In December 2013, eight medical students from the PAPRSB Institute of Health Science participated in the Winter Medical Seminar in Kagawa University Faculty of Medicine, Kagawa, Japan. The seminar is an annual and collaborative exchange programme between Institute of Health Sciences (I.H.S) and Faculty of Medicine, Kagawa University (KUFM) where students are immersed in clinical, academic, cultural and research activities ranging from anatomy, surgery, basic-life support, clinical simulation, hospital and laboratory placements. The seminar was led by Dr Hjh Fazean Irdayati binti Hj Idris, senior lecturer from I.H.S as supervisor for the students and students’ team leader, Ak Mohd Farid bin Pg Metussin, 2nd year BHSc Medicine student. The seminar commenced on 9th December with an opening ceremony officiated by the Dean of Kagawa University Faculty of Medicine, Professor Norumi Mori; Professor Masaaki Tokuda, Assistant Dean and Chair of International Exchange Program and Dr Takashi Kusaka, organizer and chair of this year’s winter medical seminar.
In her remarks during the opening ceremony, Dr Fazean expressed her gratitude to the organizers for the warm welcome and meticulous preparation made by the committee and touched on the history of KUFM and I.H.S. She said, “Since the year 2006, we have been working closely with KUFM to establish collaborative partnerships in medicine, health, academic activities, student exchanges and research projects. In this seminar, our students will broaden their knowledge, understanding and skills in an eclectic assortment of medically-related activities such as anatomy, laboratory skills, clinical and surgery”. She added, “We owe a lot to this international liaison as this is a mutually beneficial outcome for both sides and it is important to maintain this strong collaborative network. I am pleased to announce that further to both institutions’ efforts, we are strengthening our research collaboration by planning exciting research projects which are inter-disciplinary. We also wish to expand our inbound and outbound student exhcanges to other programmes outside of medicine”.
Team leader Ak Mohd Farid was particularly pleased with the many events prepared for the students ranging from anatomy to hospital visits including shopping and sightseeing alongside their Japanese buddies. He said, “We also experienced some of the club activities like karate and kendo as well as the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.”
Nur Maajidah; 2nd year and Nurul Nor Nazurah; 3rd year, medical students added, “We were introduced to Japan’s healthcare system through lectures and practical activities. Laboratory visits and clinical attachments were proven beneficial for us with exceptional opportunities to experience the Japanese healthcare and medical education system. We were able to observe similarities and differences between both Japan and Brunei Darussalam as well as learn from each other through these placements. We got the chance to visit different departments in Kagawa University Hospital, for instance, urology, biochemistry, anaesthesiology and radiology department where we got the chance to see a live surgical protectomy led by the surgeon using the most advanced technology known as the Da Vinci surgical system. We observed the operation through the 3D television using 3D glasses. We were also brought around the surgical floor to observe some of the surgeries in which was a very new experience for most of us. Another department we visited was forensic medicine where we went to the autopsy room, CT scan room, 'store room' where they keep the organs that they autopsied for 5 years and analysis room. It was such a valuable experience that we gained to able to learn like we were local students from the university”.
The students were also given multiple opportunities to experience other exciting social and cultural activities.
According to Nazhrah Al-Ieman and Ak. Muhd. Yazakka, both 2nd year students, “We had the chance to taste one of Japanese delicacies, such as strawberries, at a local farm near Takamatsu city. There, we had the chance to strengthen our friendship with the Japanese medical students that went strawberry picking with us. It was definitely a refreshing escapism from all the exhausting activities that we have had that week. Our friendship with the Japanese students was further strengthened through team building activities in Goshikidai, a famous tourist attraction in Kagawa. Through team discussions, not only did we managed to come up with ideas on how to reduce Diabetes Mellitus and Obesity cases in both Brunei and Japan, we also learned about the characteristics of an ideal doctor, hoping that we could build and nourish these characteristics in ourselves as we strive for our best to be an ideal doctor in the future. Along our way back from Goshikidai, we stopped by Marugame City where we got the opportunity to learn udon-making in Nakano Udon Gako (School) and also visited the Konpira San San-do (shrine) located on Mount Zozu. We were also extremely lucky to witness a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony being held in the shrine, as our buddies claimed that it is actually a rare affair that such occasions were performed there.”
Muhd. Adib, another 2nd year medical student, said that the programme would have not been complete without the homestay with Japanese host family. “During one weekend, each Bruneian student was adopted by different Japanese host families to live with their household. Here, we learned the Japanese, lifestyle, traditions, culture, heritage, house etiquette, basic vocabulary and get a taste of homemade Japanese food. Through the communication barrier, both host family and the student still manage to convey their messages across, which the Japanese refers to it as a heart-to-heart communication (‘Ishin denshin’). We also grabbed the opportunity to share experiences and gain real insight from the Japanese perspective that covers a range of subjects from normal daily routines to life lessons. The host families were also generous enough to bring us to visit some of the eye-catching historical attractions within the vicinity of Takamatsu City such as the Ritsurin Garden, Marugame Castle, Seto Bridge Commemorative Hall as well as going for a shopping trip. It is definitely an invaluable experience that each of the Bruneian delegates can attest to.”
Ibnu Ayyub, 3rd year student, said, “One thing that we could always see when we visit another country is the difference in culture. Japanese culture is so unique that it would be a big loss to have not experience them at least once in our life. There are a lot of things that can be mentioned about the Japanese culture: food; clothing; daily life and home etiquettes; and traditional ceremonies, to name a few. Japanese food is one of the things that we would definitely miss: the fresh and authentic sushi; Onigiri (the perfect combination of seaweed and rice); the simple yet fulfilling Udon noodles, the crispy Tempura and the sweet Mochi. What is also unique about Japan is their traditional clothing which are called Kimono (for girls) and Yukata (for guys). They are modestly beautiful and truly reflect the humble and respectful nature of the Japanese people. Besides that, we also got the chance to experience the daily life of a normal Japanese family. There’s not much difference in terms of family interactions in comparison to a normal Bruneian family. But one small but quite interesting difference that we could observe is the placement of the shoes or slippers when we enter a house. They are put in a reverse position so we could actually see people coming into the house and immediately turning their body in the opposite direction followed by removing their slippers or shoes. The purpose is simply to make it easier and faster when we want to go out of the house. During our three-week stay in Japan, we were also given the opportunity to join a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. It was during this ceremony that we got to see and truly understand how polite and respectful Japanese people are towards their guests and even to the people they first met. It was also during the tea ceremony that we learnt about a famous Japanese saying, ‘Ichi-go, Ichi-e’ which when literally translated means ‘One time, one meeting’. This taught us to treasure every meeting as the same event will not happen again. Everything is a once in a lifetime experience. A simple quote but has an amazingly deep meaning.”
Attesting to Ayyub’s words were Yazakka’s personal opinion, "At first, I was actually quite reluctant to open up to Japanese culture especially the food, probably due to my unfamiliarity towards it. So I said to myself, but we are here for a reason, an exchange program, an opportunity to learn their language and culture, and I know others would kill for this chance. As a result, here I am, still in love with the Japanese culture, and wished I could've stayed longer to experience more. One obvious thing: Japanese people are one of the best people you'll ever meet; very respectful, very polite, very disciplined, caring, courteous, basically all the ingredients to be a great person."
One of the highlights of the seminar was the Brunei Team’s participation in an international seminar entitled “Collaborative Investigation Study between Japan and Brunei on Diabetes and Obesity” which was participated by His Excellency Mr Kenichi Tsugunuma, Ambassador to Japan Embassy in Brunei; Mr Seigo Nagao, President of Kagawa University and Professor Kakehi, Vice-President of Kagawa University. The seminar highlights the collaborative research between Brunei and Japan on diabetes and obesity where three phases of research are currently being conducted between Universiti Brunei Darussalam and Kagawa University in the field of epidemiology, science and clinical application with special focus on research in rare sugar sweets.
The closing ceremony which was held on the 25th December showcasted a wonderful and touching event where both Japanese and Bruneian students conducted a cultural performance and was attended by the students’ foster families.
Final words from the students wraps up their adventure in Japan.
“Eventhough the seminar was only for 3 weeks, we personally think that we have learned a lot more than we were expected to, not just in terms of education but also in terms of teamwork and also adapting to our surroundings. All of us have gotten closer to each other in which we have learned so much from each other and also our Japanese buddies and that if given the chance to, we would surely go again for the coming Winter Medical School Seminar.” – Ak. Mohd. Farid,
“Last but not least, this trip was made so much more memorable because of our buddies and the quality time we spent together. I am thankful for everything they did for us and helping out so much to make this programme smooth-sailing and successful. Overall, I have not only gained medical knowledge from this seminar but also experiences and perhaps change for a better me. There are definitely some good characteristics I picked up from the Japanese that are being kind, polite and respectful. These characteristics will have an impact in my future career and greatly influences how I want to be like when I finally a doctor.” – Wendy Yap (2nd year BHSc Medicine)
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