International Development students from the University of Northampton will travel to Japan to work on a programme recognised as pushing the frontier of Higher Education in the country.
Second year students Mima Moyo and Justyna Lesniowska will travel to Ōsakikamijima, a small island in the Seto Inland Sea, near Hiroshima, to work on the HELIO (Human Ecology Lab in Ōsakikamijima) programme.
The programme is backed by the Japanese Government and local community, and sends 24 students from colleges and universities within the Ashoka Changemaker campus global network, to Ōsakikamijima each year.
The aim of the programme is to eventually build a college in Ōsakikamijima to help boost the local economy and fundamentally change the Higher Education system in Japan.
“This is a chance for students to be part of social entrepreneurship in action,” said a co-founder of the programme, Professor Jay Friedlander, the Sharpe-McNally Chair of Green and Socially Responsible Business at College of the Atlantic in Maine, USA.
He added: “The students are part of a team both helping design and demonstrate what this new institution could look like. The educational institution is a catalyst for rebuilding the community on the island of Ōsakikamijima.”
During the two-week cultural exchange the students will spend time immersing themselves in the community of Ōsakikamijima.
They will also visit Hiroshima to hear from an A-bomb survivor and will journey to Fukushima to research the effects of the tsunami and nuclear disaster in 2011.
Jay said: “The HELIO programme with its community-based, interdisciplinary and interactive focus represents a fundamental shift in the way courses are taught in Japan. The Ministry of Education has taken a keen interest in what we are doing because it represents where the educational system needs to go.
“The cultural exchange happens on multiple levels. Between Japanese community members and students and amongst students themselves. We have students coming from roughly half a dozen universities representing multiple countries. Past programmes have proven to be life-changing experiences for students.”
Wray Irwin, the University’s Changemaker ambassador, has hailed the study trip as a landmark occasion for the institution, which is one of only three Changemaker campuses in the UK.
Wray said: “This is the first time two students from the University will go. We found that this year in particular, through the International Development, International Relations and Economics programme areas– the strands that they will cover, align with this project perfectly.
“Mima and Justynna were nominated by their lecturer as two individuals that could contribute significantly to the programme. They are really charismatic and passionate about what they do, they also demonstrated an understanding of the change they wanted to help influence and they had an outlook on life that showed that they would add value to the programme.”
As the students prepare to fly out on June 25, Justyna is excited for what lies in store. She said: “I’m excited about meeting new people from different parts of the world and learn more about how the locals are planning to regenerate their community through sustainable development.
“This trip will help me in my studies as I would see how the theories and ideas that I have discussed in the classroom during my international development degree can be applied to the real world and in a very different context. I could use the knowledge I will acquire during the program in my third year modules.”
For more information on International Development at University of Northampton, please visit the course page.