About 60 percent (370 million) out of the total 620 million ASEAN population are falling below the age of 35. These youths play a crucial role in shaping the ASEAN Community who will determine the efforts towards regional integration in economic, political and social-cultural aspects.
Youth nowadays are more exposed to global issues through social media. But the agenda of the formation of the ASEAN Community itself is still not clear to them. Hence, more efforts are needed to increase youth’s awareness and knowledge of the ASEAN Community and increase their participation towards integration.
Several popular programs such ASEAN + Young Leaders Summit (AYLS), ASEAN Youth Entrepreneur Seminar and Expo and ASEAN Youth Cultural Forum have been established in order to involve youths in the formation of the ASEAN Community. All of these programs are the efforts that aim to enhance and increase the awareness and knowledge among ASEAN youth in a different perspective like leadership, economies and cultures.
One of the well-known program in ASEAN region I would like to be introduced strongly here is Fostering ASEAN Future Leaders Program (2014, 2015) which was established by the ASEAN University Network in collaboration with Daejeon University, Korea. It is a part of the socio-cultural cooperation under ASEAN and Republic of Korea Dialogue relations. The main purpose of the program is to enhance and increase the awareness and knowledge among ASEAN youth by studying for a year in an economically advanced country like Korea.
Daejeon University (DJU) has specialized curriculums and ample experience with ASEAN students. DJU is the only university that has successfully launched the ASEAN – ROK International College Student Exchange Program from 2002 to 2010, and then transformed to ASEAN Millennium Leaders College Student Exchange Program (2011, 2012), ASEAN Leaders Fostering Program (2013), and currently ASEAN Future Leaders Program (2014, 2015).
DJU also provides ASEAN students with the opportunity to become role models in the future by taking the advanced level classes, while using the university’s fully equipped facilities for one academic year. The theme of the program education varies from year to year. Also, the program is dedicated to cultivating students to become leaders of ASEAN Nations, especially through the program’s internship program at internationally well-known organizations in Korea such as United Nations Organization, Incheon Free Economy Zone, Korea National Commission for UNESCO, Korean Institute for International Economy Policy and ASEAN-Korea Centre. This proves that the alumni ASEAN students contribute to diplomatic relations between ASEAN and ROK.
Moreover, the program offers exchange scholarships for 20 undergraduate students from ASEAN youth to study at Daejeon University. The scholarship includes tuition fees, room and board, round-trip ticket, basic medical insurance and living allowance for one academic year which funded by the ASEAN-ROK Future Oriented Cooperation Programs Funds and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Korea.
As an alumni of this program, I was given the opportunity to represent my country, Malaysia and meet the other 19 youths from 10 ASEAN countries from 2013 to 2014 at DJU, Korea. I had a better understanding of the concept of ASEAN Community after finishing the program as I learned different cultures, heard different stories, and lived and interacted with my ASEAN brothers and sisters.
The program does not only enable the ASEAN youth to leave their comfort zone and to learn how to be independent, explore in a different culture environment, and live together people with different culture, nations, and languages from ASEAN. It also manages to bring together ASEAN youth through people-to-people diplomacy and it helps to build ASEAN integration.
By Zyn Ann Tiow, ASEAN Correspondent from Malaysia