Japanese monitoring trip

GSO program officer, Alice Valsecchi was in Tokyo, Japan this past October for an productive monitoring trip where she visited GSO students, partners, stakeholders and project sites.

A highlight of her time in Japan was the opportunity to host a meet and greet session with students currently on their GSO experiences in the Japanese capital: Nikita Serikov (University of Ottawa), Mika Goli (Simon Fraser University), Jason Ineh (Brock University) and Zachary Belanger (Saint Mary’s University).

The GSO students talked about adjusting to life in Japan, the value of making international friends and the importance of getting involved in as many activities as possible offered by the university to fully embrace Japanese culture.

The variety of experiences at the table was impressive; Some of the students came to Japan to experience a completely different country, or to understand their parents’ life experience as immigrants in Canada. Others chose Tokyo because of their passion for Japanese culture. Some speak fluent Japanese, while others came with no previous knowledge of the language. Regardless of their life paths and backgrounds, they all agreed that they are gaining valuable global skills that will serve them throughout their lives.

The Canadian embassy in Tokyo hosted a reception in honour of the 30th anniversary of the Canada Japan Co-op Program (CJCP), which secured GSO funding in March 2023. Established in 1991, the CJCP has sent more than 1,200 Canadian students to Japan for work terms. The program is comprised of a consortium of Canadian colleges and universities, led by The University of British Columbia (UBC). CJCP seeks to diversify the students who in its program, ultimately strengthening Canada’s future workforce with more graduates with global experience and Asia-specific competencies.

With support from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and existing co-op employers in Japan, the project will result in 27 new eight-month co-op terms for EDI students and 26 eight-month co-op terms for other students. Two GSO students are currently completing a co-op term through CJCP in a different region of Japan and a larger cohort is set to depart in winter 2024.

Alice also participated in a student site visit on Awaji Island, near Kobe alongside CJCP Director Julie Walchli and program coordinator Yuko Nemoto. The trio connected with two UBC students undertaking a co-op term with Pasona Group, which is involved in several community revitalization projects focused on sustainability: Marissa Wong (human geography) is teaching English to elementary school kids in the international school, and Harsimran Deol (civil engineering) is involved in the design and planning of several engineering projects.

This co-op experience has strengthened Marissa’s communication, interpersonal and teaching skills. She pointed out that in her position she needs to reflect more on what is acceptable in the classroom and be mindful of local customs. She wishes to further develop her leadership skills and has started leading activities in class.

As part of their co-op with Pasona Group, students are required to complete a policy paper about an issue of their choice. As she is interested in international education policies and environmental conservation, Marissa is planning to take kids on field trips across the island to learn about sustainable projects and to weave these topics into the classroom.

Harsimran, meanwhile has mastered new software during his co-op and has refined his technical skills by converting 2D models to 3D for the first time. His policy issue of choice is Japan’s population decline and how it affects the government’s investment priorities pertaining to infrastructure projects.

The students enjoy the policy aspect of the co-op as they get to immerse themselves further in Japanese culture, research and talk about topics they are passionate about, and apply what they do in their co-op to their everyday professional life. Each month, they deliver a presentation in front of their supervisors, the CEO and other employees at Pasona.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan also invited Alice to speak at an event for employers interested in partnering with — and hiring students through — the CJCP. It was wonderful to see so many potential partners seeking the opportunity to get involved in the CJCP!

This packed week provided Alice the unique opportunity to observe a day in the life of students during their GSO experience, to connect students from different institutions, and to raise awareness about GSO among employers and embassy staff. Alice and the entire GSO team are grateful for the invitation from the Canada-Japan Co-op Program. We are looking forward to seeing how this program will grow and how the GSO funding will impact Canadian students’ experiences in Japan!

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