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Exchange programs are important to individuals as it is to communities, because it promotes a better understanding of culture and unity. Exchange programs in Japan have great benefits, and other than the educational merits, the engagement with Japan’s culture can be an astounding experience after all.
The advent of globalization redefined how institutions relate to one another. Various platforms are utilized to commit to fostering strong bonds of intercultural tolerance and development. One of the platforms commonly used by national governments is education. Among the programs for education to involve younger generations to adopt intercultural bonds with other countries would be exchange programs.
Exchange programs are institutional arrangements between two or more different countries that allow the exchange of students or professionals for various purposes. Usually, countries with diplomatic ties promote international exchange programs, allowing their respective educational or professional institutions to coordinate and cooperate with one another in different fields. It develops cross-cultural connections not only for the government but for the people involved in these programs. It also meets the increasing demand for globalization for intercultural awareness and fluid opportunities in academic, cultural, economic, political, and social aspects.
There are two major types of exchange programs: short-term and long-term. Short term programs usually last for two weeks up to one semester depending upon the arrangement, while long-term programs could last from one to two years to a full four-year course in a foreign university.
There are many benefits to being involved in an exchange program. It advances international consciousness and understanding. Also, it immerses the individual with various approaches to knowledge and this allows the expansion of perspective. Global issues are being instilled to the students. On the personal level, it develops the individual’s self-esteem and self-confidence as they are engaged with other members of the global society. Furthermore, they are integrated within a connection with other people from another cultural background, leading to tolerance and understanding.
In Japan, exchange programs aren’t unfamiliar concepts at all. In fact, the Japanese government rigidly institutionalized platforms that would enhance the engagement of the educational sector to internationalization. Although exchange programs have existed for a long time, the present government has been enacting legislation to further its impact. Experts dubbed such strategy as “Abeducation” strategy, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
One of the important initiatives of the Japanese government for internationalizing education would be the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program or JET. The program is a product of collaboration between different government cabinets such as Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR), Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication (MIC), and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Up to this date, the program already has had more than 70,000 participants from 75 nations since it began in 1987. It focused on developing young college graduates from abroad by having them work, mainly in teaching, in various locations in Japan involving the education sector as well as organizations linked with international affairs. Participants will be given adequate support to pursue Japanese language studies that will serve as a tool for them to connect with the local community.
※ The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme, "Introduction"
There are also university-based exchange programs in Japan. These university-based exchange programs run between host universities in the country with their affiliated universities in different countries. Usually, the exchange programs are focused on developing undergraduate and graduate students in their respective fields through engagement with research and classroom-based education.
For example, Kyoto University offers two exchange programs, namely the Kyoto University International Education Program or KUINEP and Kyoto University General Exchange Program. The programs are provided for undergraduate and graduate students respectively. Each has its defining features and conditions. The common feature of each program would be their requirement of teaching the Japanese language to the exchange students. Another example would be the University of Tokyo’s exchange programs for undergraduate and graduate students, or commonly known as Type U or Type G exchange programs.
Moreover, through such an arrangement, the two universities send their respective participants that would enroll for a semester, following the provision of the exchange program agreement. Usually, foreign students take up 5-7 courses in various academic subjects. These subjects focus primarily on the degree that the student is specializing in his or her native country. To name a few, here are some of the top universities in the country that offer an exchange program:
Asia Pacific University
Meiji Gakuin University
Tokyo Institute of Technology
Tokyo International University
University of Tsukuba
These exchange programs can be demanding at some point as it prioritizes academic competency. Moreover, it could be costly as well because the participants pay for the expenses. But programs such as JET are more of an employment set-up and since participants are get paid, they would have the appropriate resources to handle their own expenses. However, for educational exchange programs that are organized by institutions or other organizations, they can facilitate funding all throughout. Primarily, institutions or organizations could cover the travel expenses and the monthly allowance of a student, depending upon the policy of the program. But still, the participant may provide for himself or herself at some point.
Another good alternative for funding education abroad would be the application for a scholarship. Japanese Student Services Organization or JASSO offers a scholarship for exchange students. The scholarship program is called Student Exchange Support Program. It provides an ¥80,000 monthly stipend for students within a particular exchange program. To be eligible, the applicant should comply with the following requirements:
A bonafide citizen from a country that has diplomatic ties with Japan
Accepted in an exchange program to Japan
Financially incapable to fund studies abroad
Must have a Student Visa
Not applied for any Japanese scholarship programs
Lastly, it is recommended to observe a frugal lifestyle while studying. Since the main purpose of the exchange program is to involve the student with educational opportunities in other countries such as Japan, an appropriate style of living should be taken into account. For instance, traveling around the country may cost a lot and could be quite a hit on the monthly budget. Although it is not bad to take such an opportunity to enjoy the wonders of Japan, one should be mindful of the priorities of the program. Spending wisely would be the best way to cope up with the financial obligations of studying through an exchange program. Another way is to join an exchange program that includes a travel portion in the program itinerary.
The changing demands of the global market and the trends towards intercultural engagement determine a new sort of educational underpinning. Exchange programs in Japan could offer more for an individual in the long run. In return, it is up to the individual how he or she would exhibit the knowledge and skills he or she acquired during the program. Students of present generation should be aware and willing to partake in such internationalization projects. Who knows what could it bring about in the future, not only for the individual and the country he or she lives in, but to the global society in general.
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