(Beijing, August 24, 2018) Bai Xian Asia Institute (BXAI) held its fourth annual Summer Program from August 3 to 24 this year in Beijing, China.  BXAI aims to build bridges across cultures through its Asian Future Leaders Scholarship Program (AFLSP), which provides financial support and cultural enrichment opportunities to students in Asia studying abroad at top universities in Greater China, Japan, and Korea.  Every August, current scholars from the AFLSP gather on one university campus for the BXAI Summer Program – a fun and enriching three-week experience that is designed to extend learning beyond the classroom.

This year’s Summer Program was hosted by the Yenching Academy of Peking University (PKU), and saw 87 students from BXAI’s 16 partner universities in attendance.  Exploring the theme of “Tradition and Innovation,” students engaged in cultural exchange and collaboration and deepened their knowledge on important topics affecting East Asia today.  The program kicked off with an interactive scavenger hunt at PKU, followed by a three-day excursion to Shimenshan, where students honed their teamwork skills through different outdoor challenges and climbed a section of the Great Wall.

Back on campus, students were divided into three topic learning streams led by PKU professors: “Heritage Preservation,” “Living Smart,” and “Urban-Rural Integration.”  Distinguished speakers from universities and organizations across Asia delivered lectures on real-world issues and topics such as the restoration of historic sites, the social impact of domesticating artificial intelligence, and the environmental issues surrounding urbanization.  Alongside in-class discussions, students gained immersive learning experiences through field trips to the Zhihua Temple, Baidu’s Autonomous Driving Unit, Beijing’s Urban Planning Museum, and the self-urbanized Zhenggezhuang Village.  Students also participated in workshops to learn about local craft and culture, trying their hand at Chinese painting, lion and dragon dancing, and tea ceremony traditions.

Throughout the Summer Program, students benefited from personal development workshops on design-thinking, public speaking, and entrepreneurship, which equipped them with skills they can apply to social ventures and future careers.  Bai Xian Alumni put these skills to use during the Alumni Initiative Award (AIA) pitch session on August 22, where two finalist teams presented their socially responsible action plans to compete for a USD 2500 cash prize and up to USD 15,000 in seed funding to take their ideas forward.  Bai Xian Alumnus, Xue Weiqi, from Innowat shared his team’s aim to recover sulfated polysaccharides (a scarce resource used in various global industries) during municipal wastewater treatment, while Fairshare Cashmere spoke about their vision to increase the global market share of cashmere produced in Kashmir, India, and create job opportunities for local artisans.  The juding panel, comprised of Mr. Alex Fang, Co-founder and Managing Partner of eGarden Ventures; Ms. Mary Anne Choo, Managing Director of Goldman Sachs Asia; and Mr. William Wong from BXAI’s Executive Committee; eventually awarded the grant to Fairshare Cashmere, which includes Bai Xian Alumna Nimrat Kapra and teammates Adil Hamid and Danish Mir.

During the last week of the program, students delivered their final presentations – the culmination of their learning throughout the three weeks.  Channeling the theme of “Tradition and Innovation,” students harnessed modern technology to create innovative solutions to traditional issues.  Some groups proposed using online or smartphone platforms to spread awareness of traditional activities, cuisine, and dialects, and incorporated skits and videos into their presentations.  Other groups focused on promoting recycling and waste reduction through social media and by devising creative strategies to conserve resources.  The winning team, Group B, launched a prototype website that offers lessons in and products of traditional arts and crafts to consumers across the world.

Students also had the opportunity to take part in a fireside chat with members of BXAI’s leadership, including Mr. Ronald Chao, Honorary Chairman of BXAI; Professor Takanori Kitamura, Executive Committee Member of BXAI and Professor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong; and Ms. Jean Sung, Board and Executive Committee Member of BXAI and Head of The Philanthropy Centre, Asia at J.P. Morgan Private Bank.  The speakers shared their experiences, insight, and advice with students, encouraging them to build meaningful relationships and use their intercultural understanding to mold the future.

“My experience in Japan taught me that the most important thing is for young people to know each other,” said Mr. Chao regarding his founding vision for BXAI.

The Summer Program concluded with final speeches and celebrations on Thursday, August 23.  Mr. Jason Lai, Principal Conductor of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestra, delivered the morning keynote lecture on leadership by demonstrating different ways of conducting an orchestra.  To show the importance of communicating clearly and leading compassionately, he invited students to try their hand at conducting PKU musicians.

At the closing ceremony, Mr. Nick Cotton, Executive Director of Outward Bound Hong Kong, delivered a keynote speech on the value of risk in today’s increasingly cautious and sheltered society.  He advised students to not be afraid of risks, but to assess and mitigate them effectively in order to make courageous strides.

“You are the leaders of tomorrow,” he said. “We need people to break the mold.”

Ms. Ronna Chao, CEO of BXAI, also took to the stage to give students empowering words of advice. Speaking to the value of “firsts,” which for the scholars ranged from the first time climbing the Great Wall to the first time taking the Harrison Assessment, Ms. Chao encouraged everyone to continue challenging and enriching themselves.

“Each of you is a piece in the foundation of the bridge across cultures that Bai Xian is determined to build,” she said. “Go out there, extend your reach, be that connector and game-changer!”

The closing ceremony concluded with a meaningful handover ceremony, where Professor Yuan Ming, Dean of the Yenching Academy, passed the BXAI calligraphy book to Professor Shinsuke Kawazoe of Kyoto University.  Inscribing Kyoto University’s name in the book, Professor Kawazoe officially took up the baton as next year’s Summer Program host, marking the successful end to the 2018 Summer Program and welcoming another year of building cross-cultural collaboration, leadership, and friendship.