We all know HEC is the gateway to many great opportunities: exchange programs, internships, and careers. Last December, we were lucky enough to discover it could also offer us more unexpected experiences. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA) invited three HEC students (Master in Management) to participate in its MIRAI Program, a one-week youth exchange program in Japan. Here is a brief overview of the program and what we have taken home with us.
What is the MIRAI Program?
The aim of this program is to build ties between Japan and countries in Europe and Central Asia through mutual understanding and intellectual discussions. Each year, 150 students from these areas are invited to Japan to attend lectures, visit educational institutions, and tour cultural sites. JICE (Japan International Cooperation Center) organizes the program, and EFIL (European Federation for International Learning) also supervises it. It targets students who study Politics, Security Policies, Economics, International Relations, Asian Studies, Japan Studies or other related fields. The trip is entirely covered financially by the Japanese government so any student can participate, only motivation is key.
Our experience of the MIRAI program
The selection process at HEC took place in September was led by the International Office and based on the candidates’ resume and a cover letter. The only criteria were to be of French nationality and not to have lived in Japan beforehand. The results were given by the end of the month, and we got in touch with the Japanese embassy. After having filled out a few forms, life went on as usual and we waited until the departure on December 15th.
Over seven days, from December 16th to December 21st, we went to Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Kyoto. We attended lectures on Japanese history, politics, and diplomacy given by professors and diplomats themselves. We visited shrines, memorials, and museums. Looking back on it, it is almost scary to see the number of things we did. We got to know Japan as tourists and as students but also as locals, thanks to some very exclusive events, such as a tea ceremony at the Urasenke Konnichian in Kyoto.
What we took home with us
The content of the program on Japanese culture and history is very rich, thanks to the many visits of historical sites and of museums, although events were sometimes presented under a different light than what we had learned in school. To see this different approach is still very enriching.
On Japanese diplomacy and current events, the lectures gave us new perspectives on many topics, for instance territorial issues and nuclear weapons. It was a real chance to hear government officials give us their views on such issues. We also learned a lot during debates in groups with Japanese and European students, on topics such as hate speech, death penalty, and LGBT rights.
One of the unexpected highlight of this trip was the cohesion amongst the group of delegates. Being so far away from our home countries made us realize we all belonged to a common European culture. In times of crisis in Europe, it was heartwarming to feel this unity among us, and gave us hope for the future of European projects.
All in all, we feel the MIRAI program achieves the goal it set: to give us a better understanding of Japan in order to strengthen its ties with our country. We felt very lucky to participate and hope it will continue for future generations.