Diana Farah, Dubai
Traveling the world and exploring as many new cultures as possible is an ambition of today’s youth, and the Japanese government has made just that possible in 40 days.
The Ship for World Youth (SWY) program is an exchange program sponsored by the Cabinet Office of the Japanese government, in which young leaders from all over the globe travel aboard a ship for almost six weeks, discussing common issues from an international perspective.
According to the SWY program’s website, a group of around 200 participants aged between 18-30 from around the world board the ship from Japan and spend their time in activities that build leadership and cultivate cultural awareness.
Members of the program are generally divided into 7 thematic groups, each consisting of 1 facilitator and 40 participants. Each course session helps candidates deepen their understanding of their home country as well as of the other countries represented on board the ship.
SWY will embark on its 32nd journey since 1989 and will include applicants from Arab countries such as Bahrain and Egypt, along with Japan, Peru, France, Brazil, and the UK.
The ship will depart from Tokyo on Jan. 20, calling at Honolulu, Hawaii, and Ensenada, Mexico, and will arrive back at Tokyo on Feb. 24.
Budoor Kamal is participating in this year’s SWY ship as the national leader for the Bahrain delegation.
Kamal said she has previously attended the Japan-sponsored program in 2011, but this year she said she will be responsible for the leading and guiding of course discussions and delegations.
“When I heard of the program in 2010, I knew it was something that I always dreamt of, to be in a multi-culture environment learning from others, sharing and giving back as a Bahraini citizen to the global community of SWY,” the business coach said.
Kamal said she hoped that her past participation will “aid in the development of the youth within the program.”
Other Arab countries have contributed to the Japanese program over the years. In particular, the UAE has been a part of the program 14 times and has sent 132 delegates to the program, according to UAE national Hamad Al Zaabi.
Al Zaabi was an SWY participant in 2010 and said he had gained a lot of knowledge from his experience.
“I felt like I learned a lot in my time aboard the ship, I spent 40 days with people from 12 different countries. Rather than having to travel to 12 different countries over 12 years, the Japanese government has managed to offer a program that allows you to do that in just 40 days,” he said.
Al Zaabi, who works as a finance controller, said that the daily schedule consisted of various cross-cultural courses in groups of diverse participants.
“They would update us on worldly current affairs first thing in the morning, then we would get into our groups and have in-depth discussions,” he said.
At the end of each day, Al Zaabi added, the members would have “a national presentation, where they’d have an hour-long presentation about different countries.”
Extra-curricular activities are also available on the ship, as volunteers can offer to provide other candidates with new learning opportunities, he said.
“For example, Arabs started an Arabic language course, while the Japanese members started a calligraphy course,” he explained.
Candidates who are interested in applying for the program will be partially sponsored by the Japanese government, with air fare expenses, accommodation and meals covered.
Applications for the SWY32 have already closed, but new dates will be announced later on in the year.