Study abroad, extracurricular activities, clubs, volunteer work, internships – fulfilling their dreams to grow themselves as individuals. In these seven conversations, students who have challenged themselves speak about how they’ve changed and grown from enrollment to the present.
I actively interacted with students from various countries when I participated in my study abroad program (Takahashi).
Takahashi: Anna, you came to Sophia from Russia, right?
Anna: That’s right. I came to Japan two years ago as a research student after studying Japanese language, its culture, and economics at a university in Vladivostok. I really like Japanese Anime and that was my initial interest for Japan.
Takahashi: I studied abroad at Boston College in the U.S. during my junior year, and even there I had many people come up to me and say that they like Japanese Anime.
Anna: why did you decide to study in the U.S.?
Takahashi: I grew up in Shanghai until I graduated from junior high school because of my father’s work. I feel that after living there for many years, I learned not only their language, but also gained another way of thinking, different taste, and style. That is why I would like to have the same sort of opportunity living in the center of the world economy.
Anna: You were an exchange student, weren’t you?
Takahashi: Yes, I was. In fact, it was very helpful in terms of the tuition that I had to cover.
Anna: Was there anything that struck you while you were studying in Japan?
Takahashi: I felt that Japan was surprisingly unrecognized. The absolute number of international students is small compared to those in China and Europe, and I thought that the awareness of Japan was low besides in terms of anime or Japanese cars.
Anna: It is true that anime is very popular in Russia as well, but perhaps not so much is known about history of Japan.
Takahashi: When I was studying abroad, I once hosted a social gathering for students from various countries. I asked my friends around me and invited students from Australia, Vietnam, France, and Spain. I am not the type of person who organizes parties (laugh), but I wanted people to know about Japanese culture and who we are as Japanese.
Anna: On the other hand, when I was in Russia, my friends and I started a club called Chat Club to interact with international students. We held events and provided interpretation and translation for students who did not yet fully understand Russian. We made friends from many different countries.
Takahashi: We were doing something similar in two different countries, weren’t we?
Coming to Japan and speaking Japanese, I discovered whole new side of myself! (Anna)
Anna: Having grown up in China and studied in the U.S., have you noticed any differences between the two countries?
Takahashi: People in China treat you with friendliness when you live there. Many of them are frank, like older brothers and sisters. American students are very outspoken. They also express themselves in class often. So, Anna, what did you think of “reading the air”? It is something unique to Japanese, isn’t it?
Anna: Indeed, I heard that phrase for the first time in Japan. But I think it’s great because you don’t have to say things so clearly to be understood. For example, if a man asks you out for dinner alone with him and you say, “I’ll think about it,” he will understand.
Takahashi: Oh, I just got turned down (laughs).
Anna: Yes, a gentle pardon(laughs). So maybe I am very much suited to Japan. Language is a mysterious factor, isn’t it? The ways of self-expression in English, Japanese, and Russian are quite different.
Takahashi: Yes, yes. I have thought about it too. I can communicate no problem in Japanese or Chinese in everyday conversation, but strangely enough, I can express myself most frankly in English, which is the language I have the least experience in speaking. I feel that the language one speaks changes one’s identity.
Anna: I also think that coming to Japan and speaking Japanese has helped me discover a whole new side of myself!
Takahashi: So, when you go to study abroad, you experience a lot and gain so much, but the most significant change and growth may actually be within your heart and mind.
Anna: Yes, indeed, I agree. Also, I think it broadens your horizons. I can share my concerns with my friends overseas, and they can share their concerns with me.
Takahashi: Actually, the exchange I mentioned earlier is still going on online.
Anna: That’s great!
Takahashi: Just yesterday, I received a group chat from a friend in Korea saying that she got certified as a labor consultant. We celebrated with the members who could gather right away. I think it is important to have the courage to take the first step, whether it is to study abroad or to hold a social gathering. If you have the courage to make a step forward, you will see the world differently.
Anna: It is important to build a relationship of trust, isn’t it?
Maybe it was living abroad that made me realize the charm of my own country. (Takahashi)
Takahashi: I was able to turn my attention to manufacturers in my job hunting because I realized that what makes Japan strong from the perspective of foreign countries, like Shanghai, is its technology and the quality of the products themselves. I also wanted to convey that advantage further to other countries in order to make people more aware.
Anna: I have been offered a job at Sophia University. I have always been interested in education and international relations. The Yotsuya campus is a microcosm of global society, so I wanted to work there as an employee. And in the future, I want to promote diversity and inclusion.
Takahashi: Sounds like you could be a great staff member for not only international students, but Japanese students as well!
Anna: Thank you very much. Let’s work hard both of us!