, working and socialising with a group of people, so the experience provided the perfect chance to learn a great deal about a new culture in a relatively short space of time.

The pairs shared food together, a particularly memorable experience being a traditional Chinese restaurant – supposedly the most popular place to eat in the whole of Taiwan. They particularly enjoyed the vast array of bubble tea flavours! Both Natasha and Wadeeah commented on how they were struck by the sheer amount of independent and family-owned store and cafes in Taiwan, and the prevalence of nature, something they really loved and wished we had more of back at home.

“You’re surrounded by nature, you can see trees and mountains even when you’re in the city” observed Wadeeah, and both students noticed how much bamboo was used for a variety of inventive purposes, due to its versatile texture.

In contrast, Yuki and Emily loved the unique architecture and historic buildings of the UK, reaching its peak at the Victorian town of Blists Hill in Shropshire which the pair loved. They were amazed at how we have preserved a way of experiencing Victorian life in the 21st century, even down to using the original coins and eating food (mainly sweets!) made to the original recipes, proving that both cultures have their plus points and have different aspects to appreciate. They particularly enjoyed two of our

All students created artwork on their two trips. In Taiwan, Natasha and Wadeeah took part in tie-dye workshops, to a traditional method, and have taken this experience home with them as they are now incorporating tie-dye into their current work. Natasha commented:

Back at BCU the group worked in the print room, with Emily in particular taking to printing and producing some really excellent colourful artwork. Both sides noted that depending on which country you study in, you will encounter a very differing style of teaching, but were quick to point out that there is no clear right or wrong way to do things. Natasha noted:

“Over here we tend to specialise in one discipline and focus on that, but in Taiwan students continue to develop in all disciplines, even when they are as different as photography, illustration, film and graphics. There is good in both approaches, for different reasons.”

Yuki however, preferred the idea of focusing all of one’s energy specialising on mastering one discipline, and is keen to return to the UK again soon.

Going to visit each other’s’ countries again was a sentiment echoed by both sets of students, Wadeeah agrees:

"It was a great opportunity to explore a wonderful country, and meet the most welcoming, humble and generous people. I definitely want to go and visit again, as I want to learn more about their wonderful culture and traditions."

4th Age Brief

At the School of Visual Communications we often set briefs with the creators of winning submissions getting to take part in amazing opportunities such as this one.

In order to take part in this exchange, under the guidance of tutor Tracy Allanson-Smith a brief was set to Graphic Communication students to “Design a way to increase and maintain how the young and old can learn from each other.” Natasha and Wadeeah’s winning submission was a labour of real love, having been informed by a working visit to a care home to take part in some Art Therapy sessions. The pair created a booklet for guidance on how to conduct the sessions and including some of the insight they developed as a result of their trip, such as how the old can absorb energy from the young. Work from students across both countries addressed the importance of dispelling stereotypes and myths about ageing.

We can’t wait for the next opportunity.

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VisCom Taiwan news article 2
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