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The Keio East Asia Future Leaders Program (KFLP)

The Keio East Asia Future Leaders Program (KFLP) is a new half-year option of the Three-Campus Comparative East Asian Studies Program, where especially the American and English students--including Princeton University (USA), Cornell University (USA), and King's College London (UK)--unable to partake for a full academic year can start with a two-week program at Keio before continuing on to Yonsei University and the University of Hong Kong. After the successful completion of the first KFLP in February, 2015, Keio Global spoke to two professors and three of the 26 students who participated in this exciting new program.

Associate Professor Ken Jimbo at the Keio University Faculty of Policy Management, led a lecture for the KFLP titled "Political Dimension of Regionalism: Democracy in Asia--Third Wave or Democratic Recession?" With his specialties in international security and regionalism in Asia, Jimbo spoke about the historical trends of democracy in Asia and the peculiarities of individual countries--several of which he has first-hand experience living in--highlighting the truly diverse and pluralistic nature of the greater Asian region.

Compared to regular lectures, what were some particular things that you took into consideration?

I thought about what kind of content would be suitable for classes where Japanese students are studying alongside international students with a wide array of backgrounds. So we analyzed world and local issues common to all of us, like security, regional integration, and the development of democracy, and within that we emphasized issues that confront the Japanese government and Japanese society.

What were the impressions and reactions of the students in the program? Compared with normal classes are there any noticeable differences?

I really felt their intellectual zeal. They were constantly asking "why" and digging deep for answers, and they were making an assertive effort to give counterevidence and counterarguments.

Could you give a message to the students about your expectations of them in the future?

I truly believe that studying alongside students of the same generation from universities around the world is a valuable experience. I hope that you actively pursue such opportunities and seize the chance to become rivals as well as build lasting friendships.

Dr. Yoko Ishikura led the final session of the KFLP, a workshop titled "Will Innovation go Beyond National Boundaries? Ishikura is currently working as an independent consultant in the areas of global business strategy, competitiveness, and global talent and has extensive experience on councils and as a non-executive director of Japanese and international companies. In her workshop she emphasized that innovation is a combination of things--most often not a one-time activity, making it necessary to constantly keep innovating. As they broke off into groups, students considered things from Japan that might be innovations in their home countries, or vice-versa, filling the lecture theater with ideas, laughter, and new realizations.

Compared to regular lectures, what were some particular things that you took into consideration?

I wanted to pick a topic which is interesting to the students as well as to me. I also wanted to do an interactive workshop where students can share and discuss their ideas, rather than a one-way lecture. Rather than introducing examples, I wanted students to respond to the question. That is why I selected the title "Will innovation go beyond national boundaries?" New ideas today are often developed by combining theories and practices in a variety of fields, and by applying practices to different fields from the original ones. As students have spent some time in Japan and this session was their last one, I wanted them to reflect on their own experiences and use them as the trigger for new ideas.

What were the impressions and reactions of the students in the program? Compared with normal classes are there any noticeable differences?

Usually in this type of interactive sessions, I find non-Japanese students very active and Japanese students rather shy and quiet. Often international students take the lead. But at this session, I couldn't tell which students were Japanese and which were not, as many took the lead. This is very different from my past experiences and it made the session even more interesting and exciting. I think this generation cuts across national boundaries and the youth seem to share the same passion and enthusiasm, regardless of their nationality.

Could you give a message to the students about your expectations of them in the future?

I want you to take every opportunity to get exposed to different experiencesーwhether that is going abroad, start online learning, joining new groups or trying something new. Unless you try something new, you will never find out. We are facing a whole new world today and it is very exciting. I myself love learning something new. I love meeting new people. I love going to new places. There is no question that trying something new can be a bit scary. But by trying something new, you can find incredible things and meet extraordinary people you would have never known. You will also realize what you have and appreciate its value. I hope you will make the best of all the opportunities you face.

Student Voices

Cameron Rogers, King's College London

Rebecca Xia, University of Geneva

Moe Noguchi, Keio University

What initially attracted you to the program?

Cameron: I've always had a fascination with Japanese culture and history. The program covers so much culture, history and politics of Japan, so as well as being able to spend two weeks in Tokyo, it is a great opportunity to learn about these aspects of Japan from experts in these fields at an elite Japanese university. Also, there was the opportunity to meet Keio students who are preparing to study abroad. They really helped us out during our stay in Tokyo, and we made some really good friends in the process.

Rebecca: As a student majoring in Chinese and Japanese studies, with Korean studies as an option, to be able to participate in the Three Campus Program could have not been a better choice. I really wanted to experience these places not as a tourist, but as a person living the daily local life, and get to understand better the cultural differences and practice the languages I have been studying so far.

Moe: This program was very special to me because it provided us with the environment where we can study English through various experiences, such as taking classes taught in English by excellent professors, communicating with non-Japanese students and spending a lot of time with them. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to get the hang of studying in classes conducted only in English before actually going overseas.

What academic aspect of the program did you find most interesting?

Cameron: At my home university I study politics and international relations. I found learning about regional conflict in Asia from a Japanese perspective very interesting, particularly considering how the country is reacting to the dynamic changes taking place in the region. The lectures we had on Japanese culture and cultural differences were fascinating, as this topic is very different to what I usually study. I honestly had no idea how deep the study of culture was until we explored this topic.

Rebecca: As I have lived in multiple countries in Europe and being from an Asian ethnicity, I found the Cross-Cultural Comparison lecture to be very meaningful to me. It helped me reflect a lot on who I am deeply and understand myself better.

Moe: In most of the classes, students were told to share their opinions in group discussions, and actively freely speak up, even to the professors, which was very new and meaningful to me. Being immersed in this environment, I was stimulated to share my opinions in front of the whole class a lot of times. I feel more confident than before in doing presentations in English.

How has your perspective of Japan changed since taking the program?

Cameron: In many ways Japan met my expectations and stereotypes. It's clean, efficient, the technology is advanced, everyone is hospitable and the toilets are... different. But I realized that actually there are a lot of deep-rooted similarities between Britain and Japan. You don't really think about that until you go there, and it's not as alien as you originally thought. Needless to say I absolutely loved Japan, and will definitely be coming back the next opportunity I get. It's one of the most fascinating countries I have ever been to, and it is rich with character and uniqueness.

Rebecca: I was stuck with a lot of stereotypes about Japan before going there. But thanks to the on-hands experience and professors, I realized that my narrow-mindedness was preventing me from catching on to the deep and eye-opening Japanese culture and customs. I consider this experience in Japan extremely enriching and absolutely unforgettable.

Moe: Seeing Japan from a different perspective, I realized that we Japanese may sometimes not be articulate in expressing our opinion and our "reading the air" culture is quite unique, as well as the culture in general. We should be more proud of our own culture.

What was your most memorable experience during the program?

Cameron: I think it has to be the trip we took to the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Seeing where the "magic happens" is exciting, especially for someone whose studies revolve largely around the state of the economy. It's also interesting to hear some perspectives on the state of the Japanese economy from people who are in the business, not all of what they said was cheery, and I think that it was commendable that they were honest with us visiting students.

Rebecca: Mine was meeting all the Japanese students from the KFLP program. I will always cherish these friendships. Without them, the experience would not have been as good as it was. They were always there to help us and show us around, trying to make our stay as enjoyable and comfortable as possible. I am really thankful for their considerateness as well as for our professors' help and kindness!

Moe: For me it would have to be the two minutes where I talked about how I changed during this program in the final presentation. I made a speech of my true honest feelings deep inside my heart, and that needed a lot of courage, but after accomplishing this task I felt grateful for this experience because it made me gain confidence in myself.

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