Due to significant changes in the WMU curriculum and the period of attendance since 2010, the period when students who have been attending the university can get together with new students for friendly exchanges has been reduced significantly from five to two months. As a result, communication among Sasakawa Fellowship students had started to wane. To address this situation, we have established a venue where Sasakawa Fellowship students can get together for exchanges and conversation, and for the second year running we held the “Gathering Orientation with Sasakawa Fellowship 2012 & 2013” to provide students with a clear understanding of the Sasakawa Fellowship System and the Sasakawa Fellow Network organized by the Ocean Policy Research Foundation (OPRF).
This year, in September 2012, 23 recipients of the WMU Sasakawa Fellowship (Class of 2013) from 19 countries commenced their studies at WMU. It was indeed a joy to see students from five new countries including Argentina, Eritrea, Guatemala, Solomon Islands, and Uganda join the family of countries from which the Sasakawa Fellowship students hail. As of October 2012, this brings the number of Sasakawa Fellowship recipients to 449 and the countries from which they hail 59.
The Gathering Orientation with the 23 new students and the existing student body (Class of 2012) was held on Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at WMU in Malmo, Sweden.
At 17:15, students assembled in front of the school building for a commemorative photograph. The photos shoot took longer than planned but resulted in a stunning photograph. The group then scattered as the new students moved to the CPS Hall on the fifth floor where their orientation began.
The orientation started with an address from Mr. Eisuke Kudo, Special Adviser of OPRF. Mr. Kudo gave a hearty welcome to the new students and expressed the hope that they will feel proud to be recipients of the Sasakawa Fellowship. He then explained that the objectives of the Gathering Orientation were to: promote mutual understanding among students of the Sasakawa Fellowship, plan for the effective formation of a Sasakawa Fellow Network, and ensure that students firmly understood the organization and management of the Sasakawa Fellowship System. He continued his presentation by stating that he hoped all of the new students would maintain a sense of gratitude as recipients of the fellowship and would take the time to express their gratitude in the form of a letter addressed to the Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, in which they shared with him their latest news. Mr. Kudo concluded his speech by expressing his heartfelt appreciation for the overwhelming support of the WMU Secretariat preparing for the orientation meeting.
Next, Mr. Shinichi Ichikawa, a staff member of OPRF, then took the podium to explain to students information that he felt they should know as recipients of WMU fellowships. The main points were: The Nippon Foundation promotes various projects using profits obtained from motorboat races (a form of public gambling in Japan), the WMU Sasakawa Fellowship is funded by grants from The Nippon Foundation, which is the donor organization, and the OPRF is appointed as a business administrator for The Nippon Foundation. Mr. Ichikawa also spoke of the activities of the Sasakawa Fellow Network after graduation and activities of the Japan Secretariat of the Friends of WMU, which supports the WMU network activities.
After this, as a new trial activity for the orientation meeting, senior students gave accounts of their experience of the 2012 Sasakawa Fellowship, with one student representative from each of the four Specialization courses relaying his or her experiences and impressions of the course, including both positive experiences as well as failures. The representatives also shared information about field trips conducted during the academic year and gave words of encouragement to the new students for their study over the following 14 months. Although it was not possible to arrange for much time to explain the courses, I was very impressed that new students not only showed a keen interest in the explanations and listened carefully to the speeches of the senior students but also took notes.
The four students who willingly cooperated by giving presentations of the specialization courses as senior students of the Sasakawa Fellowship at a time when they were very busy in the lead up to graduation were: Alexander Aduantwi (Ghana) from the MLP course, Elsie Bikondo (Kenya) from the MET course, Farooq Ali (Pakistan) from the MSEA course, and Sopun Maneechot (Thailand) from the SPM course. On behalf of the OPRF and the Secretariat of the Friends of WMU, Japan, I would like to take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude for your efforts.
When the orientation and presentations finished, everyone moved to the second floor of the school building where a reception was held. In addition to the Sasakawa Fellowship students, many other people were in attendance including Mr. Neil Bellefontaine, Vice Chancellor of WMU, as well as lecturers, staff, and other friends and guests of WMU. This reception provided a venue for exchanges between existing students and new incoming students to engage in meaningful mutual exchanges. As a result, it proved to be a very happy reception where the sounds of laughter continually reverberated in every corner of the venue. Furthermore, the reception provided an excellent opportunity not only for students to get to know one another but also for new students to engage in conversation with people related to the university. Ms. Anete Logina, who is currently studying at WMU as a Ph.D. Candidate, also attended the reception. She is from Latvia and is a Sasakawa Fellow who graduated from WMU in 2009 with a Master of Science degree. She plans to stay at WMU for two or three more years. I look forward to catching up with her next year.
As the time to bring the reception to a close approached, Ms. Jenette Tifuh Cho Mujingni from Cameroon came forward to give the closing speech as the representative of the Class of 2012 Sasakawa Fellowship students. She commented that when she had just arrived at WMU in October of last year she was worried that 14 months’ study would be more like 14 years for her. However, she felt that the time passed very quickly and could not believe that it was already time for the Gathering Orientation for a new group of incoming students. She also noted that in a few months the Class of 2012 would be graduating, and she and her fellow students would change their status from Sasakawa Fellowship student to Sasakawa Fellow. She also stated that she would never forget her time at WMU. In addition, she stressed that study at WMU was not only the acquisition of knowledge but also the acquisition of an enduring network of fellow students from countries all over the world. She encouraged new students to work hard at their studies. In the future she said that she intends to maintain the WMU network of fellows and looks forward to meeting the fellow students again in the future in the global arena at a venue like the IMO Conference or other event. As she concluded her speech, she expressed her deep appreciation for the Japan Foundation and the Ocean Policy Research Foundation. With these closing words, the Gathering Orientation 2012 drew to a successful close.
Student Services Officer
World Maritime University