Students from l’X going to Japan through the MIRAI program
Gladys Marc and Edouard Mehlman, two École Polytechnique students, both consider that you learn a lot when exposed to people with different cultures and backgrounds. That is one of the reasons they applied and got selected to participate to the MIRAI program which is a short-term exchange program with young people from Europe and Central Asia, organized by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the support of the European Federation for Intercultural Learning and AFS Japan. MIRAI, meaning “future” in Japanese, is an initiative to promote Mutual-understanding, enhance Intellectual discussions and build strong Relations and Academic exchange among future leaders of Japan and the world. Sponsored and launched by the Government of Japan, this program offers a great opportunity for academic and cultural exchange for 150 graduate students from major universities in Europe, Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus.
Edouard with his host family at Nagoya-Minami
Gladys and Edouard were thus among the 10 French students selected to go to Tokyo on December 14th, 2015, where they gathered with other students from various countries such as Belgium, Spain and Italy, but also Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan or Tajikistan. After having exchanged with other selected French students at a reception held at the Japanese Embassy in France before their departure, they got prepared for this exchange program through a series of short videos and lectures aimed at raising intercultural awareness. Their schedule during this 1-week immersion trip in Japan was very busy: learning about the economics, politics and culture of the country through lectures at Keio University, one of the most prestigious universities in Japan and one of École Polytechnique’s main partners in the country ; visiting renown Japanese companies, museums and temples ; getting familiar with Japanese innovations and discovering Nagoya where they were hosted by a Japanese family.
Gladys experiencing the tea ceremony within her host family in Nagoya
Although Edouard admits that communication with his host family was sometimes a bit difficult - him not speaking Japanese and them not being fluent in English - this experience is what he liked most during his trip. He was touched by how "open, welcoming and generous" the family was with him. Gladys also felt that this was a "unique opportunity to experience local life and go beyond regular tourist attractions". On his first day in Nagoya, Edouard's host family even took him to the Hot Springs, a famous place to warm up and relax... Where you are all naked! Although this was obviously surprising, it shows that the students really get to share the lives of their host families and learn a lot from Japanese culture through this interaction.
Another aspect that the students from l'X really enjoyed was the opportunity to exchange both with Japanese students as well as students coming from all over Europe and Central Asia. For example, following a lecture at Keio University, Gladys has had a passionate conversation about the work conditions with students from Japan, Germany and Uzbekistan, each comparing the situation in his/her country with the others. Both Gladys and Edouard agree that this program therefore strongly favors intercultural learning and they would clearly recommend it to other École Polytechnique students. It has also provided them with new knowledge and insight which will certainly prove useful in the future international experiences they hope to have, starting with their business internships at the end of the academic year - probably in Germany for Gladys and in the US for Edouard.