Blog November 17, 2020

Stanford e-Japan: A Turning Point in My Life

The following reflection is a guest post written by Hikaru Suzuki, a 2015 alumna and honoree of the Stanford e-Japan Program, which is currently accepting applications for Spring 2021.
female student standing in front of Akamon in Japan
Hikaru Suzuki at Akamon, University of Tokyo; photo courtesy Hikaru Suzuki

The Stanford e-Japan Program provided me with the opportunity to take insightful lectures by front runners in various fields (for example, ambassadors, lawyers, and university professors), and to participate in absolutely riveting virtual classrooms, during which we could confer and raise questions about issues pertaining to the lectures.

Not only was it an intellectually enriching program providing extensive knowledge about the United States, I believe it was one of the turning points in my life.
Hikaru Suzuki

It was my gateway to cross-cultural understanding and international studies, and it was the key to finding my passion, as I realized that law and business were my specific areas of interests. The program pushed me to seek further education in those fields and learn more intensively.

In high school, I conducted comparative research between India and Pakistan, analyzing honor killing court cases dating back to the late 19th century, judicial systems, etc. I realized how law can reinforce social norms by signaling approval and dissent through legal decisions, and how a revision of judicial systems can have massive social impact. I decided to major in Japanese law to gain knowledge and insight into these legal regimes domestically, and to pursue my dream of addressing social injustice.

Studying law at the University of Tokyo was both rewarding and invigorating. I had chances to engage in frank discussions with professors about civil procedures and criminal law, scrutinize documents, participate in seminars, and write a research paper about criminal prosecutions for defamation in Japan. Whilst taking classes, I also had internship opportunities to see how law was put into practice at a number of domestic and international law firms, and these experiences greatly assisted in developing my practical and theoretical expertise in law.

At the same time, having an interest in business, I launched a project with university peers to tackle food insecurity in Asia with the ultimate aim of reducing social injustice through social entrepreneurship. The idea was to produce an environmentally sustainable source of animal feed and provide a new source of income for the local population. We presented this plan and placed in the top six in the Asian Regional Hult Prize competition—one of the world’s largest international social entrepreneurship competitions for students—and took our project further.

Stanford e-Japan was much more than a virtual classroom, as it introduced me to so many caring and enthusiastic educators who encouraged me to go beyond my limits, and it equipped me with the skills that are essential for learning, such as problem-solving, research, and communication skills. With these skills and personal ties, I intend to keep challenging myself and carrying on my lifelong journey of learning.

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Japanese scholar and Ambassador Armacost chatting in a conference room
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In 2015, SPICE launched the inaugural online course, Stanford e-Japan, for high school students in Japan.