by Akiko Segawa
My name is Akiko Segawa, and I am a senior majoring in Chemical Engineering at University of Tokyo. In the summer of 2014, I participated in the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program as a Global Summer Program (GSP) in the University of California, Berkeley organized by the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU). The program took place in Berkeley from 6th to 26th of July. I arrived in Berkeley on the glorious Fourth of July. My first day in the United States was its Independence Day therefore I could find how they celebrate the day with gorgeous fireworks. The next day, I spent the day with two of Berkeley students who had spent last summer at Tokyo and had studied together. It was really nice to see friends again. I think this clearly shows how IARU programs and FOTI contribute to develop the international student networks. The Program started the next day. It was mainly for environmental experts who are working in nonprofit and community-based organizations, applied research and educational institutions, government, international agencies or the business sector.
We eight IARU students were the first students who joined this course. We had four classes from 8:30 to 17:00 followed by a reception or panel discussion in weekdays. Saturdays were for field trips. Lectures covered wide range of topics such as Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Impact Assessment, Energy and Technology, Population, Health and Gender, Conservation, Collaborative Leadership for Sustainable Change, Marketing and Design, Biofuels, Urban Planning, Technological Approaches to Climate Change, Water, or Food and Agriculture. Some of them were very familiar for me while the others were completely new for me. Since I’m majoring engineering, I tend to think of environmental issues from technical point of view but I found that there are many other aspects to be considered when we think of one of the most complicated issues of today. We had some active discussions on Geo-engineering and also we worked hard to build a new marketing plan for one of the participants’ organization. These exercises told me the importance of studying Policy, Economy and so on as well as technology to solve challenges of the 21st century. Through lectures and receptions, I also got opportunities to interact with UC Berkeley’s faculties, as well as global peers. I believe advice from them contributed greatly to my future professional study and career development. At the same time, I believe interactions with a rich mix of participants from all over the world brought me new perspectives. This program consisted of the most diverse people I have ever experienced. I have always valued the interaction with people of diverse background and culture; this may be one of the main reasons why I’ve been actively involved with IARU summer courses for three years. Overall, there were people with 35 countries in fields ranging from climate change mitigation to biodiversity conservation to public policy.
As all people in the program lived together, I had many opportunities to interact with everyone on a daily basis. We had every meal together in the campus dorm where we stayed while having conversations about life and culture in our respective countries. I also got some opportunity to skate with Berkeley’s skating team (I belong to skating team in the University of Tokyo). It was also a nice experience to know students who are studying there. As filed trips we went to firms, wineries, beaches and some parks as well as some sightseeing places such as golden gate bridge. These trips exposed me to California’s history, natures, their ways of life, and their ways of thinking. Getting to know people in the program was the best part of my summer experience. Every friend brought me new perspectives or the way of thinking. I believe this experience definitely expand my horizon.
At the end, I would like to thank Friends of UTokyo for offering me scholarship to attend this wonderful summer program in the University of California Berkeley. Without your support, I would miss this amazing experience.