Why should AAU students and staff be excited about the Memorandum of Understanding with Chulalongkorn University? And why is a global education such a buzzword in today’s society? We had a chat with visiting researcher Dr. Verita Sriratana where she gave us her take on all this and more.

First part of the interview can be found here.

Why did Chulalongkorn University choose to partner with AAU?

Precisely because we lack staff and also resources with the right kind of specialization in the area of Central and Eastern European Studies. When AAU’s Milada Polišenská worked in our university as visiting professor we gained so much from her expertise and it got so many students interested in these kind of studies. We currently have 2 Ph.D candidates now writing on the Visegrád Four which is very exciting.

So what does this partnership mean for you?

I think our partnership is an academic legacy for me. AAU is the first university in Central Europe that we’ve signed this university level MoU with. It’s opening doors for Chula with other universities in this region and it is providing opportunities for our students that I didn't have as an undergrad. On the other hand if our students come and work here in the Czech Republic it will allow them to get to know Prague as more than the touristic conception they may have of it. We need them to bring this knowledge back home to Thailand so they may start to question their own country and culture.

So how will this MoU shape the mobility of our faculty and students going forward?

There is a huge possibility for student exchange and staff exchange. We have an international program called the Bachelor of Arts in Language and Culture so it is paired up with the School of Humanities and Social Science which means your students can go to Bangkok anytime. Teaching and learning is in English so they could take for example intensive Thai, Southeast Asian studies, literary theory among other offerings. As for staff we are in need of experts in the Central and Eastern European studies area and likewise if AAU would like experts in Southeast Asian studies or Buddhist studies for example we could exchange staff in that regard at both undergrad and graduate levels.

What can AAU students expect if they go to Chula University?

I think that AAU and Chula share the same objective of grooming young people, developing them into global citizens. Exposure to other cultures is key and I think it would be enlightening for students to spend time at Chulalongkorn. They would be traveling to places they've never been before and they can use Thailand as a base! Thailand is almost like Prague in the way that we are very well connected, you can go to Singapore and the Philippines and many other countries from Thailand very easily, so that’s a huge benefit for students. They might even be able to gain some Asian language as well. We’ve got 60,000 students and 8000 staff at Chula so it’s obviously larger than AAU and we have a very large campus with our own dorms, apartments and more than 30 libraries. It’s in the center of Bangkok with transportation access everywhere so similar to AAU you really feel like your in the midst of everything.   

Can you compare the social landscape at Chula to AAU’s? 

I would say that the majority of our students are Thai students but there are many international students at the graduate level as well as foreign lecturers so while on paper our university might seem a bit monocultural in comparison to the international student body at AAU, you have to remember they will be living in Bangkok which is a huge multicultural metropolis. If you don't believe me just go out to eat and you will see the influence of all the different regions and cultures.

How would utilizing this partnership with Chula set students and staff apart?

In the same way that my international studies sets me apart from other more Anglo-centric Virginia Woolf scholars. This would add new dimensions and perspectives to their understanding of a very diverse and complex Asian culture. This experience would allow them to really live there and gain real life experiences, not as a tourists but as students and scholars. And as far as staff goes, Chula is the oldest university in Thailand, it’s a prestigious university and to work there would ensure that your publications and your voice would be heard. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Education turn to us for advice for info and data so we are a high impact university.



What life do you see the MoU taking on in the next 5 years?

We’ve set a goal of about 2 or 3 students per term and I would love to see this number increase. I would like to see students from AAU as regulars in my faculty and also likewise. I would also like to see professors and lecturers from AAU stationed in our university. We’ve got travel research grants and many possible channels of cooperation. So in the long term what I envision is a stronger focus on Central and European Studies in my country, also better exposure to international students from AAU and likewise for you here.

Why should students care?

It’s a great opportunity for them to travel abroad. If you’ve never been to Asia or an exotic country, Thailand is a great place to start. Students should be excited for the obvious academic benefit- credits, knowledge; but also at this time in their young lives it’s just an amazing opportunity for all around growth.

So why is everyone talking about the importance of a global education?

Well simply put the dangers of not going anywhere, of staying put are too high. When I was teaching in Slovakia I felt that EU students are very unfortunate for their ability to move around so if you are young and able go travel while you can, you really should. Life is short and it's only through traveling that you come to understand yourself and you may come to question the country you were born in. That is extremely important in today's’ society for critical analysis. A university's mission is not to provide answers but to invite them to ask further questions and a global education is pivotal for that. We need people in the humanities in particular to bring the fact that we are all humans to center stage. Traveling whether you’re doing it mentally in a book or physically on a trip just gives you a better perspective of the world.

Publication date: July 25, 2018