Japanese high school students were glued to the screen as a Harvard University student, acting as teacher, clicked on the computer and fused photographs of people’s faces, claiming she could create a face people would find attractive.
“Maybe,” one high school student said when asked if he thought the face was attractive. “Hard to say,” said another, who wasn’t as easily convinced.
The presentation, titled “Psychology of Love,” is part of a program in which 20 Harvard students lecture to about 80 Japanese high school students in seminars based on those at the prestigious Ivy League institution, the first of their kind in Tokyo.
Hosted by the IMPACT Foundation Japan, a nonprofit organization, the lectures are aimed at intellectually stimulating students and encouraging them to pursue their goals, including studying and working abroad.
During the eight-day program that runs through Saturday, students attended numerous seminars and workshops designed and conducted by Harvard students. Lectures covered topics ranging from beer in Palestine to love in Roman poetry, where students read poems in English with the help of a Japanese university teaching assistant.
Fumiya Kojima, 16, a second-year high school student from Tokyo, said the program was very interesting and useful.
“Since (the seminars) cover a wide range of areas, including social studies and humanities, it was a good opportunity for me to learn something I never thought about,” he said.
The Tokyo seminars are based on Harvard’s lectures for freshmen to help introduce them to a variety of subjects. At the university, professors lecture on their specialties to help students pick courses, the organizers said.
In a separate workshop, high school, Harvard and Japanese university students competed against each other in a contest to see how high and how creatively they could stack Lego blocks. Although it appeared to be a simple task, participants needed to think, discuss and act with other members in deciding the most efficient and effective ways of stacking the blocks.
During his lecture Saturday, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a professor of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, noted that undergraduate education is the time for students to identify their passions and the goals they wish to pursue.
Kurokawa pointed out that because Japan’s lifetime employment system is now a thing of the past, finding and keeping a job are no longer givens.
“You create your own value,” Kurokawa said. “When you face many problems in your own life . . . you have to make your own decisions.”
Japanese students should spend some time overseas — even one or two months, he added, noting studying abroad can make a big difference in one’s mind-set and way of thinking. But amid the nation’s current economic doldrums, the number of students studying abroad has witnessed a steady decline.
Participants in the Harvard program are also scheduled to attend lectures by Japan’s leading business figures, including Tadashi Yanai, chief executive officer of Fast Retailing Co., operator of the Uniqlo casual wear chain. Takeshi Niinami, president of convenience store chain Lawson Inc. was also slated to speak.
Participants joined the program with various hopes, dreams and ambitions for the future.
Kojima said he plans to work in the U.S. as a surgeon before returning home to contribute to the nation’s medical community.
“By participating in this summer program, I’d definitely like to absorb a variety of things,” he said.
Naoki Yoguchi, 16, said he hoped to use the program to get a better idea of what he wants to do with his future.
“I want to get close to and listen to a number of great people, pack as much knowledge as possible in my head and make many friends,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Harvard students said they were impressed by the intellectual curiosity of the Japanese high school students.
“They are very curious. . . . They really like to learn,” said Joselyn Lai, 20, an economics junior.
She also said she was extremely impressed because one of the high school students in her lecture knew the names of Western political philosophers.
“These kids are really smart,” she said.
Lai said she expects the high school students to get more information, do research and explore choices they feel are important for them.
As the leader of the organizing body, Ryosuke Kobayashi, 20, a Harvard student from Tokyo, said he hopes high school students use this opportunity to consider their own future and interests and maintain ties beyond the borders of generations, nations and specialties.
“I hope to continue the program next year and beyond,” he said.
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