Student Experience: Connections Beyond Borders: from Yokohama to Frankfurt, back to Yokohama, then on to Kyoto
Connections Beyond Borders articles aim to introduce English-based undergraduate degree courses at Ritsumeikan University from the personal, everyday-lived perspective of the students themselves.
This Edition Features:
Kuroki Go from Japan - a 1st year undergrad on the Joint Degree Program (JDP) based at Kinugasa Campus in Kyoto (2 years) and American University’s Washington D.C. campus (2 years)
To answer this question simply to begin with, it is because Ritsumeikan University offered what I wanted.
Then, if I start from the beginning and tell the full story, I have to start with why I chose a university in Japan. There were two reasons for this. First of all, I like social studies, history, politics, diplomacy and topics related to these, so I was sure that I wanted to study something in this area and I knew that this was possible in Japan. Secondly, I thought about my future career and began to think that studying in Japan as a Japanese student would create an important base for me here.
If I move on then to say why I chose Ritsumeikan University itself. Again there are two reasons for this. Firstly, I didn’t want to lose my English language skills, having studied in English for many years at school, so I knew I wanted to go to a university where they offered classes in English. Other universities offer English-based courses, but most are general liberal arts courses, especially in the eastern Japan Kanto area where I am from, and, though for some people this is attractive, I wanted to specialize more.
I wanted to learn from professors who were specialists in the field of international relations, diplomacy, politics etc. That led me to Ritsumeikan University’s College of International Relations.
I went to the explanatory session for the new Joint Degree Program held in Shinjuku, where I met with professors, faculty and members of staff. As I learnt more about the program, I realized it offered more than what I wanted: a Japanese university, International Relations, English-based – plus, I can also study abroad at American University. Hence my decision.
There year is split into two semesters: spring and autumn. Of course, I am still only in my first year, so I can only really speak about my experience so far. In my first semester, there were some compulsory courses such as ‘Academic Skills I’, ‘Academic Skills II’, and ‘Introductory Seminar I’, which continue into the second semester as ‘Academic Skills III’ and ‘Introductory Seminar II’.
Last semester, these classes taught us how to write an academic paper, how to use references and citations effectively etc. But, this semester’s courses have advanced on to how to apply these skills in the context of your own research.
As JDP students, it is also recommended for us to think in advance about the academic route we might like to take at AU, and to take related courses here in Japan to prepare us. One of those courses for me is ‘Introduction to Anthropology’, which I am taking at the moment.
Other than that, students are free to choose from a list of courses available in the department. As a first year student, most courses available are introductory, such as ‘Introduction to Micro-Economics’, ‘Theories of International Relations’, or ‘Introduction to the United Nations’. There are also courses on 'Kyoto and the Japanese Arts', linguistics, politics, gender studies and many more – more than I can remember at the moment.
I think I make progress in all of my classes. For example, in 'Politics for Global Studies' last semester I learnt about various political theories and how those theories emerged from a historical background; in 'Academic Skills' last semester and this, I have made progress in writing academic papers; and in 'Theories of International Relations', I am now learning about various theories – liberalism, realism, feminism, post-structuralism and so on - that will inform my future studies in the field of international relations.
Classes have also made me aware of subjects I was unfamiliar with before. Take anthropology, for example - it is not something that is really taught as a subject at high school. All these courses have given me new perspectives.
Before coming to university, when I watched the news, I only had a personal opinion on matters, but now I can apply what I have learned in classes to issues in the news and understand important topics from different perspectives. I have found this process fascinating.
Speaking more about the organization of classes, it differs depending on how many students there are in a class. But, overall, I would say that there is a lot of student-professor interaction and active-learning between students too.
If I had to pick out one memorable class, it would be 'Introduction to Anthropology'. There are only ten students, which makes it very interactive, and the professor, Andrea De Antonio, brings his research to the class: experiences on the edge of ‘science’ and ‘religion’ in post-capitalist societies.
It is very funny. He manages the class, but in a humorous way, and time really does fly – it seems like the class is over before it has even begun.
On the JDP, you can study for two years in Kyoto and two years in Washington DC, so you have the opportunity to think about and apply the theories you have learnt in very different contexts. Washington DC is also at the heart of American politics, so you will get to see politics in action. And you will also benefit from being able to speak to people from the same generation from around the world – on two campuses which are diverse, but diverse, I imagine, in very different ways.
Lastly, if you are interested in Japanese culture, there is no better place than Kyoto to live and learn about it.
◆ Wake up around 7~8 ◆
BREAKFAST: No breakfast, because I’m not in the habit of eating early in the morning. However, I do drink a cup of coffee before class when I have class on first period.
09:00 - 10:00 Housework (laundry, take out garbage etc.), read the news online, prepare for uni
10:20 Leave the house, go to university by bicycle
10:40 - 12:10 Sociology for Global Studies
LUNCH: Eat lunch with friends in the cafeteria on campus close to the College of International Relations buildings.
13:00 – 14:30 Modern World History
14:40 – 16:10 Free period. Usually some of my friends are free too, so I hang around with them – sometimes in a café on campus, outside on a bench and table, or in the library. This term, mostly I spend time with a good friend of mine, who is also a JDP student, doing homework or reading. If I have time, I might have a short nap at the IR Lab – it helps me to concentrate later in the day.
16:20 – 17:50 Introduction to Anthropology. Best class of the week for me and I always look forward to attending. Time flies in this class - both the professor and other students are very interesting.
18:00 – 19:30 Free period
19:40 – 21:10 Free period
Whenever I have class or an appointment 5th period or later, I have dinner on campus (at a different cafeteria from lunch). Usually I eat at around 18:00.
Arrive home at around 19:00
19:00 – 19:30 Watch news on TV
19:30 – 21:00 Finish up university work
21:00 - 23:00 Time to relax - take a shower, read, talk with friends
You can find out more about the Joint Degree Program course via the following link:
And more about a growing list of English-based courses at Ritsumeikan University here: