Many see the decrease of Japanese university and graduate school students studying abroad in the United States as a sign of their introspective mindset. We would need an accurate analysis of the causes and details of the situation to confirm the truth in this statement. Similarly, the number of American students studying abroad in Japan has also remained stable. As such, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology has implemented several programs to increase global interaction and development. Examples include expanding the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET), promoting a system of sending Japanese students to teach the language in the United States, and strengthening student exchange through programs such as the Japan America Student Conference.
Have Japanese students really become introspective? The number of Japanese students studying abroad has decreased; however, when compared to the decrease of the adolescent population, the percentage has hardly changed. In addition, study abroad programs are no longer focused only on the United States but are now sending students to China, Korea, and ASEAN member nations as well. Students are also going abroad for non-study abroad purposes, such as volunteering. Many Japanese youths are participating in international volunteer programs that address problems such as disaster, education, and poverty. These youths have a keen awareness of global issues and do not seem to be passively living their lives. It also seems as if the March 11 disaster sparked students’ interest in the future of Japan.
The first half of the seminar will consist of a presentation by Tohoku University and Waseda University students and staff who volunteered in the Tohoku region after the Great East Japan Earthquake. They will explain what they observed, learned, and how they changed through this volunteer experience.
The second half of the seminar will consist of a debate between Americans and Japanese on the exchange of students and culture and human development programs for the future of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Operation Tomodachi was initiated by the US army to assist with search and rescue and reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake. This display of friendship and cooperation between the two nations was used to launch the TOMODACHI Initiative. In addition to supporting reconstruction in Japan, the program also aims to strengthen economic and cultural ties in the long-run. TOMODACHI Initiative hopes to invest in future generations of public and private sector partnerships by deepening friendships.
Our panel discussion will discuss the question of how we can help strengthen the alliance and fulfill the goals of the TOMODACHI Initiative. We will also address the current situation of students in the two nations and prospects for exchange. USJI will be hosting a group discussion over lunch after the event in hopes that participants can exchange ideas and further develop the issues that were raised in the panel discussion. It will be an opportunity for participants to discuss how to develop the U.S.-Japan alliance.
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