After almost four years, Japan was back into my life again. With some new ideas about Japan I learned at IRPS, UCSD graduate school of International Relations and Pacific Studies and a list of old contacts, I was thrilled to revisit this city full of life, Tokyo.
This is the first time the Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Tokyo and IRPS has made a deal of exchange program. We are extremely lucky to be the first ones to explore this opportunity. Professors and we alike are excited about the possibility this program could bring to the connection between the two schools.
Campus life and academic atmosphere are certainly different between the two schools. IRPS is focused on quantitative methods, in the 1st year, all of the students take the same requirement courses, and 2nd year is more career track sensitive with private/NGO/politics/economics oriented curriculums. On the other hand, in GraSPP, career tracks are divided into four from the beginning, and the requirements for each of them could be quite different. Thus, I found that friendships are developed firmly in each division and interaction between students and professors are close and positive!
In the past semester, I was mainly taking topic courses and practical training courses of the economics division. Most of the class size is considerably smaller than IRPS, so we have plenty of chance to speak up, raise questions, and interact with fellow classmates and the professors. I especially enjoyed the abundant resources with the Japanese government and int’l organizations that GraSPP provides: via professors, who are former/current policy makers, we’re able to get the first hand information on the process of policy making and insights of current issues. Guest speakers give us the most updated analysis and share their experience; classmates are also invaluable resource with various backgrounds and interests in the public sectors. For instance, we were lucky to have the opportunity to do an interview with a METI official in charge with the Japanese FTA/EPA policy for the class “Economic Cooperation of East Asia”. In classes, we tackled with current issues that the Japanese government is dealing with, including aging society, economic stimulus plans, labor market reform etc. I was very excited to be able to verify with my own eye and discuss with Japanese students what I’ve learned in the US and Taiwan about Japan.
Life outside school was no less dynamic. Living in the international lodge at Komaba, just minutes away from Shibuya, I was blessed with the chance to meet students from all over the world. As international students, we were provided various channels to learn about Japan, through language courses, school trips, and community groups etc. This past semester in Todai was an exceptional experience that I’ll never forget. I’m most grateful for the chance to be in GraSPP for 6 months, and would recommend this exchange program to those who are interested in policy making in Japan.