Through her studies at Sophia University, Naho Kimura, a 4th year student from the Faculty of Liberal Arts, has discovered the courage to speak up against the injustices that plague our society to this day. “Even as students, the decisions we make carry great importance and have the power to change the status quo.” Not waiting until graduation to make a difference, Naho has already begun to work towards helping those in need and plans to continue this path in her future career.
Discussing Difficult Topics Can Lead To Uncovering New Passions
My decision to join the Faculty of Liberal Arts stemmed from the experiences I had growing up. As someone who was born and raised in Japan, I had the opportunity to experience life as an exchange student in America for one year in high school. Being able to study abroad inspired me to learn more about the world firsthand, so I decided to enroll in the Faculty of Liberal Arts. Initially, I wasn’t sure what I wanted my area of focus to be, but after taking introductory classes that covered European politics, conflict resolution, and human security, I decided to major in Anthropology and Sociology, with a minor in Political Science.
In these introductory classes, we discussed two main topics that piqued my interest: global gender equality issues and the plight of refugees in Japan. Normally in Japan, these topics tend to be overlooked, further marginalizing the minority groups by taking their voices away. We discussed the importance of consent, and how traditional, outdated gender norms are deeply embedded in our society, how they affect our way of thinking and behaviors, and how they contribute to the lack of equality and equity we still see today. These issues are compounded even more so when they apply to marginalized peoples who are seeking a better life in a new country as refugees.
Fighting For Equality And Change While Still In University
As part of our lessons that focused on refugees, we conducted research on asylum seekers and refugees living in Japan. We had the opportunity to interview asylum seekers that were being held in detention centers, where we were able to listen to their stories about how they had been persecuted in their home countries, why they decided to seek asylum in Japan, and how they continue to struggle to receive recognition as a refugee.
In order to deliver their voices to a wider popular audience, my classmates and I created a bilingual website in English and Japanese based on the interview data. Outside of my main classes, Sophia provided many opportunities for internships and volunteer work, and I was able to use my skills in English to work with international organizations, specifically at the African Development Bank and the Embassy of Burkina Faso. These were great experiences that related directly to the future career path that I want to follow and inspired me to critically assess the existing political and social framework to bring about better changes in the real world.
At Sophia, our professors stressed the importance of how what we learn in university is directly related to current events, and to not limit our thinking to the confines of the classroom. We were taught that even as students, the decisions we make carry great importance and have the power to change the status quo. What I learned about the intertwinement of theory and practice has given me the confidence to use my critical thinking skills to challenge the norms and assumptions perpetuating the unjust society.
A Supportive Environment That Inspires Greatness
The faculty at Sophia also went above and beyond in supporting us outside of our classes, providing us with advice regardless of the different paths each student decided on taking. While many of my classmates were seeking advice on how to secure a job after graduation, I was able to get advice on how to narrow down my choices of graduate programs to apply to, what test scores were needed for acceptance, tips on writing persuasive application essays, introductions to international support teams, and even long term career path designing. I am truly grateful to have been mentored by so many amazing professors who will always be there for me, and to provide me with new perspectives and life lessons.
In addition to the support provided by my professors over the past 4 years, I was also able to make many friends who have helped shape me into the person I am today. Working alongside my classmates and friends, both in and out of a classroom setting has provided me with as many life lessons as my lectures and readings have taught me.
Having a safe space where students can express their opinions freely while still respecting different viewpoints has allowed me to put myself in the shoes of others, and has given me the opportunity to confront any unconscious biases that I have had in the past, making me a more empathetic and open-minded person. I am also thankful for the mandatory core classes that improved my academic writing and public speaking skills, as well as the tutoring system where graduate students advised me on how to improve my essays.
Thanks to all the support and guidance I received at Sophia, I was able to decide to continue my career as a student and to enter my top choice graduate school in the USA. If not for my professors, classmates, and the hands-on academic and practical programs at Sophia, I’m not sure if I would have been accepted into my dream graduate school that I have always wanted to attend.
In the future, I hope that I can take the education I gained at Sophia and my graduate school in the United States and work for the United Nations with female refugees who have been the victims of gender-based violence.
※Please note that the content of this article is current as of January 2022