SAF Japan's Annual Meeting Shines a Spotlight on Study Abroad’s Renewed Momentum

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SAF Japan's Annual Meeting in Tokyo signaled a remarkable resurgence in global education, spotlighting an unprecedented rebound in student interest for study abroad opportunities.

Held on February 22, 2024, at Showa Women's University in Tokyo, this highly anticipated annual event once again brought together faculty responsible for international relations from SAF Japan’s elite network of universities, alongside staff from affiliated organizations and prospective member universities, to champion the transformative impact of study abroad.


A new format for a wider welcome

The 2024 symposium broke new ground with a cutting-edge hybrid format, accommodating both in-person and online attendance. This was designed to inclusively bridge distances across Japan and ensure every member university could participate, regardless of their location. 

This approach allowed for an impressive level of engagement, connecting a total 25 institutions and 60 individual representatives, from both Tokyo-based universities and those far afield in a dynamic, virtual space. 

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However, recognizing the irreplaceable value of in-person interactions for fostering deeper connections and facilitating direct exchange of ideas among universities, SAF is excited to announce a return to an exclusively on-site format for the 2024-2025 symposium. This pivot emphasizes a commitment to enriching the community spirit and collaborative potential of SAF Japan’s network.


SAF Japan: Forward moves and updates

A joint presentation by SAF Japan and IES Abroad Tokyo, the event’s agenda set out to offer attendees insights into the evolving landscape of international education. 

Highlights included a comprehensive update on SAF and IES Abroad activities in the region by the director of SAF Japan Director Brett Rumminger. 

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Mr. Rumminger delivered a compelling presentation, highlighting a surge in study abroad engagement through an array of SAF-organized information sessions, seminars, and workshops, along with extensive participation in study abroad fairs at home universities. 

The addition of numerous cross-country webinars with host universities, SAF Korea, and SAF China, complemented by a significant increase in inquiries and advising sessions – already surpassing last year's figures – underscored a revitalized interest in study abroad opportunities. 

This enthusiasm for SAF's unique programs is now echoing the pre-pandemic levels, marking a positive trend toward full recovery and renewed interest in global education.


Driving change through thought leadership

The program also featured strategic discussions on improving enrollment trends and developing forward-thinking educational models, underscoring SAF Japan's role as a thought leader in bridging the gap between Eastern and Western education systems.

Keynote presentations offered a glimpse into the successful partnerships and program models that have flourished under SAF Japan's guidance. A focus on the IES Abroad Tokyo Center illustrated the tangible benefits of such collaborations, emphasizing customized programs that cater to a variety of academic and cultural experiences. 

The symposium also served as a forum for addressing contemporary challenges and opportunities in global education, from supporting underrepresented students to integrating faculty-led programs into Japanese universities. 

This discourse was reinforced by personal testimonials. Momoka Saito, a student from Showa Women’s University, shared her experience at Arizona State University, and the personal and academic growth facilitated by SAF's initiatives.

A survey conducted before the symposium looked at how many Japanese students were interested in studying abroad, asking home universities to share their data and insights. The results were positive, revealing that most universities had as many or more students going abroad now than before COVID. 

As a finishing exercise, participants divided into smaller groups to brainstorm strategies for more effectively reaching students who haven't yet considered studying abroad. What kind of encouragement or information would potential students need to take that crucial first step? 

The day’s events showcase SAF Japan's dedication to being inclusive and innovative while shedding light on how the organization will play a key role in shaping the future of international education.


Fostering community and setting future directions

The event wrapped up with a lively reception at a nearby international restaurant, drawing a large crowd who stayed well into the evening. It was a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, the perfect space for casual conversations and networking opportunities, further strengthening bonds within the academic community.

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Looking ahead, SAF Japan's next symposium will be held in Kyoto at the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, promising to continue the tradition of fostering educational ingenuity, cultural exchange, and thought leadership.

As SAF Japan continues to navigate the complexities of global education, its leadership and innovative approaches remain essential in shaping a more interconnected and understanding world.

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