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Satisfying student life overseas
Before I left Japan, I had been worried about many things. I wondered if I would be able to get along with my dorm roommates, if I would get homesick, if the food would agree with me and if I would be able to keep up with my classes. As it turned out, however, I had no trouble getting used to life in the United States and was able to lead a really satisfying student life.
I chose the University of California, Los Angeles, for my studying abroad. Like ICU, it has a three-term system. I took courses mostly in international relations, my major at ICU, in addition to those in French and other subjects. I enrolled in four courses each term, attending two or three classes a day.
I spent a considerable amount of time reading assigned books and making other preparations for my classes because some of them required participation in discussions one a week and I had to speak up in others so professors would remember me. Otherwise, I would get no credits. Even then, I was unable initially to keep up with American students in the speed of discussions and to express what I wanted to say in appropriate English. I felt low at those times. Gradually, however, I became used to my classes, getting 30 credits in the end and transferring them to ICU.
Three results of studying abroad
I think I gained things in three areas from my studying abroad -- in academic study, outside academic study and regarding my career path.
In academic study, we were trained to adapt what we learned to reality. I think universities in the States place heavy emphasis on the development of the ability to apply theories learned through case studies to the real world. One of the things I remember well was the time when I submitted a short essay on the crisis in Ukraine. The professor said, "You did a good job in the theory part, but you don't have enough references to actual cases to support your theory." And he marked down the paper considerably. It was a year in which I learned the importance of theories that form the foundations of our thoughts and thereby developed the ability required by society to determine how to interpret society and resolve its problems.
Outside my study, I think I came to recognize what is required to cooperate with people around the world in the midst of globalization what will further spread in the future. Because I majored in international relations before my study in the US, I studied to deepen my understanding of the theory and practice of conflict resolution and of negotiations and compromises as well as international security order, and believed, probably more strongly than needed, that "It is a sovereign state that moves the international society." In California, however, I came face to face with the reality in which appearances, nationalities and identities crisscrossed each other and made it difficult to distinguish societies and peoples only in terms of the countries to which they belong.
For example, my dormitory roommates are Americans of Chinese and Korean ancestry. The Chinese girl looked like Chinese and the South Korean girl looked like Korean. But they had never lived in China or South Korea. When I met them for the first time, I thought, "Since they are Asian Americans, we will live in Asian culture in our dorm room." I had never been as wrong as I was at the time. It really surprised me that we led the American lifestyle. I think we will have more opportunities like this in society which will be more globalized in the future. I felt strongly that it has become anachronistic today to judge people by their country of birth, nationality or culture and that we have to deal with situations before us without any preconceptions.
I was originally planning to go to graduate school, but I decided to try to find a job first. My dream was to work for an international organization and I was thinking of doing graduate study since a master's degree was a must to work for such an organization. While studying and talking with a variety of people, however, I found I was not sure what kind of specialist I really wanted to be. American graduate students said when I asked them that they took advantage of the gap year, worked as interns and spent a good amount of time deciding what area of expertise they wanted to pursue. That helped me to make up my mind to work first instead of going straight to graduate school. I thought I would discover my field of specialty while working as a businessperson I had never been. I will be working as a consultant at an IT company. I chose this job because I will then be able to find about various industries through my consulting work.
Unexpected encounters and experiences await us studying abroad
Some people don't want to study abroad because they say they don't understand its worth. But I think you will meet unexpected people and go through unexpected experiences while studying abroad. It is only after we complete our study, I think, that we realize it has been truly worthwhile. If there are people who are not sure if they want to take the plunge, I would say, "Go ahead." They may struggle. They may have trouble. But if they remain optimistic and unafraid whatever may come up, they should then be able to experience encounters with unexpected people and gain unexpected experiences that will stay with them long into the future.
ICU has great study abroad programs. It offers an environment in which we can meet many friends who are also hoping to study in other countries and in which you can get motivated and remain motivated. The university has a thorough educational system including the English for Liberal Arts Program (ELA) and it is the best university for those hoping to study abroad.
So, find whatever you want to do at ICU, like studying overseas or whatever, and spend a fulfilling student life.