The MBA Diary

The zemi system

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Something that’s entirely new to me here, at Hitotsubashi, is the zemi system.

Concept of zemi

In Japan, the zemi system generally involves a group of students doing research under the guidance of a professor. The word “zemi” is derived from the word “seminar” — only the Japanese picked the system from the Germans (it’s where the system originates), hence it became “zemi”.

The zemi system here follows the same concept, where students form groups under their respective zemi advisors, the professors. However, instead of doing academic research, here at Hitotsubashi they’re more focused on things that are outside of the academic realm.

Apart from sharing and discussing similar interests, the professors and the zemi students at Hitotsubashi have casual meetings and do other activities outside of school in groups — like doing real-life case studies, visiting different corporations or even have casual dinners. The zemi advisors also play a role of, well, advisors to his/her students when it comes to work and life and they tend to form a life-long relationship.

Some of the professors who have had the zemi experience during their undergrads at Hitotsubashi shared how they value and have benefitted from their zemi. I was hoping for the same 🙂

Zemi advisors

Here’s how it works. During the Foundation Week, we were introduced to the members of the faculty. Each of the professors had the chance to introduce themselves to us, sharing their interests and their plans for the zemi throughout the year. Basically, marketing themselves.

There are so many zemi advisors with amazing backgrounds, that it’s easy to be rambang mata and not know which zemi to choose. Just to give you an idea, we’ve got professors with backgrounds in consulting (seniors at McKinsey and the Boston Consulting Group), investment banking (we’re told that this guy’s the top investment banker in Japan during his career), marketing experts (collaborating with major corporates in Japan) and they’ve all got degrees from top universities, like MBAs from Harvard/Stanford and under/postgrad degrees from the top Japanese and US universities in their fields. They’ve very passionate in what they do and most are actively collaborating and serving on boards of top Japanese corporates. Felt like the faculty from previous alma mater had nothing on these people #sorrynotsorry. Seriously. Check the faculty profile out.

Deciding on a zemi

From there, the students will need to decide whose zemi that they want to join. Online, we’ll fill out our zemi preferences and then it’ll be our turn to market ourselves as their zemi candidates, by writing a sales pitch so that we’ll be selected by the advisors. We need to convince the advisors to pick us because there are limited slots for each.

There are 15+ of them and there are 50+ of us. Some of the advisors are really really really popular, so you can imagine it’s a little intense, having to set appointments with the advisors to see whether we can hit it off and writing a sales pitch just to be selected!

Different students choose their zemi for different reasons. Some want to learn more about the industry that the professors are in or are trying to leverage on their contacts, some choose the professors that share the same interests, some choose the professors because they’re nice and there are even those who choose the professor because the professor is good-looking 😆

I actually emailed some of the Hitotsubashi alumni to get their advice. Above all, they say, it’s important choose the advisor who shares the same interests as you and make sure that both of you can get along.

Well, I sort of knew which professor I wanted to pick earlier on, but to know that we’ve shared interests made me sure that it’s possibly the right zemi.

Got my result today. Glad to know that I got my #1 choice woohoo! Looking forward to the full zemi experience 🙂

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