Making the Most of College Life
Choosing ICU for its Educational Philosophy and Close Interaction with Faculty
I had three reasons for entering ICU. The first was the flexibility the university offered in choosing a major: I had not decided on one before applying. Second, I had an impressive conversation with Professor Hiroyuki Kose (currently Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts specializing in biology and environmental studies) at the open campus event. He generously spent a lot of time talking with me. I had the strong urge to become part of the ICU community where I could interact closely with faculty. Third, I empathized with the university's liberal arts educational philosophy I read in its Guidebook for Applicants. I wanted to cultivate a world perspective of my own in college, so the environment seemed ideal with the opportunity to interact closely with faculty on a regular basis and absorb their thinking.
Life at ICU was just as I had expected it to be, devoted faculty teaching every course. The English for Liberal Arts (ELA) courses we take as soon as we start out as first year were most inspiring with the faculty's enthusiasm and expertise in instruction. Time passed very quickly while taking the splendid courses here.
The Significance of Studying Natural Science in a Liberal Arts Environment
In my first year, I took a variety of courses across the humanities, social and natural sciences. I even flirted with the idea of choosing public policy for my major. But when the deadline to decide on one approached, I realized I was most attracted to the process of proving hypotheses in the natural sciences. My fascination with the scientific study of living things led me to choose biology. I chose mathematics for my minor, because I knew I would need a basic understanding of the subject whatever I studied. I wasn't a natural mathematician so I needed to work on it.
Some may feel that studying the natural sciences in a liberal arts program may not provide a strong enough background for specialization in the sciences. But my view is that undergraduate education is an introductory step prior to specialization in graduate school. The liberal arts environment at ICU enables students to acquire the basics in a specialized field, enabling them to develop a relative understanding across different subjects. Looking back, the four years at ICU was an ideal environment for me to cultivate flexible thinking.
We take courses with students majoring in different fields, so we frequently find ourselves discussing topics from diverse perspectives. The small classes offer an environment where open communication is the norm both in and out of the classroom. This is an ideal environment for us to weave our own fabric in liberal arts.
Experience as Dorm President: "Speak Your Truth Quietly But Clearly"
Throughout my four years at ICU, I lived in Canada House, a student dormitory on campus. I thought it would be a rare opportunity to live with others. You can always opt to live on your own, but life in the dorm with foreign students was a very unique experience.
We got to know each other and ourselves by living together. It was an opportunity to grow. I had to solve problems that I might not have tackled had I not been the dorm President. I wasn't always successful. But through the experience, I learned that dialogue was very important. I had to make decisions even though I knew there would be people dissatisfied with the result. I may not have been the best President, but I learned a lot. The experience can be summed up in a verse from Max Ehrmann's poem Desiderata: Speak your truth quietly but clearly. He encourages us to respect others and not be fearful of expressing an opinion. As President, I realized how important it was to communicate my views clearly and appropriately.
Moving Beyond the Pale and Persevering
ICU is filled with opportunities. You should not hesitate when you see one coming your way: try anything that comes. Basically, this was my attitude. I belonged to an English debate club called ICU Debating Society, worked as a Student Supporter (responsible for academically supporting students with special needs), and participated in an internship program at a national park in Alaska. Furthermore, as part of ICU's efforts within the framework of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology's Go Global Japan Project, I visited The College of Wooster (a liberal arts college in the United States known for its natural science programs) together with ICU faculty with the goal of concluding a student exchange agreement specializing in the natural sciences.
It's time consuming and exhausting to do something new, but you get a lot out of it. Students are privileged in having the time and resources to experiment. I also believe it's important to engage with something for a certain amount of time. If you quit too soon, there are things you might miss. At ICU you can find new opportunities and find activities to engage in for a stretch of time.
Why study at ICU? What do we acquire from a university education? What is liberal arts? Students who are serious about finding answers to these questions will enjoy life at ICU and acquire the most out of the experience. There's a lot more to ICU than just acquiring English language skills. I hope you savor the educational philosophy and the liberal arts education at ICU.