Summary of INU Student Seminar

Hej hej hallå!

Back in Sweden after 12 days in beautiful Japan! My name is Ida, I’m a political science student at Malmö University and I had the opportunity to attend the INU Student Seminar for Global Citizenship and Peace in Hiroshima this august.

The days in Japan were full of great experiences and the schedule was packed. Besides the academic part of the seminar, which included interesting workshops, lectures and a UN Role Play, we also did some cultural activities. Since the seminar took place on the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima we had the privilege to attend the Peace Memorial Ceremony. It was certainly a moving ceremony and I’m really grateful for the chance to witness it.

Throughout the whole seminar we had UN role play preparations and were divided into different country groups. My country group was Cuba and the task was to write and present an amendment to a UN Resolution on Gender, Peace and Security. There was a lot of negotiations and discussions amongst the countries to persuade the others to vote in favor on one’s own amendment.

Thus, the last day everybody was quite nervous about their amendments and the outcome of the Roleplay. But it was a lot of fun and all the countries played their parts really well and the Role Play turned out to be a very exciting event! Cuba’s amendment passed and we celebrated with our cheering ”Hasta la victoria siempre!”

After the Role Play we had a diploma ceremony with all the students and professors and later on we had a farewell dinner. The dinner was well deserved and it was great to be able to relax some after a very intense and exciting week. It was also a bit emotional and sad to know that it probably would be the last evening all of us would spend together in Japan. When you spend a lot of time together in a short period and with such great people it’s hard not to get a little bit emotional when it’s time to say good bye.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Miyajima Island

Miyajima Island

Presenting Cuba's amendement at the UN Role Play

Presenting Cuba’s amendment at the UN Role Play

Diploma Ceremony

Diploma Ceremony

For me, the best part of the seminar was to get to know students from all over the world, to have great discussions and get more perspectives on gender, peace and security. The INU Seminar is truly a great opportunity and I can recommend everyone to apply for next year’s Seminar. I learned so much during my time in Hiroshima and I’m so grateful for the possibility to attend. Don’t forget to apply for next year’s seminar!

Ida

The Closing Ceremony

We have finally come to the end of the ISC conference on global citizenship in Bandung, Indonesia about disaster management. After 9 intense days of discussing, listening, eating, playing, getting to know people, visiting places and endless bus hours, students from different countries got the opportunity to do a cultural presentation in front of others for the closing ceremony.

Suddenly, the room became filled with colors and costumes from all over the world. The evening started with us teaching everyone the lyrics and dance moves for små grodorna, or ‘smaw groodorna’ as we presented it to them for phonetic purposes. Everyone held hands and danced energetically around our paper midsummer pole, which we decorated with flowers and leaves that accompanied our flower crowns.

Our presentation was followed by dances from Japan, Philippines and one from different African countries combined. The surprise of the evening was a song composed and performed by 4 participants of the conference. The song called ‘Unity in diversity’ became the new anthem for all the future ISC’s on global citizenship.

The organizing committee had prepared a video for us, full of pictures and moments recorded from the previous days. Around 100 students from more than 20 countries singing and clapping their hands together, some with teary eyes, and everyone starting to hug one and other. Phrases like ‘thank you’ and ‘I will miss you’ started to fill the room.

Our last day in Bandung, the last generous buffet dinner, the last night sharing a room with a roommate that only a few days ago was a complete stranger to us, the last hit of the gong, one last night sharing international stories by the swimming pool at the hotel under the moon until the sun came up, and 100 last hugs.

We are thankful to everyone in Indonesia for making us feel so welcome and for allowing us to experience their traditions, their food, their music, their language, their nature and their experiences with disaster. Everyday we had conversations that enriched our knowledge of different cultures and our understanding of others through our differences and similarities.

We feel in a way sad that it’s over, but incredibly happy for the opportunity to participate in this conference and to meet so many persons with different cultural and academic background. We go back home full of wonderful memories and with a new awareness about our world. image

An Eventful and Memorable first day of the Seminar

Today was the first day of the Student Seminar on Global Citizenship and Peace for us undergrad students. We started this week off with a special emphasis on peace, spending two days commemorating the tragedy of the destruction of Hiroshima caused by the atomic bomb on August 6th 1945. I write my first blog post with a certain blend of awe and exhaustion.

As part of our reading assignment, we had to read Hiroshima by John Hersey, which was published in the New Yorker one year after the bombing; a whole edition dedicated to the documented story. Naturally, I had started to read this a few weeks ago, but in a certain sense I didn’t quite feel properly prepared for it. I was mentally occupied with work, planning the practical details for this trip and I felt like I needed to give this piece of literature the respect and time it deserved. Therefore I read the rest when I took the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hiroshima yesterday. As I sat in the airplane-like seat, facing no one and sitting side by side with my fellow passengers, I couldn’t help shaking with muffled sobs. As anyone would, I imagine. First of all with the intense feeling of the human suffering that occurred. Which is unfathomable in its seemingly unending horror. But then, also this other dimension: of unity in the most trying of times, the strength of the people of Hiroshima and the power of reconciliation. It felt eerie to be taking this superhuman train into what was once a nightmare scenario for so many people, now an international symbol of world peace. I just felt purely overwhelmed that I was not only going to attend the Memorial Ceremony, but also to be in the presence of a Hibakusha, a survivor and direct eye witness of the destruction in 1945 and blessed with the privilege of hearing his account. Although I’d been imagining this for a few months, I just still couldn’t believe the reality of it.

So today, after a brief introduction to our course and a Japanese language session for the most essential phrases taught by a very passionate language student, we met inour Country Groups to get acquainted. We then took off to the Chamber of Commerce where we heard the personal account of Mr. Matsushima who was only 16 years old on that fateful day. Despite having told his stories many times in the spirit of remembrance and sharing, he still spoke with clarity, humour and compassion. His English was very impressive, which I was told he had taught himself so that he could also be able to share his experience directly with foreigners. He kept repeating how lucky he was to have survived, as many near him, essentially meters away, unfortunately didn’t. 

Afterwards, we walked through the Peace Memorial Park, where the Atomic Bomb Dome mysteriously and symbolically still stands tall despite being very close to the epicentre of the explosion. It was a crowded area and animated with music from across the river. It was strange to imagine how close to the epicentre this area was and I spoke with many students who were equally touched. Farther along we entered the Peace Memorial Museum alongside students of all ages from all over Japan. There was loads of information on the history of the war, the technicalities of nuclear energy, the details of the destruction. This was enhanced by items found in the ruins. I think that a lot of visitors saw one or two things that they will personally never forget. It got to me when I saw the completely burned, disfigured and rusted little tricycle that belonged to a 3-year-old boy who apparently always biked around. He died as a result of his burns, and was buried with this beloved tricycle, until it was dug out about 40 years later and given asa donation to the museum.

In this sense, it was an intense day for all of us. Walking the ground that once burned 3000´C, retracing history with the help of Mr. Matsushima, shaken with images of human suffering. And at the same time, it was also the first day of our seminar and we were eager to get to know each other. All day was spent talking to new people. I listened eagerly to many stories; of how women are treated in Japan, how WWII is taught in American High Schools, and what it’s like to work and live in Cambodia.

I’m sure everyone else felt overcome with emotion and information just like me, because when we came back to our area around 8 pm and went shopping in our local 7/11 for a quick dinner, all the other students I met were also sort of staggering around. Now I sit here on my bed exhausted and worried whether I’ll miss my alarm tomorrow. In order to be at the Peace Memorial Ceremony, we are all meeting up outside at 5.50. I better drift off before I get too excited.

PS: I should perhaps add that I highly recommend anyone to read Hiroshima, if they haven’t had the chance already. The full text is available online.

10 PM, August 5th 2013

– Sarah

 

Mr Matsushima surrounded by INU students

Mr Matsushima surrounded by INU students

Teaching the new generation about the destruction caused by war - the Dome can be seen in the background.

Teaching the new generation about the destruction caused by war – the Dome can be seen in the background.

Another image from the museum of the totally flattened city

Another image from the museum of the totally flattened city

The first days in Hiroshima!

Phew!

Welcome everybody! After an action packed week in Tokyo with my fellow student Sofia Wachtmeister, we took the Shinkansen (the fastest train in the world!) to Saijo, Hiroshima. And there is certainly no rest for the wicked!

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So far the Master’s Summer School on Global Citizenship and Peace has introduced us to a wonderful group of people, all of different national origin and with different stories of life. Except for us Swedes, the other students are from Indonesia, South Korea, Italy, Spain, USA, Vietnam, Denmark, Australia and China.

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We have engaged in interesting discussions on global citizenship, tried the local cuisine (Okonomiyaki, delicious!) and started to conspire against each other for the UN role-play on Saturday.

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We have all prepared a paper for this week, covering one of four themes on global citizenship and peace. These are to be presented and critiqued by other members of the group. As one of the first discussant and presenter, I found that it was an enlightening experience to have such a mixed group with different background to give me feedback. At this course, we have come in contact with differing teaching styles and study techniques – due to the different backgrounds of both teachers and participants – but what we’ve realized is that despite cultural and academic differences, many of us a working towards the same goal: bettering our understanding of the world and our role in it.

At the welcoming party that was held this night, we also got a chance to mingle with participants of other groups. As these couple of days have passed, we are starting to realize that the coming week will be as intense as it will be fun!

Stay tuned for Sofia’s account of crazy Tokyo and the upcoming activities of Hiroshima!

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