Setting their minds to win
Representative of team W 3 ~W-Cubed~, Chihiro Kurota from the School of International Liberal Studies (SILS)
Team W³~W-Cubed~ emerged as the champion of Waseda Vision 150 Student Competition (website currently only in Japanese) and was awarded the President Gold Award. In this competition, students are to scrutinize the Waseda Vision 150, think of an appropriate theme and come up with a proposal that would help the University achieve its goals stated in the Vision. This is the fifth year the University organized the competition. 32 teams submitted their proposals but only 8 teams made it to the finals. In the final round, all 8 teams had to each give a presentation. The winning team this year is W³~W-Cubed~ which comprises of four fourth year students – 1) Chihiro Kurota, 2) Ayuko Kurabayashi and 3) Joakim Erik Gunnar Larsson from the School of International Liberal Studies, and 4) Youngah Lee from the School of Education. The theme of the winning team is Watashi-Waseda-World. In this article, Kurota, the representative of W³~W-Cubed~ shared her experience about the competition.
What is Watashi-Waseda-World?
The team named their theme Watashi-Waseda-World in hope that Waseda (the University) would serve as the platform to connect Watashi (each individual student) with the World (the planet we live in). In their proposal, the team presented two ideas called the W-Class and W-Mentor.
W-Class will be a compulsory class module that all freshmen from all faculties have to sign up for regardless of their nationality. It will be conducted in a seminar style and the aim is to get all Japanese students to interact with international students. For a start, students are to communicate using communication tools like gestures to communicate. As the classes progress, students are required to do group discussions over a range of topics with the aim of promoting cross-cultural understanding. Towards the end of the semester, each group will have to come up with their promotional videos and business plans. In order to achieve this, students have to learn how to work and communicate effectively within their groups, and take advantage of each student’s strengths and weakness. In other words, the class would not only serve to promote cultural understanding but also serve to improve students’ communication skills.
W-Mentor will be a program aimed to help new international students get used to life in Japan. Japanese students will take the role of a mentor and provide support to international students in their daily needs. In the long-term, the group hopes that this program will also promote more communication and foster greater friendships between Japanese and international students. This idea is based on one of the team member’s real experience when she was doing her student exchange program at a University in America. When Kurabayashi was in America, she did not stay in the school dormitory and had to look for her own apartment. At that time, she found herself fortunate that there was a student mentor program in place and her mentor assisted her in finding an apartment. She thought that it was a very good initiative and think that Waseda University should also have a similar system.
Why W-Class and W-Mentor?
Waseda University is known to have the most number of international students across all universities in Japan. Under the QS World University Ranking, it has also been constantly ranked as the most international university in Japan. One of the University’s aims is to produce global leaders that shrine on the international stage. However, the team was skeptical if Japanese students actually interact with international students in every day class. Even in the classes at the School of International Liberal Studies, the team feels that there are very little interactions between Japanese and international students. As such, the team decided to conduct a survey with 520 students and the results were just like what they had expected – most Japanese students had little or zero interaction with international students. This is despite the fact that the Intercultural Communication Center (ICC) at Waseda University organizes many events all year round to promoting cultural exchange between Japanese and international students. After further inspection, the team found out that most Japanese students did not participate in these events because they do not have previous experience interacting with people outside of Japan. This made them feel uneasy and a little bit scared of interacting with international students. As such, the team felt a need to come up with ideas that could help students overcome this psychological barrier they had, and proposed the idea of having W-Class and W-Mentor system in place.
Challenges that the team faced
The biggest challenge for the team was time management. During the second preliminary round, the team had to come up a less than 10 minute video to summarize their ideas. Before the final round in March, the team was really busy with their usual classes and job-hunting. As such, it was difficult to find time for all members to meet up. What they did eventually was to conduct group meeting over Skype at night. As all four members each had their own stance and strong opinion, it was difficult to come to an agreement. The whole process was very time consuming, but the team felt that their hard work had paid off after winning the competition.
Reflecting on Waseda Vision 150 Student Competition
Kurota thinks that the competition serves both as a medium and platform where students can participate and voice their opinions about Waseda University, as well as the direction the University should be heading towards to. She feels that even if they have ideas on how the University should run, their ideas cannot be turned into reality unless such platform exists. However, if a team wins the competition, the University will take up responsibility and put their ideas into reality. As such, she was grateful that the University had come up with such good initiative.
When the team decided to take part in the competition, they only had winning in mind. The reason was simple – it is guaranteed that their idea will be turn into reality by the University. Kurota thinks that their team won not just because they had a great idea, but also because they were willing to take a step further to collect real data from the public through surveys to support their ideas.
How has winning the competition changed the team?
In Japan, companies like to ask students about episodes in which they have put in their most effort into during school years. Kurota decided to talk about the experience she had at Waseda Vision 150 Student Competition. She feels that winning the President Award at the competition summarized her whole university education. It was the first time she worked so hard towards achieving a goal. In the process, she had to learn how to deal with disagreements while learning how to move forward as a team at the same time. She feels that the skills she gained will definitely be useful even after she starts working. She also became more confident than ever and began to enjoy coming up with new ideas and sharing them with people.
How does Kurota hope students will benefit from her team’s proposal?
Kurota hopes that Japanese and international students at Waseda University would study together in harmony and enjoy each other’s company. She also hopes that they would form friendships and work together towards a common goal just like how her team W³~W-Cubed~ had done.
She feels that each student at Waseda University has dreams and strong passion for something. She really likes how the students at Waseda University are. She hopes that Waseda students will continue to hold on to these dreams and passions even after they graduate from the University.