The following reflection is a guest post written by Haruki Kitagawa, a 2015 alum and honoree of the Stanford e-Japan Program, which is currently accepting applications for Fall 2020.
Starting something new from scratch is always challenging. Though it requires huge amounts of effort and contains the possibility of not working out, I believe that it is absolutely worth exploring a new challenge because it has the power of creating chances of making people happier. This is the most important thing I learned from the people who took the initiative to establish the wonderful program, Stanford e-Japan.
Though it was the inaugural year of the program when I joined in 2015, I was truly impressed not only with the high quality of the academic content, but also with the rich opportunities of communication with prestigious leaders from various fields. Moreover, the program generously offered the top three students the chance to visit Stanford University for a ceremony.
It was exhilarating to be in the program due to the endless surprises and new learnings that I encountered throughout the course.
Since then, I have resolved to initiate new challenges myself in order to contribute to younger students just as Stanford e-Japan Instructor Waka Brown did for me. After I returned to Keio University from a one-year university exchange program at the University of California, San Diego, I established a student-led organization with several members at Keio from diverse backgrounds. Our student-led organization aims to cultivate young global citizens of Japan by allowing students attending Japanese high schools to have meaningful interactions with international students from Japanese universities like Keio.
In addition to encouraging the high school students to explore new challenges, I also wanted to share how interesting it is to learn about different cultures, including the histories of foreign countries and the benefits of interacting with people who have different backgrounds. We focus on designing an environment so that high school students can actively discuss and exchange ideas with international students in person while also building their English presentation skills. Through our program, we believe every high school student has the opportunity to learn something new like communication skills with individuals of different backgrounds, the ability to reach a mutual understanding with people of differing opinions, and leadership skills to lead discussions in a diverse community.
During our programs at several high schools, I have been able to hear many voices from the high school students, international students, and even high school teachers that suggest that they have fortunately had meaningful and fruitful experiences during our programs. Despite some initial struggles, I now strongly believe that even small programs like ours can make a difference in our society. I will never forget the precious lessons learned from Stanford e-Japan, and perhaps the most important lesson is for me to continue to explore new challenges and to encourage young students to do so as well.