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Rice Conference 2019: Brewing DiversiTEA

Rice Conference

“Welcome to RICE Conference 2019!” With an enthusiastic shout from the main organisers, the first conference of the year kicked off with big smiles and bigger excitement.

Named after the staple food that has raised the East Asian population for millennia, RICE conference sought to delve into the region of East Asia, providing insights into its prosperity and struggles. An energising Opening Ceremony gave the eager school population a teaser for the two days to come. From the lively dances of traditional and modern East Asian cultures, to the iconic East Asian songs performed by UWC Atlantic’s talented (multilingual!) choir, to the high-spirited dance performance of all the organisers, the audience climbed aboard a ride through the rich cultural celebrations of East Asia in anticipation of the two-day journey.

In order to fully encapsulate the multi-faceted nature of East Asia, the organisers decided to deviate from the typical focal point of academic workshops, and instead designed a flavourful combination of cultural, food and standard workshops. 

Credit: Mathieu Dullaert, Class of 2020

Cultural workshops were modelled around the concept of experiential learning. True to its name, they aim at developing participants’ understanding of specific elements in East Asian cultures. A PowerPoint presentation on the history of Chinese and Japanese chess or a real-life game with friends, which would help participants better learn the rules of this complex brain exercise? The answer seemed to be found in their enthusiasm and readiness to engage in this interesting cognitive battle. Others who prefer calmer modes of learning sought refuge in the various calligraphy, origami and painting workshops offered, and many reconnected with their childhood joys by playing traditional folk games. 

As growing teenagers, operating with a hungry belly is a rather difficult task. Food workshops provided the perfect solution by combining the learning and eating processes of East Asian cuisine ranging from Taiwanese bubble tea to Mongolian beef noodle soup. Some would argue that the latter process was more exciting, but the anticipation of tasting any East Asian food was shared equally. The food fest continued in the hands of our wonderful College catering team, who prepared a delectable selection of East Asian food for lunch at the dining hall.

Of course, no conference would be complete without debate and discussions about pertinent issues in the region. Standard workshops provided a wide breadth of current and historical topics for participants to learn from, with the overhanging objectives of fostering understanding of East Asia’s most pressing issues, as well as inviting participants to make connections between affairs in different parts of the globe, and relate experiences from their homes in regions that may be oceans away from East Asia.

Credit: Dhanvi Dugar, Class of 2020

Amidst the rush of the many events, the Morning Interactive on the second day refreshed minds and bodies with Tai Chi and Broadcast Gymnastics, with both exercises intending to restore energy for another day of fun and learning. In the same morning, participants also heard from our inspiring guest speakers - Mrs. Kiyo Roddis, Ms. Pia MacRae, Mrs. Rosa Hui MBE DL and Dr. Sung-Hee Lee, who delivered insightful talks on various topics such as gender politics in East Asia and Chinese integration in the UK. 

Yet the happiest of times always feel like the shortest of moments - the Closing Ceremony approached in the blink of an eye, and involved a myriad of captivating performances from different student groups on campus: MOVE Hip Hop grooved out to East Asian music in an impressive dance routine, and participants who learned the Tibetan Gorshey dance in their cultural workshop were able to proudly showcase their newly-acquired dance skills. ACapella again stunned the school with their harmonies, and two talented East Asian students livened up the ceremony with a dynamic calligraphy performance. 

Credit: Dhanvi Dugar, Class of 2020

But there is one small twist - the Closing Ceremony wasn’t technically the closing after all, with the highly-anticipated RICE Festival to follow in the evening. Stalls stocked with East Asian snacks such as Korean meatballs and Hong Kong bubble waffles, as well as booths offering fortune telling and traditional Japanese games attracted masses of the school population, generating a buzz in the Moondance Cafe like never before, and creating an atmosphere reminiscent of the hustle and bustle in metropolitan East Asian cities.

And such was the real conclusion of RICE conference - but we hold the firm belief that though the conference has ended, through its embodiment in the East Asian population in school and in the wider global community, the conversations continue and its legacy lives on. The RICE Conference organisers would like to say a heartfelt thank you and send lots of East Asian love to everyone involved - this has been an absolutely surreal journey, and we hope everyone enjoyed this little getaway to East Asia as much as we enjoyed bringing it to you. 

Credit: Mathieu Dullaert, Class of 2020


Written by Tivona Ka Yu Yeung, Class of 2020

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