Students' Voices

Students' Voices

*Positions and years are those at the time of interview.

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Building the foundation for studying at ICU

Manami Takimoto

Third-year student
ELA Stream 4
Graduated from Kyoto Prefectural Nanyo Senior High School (Kyoto Prefecture)

Update: July, 2017
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Experience to build my own way of thinking

I remember Academic Reading and Writing (ARW) best among the classes I have taken. In ARW, we read various materials on a topic selected for each term, deepened our understanding of the content through group discussions and presentations, and wrote an essay in English, composing our thoughts on the topic. The topic chosen for the winter term in this class was bioethics. Under this topic, we discussed, for instance, "whether we should ban abortions" and "whether we should allow human genome engineering." At first, I was unable to form my own opinions on these difficult issues for which there were no right answers and which straddled both areas of science and humanities. But I have gradually come to be able to establish my own opinions, deepening my understanding by reading various materials and exchanging views with other classmates in and outside the class. This experience is still deeply etched in my memory.

Skills in communication and reading comprehension

I think my skills in communication and reading comprehension in English improved drastically through the ELA. Classes were two to three times a day and four days a week, and we were always given opportunities to speak up. All the assignment materials were worthy of reading. In a year or so after entering ICU, I found it easier to convey what I had had troubles expressing and to read what I had had difficulty reading at the beginning. As a matter of fact, I have made so much progress I surprised myself.

In addition to the skills in communication and reading comprehension, I also acquired various other abilities. They included mental readiness in reading articles, a way to collect information efficiently, and a knack to put the collected information in order and convey it orally or in writing simply and clearly. These skills have been useful in my study at ICU both in English and Japanese.

Improvement not only in the command of English but the necessary abilities to study at university

When people hear about ICU, they usually think about its English education, but the ELA is not merely a program for improving English proficiency. We can always put to good use other abilities we acquire in the ELA, such as skills in reading comprehension, communication, critical thinking, and information processing in our study whether it is in English or in Japanese. You don't have to feel embarrassed if you are not good at speaking English. Thanks to careful follow-up instruction you receive in ICU's small-class education, you can feel at ease while studying. If you want to have a broad perspective on things, whether in the area of science or humanities, or deepen your thoughts through dialogue with friends, ICU is the university for you.

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What made me feel my personal growth

Mikiko Kishi

Second-year student
ELA Stream 4
Graduated from Kyushu Gakuin Lutheran High School (Kumamoto Prefecture)
Studied for six weeks at Tufts University (U.S.) on the Freshman SEA Program

Update: June, 2017
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ELA helped me build the foundation for my study

The most memorable class for me was Reading and Content Analysis (RCA). In this class, I was able to gain various skills, centering on reading. A textbook called "ELA Reader" included multiple essays and we read some of them during each term. In the beginning, I had a hard time because many of them were very difficult to understand. But I gradually learned various ways to get a better grasp of them, including how to represent the content of an essay with a diagram in order to organize its key points, as well as paraphrasing to restate a text in different words. These helped me to better understand what I was reading and, even before I realized it, I found myself having fun in class.

In the ELA, there is also time for personal instruction called tutorials. The RCA class is conducted in English, but since the instructors are Japanese, tutorials can be conducted in Japanese if students find it difficult to ask questions in English. In tutorials, before we submit our assignments, the instructor teaches us carefully about grammatical points or expressions that are not explained in detail in our regular classes, so I was able to improve my reading skills mainly in classes, and writing skills in tutorials.

In addition, I was able to deepen my understanding of various issues by making presentations, submitting assignments, and by handling assignments and group work together with my section mates* outside of classes before exams. Because of my experience of studying with these section mates in a group, I am now able to work smoothly together in groups with students in different school years in the foundation courses in my major, and the various academic skills I learned in the ELA have helped me to build the foundation for my present study.
*Section mates: Students belonging to small size classes called "sections" in the ELA

Habit to think critically and ability to speak logically

My abilities to think and to speak up improved through the ELA. Because we decide our majors by the end of the second year instead of when we enter ICU, we study in the ELA classes together with students who are interested in totally different areas of study. In the classes, we are always required to express our opinions and think critically among people with a variety of opinions. Until I graduated from high school, I did not have any clear awareness of specific problems and issues, and neither had I actively expressed my opinions, which made me hesitate to speak out in class at ICU at first. I had absolutely no idea what it meant to think critically. But since the class was small, it was easier to voice my opinions, and since my section mates actively spoke up and asked questions, I came to be able to put together my thoughts and speak up as the class work progressed. While I was exchanging opinions with the section mates through discussions, group work, presentations and other activities, I noticed I had narrow perspectives, and looked at things from one angle, and I gained new points of view. I acquired the habit of thinking critically and from different perspectives as well as the ability to speak logically and plainly based on this habit.

Rapid growth in one year

I did not have the experience of studying overseas and I was also at a loss as to what to choose as my major at university. But I came to ICU because I loved studying English and wanted to improve my English skills. I was quite worried and nervous when I started to study in the ELA, wondering if I would be able to keep up with the rest of the students. I did the best I could, trying frantically not to fall behind everyone in class. I made desperate efforts to get through the course. I spoke up despite my not-so-good English, and persistently asked questions, however trivial they seemed, until I fully understood. As I worked on each of my assignments carefully and took the class every day, I found myself totally enjoying the ELA. The one year in the ELA class passed quickly, and then I realized that I had made clear progress. You can develop yourself and learn many things whichever university you go to. But especially at ICU, I think students can spend an intensive, fulfilling student life. You can gain not only English-language skills but a variety of other abilities in one year of the ELA. Discover how much you have developed yourself after one year at ICU.

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ELA opens the door to various majors

Ryotaro Miura

Third year student
Major: Information Science, Economics (double major)
ELA Stream 3
Graduated from Shiba Senior High School (Tokyo)
Studied for six weeks at McGill University (Canada) on the Freshman SEA Program. Scheduled to study as an exchange student at the University of Edinburgh (School of Informatics, College of Science and Engineering) UK for one year beginning in September 2017 Update: June, 2017

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Stimulating class for reading and writing

I found the class for Academic Reading & Writing (ARW) most interesting. It was hard work to read an essay given each time as an assignment before classes, but it was stimulating to hold intensive discussions on extremely complicated social issues such as bioethics, international relations, and the significance of the existence of universities with 18 section mates* who have varying interests. Unlike in my high school days, the openness with which we were able to say "no" clearly when we disagreed on some issues came as very comforting. On essay assignments, we raised questions on the topics we had considered in class, made clear where we stood, and wrapped them up in academic style. This experience has proved useful in pursuing my major area of study after completing the ELA, including how to collect documents and materials. I vividly remember my instructors guiding me sometimes proactively and other times casually in the once-a-week tutorial (one-on-one instruction). All the instructors were strict and I had a hard time because I was not that good at English. At the end of the term, however, all of them uplifted us with words of encouragement, saying "well done."
*Section mates: Students belonging to small size classes called "sections" in the ELA.

Skills to write and speak in English, and personal growth

In the ELA, we immersed ourselves in English every day. My overall English-language skills, especially my abilities to write and speak, continued to improve while I was taking part in numerous discussions and working on essay assignments given at least twice each term. And I gradually began speaking up in English without hesitation and reading English textbooks without difficulty. I think I have made great progress in these abilities. I will start my study at the University of Edinburgh as an exchange student this autumn, and my confidence that I had successfully completed the ELA gave me a supportive push in the decision.

Furthermore, relations with my section mates enabled me to grow personally. I still get together with them almost every week, though I am now a third-year student. By being exposed to different values through these friends with diverse backgrounds and fields of interest and by stimulating each other, I have certainly expanded my horizons. I found this experience valuable in selecting my major and also in pursuing my present study. It is because we are friends who successfully went through the ELA together that we are able to talk frankly about everything--not only about the topics in the ELA class but also about what we are learning in our majors, and about life itself.

ELA is boot camp of learning

ICU is an interesting university. Faculty and students, who are all different in their areas of study, race, age, and background, symbolize diversity itself. At this university filled with free spirit, we can learn a wide range of things, meet a variety of people, which causes "chemical reactions" every day. I have more than one major and I truly feel happy that I have chosen ICU. In my third year, looking back, I think the ELA is a boot camp of learning, which opens the door to various majors. Not only language skills but the critical stance toward everything has been tremendously useful in my classes and research every day. And I'm sure that these will also help me during my study overseas and after graduation.

Here is my advice for prospective students. First, carefully consider and choose which university is best suited for you. And those who have chosen ICU let me assure you that an academically stimulating life that will satisfy your intellectual curiosity awaits you. I look forward to studying together with you here at ICU.

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First step toward becoming a "trustworthy global citizen"

Takeshi Yoshihara

Third year student
Major: Business
ELA Stream 4
Graduated from Seinan Gakuin High School (Fukuoka Prefecture)
Studied for six weeks at the University of Sussex (UK) on the Freshman SEA Program. Scheduled to study for one year as an exchange student at Linnaeus University (Sweden) beginning in August 2017.

Update´╝ÜJune, 2017
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ELA's diversity and thorough instruction

The class I remember best is Research Writing (RW). RW crowns our study in the ELA and we make multiple presentations and write essays of more than 2,000 words each in academic style. As I worked hard to polish these essays, I really felt happy to have chosen ICU. That is because I discovered something new each time my section mates* and I checked each other's essays in class and noticed that there is diversity unique to ICU in this very process. In the tutorial (one-on-one instruction) with my instructor, I received overwhelmingly thorough and detailed instruction. Each time the tutorial came to an end, I realized how little I knew, which was very frustrating. I think this kind of environment and instruction is a blessing we receive from ICU's small-class education.
*Section mates: Students belonging to small size classes called "sections" in the ELA.

Attitude toward critical thinking and dialogue

I learned many things in the ELA, but the acquisition of "literacy based on critical thinking" and "a positive attitude toward dialogue" were the most significant for me.

First, "literacy based on critical thinking" means an ability to read and write on the basis of the academic foundation "to consider everything critically." One example stands out conspicuously in the ELA, which is that the first text the students study in the program is a criticism of "liberal arts." I found it both shocking and deeply interesting that ICU students, shortly after they enroll, are instructed to read and examine a text that cast doubt on the very foundation on which the university was built. I feel that I have developed myself substantially after successfully going through this course.

Next, "the positive attitude toward dialogue" means the willingness to exchange opinions with a wide variety of people. In the ELA classes, those who make presentations ask questions to their section mates and encourage them to participate in dialogue, while the section mates become active listeners and ask many questions. This kind of interactive dialogue raised the understanding of the topic under consideration among all the members of the class and made it possible to take the discussions to higher levels. While I was still a first-year student, I realized the importance of having a positive attitude toward dialogue in deepening my understanding of various issues. This was a valuable experience that served me well in my later study at ICU.

ELA as a gateway

ICU is unique among Japan's academic institutions and you may feel nervous before you take the entrance examination or start the first academic year. After overcoming this anxiety, however, you will be able to learn whatever you choose to major in, whatever way you hope to learn, among people with different backgrounds. The ELA is a gateway leading to this world. Why not acquire "English language skills" and "ways of learning" and take the first step toward becoming a "trustworthy global citizen"?

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Honing Academic Study Skills

Marin Sato

Second year student
Keimei Gakuen Junior High School and Senior High School (Tokyo, Japan)
Studied at Tufts University (Massachusetts, USA) through Study English Abroad (SEA) Program in the 1st year.

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Skills to Think Critically and Objectively

The Reading and Content Analysis (RCA) was the most impressive course in the ELA (English for Liberal Arts Program). We read each text very carefully, analyzed it and tried to fully understand the thinking and intentions of the author. We learned the importance of being critical and grasping information objectively. By looking into the author's background, we could understand the text better. The course enabled me to process information in a deeper context and from a variety of perspectives.

Comprehension and Communication Skills

I made progress in mainly two areas.

The first is reading comprehension. By reading numerous articles in English, I began to read faster and understood more. This was a gradual process that took a whole year.

The second is improvement in communication skills. In the ELA courses, we have group discussions and presentations in almost every class, so we have abundant opportunities to interact with others in English. Before taking ELA courses, the only thing I could think about when I spoke in English was how best to communicate my ideas. But during the myriad opportunities I had to talk with my classmates in English, I realized the importance of listening to others. The diverse backgrounds of my classmates informed their range of values and their way of thinking. Consequently, it has become a habit for me to think if I agree or disagree while listening to what others are saying.

Learning to Enjoy Studying in English

The ELA enables us to cultivate the means to enjoy studying at ICU. It is not just about enhancing English proficiency. We learn to absorb information, think critically and independently to form our own opinion, and acquire skills for group work and presentations. These are skills that will take us a long way after we complete the program.

I suspect many students fear they will have a grueling first year at ICU working on the English courses. In a way, that's true, but you will benefit from the program regardless of whether you excelled in English as a high school student or not. This is because your perception of the language will change. You can stretch your horizons by reading texts and discussing various topics with your classmates in the ELA courses, a riveting way of learning in English. You will be surprised at how much you will have changed after you complete the program. Come join us at ICU for a major shift in your life!

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Growth beyond Improving English Language Competency

Ryo Sato

Second year student
Sendai Daiichi High School (Miyagi, Japan)

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Learning to Make Presentations

In the ELA, I was most impressed with the Academic Skills courses. These courses are designed to maximize strengths and address the weaknesses of the student by giving each a choice of courses including grammar, pronunciation and presentation. I took the presentation course. At first, the instructor made several presentations, after which we were put in groups to give our own. I had studied abroad in high school, but I needed to enhance my presentation skills to the university level. I remember being very nervous when my turn came. We learned that non-verbal communication such as the way we stood was just as important as the speech itself, while interaction with the audience also made a great difference. We learned to use rhetorical skills to draw listeners into the presentation. This was not easy, but I felt my presentation skills had improved when I could clearly engage the audience with the skills we learned.

Gaining a Broader Perspective through the ELA

I was able to expand my perspective through the ELA. Although commonly perceived as a curriculum to enhance English competency, the majority of ICU students agree that it does much more. The topics we read about and discussed in the program such as race, culture, educational values, and gender, enabled us to acquire a broader and a more multilateral perspective. There are students with various backgrounds at ICU, so our discussions usually brought out the different cultures they had encountered, which enabled us to cultivate respect for diversity.

Cultivating English Proficiency and a Global Perspective

I am convinced that "WHAT I say in English" is more important than just "learning to speak English". Through the program we cultivated a sensitivity and breadth of perspective befitting one serving the global community, and the ability to express ourselves in the common language of English. ELA offers the ideal curriculum for students aspiring to cultivate these abilities. If you are thinking of applying to ICU or have accidentally stumbled on this article, come and join us at ICU. By actually experiencing the ELA, I'm sure you will feel yourself grow at a magnitude even greater than I did.

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I Owe a Lot to the ELA

Risa Hiraoka

Second year student
International Christian University High School (Tokyo, Japan)

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The Ability to Communicate

The Academic Reading & Writing (ARW) course greatly impressed me. In one of the tutorials, I discussed with my instructor for an hour when I wrote an essay in gender studies in the autumn term. This one-on-one instruction helped me figure out how best to describe my ideas in the piece.

In the course, we learned the importance of looking up the background of the author and understanding the structure of the article. By repeating this process and with tailored support from the instructor, we enhanced our ability to express our ideas, especially in writing.

Reinventing Myself to Reach My Full Potential

We have ELA classes four days a week. That means we use English almost every day with frequent discussions in class. We share our ideas on specific topics in ethics, gender and culture, for example, so we become accustomed to expressing ourselves without hesitation and in different ways.

To try out my English, I visited England on my own during the spring break of my first year. I found I could talk easily with British students about gender and other topics. This was truly something I had acquired during the ELA courses.

Don't hesitate to ask questions!

I think you will feel overwhelmed by how different the English classes at ICU are from the kind you had in high school. In discussions, you should confidently give your opinions, and ask questions whenever you cannot understand something. I also recommend you to make the most of the one-on-one tutorial sessions.

Finally, this is what my ARW instructor repeated during the spring term of the first year. "Don't hesitate to ask questions!"

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You Will Treasure the ELA Experience for Life

Shiori Ono

Third year student
Major: International Relations
Shizuoka Prefectural Hamamatsu Kita High School (Shizuoka, Japan)
Studied at University of Essex (Colchester, UK) through Study English Abroad (SEA) Program in the 2nd year.
Study at University of California, Los Angeles (USA) through Exchange Program from September, 2016.

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Learning Study Skills in the ELA

ELA not only enhances your English proficiency, but also offers systematic instruction in learning to use English as an academic tool. In addition to the basic reading, writing, speaking and listening skills, we learn to express ourselves by writing essays and making presentations, common practice in the academic world. These reading and academic writing skills we learned in the Reading & Content Analysis (RCA) and Academic Reading & Writing (ARW) courses can be applied to any academic disciplines and in both English and Japanese. I used the skills I learned for my reports and presentations in the later courses, and professors recommend me to do so as well. I feel that I can now apply this academic approach outside of ELA.

ELA and Help from Section Mates Led Me to Study Abroad

From the autumn term this year, I will be studying at the University of California, Los Angeles for a year. I was able to take my English to the level of proficiency required to participate in the exchange program through the frequent discussions and large amount of reading and writing assignments in the ELA courses. I was physically immersed in English, which took away anxieties I had with the language.

I'm grateful to my ELA Section* mates for being able to participate in the exchange program. Without their help, I wouldn't have acquired the eligibility for candidacy let alone made the decision to go. I was placed in Stream 3, but many of my Section mates had experience studying or living abroad, and they helped me transform my values and attitude towards learning.

*Section: The ELA groups students in a class of approximately 20 called Sections.

Equipped with an Indispensable Global Language

There are so many universities in the world, so I'm sure you are having a hard time deciding which one to attend. You have every possible path in front of you, but I am confident you will not regret choosing ICU, because there is the ELA. In addition to acquiring English language proficiency, you will learn to study in English. The skill that you acquire can be referred to as the global language in the academic world. You will treasure this experience for life, and it will continue to stimulate you regardless of your academic disciplines. Take your time in making choices for university and find the one that suits you best. Hard work will bear fruit wherever you go, and I hope that will be ICU!

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