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Young Leaders Experience World’s Freest Economy Through TFAS Program in Hong Kong


Students listen to a guest lecture in the TFAS classroom during the 2018 Asia Institute for Political Economy (AIPE).

“A person starts thinking differently when their perception is challenged, and that’s what TFAS does, it challenges your perception and opens your mind.” Tafhimur Rahman (AIPE 18), a recent Eastern University law graduate and director of the social enterprise Let’s Learn Coding in Bangladesh, proclaimed this as he summed up his experience as a student in the 2018 TFAS Asia Institute for Political Economy (AIPE).

Along with Rahman, 64 young leaders from 23 countries in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas descended upon Hong Kong this summer to explore fundamental issues related to liberty, philosophy, economics and government. Ranked as the freest economy in the world for 24 consecutive years, Hong Kong provides an ideal backdrop for this comprehensive three-week TFAS academic program.

At TFAS, we were able to ask each other questions and talk about our own culture as we experienced Hong Kong together to embrace new ideas.” – Tafhimur Rahman (AIPE 18)

Professor Charlie Thomas meets with TFAS student Ankshita Chaudhary (AIPE 18) of Nepal after a lecture.

The combination of courses, cultural tours, social activities, guest lectures and cross-cultural exchange with peer leaders from around the globe created the perfect environment for new ideas, relationships and leadership skills to flourish.

Inside the classroom, students attended a two-part course for university credit through TFAS academic partner George Mason University. The classes, taught by returning TFAS professors Dr. Nikolai Wenzel and Dr. Charlotte “Charlie” Thomas, provided a venue for students to learn more about political and economic principles and how those ideas relate to development and trade.

TFAS students from Myanmar, (l. to r.) Zaw Myo Min (AIPE 18), Htet Zin Maung (AIPE 18), Than Toe Aung (AIPE 18), Khin Chan Myay Thu (AIPE 18), dress in traditional clothing to share their culture during the annual Cultural Presentation Night.

Five-time AIPE professor Nikolai Wenzel, a professor at Fayetteville State University, taught the political economy component of the course. Through his lessons, students explored the benefits and challenges of globalization, as well as the impact of government intervention in the economy by examining ideas such as competition, trade policy and international financial markets.

Mercer University professor Charlie Thomas’ component of the course covered fundamental concepts and theories of political philosophy. Thomas, who also incorporated the underpinnings of a free society in Eastern philosophy, introduced the liberal traditions that grounded the founding of the United States and the political institutions its founders developed to secure liberty.

TFAS students (l.-r.) Odontungalag Enkhjargal (AIPE 18) of Mongolia; Ankshita Chaudhary (AIPE 18) of Nepal; Anura Shrestha (AIPE 18) of Nepal; and Rachel Li (AIPE 18) of Hong Kong visit the Hong Kong Legislative Council.

The professors brought new concepts to life by incorporating small group discussions and trade simulation activities into their interdisciplinary course. Rahman said Wenzel’s and Thomas’ presentation of ideas was another aspect of TFAS that challenged his perspective and allowed him to experience diverse viewpoints.

“Both professors encouraged us to always ask questions and challenged us to open our minds to new possibilities,” Rahman said. “I had never studied these complex ideas in the political philosophy course before, so Professor Thomas’ ability to take these ideas and make them relatable, opened me up to new ideas and challenged my perspective.”

TFAS student representatives from Mannkal Foundation, Christian Bien (AIPE 18) of Australia and Wesley Goh (AIPE 18) of Singapore, visit Tin Hau Temple at Repulse Bay during the Hong Kong island tour.

One highlight of TFAS International programs is the annual Cultural Presentation Night, which take place in each of our programs abroad. During the event in Hong Kong, students shared their region’s history and culture through song, dance, cuisine and language presentations for fellow participants.

In addition to building new connections among peers from his native region, the TFAS program was Rahman’s first experience collaborating with American students. He said this interaction allowed him to learn about new cultures, U.S. politics and the great human strides of American democracy, as well as learn the stories that make up each county’s successes and challenges.

“At TFAS, we were able to ask each other questions and talk about our own culture as we experienced Hong Kong together to embrace new ideas,” he said.

Mr. Jim Thompson of Crown Worldwide Group shares insights with students during his guest lecture in the TFAS classroom.

The students explored the hustle and bustle of iconic sites of the city like Temple Street Night Market, Victoria Peak, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Hong Kong Legislative Council.

Through guest lectures that brought local context to classroom concepts and the prosperous atmosphere of the the vibrant city, students became further immersed in Hong Kong’s impact on the global economy.

Founder and chairman of Crown Worldwide Group and returning TFAS guest lecturer, Jim Thompson, shared his entrepreneurial story through Crown’s 50 year success in marketing innovation and transportation services. As a young entrepreneur himself, Rahman said Thompson’s lessons on discipline and strategic goal setting are practices he’s already applied to his daily work and will continue to stick with long after the program.

Tafhimur Rahman (AIPE 18) of Bangledesh shares his TFAS experience with classmates during the AIPE Closing Ceremony.

The students also heard from Ms. Piya D. Muqit, executive director of the Justice Centre Hong Kong;  Dr. Veronica Chan, program manager of education at the Business Economic Council; Alan Seigrist, COO and partner of Energybox Limited; and Andrew Work, the chief executive officer and publisher of Harbour Times magazine.

Following three transformational weeks of “Exploring, Engaging and Exchanging” with TFAS in the dynamic city of Hong Kong, this cohort of leaders joined the ranks of the more than 17,000 TFAS alumni who are making a difference in their communities and throughout the world as professionals in international affairs, business, think tanks, journalism and more.

To learn more about the Asia Institute for Political Economy (AIPE) and all TFAS International Programs, visit TFAS.org/IntlPrograms.


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