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e-Magazine (For the Japanese version of this article)

Vulcanus Programme | EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation [Date of Issue: 31/October/2016 No.0260-1025]

Date of Issue: 31/October/2016

Vulcanus Programme

EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation

The EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation, an annex to the Institute for International Studies and Training, operates a language training and industrial placement programme in Europe for Japanese students from engineering or science departments with a view to developing the young people who will shoulder EU-Japan relations in the future. Here we introduce some impressions from programme participants.

EU-Japan Center for Industrial Cooperation Website

Takashi Kimba
Vulcanus in Europe Programme 2015
Total programme: April 2015-March 2016
Language training: English at a language school in Dublin and Polish at a language school in Krakow over April-July 2015
Internship: Industrial placement at toprojekt in Poland over August 2015-March 2016

I did my language training in Ireland and Poland and then an industrial placement in an architectural design studio called toprojekt in Poland. Having studied architecture in the small town of Hiroshima, I signed up for the Vulcanus Programme as an opportunity to get a glimpse of a wider world.

Because this was the first time the Vulcanus in Europe Programme had sent a Japanese trainee to Poland, I had less information to go on than other interns, but fortunately one of the toprojekt team was a former student from the Vulcanus in Japan Programme, which made my year in Europe go very smoothly. We not only worked together, but he also travelled with me outside work to visit architectural sights. We’ve also remained in contact since then, discussing our current projects with each other, etc. This is one of the great advantages of Vulcanus: the way that its long history opens the way for cross-generational connections.

Celebrating a competition win

Celebrating a competition win

My placement was at a small architectural studio of around 10 people, which was great for me in terms of maximal project involvement. I was basically working on international competitions, including the Busan City redevelopment project in Korea, a tourist facility project in Yashima, Kagawa Prefecture back in Japan, and the Koszalin City master plan competition in Poland. I had a few problems initially with differences in work culture, etc., but focusing my efforts on winning the various competitions put toprojekt among the prizewinners for the Busan City competition and first in the Koszalin City project.
With my boss at the program graduation ceremony

With my boss at the program graduation ceremony

Producing results in these projects also really boosted my confidence in myself as a designer. For the Koszalin City project, I proposed reorganizing the city’s entire traffic system to make the vehicle roads which cut through the old part of town from north to south and east to west into a pedestrian space. Because our project won first place, toprojekt is now handling the public briefings, etc., for coordinating and implementing the budget funds from the town council. In Japan, architects are never in the position to be able to create city-scale designs like this—it was the kind of project you only get in Europe, where architects are given a much higher social status.

Architecture is at the same time both the owner’s asset and a highly public good that forms part of the cityscape. Drawing on my experience at toprojekt, I aim to approach my architecture projects in Japan with the same consideration for the meaning of buildings in terms of the whole cityscape that I found in Europe.

Sari Nishimura
Vulcanus in Europe Programme 2014
Total programme: April 2014-March 2015
Language training: German language training at a language school in Munich over April-July 2014
Internship: Industrial placement at Tiger Coatings in Austria over August 2014-March 2015

I participated in the FY2014 Vulcanus in Europe Programme, doing my language training in Germany and then my industrial placement in Austria. My reasons for signing up to Vulcanus were, firstly, that I have always had an interest in what is happening outside Japan and wanted to live somewhere with different social norms to Japan. Second, rather than the passive experience of just staying in another country, I was after a more active experience that used my personal expertise.

The first four months were devoted to language training. My school was in Munich, and I started out as a complete beginner in the German language. However, thanks to four months spent sharing a roof with my lovely host mother and four peppy students from the same school, I felt as though the language just soaked in. I looked forward every day to sitting down to talk with everyone over one of my host mother’s delicious home-cooked dinners.

With the development team at my placement

With the development team at my placement

I spent the remaining eight months in an industry placement at Tiger Coatings, an Austrian paint company. My small team, comprising my Spanish boss and an Austrian colleague, were working on the development of an industrial printer. My main job was to help my colleague with developing toner. Unlike university study, industry placements inundate you with new experiences. For example, you have to consider cost-cutting, health impairment, and patents. In addition, because my team was so small, we had limited facilities and capital, which necessitated a very clear idea of our development priorities, and we also each had our own roles, so I put a lot of thought into how I could contribute to the team. Communication was very important in that regard. I worked hard to get my message across as simply and clearly as possible. Austria’s unique cultural emphasis on no-stress living was also a very definite feature of the workplace, and I found it extremely interesting. Understanding such cultural differences was really a key issue in making sure my job went smoothly.

I learned so much during my year in Europe, all of it extremely valuable and none of it possible without the Vulcanus Programme. Over the course of the year, I also came into contact with many different people who really helped me to grow. Home in Japan, I have just recently started work, but apparently there will be a large international component to my job and I can hardly wait! It will be great to take what I learned over the course of 2014 and really throw myself into my job so that I can become a bridge connecting Europe and Japan through technology.

Mitsuteru Sawa
Vulcanus in Europe Programme 2009
Total programme: April 2009-March 2010
Language training: German language training at a language school in Berlin over April-July 2009
Internship: Industrial placement at Panasonic Industrial Devices Europe GmbH in Germany over August 2009-March 2010

Going to a conference with Vulcanus in Japan members

Going to a conference with Vulcanus in Japan members

My experience began when I happened to glance at a departmental noticeboard at my graduate school and spotted a notice for Vulcanus in Europe Programme applications. I had been wondering about doing an internship as a head start to finding a job, and given that I had only ever lived in Japan’s Kansai region, I thought that spending a year living and working at a company overseas might open some completely new possibilities for me, so I went ahead and applied. My Vulcanus experience was huge, and also led to my current career.

I spent the first four months learning German at a language school in Berlin. Classes were aimed at beginners but conducted entirely in German. On my way to school, everything was in German—from the road signs to people’s conversations and even supermarket products—reminding me afresh that I was living in a foreign country. Slowly learning about the local culture and customs in the course of my daily life was a novel experience, and while there were a lot of difficulties, it was also an incredibly valuable time that gave me the opportunity to think in depth about my goals and myself.

After that, I went to live in the small town of Luneburg for my placement, which was in an R&D department working on wireless modules. In addition to my boss, I was often working with a student who had also come in as an intern to develop visual recognition programs to use in demonstrating new wireless modules. One memorable experience was the opportunity to participate in a project operated by company employees seconded out from Japan. I took part in the local negotiations and experiments, assisted in measurements, and showed the employees around town. I later heard from them that the data we had gathered had been useful in product development, and I was pleased to think that through my connections to both Japan and Germany, I had helped at least a little to build a bridge between Japan and Europe, which is one of the aims of the Vulcanus Programme.

After I got back to Japan, I decided that I wanted to work somewhere in manufacturing where I could interact with people from around the world. The Internet seemed the perfect place for that, so I took a job at an e-commerce company where I have since been involved in international projects such as developing an international e-commerce platform and also a French smart phone application, the latter entailing a posting to Paris. I also work on open source projects—creating software which anyone can use freely—which has given me the opportunity to engage with various developers and experience the pleasure and incentive of watching a small change that I have made effect a big difference.

Finally, I am grateful to my family, everyone at the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation, my fellow Vulcanus students, my host family, the teachers and students at my language school, my boss and my colleagues at the company that took me in, local musicians, and everyone else whom I met through the Vulcanus Programme. What I gained through my experience in a completely different environment to that of Japan has been extremely valuable, giving me numerous opportunities to broaden my perspective and think about the future. I hope that many more students will participate in Vulcanus in the years ahead, stepping out into Europe to enjoy their own unique experience.

(original article : Japanese)
(For the Japanese version of this article)

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