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Campus Now

Autumn Issue (Nov.)

SPECIAL REPORT

The world is our campus
"Study Abroad" starts from Waseda

One mission of universities is to cultivate international professionals who are capable of performing on a global scale. Waseda University seeks to establish a "global campus" which enables study in any part of the world. This report introduces a variety of overseas study programs and the support system of our university.

Part.1 Interview

Foreign study is an opportunity to grow strong and flexible in an unknown world

Mitsuhide Shiraki
Professor at the Waseda University Faculty of Political Science and Economics Director of the Waseda University Center for International Education (at the time of reporting)

What is the meaning of foreign study within the current trend of globalization? What mission must the Center for International Studies fulfill in support of students studying abroad? We discussed these questions with Director Shiraki. (Reporting performed on September 3rd, 2010.)

In order to objectively evaluate the capabilities of both Japan and yourself

The Center for International Studies performs activities with the goal of realizing a campus where students from various countries gather, as well as making it easy for Waseda University students to study abroad. Specifically, the main work of our center includes the expansion of overseas affiliated schools and the formulation of various study-abroad programs.

Last year, I heard talk about how Japanese students do not want to study abroad. It is true that the standard of living in Japan is very high even from a global perspective. Social infrastructure is developed and the unemployment rate is relatively low. It is only natural for students to be satisfied with life in Japan and to dismiss the need for an adventure like studying abroad. However, when viewing matters from a slightly different perspective, a different form of Japan can be seen. For example, Japan has already been surpassed by Singapore, another Asian country, in terms of per capita GDP. Furthermore, in terms of our presence towards developing countries, Japan's influence is decreasing in relation to the rise of China and Korea. A large number of Japanese corporations have a strong sense of crisis and are engaging in competition that will determine the continued existence of the company. Currently, Japan is by no means a paradise in which a tranquil lifestyle is guaranteed.

I believe that foreign study is necessary to objectively assess the state of Japan, as well as to assess one's own ability. I would like to introduce an example from a seminar that I taught in the past. Several years ago, seminar students had an opportunity for international exchange with students from Thailand's Thammasat University. Thai students gave a presentation in English regarding their research of Japan. My seminar students were overwhelmed in terms of both English ability and knowledge. There was such a difference in levels that my students were shocked. Waseda University enjoys a solid reputation in Japan and students are blessed with good employment opportunities. However, when venturing into the world, one's true abilities are put to the test. The number of students studying abroad is not decreasing at Waseda University. However, considering that globalization advance even further in the future, I would like even more students to study abroad and acquire overseas experience.

The Center for International Studies is a means for taking a first step

In the past, foreign study was a major undertaking. However, I feel that foreign study has become a familiar topic for students today. There has recently been an increase in corporations and groups that arrange foreign study. Within such an environment, our center boasts the strengths of high-level affiliated schools and a variety of programs. Currently, our center is affiliated with more than 600 schools in countries throughout the world. It is possible to study abroad at 304 of those schools, which is roughly half of all affiliated schools. Furthermore, in terms of programs, we offer more than 1000 courses which include everything from enjoying nature to acquiring internship experience at local corporations and the international organization OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).

Personally speaking, I spent a long period of time traveling abroad when I was a student. At that time, there was nothing like the substantial study abroad programs that exist today, and I made all arrangement by myself. In my personal opinion, studying abroad without using our center is another option available to students. I believe that the difficulty of personally arranging foreign study will also instill students with a great amount of ability. However, students should use our center if they feel that the hurdles associated with studying abroad are too high, particularly in terms of efficiency and safety. Our programs also contain a large number of short-term courses which offer easy participation. Once students have their first overseas experience, they may develop an interest in a long-term program. The most important thing is to take the first step and actually go overseas. The Center for International Studies is one means for taking that first step.

Overseas experience is becoming a prerequisite at corporations

Foreign study is an opportunity to encounter a variety of cultures and ways of thinking. I believe that the greatest merit of foreign study is the flexibility and toughness acquired by spending time in an environment that is different from the society where one has spent their life.

Unfortunately, Japanese corporations still place a low emphasis on foreign study. However, in recent years, corporations have an increasing need for diversity; in other words, a need for a diverse staff. Considering the increasing opportunities for working overseas and for working together with people from other countries, language skills, adaptability and toughness are becoming essential skills. I received support from the MEXT and performed a survey which assessed the conditions for successful overseas projects of corporations. Upon examining more than 3000 cases, it became clear that the success rate increases dramatically when the project leader has past experience working overseas. Even data offers support for the necessity of overseas experience in businesspeople. Therefore, I hope that students will take this opportunity to expand their horizons to overseas.

Although short-term projects are suitable for casual participation, I hope that students participating in long-term foreign study will thoroughly consider their reasons for going overseas. Such consideration is necessary because the appropriate country and university will differ according to each student's purpose. Students must be careful not to focus on "brands" when selecting a university. The majority of universities which are famous throughout the world place an emphasis on research. In terms of gaining overseas experience, there are many cases in which greater merits can be obtained by studying at small-scale universities that focus on education. I hope that students will be careful when selecting a university.

Our university actively promotes overseas experiences such as foreign study. In the future, there will most likely be an increase in opportunities for overseas experience through classes and other means. Our center is accelerating our activities in order to create an enhanced environment where students can study while being conscious of the world.

*Numbers include only self-funded foreign study, foreign exchange students, and students who are part of the Double Degree Program, the ISA Program and the TSA Program. Short-term foreign study is not included.

Mitsuhide Shiraki
Professor at the Waseda University Faculty of Political Science and Economics Director of the Waseda University Center for International Education (at the time of reporting)

[Background]
Born in 1951. After graduating from the Waseda University School of Political Science and Economics, completed the Doctoral Program at the Waseda University Graduate School of Economics. Holds a PhD in economics. From April 1999, appointed as Professor at the Waseda University School of Political Science and Economics after holding the positions of Associate Professor/Professor at the Kokushikan University School of Economics. Appointed as Professor at the Waseda University Faculty of Political Science and Economics from 2005. Also hold positions as a member of the Labour Policy Council and as Vice-Chairperson of the Japan Academy of international Business Studies.