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Study Abroad - From WASEDA to the world -


Mr. Ienobu Kaneko
4th Year Student at the Distance Education Program, School of Human Sciences

Awakening to the appeal of the UAE
Mr. Kaneko first visited the Arab States of the Gulf (Gulf Cooperation Council or GCC) when he was in high school. The reason for his visit to Bahrain and Oman was to give an overseas performance of Yabusame (Japanese archery on a horse), an art traditional practiced by his family. Since this first visit, Mr. Kaneko has been deeply interested in the GCC. He describes the path he followed to foreign study by saying "I began preparing for foreign study little by little from immediately after I entered university. So, when my participation in foreign exchange study was determined, I was thrilled that I had finally reached my goal!"

Strict precepts for men and women?!

Mr. Kaneko selected United Arab Emirates (UAE) University as the school for his foreign study. The university is located the Al Ain City, which is fairly close to the border with Oman. Al Ain City is a place with almost no Japanese and no foreigners at all. "During my time overseas, I placed more emphasis on field work rooted in the lifestyle of citizens than on classroom study. Therefore, the environment provided by Al Ain City was perfect for me." Mr. Kaneko spent all of his time together with local people and worked to understand the lifestyle and culture. "I assimilated almost all aspects of my lifestyle to match those of the local Arabs, including my clothes, food, and way of thinking."

But what is life like on a campus with strict precepts for male and female students? "Basically, universities in the UAE are for men only. When women enter a domestic university, they all attend designated universities for women. After a woman enters a women's university in the UAE, she basically has almost no opportunity to leave the campus. Therefore, in addition to dormitories, the campus contains facilities such as restaurants, movie theaters and leisure facilities. Both on and off campus, there is almost no exchange between men and women." Mr. Kaneko reflects upon his foreign study in the UAE by saying "The biggest issue for me was to what extent I could blend in with people who possess a completely different value system and culture."

A bridge between the UAE and Japan

After beginning his foreign study in the UAE, Mr. Kaneko was sent a book of proverbs related to life in the Arab world. This book was entitled "5 Lessons from an Expatriate in the Middle East" and was presented to him by Mr. Haruo Endo (former JICA expert), who had spent many years living in the Middle East. "The book contained pearls of wisdom such as 'take sufficient rests' and 'do not force Japanese values on others'. Among all the proverbs, one teaching of which I was strongly conscious was 'when in Rome, do as the Romans'." There are certainly many differences between the Arab world and Japan in areas such as social systems, sense of time, and values. Mr. Kaneko speaks strongly about these differences by stating "When I encountered differences, I took a step back from the Japanese culture that I possess and tried to view problems from different angles. By doing so, I realized that a variety of ways of thinking exist."

Shortly after returning to Japan, Mr. Kaneko cooperated with his acquaintances to establish the "Japan GCC Students Association". This association acts as an organization for exchange between Japan and the Arab world. The association is actively expanding its activities, and a student conference was held in the UAE (Zayed University, Dubai School) in February of this year. Mr. Kaneko passionately describes his work by saying "I want to promote relationships between our countries through my own specialty of Yabusame and through exchanges of each other's cultures." Mr. Kaneko possesses an engaging smile and personality, and we can expect great things from the young man as he works to join the Arab world and Japan.

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)