李韶计划感想——毛岸卓
2016-09-28

 There are two dimensions of Lee Shiu 2016 Summer Program that made it such a unique experience for me. First, is the academic side of the program. Second, is the very personal and emotional side of the program.

An Academic Journey

Lee Shiu 2016 offered incredible exposure to in-depth of perspectives of different cities, tightly packed within a very small time frame. This was achieved though, not only the incredible caliber and diversity of speakers, but also the very targeted and selective visits to social, political, and economic institutions that the program enjoyed. Such a setup, involving deep exposure over a short span, was highly stimulating because it allowed striking comparisons between the destination cities: Hong Kong, Singapore, and Beijing. It was very interesting to observe and compare the realities of each city, while memories and experiences from the previous city remained still very visceral.

Under a heightened sensitivity, and a mentality to make comparisons, I found myself arriving at very interesting observations and connecting casual links in my mind. The differences of the three cities were magnified, exactly because they are analyzed under the same scope. For example, Lee Shiu program inspected the consequences of Hong Kong and Singapore’s respective housing policies, and it was massively striking how policies with similar intent, in cities with similar conditions, ended up producing outcomes of incredible parity. The program was intellectually stimulating not only by offering such stark contrasts, but also since the program was designed with interval presentations and reflections, in which students were pushed to extract patterns and generalizations out of everyday observations. I personally experienced huge enjoyment and sense of self-fulfillment when making casual linkages, and exploring the structural explanations behind my observations.

Something I appreciated especially throughout the program was the incredible formative impact of history towards the state. During our stay in Singapore, we observed nuanced ethnic disparities, a strong underlying emphasis for pluralism, and a very continuous insistence on building a strong unified state. For example, while we are at Singapore’s Housing Development Board (HDB), we were mused by the seeming over-extension of the state, in policies that strongly intervened in breaking up ethnic enclaves, and policies that actively attempted to construct a social fabric oriented about the basic family unit. All of these, upon reflection, were necessities that had arisen from Singapore’s unique historical necessities and past experiences.

Such in depth observations, and the pursuit of my own spontaneous theorizations, was a massive treasure that I gained during the Lee Shiu Program 2016, that was very unique to the program design and setup, and would not have been attained through any other form of travel or displacement. It was a unique combination of diverse speakers, diverse institutions, meticulous program design and insightful peers, and the precious time to reflect and ponder.

A Personal Pilgrimage

Lee Shiu program was academically rewarding, but the thoughtful stimulation it offered went beyond the realms of sheer academic rationality. More powerfully, it was a testimony of the values of goodness, passion, commitment, and altruism, the very spiritual values oftentimes found lacking within daily perimeters, both in campus, and society at large. As a student raised in a society which I would personally characterize as mostly secular, with surging materialistic emphasis and largely un-reigned capitalism, it was an utter breath of fresh air to feel the absolute conviction of renown individuals in social service and NGO sectors, operating under alternative value systems.

Starting from the very first lecture on the first day, we were serenaded by Dr. Lau, who works with juvenile delinquency. His personal story was on how his pursuit for a career in social work involved breaking out of family expectations of him to choose more profitable and respectable careers. It was a breaking away from a backdrop of intense family dynamics, undertaking deep inward reflections, and a engaging in an unwavering lifelong commitment---- a truly shaking story that was highly relatable to many, including myself. He was a living example of genuine goodness, not only rekindling faith in his audience from a generally skeptical generation, but also a very inspirational role model that begged within all of us the same question: that what constitutes happiness, and what are our duties that are inherently rooted in our social identities.

Yet Lee Shiu offered inspiration not only through individual activists, but also in-depth engagement with the very marginalized and minorities within society. One of the more memorable instances was an immersed learning session at Dialogue in the Dark, a NGO franchise intended to raise awareness of the conditions of the visually-impaired. This involved experiential learning within dark chambers, supposed to simulate both the physical and emotions terrains of blindness. Personally, this allowed understanding and empathy for the visually-impaired on a heightened level. But more significantly, the entire experience was remarkably uplifting: in the darkness we were guided by blind individual (which only later were we made aware about). It was a moment in which the tables were turned, and a contract of unconditional trust was forged between so-called normal people, and the socially-defined “disabled” individuals, within the latter’s “natural habitat. It is a magical memory.

In conclusion, Lee Shiu program was able to achieve such powerful academic and emotional experiences for me, through its incredible diverse selection of lecturers and visit sights, through its excellent and gifted group of student participants, but most of all, through meticulous, soulful, and heartfelt design from the organizers. It was a demonstration of the possibility of remolding individuals’ worldviews and entrenched beliefs, the very process of which I personally underwent, and it still touches me deeply.