Invest in Your Future with Clear Goals and Initiatives
Growing in Unfamiliar Cultures
I was interested in studying abroad from the time I entered ICU, but had only considered English-speaking countries. At the end of my first year, I looked at the world map with exchange destinations. While there were plenty of locations in Europe and the U.S., the university in Chile caught my attention, so I started reading up on South America. There was so much history and culture I did not know.
In the summer of my second year, the Service Learning Program* took me to South India. The volunteer work there included research in local history and visits to elementary schools. In performing tasks with the locals, I witnessed things that were unthinkable from the Japanese point of view: no toilet paper, only using the right hand to eat, and no garbage cans. Shocking at first, but they all had rational explanations. The multi-religious community of Christians, Hindus and Muslims where I stayed was a great place to learn how people can coexist with respect for religious diversity. This experience cemented my belief that immersion in a totally different culture would have a greater impact on my personal growth than that in a familiar one. So I chose the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile for my third year abroad.
The ELA program greatly enhanced my English language skills and prepared me for study abroad, especially the discussion with classmates and training in academic writing. By the time I completed the program, my scores on the IETLS (6.0) and TOEFL (79) were sufficient to apply for exchange program. After I passed the screening, I started studying Spanish.
*Service learning: This program consists of international service learning for internships abroad, and community service learning for domestic volunteer work. About 40-50 students participate in the international service learning program every year. Students learn to connect theory with actual experience in volunteer work and also acquire a new perspective in their future goals or studies.
Exchange Program Broadens Horizons for Future Goals
Acquiring a broad perspective was one of the benefits of the exchange program. Western nations play a central role in the international community, so we frequently make decisions based on their norms. But not all people think alike. In Chile I realized that taboos, the concept of time, and ideas about race differ in each culture. The second was clarifying the road map for my future goal. Before living in Chile, I was not sure what I wanted to do after college. The diversity of Chilean culture fascinated me and led me to think of studying more about South America. In Chile and Columbia, security in the slums was enhanced through art; Brazil has been successful with sustainable urban planning; the relative peace in the region has kept conflict at bay among South American nations. We have a lot to learn from them. My chief interest lies in modern Brazil, where the interracial marriage rate is the highest in the world. In graduate school I plan to study racial conflict resolution in countries accepting a large number of immigrants.
Individual Initiatives Enhance Prospects
I wouldn't be where I am today without the study abroad experience. At ICU, we have friends with diverse backgrounds who can introduce you to new values. The venerated library (frequently ranked first or second*) is there to help you, service learning and other programs offer myriad opportunities. While there may be times you feel overwhelmed by the choices in front of you, walking out of your comfort zone can help you turn adversity into opportunity. I'm certain that the four years at ICU, regardless of whether you regard it as long or short, will be a great investment for a bright future.
*From the Asahi Shimbun Publications Inc. Mook "University Rankings"