Mirai is the Japanese word for future as well as the name of a cultural exchange program designed to build ties and introduce young Europeans to Japan's unique way of life.
I first heard of the MIRAI program through Nova SBE's JobTeaser platform. It was advertised as a 10-day all-expenses-paid trip to explore Japan with a well-structured itinerary alongside a diverse body of other European students. The event runs annually with different streams doing different activities and traveling to locations based on the student's major. In my case, I was pre-selected for the Economics & Business stream by Nova SBE's Career & Corporate Placement Team after submitting my CV. The final step was a motivational interview with representatives from the Japanese Embassy in Lisbon. I was ecstatic to hear that I had been selected and would soon be embarking on a trip that would far exceed my expectations in every way. These exchanges are an excellent platform not only for self-development, but also to expand Nova SBE's international presence via brand recognition and by fostering wider networks with future leaders which can be tapped by the university's alumni.
We started our expedition in Tokyo with a greeting session presented by diplomats from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who organized the program alongside the JTB Corp. After this, we dove straight into the corporate scene with company visits to the NEC Corporation, TOTO, and the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Here we had the chance to test cutting-edge toilets, facial recognition stores, and even witness an IPO live. Lastly, we had the opportunity to meet our student counterparts at Sophia University. While touring the campus and discussing our backgrounds and ambitions, it became evident that despite our university experiences having many semblances, the work environment expected afterwards differed significantly from Europe's.
The second stage of the exchange involved a stop in the city of Hiroshima, where we learned about the atomic bombing during WWII from a survivor. She taught us that peace is not the absence of war, but living in safety with a smile on your face. This powerful message struck a chord and set the tone for seeing the blast's memorial and epicenter. Afterwards, we paid respect to Sadako Sasaki, a young girl affected by the bomb who set out to fold one thousand origami cranes before her death as a symbol of the innocent victims of this humanitarian catastrophe.
The most novel part of the exchange must have been the homestay on a rural island called Etajima, located off the coast of Hiroshima. Together with three other participants from the Czech Republic, France, and Sweden, we set out to integrate ourselves into the host family's routine for three incredible days. This involved fishing at the pier, cooking a regional specialty dish known as okonomiyaki, collecting shells during our hikes, and dropping in unexpectedly on a local tea ceremony. At the latter, we had the privilege of receiving a folk music performance by the talented hosts and having also walked away with delicious treats further solidified my impression of the Japanese as a very friendly group of people. I will not forget waking up at 5.00 am to help my host dad feed the chickens and then watching the sunrise from the top of the hill. In those moments, I realized that not understanding each other's language is not a barrier that can keep people from experiencing the beauty of life together.
Disclaimer: This article was written by Daniel Soares, a third-year Bachelor's in Economics student at Nova SBE who found out about this opportunity in Career & Corporate Placement's Job Teaser. During his studies, he played an active role in the Nova Investment Club's Undergraduate Division.