Expand My Own World and Possibilities
I want to have new values, and a broad perspective
There are three reasons why I decided to participate in international exchange program. It is said that environment changes people. I wanted to put myself in a new environment, be stimulated, learn and experience from it. This is first reason. I came to Tokyo from Sendai to join ICU and I learned a lot by coming in contact with various ways of thinking and values through community life at dorm and my experiences at organizations outside the university. I very much wanted to have similar experience also in the exchange program.
The second reason is to deepen my study of psychology, which is my major. The University of Sydney, where I studied, is a comprehensive university unlike ICU. It offers psychology-related subjects that are not available at ICU and also has a high-level business school, where you can learn consumer behavior.
The third reason is that I wanted to grow my ability to think and act on my own, to communicate and to overcome difficult situations through the exchange program. My life going ahead is sure to have some challenges and I thought such abilities would definitely come in handy.
You do not have to be perfect from the beginning
Just after joining the university there, I felt difficulties in communicating in English. There was no problem when I was talking to someone one-to-one, but I had a hard time communicating my opinion when talking in a group with lots of people and during discussions in a class. Before long, I began trying to speak something or convey my efforts at speaking by not worrying whether my grammar was perfect or not. Also, when we were assigned to write a group report, I looked up various literature and came up with ideas for report composition while native members did the writing for me, and I was every day on the lookout for roles I can play in such a situation.
Looking back at my days during the exchange program, the factor that enhanced my English skills and enabled me to have a fulfilling life abroad was being honest and asking something I did not know, talking to someone instead of waiting to be talked to and actively conveying my wish to be part of the new community.
Accept diverse values and expand own values
While studying abroad, I took about four subjects each term primarily in the psychology field, which is my major, including applied psychology, consumer behavior and psycholinguistics. Most of classes were two-hour lectures plus one-hour tutorials. What was impressive was we often discussed what kind of psychological approaches are available towards minorities in terms of gender and race as a topic of applied psychology and sociopsychology. It is something unique to Australia, whose feature is diversity. While learning the reality of discriminations and prejudice towards minorities in Australia, I found it very interesting that the way of applying learning programs as well as theories which we study also in Japan can be totally different depending on the country.
Moreover, a country like Australia, which has great tolerance for diversity, still face social issues, and I learned a great deal from studying them from the psychological perspective. Through such experiences I came to strongly feel that I want to respect various values, incorporating them into myself and enhance my values.
My best memories are that I made friends from around the world
The biggest harvest from my studying abroad period was that I gained friends from around the world. It was a year during which I strongly felt that meeting new people is going to be a valuable asset in my future life too. I met students from various countries including from America, Europe and Asia and when friendships formed, it not only enriched my student life but also presented me with numerous opportunities to make new discoveries. I joined the university chorus club for the one year and participated in local cultural activities. I was involved in organization and planning of the student film festival in Japan, so I volunteered for the Sydney Film Festival, and introduced Japanese movies to the local people. On holidays, as I like coffee, I visited cafés with my friends, or visited beautiful beaches, and I still keep in touch with those friends and my world has expanded.
Some people might have the impression that studying abroad, where you have to spend long period in a new environment, is a high hurdle to clear for those who have not experienced living abroad. But, I think it's really fantastic to gain new values and a valuable experience where your perspective of yourself and Japan will change. It may be tough preparing for the trip or immediately after going abroad, but I hope you would look at exchange program in a positive way. Your future prospects will definitely broaden and will give you confidence.