I never expected to fall in love with traveling so easily! This study trip to the countryside of Japan offered not only valuable knowledge that i can use in my study as well as future career, but also unforgettable memories and experiences with strangers who i can now proudly call friends.
Saga University Summer Program (SUSP 2016), or Creating Innovation for Sustainability in Young Leaders was a short term study program that helped a group of students from various countries understand about a diverse range of contemporary issues. The aim was to develop our leadership skills in tackling sustainability challenges, locally and internationally.
We started most days with a Japanese language class in the morning. Even though the content was simple and basic due to the limited amount of time, it was enough for us to appreciate some of the intricacies and beauty of Japanese language. Thanks to the classes, our daily lives during the trip were much more convenient, and we also got a good glimpse into the Japanese mindset.
In the afternoons were excursions to many places, such as Saga historical tour, Institute of Ocean Energy (IOE), Arita Ceramic Museum… We learned so much about Saga and Japanese culture, energy, environment, and technologies through these very hands on case studies. To preserve these heritages, sustain current ways of life and develop solutions for current and future issues, a basic level of understanding of what we have built and achieved is the start. In this regard, the excursions enlightened me and made me become appreciative of what we have accomplished, as well as my responsibilities as the young generation. One particular example was IOE’s innovation on using temperature differences in the ocean to generate energy, which truly impressed me and is something that i would love to work on in the future.
The learning experience was much more beyond what was planned in the program. We had a lot of time outside the schedule to freely explore, and to try living like the locals. Plans and ideas that us as a group came up allowed us to try amazing cuisines, visit unique locations, and experience lively local events (such as the biggest firework show i have ever seen!). As usual the unexpected also joined in the fun, as we stumbled across a wonderful Sake shop while getting lost in the city at night! More than just being insightful regarding the Japanese way of life, these experiences to us were incredibly exhilarating and brilliant.
Often, the people you meet matter even more than what you do or see on a trip. Except one unfortunate misunderstanding incident (taken as another learning experience), the local people we met were brilliantly welcoming and friendly. They were accommodating and patient despite our apparent culture gap and language barrier, especially considering a culture so unique such as Japan’s. Finally last but not least, the students from Thailand, Cambodia, Taiwan, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia and Vietnam who came together to make a big melting pot of culture. Different backgrounds, different personalities, but somehow we just meshed so well together. We could learn from each other, share our different perspectives, thanks to which every moment was so much more rich and memorable. If i could travel to anywhere in the world with the same people again, it would always be worth it given all the joy and fun we had!
All the doubts i had before the trip were completely blown away, now replaced with new knowledge and mentality. These experiences have ignited me, as I’m eager to go out there again to challenge myself in a new environment. Returning to the beautiful far east country and seeing the friends i have made again are no doubt high on the priority list though!
Nghiem Xuan Hieu