Students take on role of tourism envoys


BY ALVIN TAY

MALAYSIAN students in Taiwan are doing their country proud by participating in its tourism promotion activities there. 

The students are dancers with Tourism Malaysia’s cultural troupe or “Badan Kebudayaan”, one of 18 that were set up three years ago to highlight Malaysian culture and to facilitate the promotion of tourism in various countries. 

“They (students) symbolise the cultural aspirations of the nation. The dances they perform are a combination of Malay, Chinese, Indian and tribal dances and serve to highlight the grand motto that ‘Malaysia is Truly Asia’, the promotional theme for Malaysian tourism worldwide,” said Michael Tay, director of Tourism Malaysia’s Taipei office. 

Tay said he was surprised at the level of patriotism among the students and was optimistic that they would continue to keep their country’s flag flying high in Taiwan. 

He also believes that the troupe, comprising 40 students selected from the 3,000 Malaysians currently studying in Taiwan, serves an important function for the country. 

The troupe performs more than 15 times a year throughout Taiwan at public fairs, travel exhibitions, stage functions and even events organised by local authorities. 

For their efforts, they are paid a stipend, which comes in handy as pocket money. 

Many of the students are financed by their families while others have to work during summer vacations to earn their keep. 

One of the dancers, Tan Sim Wei, who is from Muar in Johor, is currently majoring in Social Science at Taiwan's National Chengchi University. She said she likes to dance and considers her involvement in the troupe as an opportunity to combine this with duty to country.  

“Malay dances such as the Endang and Wau Bulan are not difficult to learn if you get the rhythm correct,” said Sim Wei.  

Ling Xiao Guan, a major in Mechanical Engineering at Taiwan National University and also a member of the troupe agreed, saying that the smooth movements of the Indian dance are mesmerising and he enjoys performing it.  

A trainer from the Culture, Arts and Tourism Ministry's Cultural Complex is sent to Taiwan yearly to teach new dance movements and perfect existing ones.  

Tay said there had been some teething problems such as motivating the dancers to perform before a live audience. They first had to overcome their shyness.  

Other problems included timing clashes, as when the students had exams to prepare for when performances were due. 

But these problems were largely overcome as the students learnt to work around their tight schedules.  

A larger problem will come, however: as students graduate, there will be a need to recruit others to fill in the shoes of those who have left.  

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