With globalization, the labor market has become worldwide, where borders are increasingly wiped away, making “international mobility” a word we hear all the time as a student. We all understand the importance of an exchange or an internship abroad for our future work. Working on becoming a “global leader” will surely give a new dimension to our career: more autonomy, more responsibility, more challenges … but most importantly, a job that is not stuck in time or space.
In the middle of this evolution, AIU is telling us, “Be a global leader” while at the same time to “go local” as well. What might be seen as an oxymoron took on its full meaning when I moved to Akita for my one-year exchange program.
As a French student, one of the first things I wanted to do to feel at home was trying to find the food I used to eat. Of course, you can find all those international brands in shops like “AEON style” or “Kaldi’s Coffee.” However, I quickly realized that imported cheese or bread was not affordable, and not a smart choice for everyday food. Thankfully, I discovered the local market AIU was organizing every twice a week on Friday mornings. Many local, authentic, and affordable vegetables that had grown less than 10 km away from my fridge! As a member of the fitness house (themed house program), I have access to cooking books and information from dieticians that helped me to discover Japanese cuisine. The volunteer programs AIU provides also made me understand the idea of “local.” Visiting nearby villages, interacting with Akita locals, and learning how they organize their independent lives by growing their food. It made myself rethink my consumption habits, where I was dependent on grocery stores.
One experience I especially enjoyed was helping a farmer in his rice fields. He explained to us how many farmers are using pesticides in their rice field. Although spraying pesticides makes the labor easier, it causes the disappearance of fireflies in the countryside of Akita. If it’s not good for fireflies, then it’s not good for your body! After our hard work removing weeds from the rice field, we were welcomed in the farmer’s home, where we shared dinner using a handful of ingredients from his garden. A unique moment that I will always remember.
When I chose to become an exchange student at Akita International University, my goal was to develop my English and Japanese level, but this experience opened my eyes on the world around me and left me with a yearning for learning. During my exchange in AIU, I understood the importance of investing my time and connecting with the community, supporting local businesses that bring color to the neighborhood, while at the same time studying global studies.
All these ideas will follow me back in France, and Akita will stay in my heart as a turning point in my life.