About Us Activity Publications Inquiries & Access


Report: JICA Field Study Program for College Students on International Cooperation


Shiori Ito was accepted in the JICA Field Study Program for College Students on International Cooperation and contributes this report on participating in the Laos visitor program.

Students on the program with the people
in one of the project communities

The program brought together 40 university students from all over Japan. After completing a three-day preparatory training program, half the group traveled to India and the other half to Laos to observe international cooperation projects operated by various organizations and to carry out field studies at NGO project villages. I was in Laos from February 21 to March 6, 2016. Japanese people are not very familiar with Laos. It is a calm and very relaxed country where there are still many undeveloped areas despite recent signs of development funded by foreign investment.

During my two weeks in Laos, we visited many organizations, field projects, and agricultural communities in the capital Vientiane, in the city of Savannakhet, and in the Phine district. In Vientiane, we visited the JICA Laos Office, the Embassy of Japan in the Lao PDR, and the JETRO office to learn about national support and development projects, as well as about opportunities for economic development. We also observed the Capacity Development Project for Improvement of Management Ability of Water Supply Authorities, which is a grassroots technical cooperation project supported by Saitama Prefecture in Japan; the Hydropower Station Expansion Project; and a district hospital where youth volunteers from the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers program are working. On these visits, we were impressed by the people who are working for development with such pride and enthusiasm. At the Laos-Japan Human Resource Development Institute at the National University of Laos, we learned about the lives of young people of our own generation through exchanges with Laotian students enrolled in the Japanese language program. In Savannakhet, we enjoyed exchanges with local children through sports and reading when we observed a volleyball training by a volunteer and visited an elementary school library run by an NGO. We also visited Japanese corporations located in the special economic zone, where we heard about the prospects and possibilities for corporations to expand in Laos. In the Phine district, we observed an explosive ordnance disposal project and carried out a field survey. The project gave us a glimpse of the difficult history of Laos and provided an opportunity to study international cooperation in the area of peace-building. For the field surveys, we visited two villages where the Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC), a Japanese NGO, operates projects. We divided into groups to conduct interviews and surveys over two days based on the themes and plans first discussed at the preparatory training program.

Visiting a farm for the field survey

As a program participant, I kept thinking about the nature of international cooperation. Through the visits to the embassy and the JICA office, I realized that regardless of preferences, international cooperation consists of international affairs, diplomatic strategy, and other power structures. But, on the other hand, in the villages where we conducted the field surveys, we met people who appeared to be perfectly happy and to live self-sufficient lives despite earning hardly any money at all. Laos is referred to as “a poor country where no one goes hungry.” People live together with their families, build positive relationships with the people around them, food is not a problem, and they don’t seem particularly dissatisfied with the materialistic or internal aspects of their current lives. It is obvious that they have their own irreplaceable standards and value systems even if we find it difficult to understand them. I kept asking myself if it really means anything to them when we, who live in a developed country, enter their communities, wanting to develop something or to give them something. Or is the concept of international cooperation in itself no more than a way of thinking developed by people in affluent societies? I have not found my own answer yet, but now when I reflect on the program, I feel that it is important to confront this dilemma with honesty and to continue to think about these issues.

This valuable experience of fieldwork, perspectives, and encounters will be my touchstone, guiding future studies as I do my best to deepen understanding of the international community.

(Shiori Ito, sophomore, Global Studies for Intercultural Cooperation
Human and Social Sciences, Faculty of Letters and Education)

  • このエントリーをはてなブックマークに追加