I gained a multifaceted perspective essential for a researcher, for one month spent at the University of California.

■Name: Rin Ito
■Faculty/Department: 3rd year, Department of Materials and Life Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology
■Period of study abroad: Aug to Sep 2023
■Destination: University of California, Davis, U.S.A.
■Form of study abroad: Short-term overseas training

Every year, many Sophia University students study abroad in countries all over the world outside of Japan. How did they manage to find their way through the differences in languages, cultures, and lifestyles? Here are some voices of students who studied abroad.

What prompted you to participate in the short-term overseas training program?

Since it was my last long break before being assigned to a research laboratory, I wanted to participate in a program that had been recommended to me by a professor at the Faculty of Science and Technology for some time. This program is a course offered direct by an overseas university, and I felt that it would be beneficial for me in terms of making decisions about my future, as I was considering going on to an overseas graduate school.

How did you choose your study abroad destination?

From Davis to Sacramento, the state capital, was only 30 minutes by bus.

One of the UC schools, the University of California, Davis, is world-class institutions, and I thought that the opportunity to interact with students from other universities in Japan and overseas in the science and engineering majors would be valuable. In fact, there were many students who wanted to excel globally utilizing their English skills and who, like me, hoped to go on to graduate school overseas at some point in the future.

Is there anything you felt uneasy about before studying abroad, or anything you wish you had prepared for?

My homestay family had to change at the last minute, and I was unable to communicate with them via email. (their emails were in my spam mailbox…) I also wish I had prepared better for the language exam so I could better understand my English level prior to my study abroad.

What was the atmosphere like at the university and among students?

This is how the students commute to school on bicycles.

UC Davis is located about 1.5 hours by bus from the San Francisco airport. It is a suburban city easily accessible from major cities, and half of its population is Davis students, so it is a safe and comfortable place for students to live. The campus is huge, so a bicycle is indispensable to get around the campus. In fact, during my stay, many students around me, including myself, rented bicycle. There are many international students, and the local students were very welcoming. Unfortunately, not many student organizations were active over the summer break, and there were not many students on campus, so I was unable to see the ordinary campus life.

How did you expand the circle of your friends?

I visited the farmers market with a UCD student.

With a class of about 15 students grouped by placement test, we often had group discussions that enabled us to get to know each other. After class, there were optional activities and campus tours led by local students. Also, while working in the cafeteria, CoHo (Coffee House), a local student studying Japanese spotted me and we became good friends. We ended up hanging out together in downtown Davis after class as he introduced me to some of his friends.

How were the classes?

Rather than the teacher using prepared materials to guide the lecture, the teacher often asked students for their views. Assuming that we all had different ideas from each other, the teacher would name each of us and encourage us to speak up. At the same time, there was no set time for notetaking, so I always had to keep my mind fully engaged in the class: listen, take notes, think, and speak up.

What other activities have you focused besides academics?

I joined the Yosemite National Park bus tour.

Since I was there for a month, I made sure to get out of the house and go to the gym at the university every day, eat out, take the bus to other cities, asked my host family to take me out, etc. so that I would speak English with as many people as possible.

What impressed you the most being there?

More people were interested in Japan/Japanese people than I had expected. There were many Japanese-made products everywhere in the city, Japanese restaurants, stores with Japanese games and anime, etc. It made me happy when I found them, but at the same time I was shocked how little I really understood about Japan and/or Japanese culture myself.

Did you have any problems while studying abroad?

On nights when my host family was away on a trip, the house security system was activated, and I had a hard time shutting it off. Also, there were many bicycle thefts on campus.

What are some of the unique aspects of your study abroad destination?

There were cows on campus.

UCD was originally an agricultural school, hence the nickname “Aggie,” which is taken from the word, agriculture. Because of its history, the spacious campus is home to a variety of living creatures and a cafeteria that serves only vegetables and meat grown on campus. I found this environment fascinating as it was very different from Sophia University, located in the heart of the city.

Do you feel that you have grown in any ways?

I used to be shy and would solve problems by myself without asking for help from others, but in a totally new environment, I often had to ask for help from those around me and I became more proactive in asking for help and relying on others, such as my host family or friends I made there.

How do you think your study abroad experience will affect your life in the future?

I feel that I have gained “diverse perspectives,” in a way, essential for becoming a successful researcher. It was very exciting to talk with local students whom I got to know well, as they had completely different views from my own. I believe such views are promoted by finely diversified departments not only at USD but also at US top universities as well as fields of study that have yet to be established in Japan. I would like to continue to expand my perspective and be proactive in challenging myself in whatever I do.

A word of advice to those who are wondering whether to go on study abroad.

If you just wonder about studying abroad someday, time tends to just pass you by. I thought about the timing of my study abroad many times as there were many restrictions, I felt that I’d rather go for a long-term if I decide to do study abroad, etc., so I basically gave up on the idea. Summer vacation is the only time that students are free to do whatever, and since you are the only one who can make action, it may be best to take one step forward that will lead to the better future.

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