In August 2022, Dr. Takashi Mita – Professor of International Relations for Kyoto Sangyo University (KSU), paid a courtesy visit to President Surangel Whipps, Jr. At this meeting, Dr. Mita shared his goal of bringing his students to Palau for an internship program. President Whipps immediately agreed to the importance of the program and extended an invitation to host students at the Office of the President.

Typically, overseas internship programs are not done for most Japanese Universities. The invitation from President Whipps paved the way for ten students from KSU to partake in the Palau International Career Development Research program from August 15 – September 4, 2023. Part of the KSU International Relations Department, the program allows students extensive research opportunities, in collaboration with internationally active public institutions, non-governmental organizations, and private companies. This activity supports the goal of the International Relations Department of “working for better relations between countries through practice-based learning and discussions”.

The internship program gives students the opportunity to build practical work experience as they build capacity in problem solving, information gathering and dissemination, events coordination, and other skills necessary to work effectively with others.  Participating in this program are students in their third or fourth year of studies in the field of International Relations.

The Office of the President hosted four students, providing a work environment that is the hub of international relations activities. This allowed students to experience day to day activities in the Executive Office. Three students were strategically placed with the Bureau of Tourism and the Palau Visitors Authority because tourism is Palau’s main economic driver.  Palau’s tourism industry requires sound development to ensure sustainability into the future.  The Koror State Solid Waste Management Office or recycling center was selected to host three students because of the innovative recycling methods employed at the facilities. These methods include the pyrolysis process of extracting fuel from plastic waste and the glass blowing project that repurposes waste drink bottles into beautiful works of art. The recycling of various materials provides much needed service to the local community and that of the tourism industry. These activities address environmental and social issues thus attracting international attention.  All agencies offer challenges thereby creating a great place to learn.

The Ngara Maiberel, a women’s group of Koror State, provided authentic Palauan life, cultural, and traditional experience by opening their homes to the students in a homestay program. Field trips were developed to give said students a deeper understanding and appreciation of Palau’s pristine environment as well as the colorful culture and traditions. The students got to enjoy a day in the Rock Islands of Koror; extensive tours of popular tourist sites in Koror State including the Ngara Maiberel Herbal Garden at Ngermalk and a taste of local cuisine and Cheriut (grass skirt) making near Chades er a Mechorei in Airai State; and a day tour of Babeldaob island where they visited Bai Melekeong (traditional meeting house) in Melekeok State; Bad Rulchau (Stone Monoliths) and Todai (lighthouse) in Ngerchelong State; and Ngerutechei, a traditional village in Ngeremlengui State. The Palau Resource Institute (PRI) was instrumental in coordinating these activities making it possible for the students to gain a comprehensive understanding of Palau.

This extensive internship program aims to develop a network between the students and host agencies to pave the way to strengthening international relations between Japan and Palau, enabling stronger support and collaborations. This achieves the KSU founding principles to “emphasize strong self-discipline, rich creativity, and unfaltering social responsibility” in both the domestic and international arenas. 

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