Middlebury Institute faculty members Tsuneo Akaha and Wei Liang are co-teaching a seminar on “East Asia: Foreign Policy, Trade and Security” this spring semester. As part of the seminar they organized a spring break trip to Beijing, in Professor Liang’s native China, and Tokyo, in Professor Akaha’s native Japan. The students benefitted from the local knowledge and connections of their professors, as well as their subject matter expertise, all of which contributed to make this a “real first-hand learning experience,” according to Hirofumi Jinno MATI ’15.
The days were jam-packed with visits to universities, government agencies, think tanks, the Japanese Parliament. and various historical and cultural sites. “The trip deepened the participating students’ understanding and appreciation of the major challenges facing foreign and security policy makers in Japan and China regarding their relations with each other and with the other key actors in Asia-Pacific,” says Professor Liang.
“Professor Liang and Professor Akaha put together a great schedule for this trip with their contacts and colleagues. From receiving a private tour of the National Parliament in Tokyo to being able to stay on campus at the prestigious Beijing University, we were the beneficiaries of privileged access to government and academic spaces, as well as audience and conversation with high level public officials and scholars,” says Rafael Hernandez MPA ‘15. Both he and Jinno talk about the great opportunity to be able to ask local experts and stakeholders questions related directly to their individual research projects. Jinno adds that, as a Translation and Interpretation student, he was particularly happy to have the chance to enhance the learning opportunity for policy students by providing interpretation along with two Chinese colleagues, Lisa Huang MACI ‘15 and Lan Li MACI ‘15. “This trip was a good collaboration between student interpreters and policy students,” he shares, “and that was made possible by the amazing diversity and uniqueness of MIIS.”