On August 23, Peace Boat’s East Asia Voyage 2019 returned to Kobe. Amongst the over 1,000 passengers were 35 students and young professionals from China, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States who took part in Peace Boat’s Global University during their journey. For 21 days, the Global University participants engaged in a rigorous programme, designed around the overall theme of “Building Peaceful and Inclusive Societies Together in Asia.”
Sixteen students joined this program as a part of the COIL-UMAP Joint Honours Program organised by the Institute for Innovative Global Education (IIGE) and UMAP (University Mobility in Asia and the Pacific). In addition, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (Japan), Kyunghee University (South Korea), and Lung Yingtai Cultural Foundation (Taiwan) provided support for participants to join from their respective country and region.
The first half of the programme focused on learning from the Asian region’s past. Participants discussed cases, such as Japan’s war of invasion, the atomic bombings, the Korean War, territorial disputes and democratisation movements. Often, they were struck by how differently history is taught in different places, or how certain aspects of history are never taught in schools or taken up by the mass media. In the second half of the programme, participants had a chance to learn about some of the most pressing current social issues in the region, including ageing population, decreasing young population in rural areas, and disaster risk reduction. It became clear to all participants that for a lot of these issues, we need to act now if we want to ensure a sustainable and inclusive future for the region.
Peace Boat’s Global University combines onboard seminars and exposure programmes at ports of call. This year, four navigators, Craig Shealy (James Madison University), Akibayashi Kozue (Doshisha University), Alexis Dudden (University of Connecticut), and Anselmo Lee (Kyunghee University) offered insightful lectures onboard. At ports of call in Japan, South Korea, and Russia, participants met with local activists, students and experts, who taught them how the realities look like on the ground. Many issues which had once felt abstract became “real” through this process. On multiple occasions, participants were inspired and empowered by the courage and passion that they encountered during the exposure programmes.
Peace Boat's Global University strives to encourage participants to become changemakers. During the programme, participants engaged in a series of “SDGs Action Challenges.” In groups, participants came up with project ideas that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They then planned and prepared, and eventually implemented, their actions onboard the ship. The final presentations were impressive and creative. Their actions ranged from talk shows and music performances, to a model lesson about diversity and inclusiveness for junior high school students, a poster exhibition about waste, and a fundraising activity for ocean sustainability.
Achieving peaceful and inclusive societies is not easy. Yet, after these three weeks, participants will return home with their own lessons, hints and takeaways from the programme, going on to sow their own seeds of peace in their communities.