Special Discussion: Prof. Kazuko Suematsu and Katharina Heeg (Part 3)

Part 3: Forward Planning

A.R: There is a quote that says, “The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live it”. We’ve talked about the past and present with respect to both your backgrounds and careers, and also about the current situation at Tohoku University during the pandemic. What are Tohoku University’s plans, and what is your plan for after the pandemic ends, or as people say ‘post-pandemic’?

K.S: Recently, we received funding from the government related to International Collaborative Learning with other five universities in Japan. What we do is we offer some of our classes online and we exchange students among these six universities. So, for example, our students might be studying at Kobe University, and also, our IPLA students might be taking a class at Osaka University. So, we are broadening the horizon for students by offering diverse learning experiences. Another activity that we are planning is o have an intensive camp with students from all these six universities as part of their international collaborative learning experiences. This is still just a plan at this moment, but I would like to follow up. Another plan is to work with industries and local as well as international communities. We would like to help international students find a job either in Japan or outside more easily after studying with us.

Prof. Kazuko Suematsu hosts a Christmas dinner at her home every year because she believes that students who study abroad apart from their home countries will become homesick during the Christmas holidays


K.H: I have many travel plans because for almost two years I didn’t travel. Once the restrictions are lifted, I will go travel. However, flight tickets are getting expensive recently. How about you, Prof. Suematsu?

K.S: Yes, I have a lot of things that I would like to do. We celebrated the 25th anniversary of our marriage, which is kind of special for us. So, my husband and I had a plan to go to Croatia in March 2020. And then we couldn’t do it because of the coronavirus. So, after the pandemic ends, we have to realize this plan.

A.R: Last question. If Doraemon’s ‘Anywhere Door’ were in front of you right now and connecting your locations for only 24 hours, how would you spend your time together?

K.H: (Laughs) Definitely some sort of travel and going somewhere and then maybe an exchange visit to Toronto and Japan. 

K.S: She was here for two years, but maybe I will take her to do things that she couldn’t do because of the time limit during her study. So, I might take her to different curry shops, because as I told you before, she only eats curry and often goes to enjoy a curry in the university cafeteria rather than in other curry restaurants in Sendai (laughs).




International Education Section, Research in Higher Education Division, Institute for Excellence in Higher Education, Tohoku University

Professor Kazuko Suematsu is originally from Osaka, and she completed her undergraduate degree in economics in the USA. After that, she decided to work for a major trading company for four years in New York. After working in international sales and marketing, she pursued studies in education, completing her master’s and doctoral degrees. She returned to Japan in 2003 and started in her first academic position at Tohoku University in the Graduate School of Economics and Management. In 2012, she took the opportunity to move to Tohoku University’s Global Learning Center. She oversees both incoming and outgoing programs and dedicates herself to internationalizing the curriculum at Tohoku University while leading a nationwide intercultural collaborative learning research team.

Prof. Suematsu loves onsen. She always seeks out new onsen to visit, especially in the Tohoku area. After she has visited an onsen, she always shares her experience with her international students. Her other hobby is dancing. She belongs to many dance groups and learns various types of dance. Recently she has been learning the Salsation dance, which is a mixture of Jazz and Salsa.


Network Supply Planner for North America, Dr. Oetker Canada

Katharina Heeg came to Japan from Germany as an undergraduate student on the IPLA program in 2015. She then returned to Germany to finish her undergraduate degree. Shortly thereafter, she decided to complete a master’s degree at Tohoku University through a double degree program called GPEM. She spent one year in Germany and another year in Tohoku University as a student, but not as an exchange student. She found it very interesting to see the comparison between being an international exchange student and a full-time student. In 2020, she decided to move to Canada, as it is an English-speaking country, with her partner, where they could find work and study. She likes outdoor activities and sports. However, during the pandemic, Canada had a very strict lock-down, so she couldn’t do any activities. However, she recently started to try many outdoor activities. Because there are many lakes, especially in Toronto or Ontario, last summer she started using an SUP (stand-up paddleboard), and during the winter, she started to ski because there are mountains so close to where she lived. >>Link to Katharina Heeg’s Alumni Story

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