National

Students taking part in annual SKIP exchange program say more Japanese need overseas work experience

by Daisuke Kikuchi

Staff Writer

To better expose Japan to global perspectives and work culture, a group of students from Keio and Stanford universities participating in an two-week exchange program said more Japanese students need to gain work experience abroad.

The comment came on the final day on Saturday at the annual culture exchange program, launched in 2012, dubbed Stanford Keio International Program (SKIP), where students gave presentations at the Japanese university in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.

This year, 18 students from Stanford University joined 19 from Keio University, who worked in groups, to study the politics, economy and culture of Japan and promote understanding among the students from both countries.

“America can learn from Japanese dedication and work spirit. Japan can learn from American individualism and straightforward communication,” one of the group of students participating in the exchange said.

Another group said it was surprised by Japanese restaurants, such as cat cafes, that focused their businesses on the uniqueness of service rather than the actual cuisines.

In cooperation with Japanese firms such as DMM.com Group and FamilyMart Co., as well as the Ministry of Education, the students studied various cultural perspectives of Japan.

As part of the program, the students gave presentations on their findings. One group of five students noted that Japanese students tend to hesitate to work abroad due to struggles with cultural and language barriers.

“English education here in Japan is a big problem. We learn English . . . but we don’t actually have many opportunities to improve or practice it,” said Eriko Akiyama, a sophomore at Keio University.

“Therefore, we really have a language barrier, to work for international companies,” she said, as she pointed out that there are only a handful of career fairs held in Japan attended by multinational companies.

Edward Wang, a new graduate of Stanford University, recommended there should be recruiters to help lower such barriers and give Japanese students the opportunity and help they need to work abroad and bring back global business perspectives to workplaces in Japan.

Aside from Akiyama and Wang’s group, four other teams gave presentations about Japanese food culture, Japanese identity, education and the structure of the modern Japanese family.

Among the Stanford students who participated in the program in 2015, two were able to find employment here and two others interned at Japanese firms.

This year’s participants, too, said working for Japanese companies is one of their goals.

“I’ve always been very curious about Asian culture. SKIP was a really simple and friendly program to apply for,” said Edward Gan, a Ph.D. student at Stanford studying computer science, adding that he enjoyed visiting Japanese firms.

“You get to experience (it) in a way that no one else can ever experience,” said Emily Cang, a sophomore at Stanford, explaining that it was a rare opportunity for her to learn about various social issues about Japan.