Student Life at Aoyama

Message from Alumni

Farah Nadiah Binti Abu Makhfud (Malaysia, SMIPRP 2019-2020)

Assistant Director of Customs
Royal Malaysian Customs Department

Going back to student life after more than ten years of professional work was a true privilege, thanks to the opportunity provided by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the Government of Japan. The great environment and welcoming atmosphere at Aoyama Gakuin University have made my thirteen months experience both intellectually inspiring and personally enriching. The knowledgeable professors who provided engaging lectures and highly supportive staff kept my daily life problem-free. I enjoyed my day-to-day experience in Japan without feeling like I was in a foreign land.

The carefully designed Strategic Management and Intellectual Property Rights Master’s Programme (SMIPRP) offered by Aoyama Gakuin University is well-suited to promising Customs officials. It provides graduate students with the conceptual understanding and technical competence to become future leaders in our home administrations. The academic curriculum at Aoyama Gakuin University is enriched by the exchange of experiences and perspectives between Customs officials from across the world, and the field trips and seminars with officials from Japan Customs provide a novel addition to the learning experience. The unique structure of the programme, combined with the cultural diversity of the people and the beautiful landscape of Japan was genuinely fascinating.

My year spent in Tokyo has led to additional positive experiences in my professional and personal life. Upon returning to my home administration, I was transferred to the Headquarters of Royal Malaysian Customs Department in Putrajaya. As an Assistant Director of Customs, my current work includes analysing and formulating policies in the Royal Malaysian Customs Department. My team is responsible for ensuring good governance and making sure those policies continue to produce the desired impact and are aligned with the vision and mission of the Royal Malaysian Customs Department. Furthermore, I am thankful that my experience studying in Aoyama Gakuin University has given me the confidence to face the challenges that are given to me. This experience has broadened my worldview and enhanced my knowledge of Japan, Asia, and the world. It was such a fruitful experience that someday I hope to go back to Japan and pursue a doctorate. Lastly, I am grateful for the opportunity to study at Aoyama Gakuin University. The experience was extremely valuable, and as an alumna, I feel genuinely delighted and privileged to be a part of this program.

May, 2022

Natalie Brigitte (St. Lucia, SMIPRP 2020-2021)

Customs Officer
Customs and Excise Department

What an honour it was to have been selected as one of the ten Customs Officers around the world to participate in the Strategic Management and Intellectual Property Rights Program (SMIPRP) for the 2020 academic year, to pursue a Master’s Degree in Japan!

Those twelve months remind me of the global pandemic. Despite that, our batchmates and I were able to experience the incredible Japanese culture, great hospitality, delicious cuisine, the breathtaking blooming of the cherry blossoms throughout Tokyo, the onsen (hot springs), and the snowy mountains, etc. Additionally, I enjoyed wearing a kimono, Japan’s traditional dress with them during a memorable afternoon in Tokyo.

Due to the pandemic, our 2020 group recognized that our experience would understandably not reflect that of former students due to needed changes, however, I must commend the faculty and staff of the SMIPRP who helped implement COVID protocols to help create a safe learning environment for all the students which enabled the successful completion of the Program.

The SMIPRP provided not only a practical learning environment that allowed me and my fellow graduate students from other countries worldwide to develop the skill set required to meet the standards of modern Customs practices, but an interactive platform to dissect the myriad of challenges faced by our various Customs administrations. We had the privilege of learning from a well-rounded team of experts who went to great lengths to teach strategies that we can implement to address recurring Customs issues within our respective organizations. I proudly returned to the St. Lucia Customs and Excise Department as a more confident Customs Officer who has acquired the requisite skills to work more efficiently and effectively towards meeting my organization’s mandates.

I remain forever indebted to the World Customs Organization (WCO), the government of Japan, the faculty and staff of the SMIPRP at the Aoyama Gakuin University, the St. Lucia Customs and Excise Department, as well as the Government of St. Lucia, for an extraordinary experience that many can rightfully dream of. Nevertheless, I encourage every Customs Officer to apply to this one-of-a-kind Program.

Alhagie Alieu Ceesay (The Gambia, SMIPRP 2020-2021)

Customs Officer, Operations Unit
Customs & Excise Department
Gambia Revenue Authority

As I sat on a plane on the way back to my home country, I couldn’t help but drown myself in a sea of reminiscence about how wonderful the past 12 months had been. I know the memories made would never fade and the journey not only clarified my vision of the future, but changed my entire outlook of life. Landing in Japan few months after the outbreak of Covid 19 was not easy at all but every bit of the journey was worth it.

Applying to the SMIPRP at Aoyama Gakuin University was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I have made in my career. As a young and ambitious Customs Officer, I knew I had a lot to learn and improve on, and this was the perfect opportunity to accomplish that objective. The style of teaching, quality of the lecturers, campus accommodation, and field trips were second to none.

During the 12-month period, I was not only fortunate enough to benefit from the wealth of experience of my professors, but was also able to experience the rich Japanese culture and traditions such as the Sado (Tea Ceremony), Ukiyoe, Zen, Kabuki, just to name a few.

After graduation, I returned to my home country wiser, more creative and more confident in my skills and abilities to serve my organization. There is a saying in my culture that the eyes never forget what the heart has seen. I saw Japan with my heart and the effect of this was an everlasting love and affection for the country and its people.

I, therefore, highly recommend this program to any Customs Officer who is looking forward to becoming the best version of their self. I wish to once again acknowledge the contributions of my nine (9) colleagues from nine (9) different countries. The rich cultural diversity enriched our interactions, discussions and experiences. The road was rough but we sailed through together. My profound gratitude goes to the World Customs Organization, the Government of Japan, Aoyama Gakuin University and the Gambia Revenue Authority for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Majid Mohamed (SMIPRP 2019-2020, Republic of Maldives)

Maldives Customs Service,
Republic of Maldives

It is such a privilege to be an alumnus of the Strategic Management & Intellectual Property Rights Programme (SMIPRP) offered by Aoyama Gakuin University.

As an awardee of the prestigious Japan - WCO Scholarship, funded by the Japanese government, I had the flexibility to focus my research entirely on Customs issues or on any other management-related topic. The enthusiasm and open-mindedness of the professors and the thesis supervisor enabled me to design my study, conduct my research, and write and defend my thesis.

Studying in the hustle and bustle of one of the largest capitals of the world exposed me to different cultures and helped me make lifelong friends across the world and understand how to address managerial challenges from multiple perspectives. In sum, the Programme helped me become the professional I am today.

Despite the pandemic which started towards the end of our studies, studying in Japan will always be something that I hold close to my heart.

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