It starts with an internship and it may end up in marriage. “Portuguese students love Japan,” reveals Emmanuel Planas, the professor in charge of the International Internship Program at NII- National Institute of Informatics, in Tokyo. “In some cases, after the internship they get a job and get married”, he adds after his presentation, last week, at Técnico Oeiras, to present the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between INESC-ID and the NII. Through this agreement, INESC-ID’s and IST’s Master’s in Computer Science students are invited to apply to an internship.

This MOU with INESC-ID has been in place since 2011, after Rui Prada, from Artificial Intelligence for People and Society research area and a teacher at Técnico, became aware of this possibility, while completing a post-doc at NII. “I realised it was a good opportunity for students.”

Finishing his tour around Europe to present this competitive program, established with the most reputable institutes in the world, the acting director of the Global Liaison Office explained to the audience the main aspects of the MOU. Every year, the NII receives 140 masters’ and doctoral students to this paid internship, lasting 2 to 6 months.

At NII, located in the centre of the metropolis, very close to the Ministry of Education from Japan, there are 350 scientists, working in three research areas. Before applying, candidates must choose a topic and approach a senior researcher to work with during the internship. There are two calls every year, one in April and another in September, with 60 to 70 interns accepted per call. In each institute there is a referee who receives the applications, selects them and sends them to NII. AT INESC-ID, Rui Prada is the person in charge.

Ana Carrasco, a PhD student, working in social robotics at GAIPS, has spent six months at NII under the MOU and highly recommends it. So much so that she is considering applying once more. “It’s an amazing experience”, she summarizes. “People are so friendly that I hardly felt the language barrier”, Ana adds, anticipating what might be felt as an obstacle by potential candidates.

So far, around 40 students from INESC-ID/Técnico have joined the programme, Rui Prada estimates. ‘Ja ne’ Tokyo.