An unparalleled experience: the South-East Asia curriculum at Ca' Foscari

The South-East Asia curriculum of the Bachelor’s Degree Programme in Language, Culture and Society of Asia and Mediterranean Africa is unique in Italy and allows 40 students to study the language and culture of one of the emerging countries in this area of the world, and in particular of Thailand and Vietnam, as well as their relations with China. Starting from the academic year 2022/23, the South-East Asia curriculum will offer students the possibility of studying two of these three languages: Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese

The strengths of this curriculum go well beyond its innovative approach: in fact, students can gain unique international experience by participating in exchange programmes with prestigious universities in South-East Asia, such as Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Moreover, students can do an internship abroad thanks to Ca’ Foscari’s partnerships with companies and institutions, such as the Thai-Italian Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok.

A Master’s Degree programme is likely to be activated in the near future: it will be held in English and allow students to complete their undergraduate studies by perfecting their language skills and expanding their knowledge of South-East Asia. 

“Thailand and Vietnam are investing a lot in education and in promoting their culture abroad. They are developing rapidly and for this reason there is an ever-increasing request for professionals who are knowledgeable in the relevant languages and cultures.

There are many potential fields of work — ranging from interpretation and translation, to commerce, to the cultural sector and tourism, or even to international institutions such as embassies and consulates,” says Alice Cola, a Ca’ Foscari student who has always been fascinated by the “Land of Smiles”. “The curriculum I chose offers a series of new and engaging courses that aim to equip students with comprehensive competence in South-East Asia. The small number of students allows for direct interaction with the professors, who are very helpful and attentive to our needs.”

“If you are interested in the South-East Asia curriculum, don’t let the prospect of learning two foreign languages intimidate you! While it is true that this language choice might seem unusual, by learning them you will have a variety of opportunities related to these emerging countries — and at the moment there is no competition in Italy,” says Veronica Rota, one of the first students who signed up for the course in 2019. “Not many people know that the writing system used in Vietnam is based on Latin, so you don’t need to learn other characters. That simplifies things, doesn’t it? Once you’ve started learning the language, it becomes really stimulating. I’ve been studying it for just a year and I already feel quite confident in conversation and in writing — which has boosted my confidence!

Another thing that struck me was the way in which professors manage to include information about ancient and contemporary culture, so that the learning experience is not only fun, but also relevant to the present day.”

“The situation in Vietnam today can be compared to the economic boom that Italy experienced in the 1950s and 1960s,” says Renato Darsiè, Delegate for the Vietnam Embassy for Triveneto. “The country is unified, young, flourishing and peaceful. It is a member of international assemblies, economic and social relations, and it has a special relationship with Italy. Over the last few years, this emerging country has undergone rapid industrialisation, it has entered the international market, it has been reformed from a legal and economic-financial perspective, and it has opened even further to international relations focussed on culture and research.”

“In 2019, Italy and Thailand celebrated the 150-year anniversary of their diplomatic relations, which started when King Rama V came to Venice and was struck by its beauty,” says Andrea Marcon, Honorary Consul-General of the Kingdom of Thailand for Triveneto. “The historic bond that ties our city to Bangkok — also known as the “Venice of the East” due to the many canals that once crossed it — would be reason enough to study this complex and fascinating language.

However, learning Thai also offers many job opportunities, especially in the financial and industrial sectors. Over the last few decades, various Italian companies have delocalised production in Thailand, especially in the iron and steel industry, in the food processing sector, and in the IT sector. These companies are always on the lookout for young graduates. 

Italian institutions in Thailand, such as the TICC (Thai - Italian Chamber of Commerce), are a great starting point for young graduates who wish to experience the local lifestyle and get in touch with companies in every field.”

Would you like to know more? Then check out the South-East Asia curriculum!

Author: Francesca Favaro / Translator: Joangela Ceccon