Redefining the word “globalization” has allowed me to expand my own personal world

Izumi Oikawa
3rd year student
Faculty of Global Studies

Izumi Oikawa, a third-year student in the Faculty of Global Studies, says, “I realized that, although I tend to think on a global scale, the place where I can make a difference is right in my own backyard.” The inspiration provided by her peers and volunteer work has allowed for unexpected opportunities and a shift in perspective as she carves out a career path that focuses on providing global solutions on a local scale.

Meeting inspiring friends who challenge me to grow and continue learning

Ever since I learned in elementary school that there are children in the world who cannot go to school or do not have enough to eat, I knew that I wanted to work towards solving these problems in developing or emerging countries in the future. So while I knew that I wanted to study international affairs even before I enrolled in the program, I don’t think I knew exactly what I wanted as my area of focus. But now, I am so satisfied with my studies at the Faculty of Global Studies that I cannot imagine studying at any other university or department.

The biggest reason for this is my fellow students. I believe a university should be a place to learn alongside friends, so the people you meet are just as important as what you study. Therefore, finding inspiring friends with whom I can work alongside is the best thing that has happened to me since entering university. We learn from each other’s strengths and experiences, building relationships that foster honest discussions on serious topics.

Changing my mindset from global to local opened up many new possibilities

My department is full of students striving towards their own unique goals. When I see my peers doing internships at companies while studying hard, starting nonprofit and non-governmental organizations, or studying abroad in unconventional countries, I feel like I can do anything I set my mind to. I was inspired to go backpacking and see many different and developing countries. I realized that there was a big difference between listening to other people’s stories about travel and experiencing visiting a foreign country myself. I was set to visit Indonesia through the Japanese Language Partners program, but when the COVID-19 pandemic began, my plans were canceled, and I had no idea what to do. There were times when I felt depressed because my friends were able to find new opportunities and challenge themselves, but I wasn’t doing anything new and exciting. Nevertheless, I continued to search for a cause that I was passionate about, and as a result, I found a shelter in Japan to volunteer at that supports refugees awaiting refugee status.

Looking back, I now realize that I used to only look for humanitarian causes outside Japan. I always had my eyes on the world, and I thought that only by being active on the global stage and working in English, the “world’s common language,” could I be considered “global.” To put it more bluntly, I had an extreme way of thinking: unless a cause had the word “global” attached to it, I didn’t see it as a global cause. Since I was so focused on solving the problems of the wider world, I wasn’t sure how to incorporate my learnings into solving problems closer to home.

However, through my work in refugee assistance, I realized that there are worthwhile causes I can support in Japan, and that I can think about anything with a global mindset. I think it is important to consider the larger context of the world, based on the information I have acquired and learned from various sources, without being bound by the framework of Japan or other countries. However, I have come to think that the area in which I can apply my knowledge and experience can be right in my own backyard. I finally understood the true meaning of the phrase, “think globally, act locally,” which is taught at the Faculty of Global Studies. It was an important mental change for me to make, and as a result, I now have a clearer idea of how I can make a difference in the world.

Discovering what I really wanted to do came from confronting my feelings of discomfort

Learning at the Faculty of Global Studies is more about discovering how to find one’s own answers rather than being told how to think. Through this process, I also learned that what I consider normal is not always the same for others, which allows me to be more accepting of the differences between people, and to think and act flexibly.

I am currently exploring what the best career path for me is. Right after beginning my studies at Sophia, I thought the best career path would be to go out into the world and work for a famous international organization or something similar. However, I now realize there are other ways to make a difference. Working for a large global organization that works with other countries to implement policies over a long period of time is exciting and plays an important role, but as I met people working in various fields, I learned that the most important thing is to work hard every day towards improving the lives of those around you. Even a slight difference helps.

I believe that if I can learn about both the roles of large international organizations and the roles of people working in the field, I will be able to provide valuable international support. The career path that I follow won’t be a straight line; there will be times when I need to deviate, meandering back and forth between large organizations and smaller operations to gain the knowledge and experience that will allow me to provide the best support possible no matter where I am. Even just thinking about where to start fills me with excitement.

Having this excitement is important for me. In the field of international cooperation, which tends to carry a “let us handle it” mindset, if you’re not enjoying the work you do, it’ll be impossible to have a truly cooperative relationship with those I am aiming to help. In both the overseas volunteer work and refugee assistance programs I participated in while at university, I genuinely enjoyed meeting people with different values, which was a driving force that went beyond my desire to help others. I hope to continue my growth and develop flexibility by selecting fields that I am drawn to based on what is needed at that time.

※Please note that the content of this article is current as of September 2021

Sophia University

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