The Japan Canada Academic Consortium is a government funded program between Japanese and Canadian students to participate in an academic and cultural exchange. It’s an annual initiative that alternates between the two countries, and it just so happens that this year it’s in Nagoya and Tokyo. Every year the program carries a theme, with our’s being ‘energy and societies.’
We are stationed out of Nagoya University living in the international student dormitories, and the great part about the Consortium is that it’s a mix of group work, field trips and lectures. The students come from all over Japan and Canada with different specializations from participating universities who have sent their delegates to participate. We have every type of major here, from IR to engineering, international exchange studies to environmental biology. Because of this diversity the perspectives and knowledge of the group has been incredibly valuable. These are some of the brightest and most ambitious students in Japan and Canada.
Apart from the exceptional quality of participants, the content of the program is also impressive. Because of the extensive government and industry support we were able to fly to Japan, visit and learn from residents living in the mountains under neo-traditional satoyama lifestyles, have a lecture by 2014 Nobel Prize winner Hiroshi Amano on his discovery of blue LED technology and the implications of it, and on the last day will be presenting our energy policy recommendations at the Canadian embassy in Tokyo, in the presence of Princess Takamado and the Canadian ambassador. The entire time my mind has been working, thinking about how what I’ve learned can apply to my particular niche area of interest in relation to the topic- sustainable and accessible energy development projects for vulnerable populations in conflict, disaster and fragile regions.
I can’t emphasize enough the impact that this program has had on me after only a few days in Japan. The ability to be immersed in a group of enthusiastic students from both countries, with the freedom to go out and explore the culture, interact and ask questions is huge. What do people think of the royal family here, are there protests, what do people think about the consequences of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, how do you say ‘awesome’ in Japanese, were we what you expected? Between sushi and lectures and group work there’s an obvious connection and friendship that’s been formed in a very short time, which is valuable both cross-culturally but also for the Canadian students who have come from huge distances to be here.
This experience, while it’s not over yet, is just another of the incredible international experiences I’ll have taken part in during my undergraduate degree. It’s difficult to explain how significantly programs like this change my perspectives and facilitate valuable connections across societies, but I wish more opportunities like this were more accessible for other students to challenge assumptions, experience culture, and grow as exceptional global learners and leaders.
If we as a country want to strive to achieve constructive international engagement it’s imperative that governments and educational institutions invest in their students, in order to realize commonalities and rapport that extends far beyond graduation day.