Akari Fujiwaka, Demola Global & Demola Hokkaido alumni: "Keep asking questions!"

26 Aug 2021
by Ida Riikonen

Akari Fujiwaka is a 25-year-old Master's student in Environmental Sciences, studying in Hokkaido University, Japan. She has finished two Demola projects during the past few months. "The Demola process helped me to expand my knowledge and my perspectives", states Akari.

Akari took part in a Demola Hokkaido project called ”What Will It Be Like
to Live in 2100?”
, and joined the global "Nation States vs. Corporations" project in the summer. She was known as one of the most active ones in the summer project batch. She tells that her strategy was to stay active, keep asking questions and study as much as possible on the subject to stay on track. In comparison to her regular school projects, there were quite a lot of new things to learn since the topics were outside her usual studies, although "everything connects in the end".

"In my study program, there are a lot of international students, so most of the courses are held in English. For most of my university courses, as well as the Demola project, I try to stay active, because it can take the conversation further and also help me to be more brave. It's a really important skill, to ask questions! And I learned a lot about that. In our university courses, Japanese students are usually very quiet. The best thing about asking questions is that people remember you. They learn your name and recognize you. I think that's really nice!"


To expand her knowledge and dive deep into the project topic, Akari tells she read a lot of news. "There's this Japanese app called Smart News that we use to get bunch of news in English. I also borrowed some books about economy and international relations. In addition to that, I always tried to listen to others' discussions and ask as many questions as possible: 'What do you mean, what does this word mean? How could I connect this with environmental issues?' or 'How can I connect this with the situation in Japan?' I also have a friend who knows about economics and international relations and having discussions with him really helped me a lot!" Akari brought new perspective on her team's work, especially on environmental issues, since she was the only one studying natural sciences. "At first I thought my field was way too far from our topic, but actually it wasn't. Environmental issues are huge, and they link with everything."

Akari describes her role in her first Demola team as the one who was often in charge of setting up the meetings.  As for the second team, she describes it to be easier, since the team didn't really worry about people dropping out. If that happened, they carried on with the ones who stayed. Akari had teammates from China and the US, although they were located in Europe. The time difference between Europe and Japan didn't bother Akari, since she describes herself as a night owl. One thing that Akari found amazing in her team was that her teammates were all interested in the Japanese culture. "One of my teammates, Octavio, had studied in Japan for a year, and another, Conor, loves Japanese culture and has studied the language, so sometimes we could communicate in Japanese! There was also Yiping, who loves Japanese culture, especially boy bands. I was pretty surprised by how much she knew about Japanese singers and actors – a lot more than I do!"

What kind of advice does Akari then offer to other Japanese students who are thinking whether they should join an international innovation project?

"In the meetings, keep asking questions! That helps you to gain confidence for the future. And if you do not show your ideas to your teammates, you will lose the opportunity! Do not hesitate to show them even if you're not sure whether they are good or not. There are no correct or incorrect ideas or questions, just do it! That's the skill that we can learn from global projects."

Akari's dreams and hopes for the future are to finish her studies and work abroad at some point. Her curious attitude leads her to new possibilities in her studies: "I recently changed my research topic, since I took a course about arctic geopolitics. I don't know a lot about it, but I like it. That inspires me. So I need to think about my project and complete my Master's thesis. I will also join more projects at Demola Global and Demola Hokkaido."

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