Next Generation Talent:
Teamwork, Diversity, and Communication in Keio University's PEARL Programme

PEARL (Programme in Economics for Alliances, Research and Leadership) is an all-English BA course in economics offered by the Keio University Faculty of Economics in Tokyo. Oh Dongjun is a third-year student in the course, with dreams of a more global future for Tokyo.
Oh Dongjun has a plan for his future that will bring him back to the historic grounds of Keio.

Oh Dongjun was a high school student at an international school in Korea contemplating his college choices when he came across a saying used by Keio University: "The pen is mightier than the sword." Inspired by this simple yet profound phrase, Oh set his sights on attending the esteemed Japanese university and studied hard to earn high TOEFL and SAT scores. Fast-forward several years, and we see that Oh is now a thriving third-year student at Keio and a real-life example of someone who lives by this important maxim.

A Culture of Communication

Oh, who is fluent in English, decided to study in Japan to become trilingual in three languages, including his mother tongue Korean. "When I arrived, I immersed myself in Japanese culture. I practiced J-pop songs to sing at karaoke with friends, attended coffee gatherings, and joined the badminton club. But on top of these new opportunities to learn about Japanese language and culture, I have also been able to network with people from all over the world. My course-mates at PEARL and the professors at Keio all come from a variety of different countries and cultures, and the course has taught me valuable lessons about both leadership and teamwork within a wider global context."

Oh reflects on his advanced communication skills, saying that they were greatly improved by his studying in the Japanese capital. With Keio's diverse, international student body and the buzzing city of Tokyo forming a backdrop for his undergraduate studies, Oh has encountered people with different professional working styles and personal strengths. "Taking part in group projects at Keio made me realize that there is not always one right way to do things. Every student has their own cultural and educational background, which translates to different strengths in group situations. Now, instead of assuming everybody works in the same way, I make it a point to ask each group member what their strong points are so that we can utilize a more diverse set of skills." This multifaceted approach, Oh says, is indispensable for the success of any international student's career on the global stage.

Oh feels that he has embarked on an important journey of self-improvement since joining Keio. "Everybody here values self-care and kindness."

Bringing Global Ideas Back to Japan

Oh plans to further his global education by earning a master's degree abroad. "Everybody on the PEARL course has a lot of ambition—many people would like to build on their postgraduate education either in Japan or elsewhere. The global connections of the university make students feel like the world is their oyster. After completing a master's course, I dream of returning to Japan to become a professor at Keio." Oh reveals that his biggest inspiration is his current seminar professor, Sasahara Akira—a Keio alumnus who studied as a postgraduate in the US before returning to teach at Keio.

"I believe Tokyo provides a great stage for a truly global education. The city is such a melting pot of international cultures, but at the same time it showcases many boldly Japanese concepts. It's the perfect merging point between East and West. Many Japanese ideas, such as finding inspiration in tradition, have activated new ways of thinking for me. I used to think that new ideas come out of nowhere, but after seeing Japan's unique way of building upon and improving existing traditions, I have come to realize that in reality, many pre-existing factors influence the conception of seemingly new ideas, and that that's not a bad thing at all."

Oh gives a presentation as part of his PEARL programme classes. Photo: courtesy of Oh Dongjun

Changing Mindsets in Japan

Tokyo's image of long working hours and rigid traditions is changing with a new generation of academics and students keen to change the status quo. "My seminar professor recently obtained his Ph.D. and is actively working on his research, which brings something new to the table. I think a lot of big Japanese institutions are taking on faculty members from diverse backgrounds in a hope to create a new, more flexible society. Japan may be traditional in a sense, but it's building upon and changing these traditions to create something fresh and exciting."

Oh has gained so much more from Keio than just an education in economics. His intelligence and communication skills will no doubt set him apart in the global employment market, where open-mindedness and the peaceful resolution of conflicts are increasingly valued. In teaching teamwork and respect for diversity, the PEARL programme is preparing a new generation of workers to genuinely live by the pen rather than the sword.

Oh Dongjun

Born in 2000 in Seoul, South Korea, he graduated from CheongShim International Academy in 2019, and is currently an undergraduate student in the PEARL programme at Keio University. He is studying international economics with the aspiration of establishing a career on the global stage.

PEARL Programme

PEARL, which stands for Programme in Economics for Alliances, Research and Leadership, is an English-taught four-year bachelor's degree programme in economics. Its mission is to cultivate versatile leaders grounded in the field of economics, who can engage and excel in various professional arenas worldwide. At the time of writing there are currently around 400 students from 21 countries and regions enrolled in the programme.

Keio University
Interview and writing by Jessica Ujiie
Photos by Julio Kohji Shiiki