In our third “Stories from Abroad” series, Benat Onatibia Camara shares his experience of doing an exchange program at GRIPS in Japan. Here’s what he has to say:
The experience at GRIPS has been great so far. The range of facilities that the school offers is quite amazing: from a nicely equipped gym to your own study desk and laptop computer. Furthermore, the school is located right in the heart of roppongi, home to many of the city’s best restaurants and bars.
Settling in wasn’t as easy as one would expect. The school currently lodges most of its students in 3 different residences. I was not eligible for the newest and most centric residences ( Nakano and Odaiba) and was offered a spot at Misato (in Saitama prefecture; 80 minutes commute to school). Since I didn’t want to live so far I had to find my own place, which comes at a high price in Tokyo. I currently share a flat with 4 people in Yoyogi Park which is quite close to the school. You either sacrifice location (commuting time and amenities in the area) or should be ready to pay money out of your pocket.
GRIPS has a clear economic policy focus and most of the modules on offer are from this discipline. So if you don’t intend to concentrate in economic policy it probably isn’t the best choice for you. In the current global economic environment, characterized by low interest rates and deleveraging banks /households, Japan’s contemporary economic history serves as a great antecedent. The school offers a number of monetary economics modules, taught by great faculty, that are highly relevant to Japan’s lost decade. If you are into this you will greatly enjoy your stay at GRIPS.
Most of the students at GRIPS are government officials mainly coming from Asian and African countries. The average age of the class is above 30, more similar to LKY’s MPA program. Since these groups live far from the city center, occasions of social gatherings are rather scarce. You need to be outgoing and try to meet people so that you can enjoy to the max.
The pros are pretty obvious. The food is absolutely amazing and not as expensive as one would think. There is a small shop in every corner serving the most amazing ramen or yakitori. Furthermore, the exchange takes place in autumn, probably one of the nicest periods to visit japan, where leave watching is a pseudo-religion. Since air asia inaugurated flights in Japan, I will try to discover the Northern island of Hokkaido. A place I always wanted to visit.
In our second series of “Stories from Abroad”, we have Jessica Fleskes who shares her stories of doing a double-degree at University of Geneve. Here’s what she has to say:
Hi LKY juniors!
If you want to work in an international organization (UN, WHO,IMF, etc) and/or end up establishing a professional career in Europe, I strongly recommend the International Organizations MBA at the University of Geneva. This dual degree option is definitely different than the others with LKY, as it’s a one year intensive MBA where you will be completing 24 modules and a 3 month internship within 12 months. As such, it’s intense! The workload is definitely heavier than at LKY but I think it’s more than worth it. It’s only October but we’ve already had professors from UNAIDS, the World Economic Forum, the ILO and universities around Europe. Since most of our professors are practitioners in their field, the schedule is always different and sometimes you’ll have class for 7 hours in one day. Our classes range in everything from Business Engagement in Society to Financial Accounting (it IS an MBA :/) to International Law, Micro-finance, and Business Economics.
In addition to fantastic lectures, we have meetings and professional talks with organizations from around Geneva (UNDP, UNHCR, McKinsey, Swiss mission to the UN, UNCTAD, WHO, etc.!). And my favorite of all: we have a career advisor for the 16 of us full-time students that is incredible. He helps us with our resumes, does mock interviews, sets us up with contacts and alumni and pretty much helps us in every way possible for our career. He’s very accessible and hands-on.
As far as the class make-up, this year it is small, as there are only 16 of us full-time (and about 15 part-time/certificate students). Just like LKY there are students from all over – China, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, the US, Lebanon, Greece, Zambia, etc. Last year they actually had around 25 full-time so I think it changes every year. While it took a while to get used to the small group, I do love the individual attention we get and the closeness we’ve already come to have (and there’s a lot less drama than what the LKY/CG bubble can breed!).
What else? Geneva is a wonderful and international city – 42% of inhabitants are non-Swiss. Whenever you go out you will meet people from all over and who have the most interesting jobs. In a given weekend I have gone to a Geneva v. Zurich hockey game, a CERN party and then a 6 hour hike in the mountains outside of Geneva. Though I will say that it is expensive (both the city and the program), it’s worth it. Lets also not forget that Switzerland is in the middle of Europe so there is ample opportunity for travel!
I hope this little spiel helped you all. If you have any more questions, feel free to email me. And please tell the seniors that I miss them (especially Sam:))!
PS you need to have taken the GRE or GMAT to come!