Improving yourself in a place where people grow together
How can someone work to resolve international issues?
Even when I was in elementary school I had a vague interest in issues like poverty and feeding the hungry. When I took part in a camp for volunteer work in the Philippines we helped open a kindergarten and also came face to face with the reality of how some people are starving while others in developed countries have more than they can eat. After I returned to Japan I wanted to know what I could do to change this situation. I talked to the teacher who was head of my year in high school about my interest in international studies and she recommended ICU. I talked to people about ICU and they all said it was a university where I'd really have to work hard in my studies, but I thought it was important to be in an environment that would force me to grow so I was determined to study here.
Making the most of opportunities
The English Language Program (now the English for Liberal Arts Program) when I was a first-year student was harder than I imagined. There was a lot of homework and sometimes I wasn't sure if I could keep up with the class. But the other people in my section were extremely conscientious and we all worked together to succeed in class. In the summer of my first year I studied at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand through ICU's SEA Program. There were other ICU students there but I decided to speak in English even when I talked with Japanese in order to make the most of my experience in abroad.
In my third year I joined an exchange program with the Universite de Toulouse le Mirail in France, where I studied for one year. I started studying French when I was a third-year student in high school because it is one of the official languages of the U.N. and because it is spoken in a lot of the countries in Africa where poverty and hunger are especially prevalent. I chose a study abroad school in the French-speaking world because I didn't want my studies of French to go to waste and because I wanted to work hard at studying a second foreign language during my college years when I can manage the schedule on my own.
In Toulouse I studied geopolitics and development studies as well as French and Japanese history. All my classes were taught in French so reading assignments took me several times longer than for other students and it also took a lot of time to prepare class presentations in order to make sure that I got my point across. But very soon my friends in class gave me their help and I was able to complete my coursework.
By studying overseas I perceived that there were still so much to know about the world. I also started thinking about work and my life after graduation and realized people can have tremendously different perspective depending on what culture they came from. Also, meeting French people who were interested in Japanese culture helped me discover a new beauty in Japan.
Development studies: connecting policy with the local culture and people
I'm majoring in development studies now but when I first entered ICU I was interested in studying poverty so I thought about majoring in international studies, which looks at poverty in terms of policy and macro level issues, or anthropology or sociology, which look at the local cultures and peoples at a micro level. I took a course called "Globalization and Society" in my first year and realized I wouldn't be able to choose just one approach. I took all different courses while feeling a bit lost about what I ought to be studying and then noticed a major in development studies would connect policy with both culture and people within the context of studying poverty issues.
At ICU I've made a lot of friends who are doing their own things and are forging a unique path for themselves. It's an environment where people grow together. I lived in the dorms and found it extremely stimulating to be surrounded by such great friends who always helped me stay motivated. I think I was able to learn a lot about critical thinking in my classes and then in my dorms I learned to live side by side and compromise with people with different values.
I hope students who want to challenge themselves to grow and who want to make the most of their university experiences will come to ICU and discover what individual path lies in their future.