What we learn shapes who we are. However, precisely what we learn often depends on where we learn. So we, as separate societies learning in isolation, end up with slightly different understandings of our community and the broader communities of the world. Divergent perspectives of the same picture may initially appear as a negative - a breeding ground for disagreement or an opportunity for misunderstanding. However, the members of STEAR and myself would argue that this diversity of interpretations is positive and, paradoxically, typically leads to less disagreement and misunderstanding. Instead, the eyes and thoughts of another add up to compose a bricolaged view of the world, and give us our best chance at seeing the entire picture. This mission, one of common understanding and sharing perspectives, has fuelled our cultural programme’s development and launch.
Alongside the core policy initiatives of STEAR, developing the cross-cultural competence of team members and those engaging with the organisation also sits as a key priority. The launch of our cultural programme aims to fulfil this need by running a series of relevant sessions, providing critical resources and creating links between participants based across Asia and Europe who share a common interest in policy, language or culture.
Reviving Crossways is a series of Virtual Tours of Museums, galleries and heritage sites that encapsulates the value of cross cultures and creativity as a part of the cultural programme. STEAR is very honoured and grateful to have been able to host today’s event with Dr. Asma Abdullahte, Cultural Intelligence Coach and Mr. Robert Hayden Jr., Dean of College of Cultural Heritage Studies, Asian Institute of Maritime Studies (AIMS).
Mr. Robert Hayden Jr. delivered opening remarks emphasising the importance of cultural diversity and heritage. He later invited the participants to the breathtaking virtual tour of the Museo Maritimo curated by Daryl Lorence Abarca, curator and researcher of AIMS. The Museo Maritimo is a project envisioned and initiated by AIMS to illustrate what the Philippine seafaring, training, and manning history is and who its leaders are. It also serves as a repository for valuable collections of marine art, ship models, and nautical artefacts. In the following session, Dr. Asma Abdullahthe delivered the keynote speech with the topic of “Meeting halfway: Understanding the Value of Culture in the New Normal,” which enabled participants to develop a deeper understanding of the importance of cultural intelligence when relating across cultures. She also illustrated cultural dimensions as data. Each culture has different characteristics because it has various driving factors. Therefore, the key to cultural intelligence is to start learning and understand each cultural context. She ended her lecture with a famous quote from Hwang Tzu, a Chinese philosopher, who once said:
“How shall I talk to the sea to the frog if it has never left its pound…How shall I talk to the frost to the bird of the Summerland if it has never left the land of its birth…How shall I talk of life with the sage if he is a prisoner of his own doctrine?”
In the concluding session, participants were challenged through a creative workshop, “Navigating Cultures,” which allowed them to put into practice and solidify the lessons of this event. This workshop provided participants with valuable cross-cultural knowledge and the opportunity to travel beyond borders (albeit virtually) in times where Covid-19 restrictions mean that many have never been so homebound. Furthermore, by engaging with this event, participants were given the opportunity to network with other highly motivated young people and seasoned professionals alike, allowing them to strengthen their international ties whilst seeking new avenues for their intellectual growth.
STEAR is looking forward to hosting more events like these in the future and we hope to see more joining us along the way!
Mr. Robert Hayden Jr. is the Dean of College of Cultural Heritage Studies at the Asian Institute of Maritime Studies (AIMS) and a Council Member of the International Society for Education through Art (INSEA). He also served as President of the Association of Cultural Offices in Philippine Educational Institutions, Inc. (ACOPEI) and Chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee of the South Manila Educational Consortium (SMEC).
Dr. Asma Abdullah is one of Malaysia’s pioneer trainers on cross cultures; a "corporate anthropologist" author, teacher and facilitator of learning. She holds a bachelor's degree in Anthropology and Sociology and Diploma in Education from Monash University, a master's degree in Educational Technology from University of Southern California; and a Master's degree in Counseling Education from University Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. She received her doctorate from Universiti Kebangsaan, Bangi, Malaysia.