Victoria University received funding from the New Zealand Government through Education New Zealand to facilitate a 7-week summer Study Abroad programme to Southeast Asia. Under the course, “Understanding Southeast Asia,” 25 students joined the programme. Their aim was to gain an overview of Southeast Asia, particularly about the upcoming ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and its relevance to New Zealand, “thereby enhancing the capability of young New Zealanders to engage with the ASEAN Community.”
Their visit to Mekong Institution (MI) on January 31, 2014 was a part of their objective which to explore the economies of Southeast Asia and how they are influenced by the political, social, and institutional aspects in the region. They were keenly interested in how the change in the region, including in Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) could bring about opportunities and challenges for New Zealand as a nation. They also aimed to highlight New Zealand’s educational cooperation with ASEAN nations.
In response to these students’ academic curiosity, MI warmly welcomed the delegates in the morning of January 31, 2014. Headed by MI’s Acting Director, Dr. Jean-Pierre Verbiest, representatives from each of four MI’s departments, including Rural Development, Mekong Development, Trade and Investment Facilitation, and East-West Economic Corridor, provides the students with insights about MI as the intergovernmental institution and its role in human resource development for Cambodia, China (Yunnan and Guangxi provinces), Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, and in the upcoming ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). The students also learned about New Zealand’s relationship with these six GMS countries in the region from capacity building aspects. The educational and productive visit concluded with a tour of MI’s facilities.