Q&A with TOMODACHI Program Participants and TOMODACHI Alumni: Yuki Nishimura
For this interview, we talked with Yuki Nishimura, an alumnus of the Building the TOMODACHI Generation: Morgan Stanley Ambassadors Program 2016.
Four years after participating in the TOMODACHI program, Mr. Nishimura is now enrolled in University of Tsukuba’s Ph.D. Program in Empowerment Informatics. Through his Ph.D. program, Mr. Nishimura is learning how engineering systems can improve people’s everyday lives, has started research on mobile robots to reduce the labor burden, development of personal mobility devices, and is managing the construction of a search system that can find higher education institutions and workplaces that are suited for the individual needs of students with developmental disabilities. As Mr. Nishimura recently had the chance to visit Boston through his university’s program, we asked him about himself and his experience with TOMODACHI.
Q1: What made you want to participate in the TOMODACHI program?
There was an announcement about the program [Building the TOMODACHI Generation: Morgan Stanley Ambassadors Program] at my university, and since I had an interest in international relations and wanted to learn about global leadership, I decided to apply. I was drawn to the program because it offered both Japanese and American participants an opportunity to really reflect on issues related to the Great East Japan Earthquake and also learn about leadership.
Q2: Do you have an unforgettable memory from your time in the program?
Each team had to propose and present a project plan that focused on “Ideas for Tohoku’s Reconstruction,” and my team was selected as the winning team. At the time, our plan was to apply projection mapping and screens to a seawall so that the wall could be used to watch movies, sporting events, and the like our idea was that this wall would become a gathering space for people. After we [the Japanese students] came back to Japan, the American students in this same group were invited to Tohoku to see the area for themselves. This time, the American students got to meet us in Japan. We visited Onagawa and Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture, the setting for our project, to present and discuss [our project plans] to the local residents. This is something I remember even to this day.
Q3: Please share with us your methods for studying English.
I’ve continued studying English in one way or another [even after participating in the TOMODACHI program]. Right now, apart from my graduate school offering lectures in English, I actually come across English quite often. I like to watch American tv shows, so I make sure to listen to English with Japanese subtitles or read English subtitles when watching Japanese shows. I’m taking every opportunity I can to practice English as much as possible.
Q4: What was it like to undergo training in Boston?
In order to build the search system so it can provide the right school and workplace matches for students with developmental disabilities, I gathered information and developed algorithms for the database and participated in the training program in Boston. I learned that, unlike Japan, Americans with disabilities are be able to attend the higher educational surroundings because there is a system in place that protects and enables them to do so. Boston is the places where students come from around the world like Massachusetts Institute of Technology[MIT] and Harvard University, which made me want to do research at a high level as they do..
Q5: What is your impression of Boston after staying there?
I had the chance to visit the Boston Higashi School and talk with the people involved there. I learned that the founder of this school is Japanese, and she originally ran a school in Japan for autistic children. She then brought this educational policy to America and it became a success. To know that there are Japanese people like her made me feel proud and it left an impactful impression on me.
Q6: Regarding things you want to do in 2020, do you have any goals or objectives?
If possible, I’d like to submit my journal article on the research I’ve been doing this year. I’d also like to try presenting at an international academic conference. I want to keep working on studying English.
Q7: What does “TOMODACHI” mean to you?
I think “TOMODACHI” means to have a community of friends who you can freely talk to and exchange information with. It’s easy to make friends with people who have similar perspectives as you. To me, “TOMODACHI” also means to have friends and a chance at something.