A CHaNGE in Perspective: Tohoku University’s new Faculty-led Study Abroad Program

A CHaNGE in Perspective: Tohoku University's new Faculty-led Study Abroad Program

Fourteen Tohoku University students have just returned from a two-week study abroad program in Canada. Led by Associate Professor Martin Robert from the Institute for Excellence in Higher Education and the Global Learning Center, the diverse group was composed of undergraduates from the Departments of Agriculture, Dentistry, Economics, Engineering, Law and Science.

Known as the Canadian Heritage and Nature Group Experience, CHaNGE is one of the new Faculty-led (FL) Study Abroad Programs introduced at Tohoku University this year. From September 9 - 24, students visited leading institutions and partner universities in Montreal and Ottawa. Through daily seminars and field trips, they learnt about, among other topics, issues important to Canada such as cultural diversity and the environment.


The learning fortnight began with McGill University's Quebec Studies Program, where faculty members introduced Montreal's history and heritage sites. The students also heard about the country's First Nations issues, through a lecture by local community leader Nakuset and a visit to the Mohawk Nation in Kahnawà:ke. First Nations people are descendants of the original people of Canada who had inhabited the land for thousands of years before the arrival of European explorers.

While in Montreal, the students were also able to learn about urban agriculture and experience other aspects of the city's multiculturalism, including a guided tour of historical Jewish institutions.

At Polytechnique Montreal, students attended a lecture about the emerging BioEconomy. Professor Paul Stuart, an expert in the field, spoke to them about the life cycle methodology that allows engineers to develop products that are more environmentally friendly. "The lecture taught me the importance of assessing the effects of manufacturing, and of designing eco-friendly systems," said Mizuki Abe, a mechanical engineering student. "I'm sure that this experience will make me a better engineer in the future."

The following day included a seminar at Ouranos, a non-profit consortium, on regional climatology and adaptation to climate change. There, participants received a broad overview of the science and the impact of climate change, as well as the mitigation responses Canada and Quebec are working on. Executive Director Alain Bourque also provided examples of environmental issues that Canada is dealing with, which are also relevant to disaster-prone Japan.

The second week started with a three-day experience in a pristine natural reserve near Montebello, where students explored the fauna and flora of southern Quebec through guided tours of its many lakes and forests. "I felt that I got to know about the real beauty of nature," said Mayu Yokoyama, a second-year economics student.

At the University of Ottawa, students learnt about glaciers from a team led by professor and world expert Luke Copland. They heard about how glaciers shaped the geography and landscape of Canada, and saw first-hand the traces that are still visible in common rock formations in Gatineau Park.

Additional seminars on Canadian history at the university, as well as visits to the Canadian Museum of History and to Parliament, made for an appropriate end to the inaugural CHaNGE program.

On top of providing a unique and memorable student experience, organisers hope the CHaNGE program will further encourage bilateral student mobility and interactions between the participating institutions. "We had a lot of opportunities to talk with the local students and I was able to make new friends," said Maoko Nara, a first-year agriculture student.


Faculty-led (FL) study abroad programs are thematically focused and are designed as an alternative to other short term Study Abroad Programs which tend to be based on language learning. Since their inception this spring, FL Programs have been held in Germany, Spain, Russia, the US and Canada.

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Martin Robert
Tohoku University Institute for Excellence in Higher Education

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