GU and IS students during a joint workshop on the 53rd voyage, 2006


Looking Back: Sailing for knowledge and action on the 26th voyage with the first Global University (GU) Programme

May 28, 2020

Building upon existing work, Peace Boat decided to start more in-depth thematic educational programmes on the 26th voyage (October 1999-January 2000). This programme was called Global University (GU), and is still today one of Peace Boat’s key programmes onboard. The main themes of that very first GU programme were cultures of peace, regional issues, and environment and sustainable societies. The group consisted of 46 Japanese students who attended the programme for the full voyage, among whom were also 15 international students who studied in Japan. The highlight of this programme were overland programmes with homestays in the Gaza Strip in Palestine, and in Kosovo in the Balkans.

Front page of the GU brochure in summer 2000, when Peace Boat was the partner of the UNESCO International Year for the Culture of Peace

Takahashi Masaki, one of the GU coordinators on the 26th voyage said that “We created GU because we wanted to offer opportunities to learn more deeply about peace-related issues through lectures, discussions, and study tours unique to Peace Boat. We all learned from each other, and the experience changed us at times. I know that some of the GU graduates are working to create a sustainable world all because of the experience with GU.”

Brochure for the 26th voyage (1999-2000) & a
nnouncement of the first GU programme 

One of the other programme coordinators, Nohira Shinsaku similarly added that “we’ve given young people who weren’t interested in social issues a reason to get involved. We’ve found that compared with prior to boarding the ship, some of the students have since expanded their world view, and others are now interested in getting involved with NGO work. We decided to build this as a set programme, focusing on young people, and including onboard lectures, seminars, study tours in port, and the opportunity to present what they’ve learned in front of other passengers onboard the ship. This was the start of the GU programme, which also then expanded to give students the opportunity to meet young people from conflict-affected areas, and to get a first-hand understanding of these otherwise far-off conflicts. In this way, whilst looking at conflicts and issues other countries are facing, students are then able to re-examine their own countries, for example looking at growing nationalism and conservatism in Japan, which is a very valuable opportunity.”

Today, GU offers advanced educational programmes in which students have the opportunity to not only understand global connections, but also to experience a wide range of regional differences including local cultural and political contexts, ranging from the favelas in Latin America, to postwar Cambodia, to street festivals in Colombo. Many GU participants have said that ‘it’s a life-changing experience, you are not the same person when you are back home.’

But the programme has continued to build and progress, and on the 84th voyage in 2014, Peace Boat organized the first short-term intensive GU programme in English, which was also academically recognized. The overall theme of this first programme was “Social Cohesion in Multiethnic Asia: Nurturing Leaders for the Next Generation”. These academic programmes are now conducted mainly during the South Asian segments of voyages, in cooperation with the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies and the University of Tokyo in Japan, the China Foreign Affairs University, and Hanshin University and Kyung Hee University in South Korea. 

First Special GU Programme (SGU) on the 84th voyage, 2014


See where the GU programme is up to now!