Global Fellows Programme “Innovation to Eradicate Poverty”, a rich educational and cultural experience in Japan!

By Vasiliki Kioupi, PhD student in the Centre for Environmental Policy

Doing my research on Transformative Education for a Sustainable Society I always thought about visiting Japan. Not only because the Global Action Plan on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) was launched during the UNESCO World Conference in Aichi-Nagoya in 2014 but also because during the decade for ESD (2005-2014), which was initially proposed by the government of Japan to UNESCO, I was a classroom teacher actively engaged in Environmental Education Projects with my students in Greece.

When I saw the opportunity for the Global Fellows Programme themed “Innovation to Eradicate Poverty” advertised by the Imperial College Graduate School in collaboration with Tokyo Institute of Technology, I was intrigued to apply. I strongly believe that Poverty Eradication, currently Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #1 in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda, is a global challenge clearly linked with how the society, the economy and the environment function and in order to arrive to a thorough solution, access to quality education is the key. The better part of this Programme was that I could also apply for a research visit to a Tokyo Tech lab, provided a Professor had agreed to act as a supervisor during my stay.

The Global Fellows Programme took place in Hachi-oji, a quiet suburb of Tokyo, from March 5 to 9 2018 and the venue was the Inter-University Seminar House, an all-inclusive facility on top of a hill. During the first-day of activities we attended lectures on the theme, did ice-breaker presentations and formed teams of four, comprised of both Imperial College and Tokyo Tech PhD students using effective team development and team work techniques. Following, we participated in team building activities to boost mutual understanding and effective communication and collaboration, before we started to work on our project to tackle poverty. During the activities we became familiar with each other and we developed strong bonds mainly because of our common interest to empower people through education. So our team was named EduPower! We were an international and interdisciplinary team of two Indonesians Mira and Albert (a Materials and a Computer Scientist), Ashley, a Scottish Bioscientist and myself, a Greek Social scientist, with diverse and valuable skills to contribute to our project. We had the most productive time working on our idea, a platform for collaboration in the education sector and we took pride on the poster we prepared and presented.

The seminar provided opportunities for cultural experiences as well, such as the Japanese puppet performance and the student lead outing to Takao Mountain. The Programme culminated with an amazing farewell event at the Ishikawadai area of Tokyo Tech O-okayama campus, featuring amazing talks, delicious sushi and traditional Japanese drinks, followed by karaoke at a nearby club. I was also able to witness the sakura (cherry blossom), one of the most spectacular sights Japan can offer to the visitor.

I highly encourage all students who are interested in enhancing their research and also creating memorable experiences to apply to similar opportunities provided by the Graduate school. The benefits to my personal development, network expansion and team-working skills were immense. The possibility of a research visit is also an invaluable experience for all PhD students to widen their perspectives. To read more about my research visit in Professor Abe’s lab please follow the link to my personal website.