Brencis from USA - a Joint Degree Program student - at Kinugasa Campus (Kyoto) by the locally famous clock.

Student Experience: Connections Beyond Borders: from Virginia (USA), 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:
Brencis from the USA - 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)

Why did you choose Ritsumeikan University - banner?

It was really a direct recommendation from a family member. My brother was attending an international school in Korea and representatives from Ritsumeikan University came to the school to give a talk about the university. Strangely enough, even though it was my brother’s school event, my mum attended too. And it was there that she found out about the Joint Degree Program. When she heard that it was possible to study in both Washington DC, the area I am from, and Kyoto, she told me about it.

At that point, I started to do my own research into the university and the course, and, my interest grew from there. I thought it would be a great opportunity for me, as an American with Korean heritage, to study and learn about international relations from an Asian perspective, before, of course, doing the same back home in the USA from an American perspective.

I hadn’t originally planned to study international relations, but I really liked U.S. Government and history classes at high school, and had an interest in international sport, with a long-term aim of working for the International Olympic Committee.

And so I applied.

I think, in the end, I got really lucky, because the course suits my broad range of interests.

Infographic for Brencis from the USA - a 1st year undergrad on the Joint Degree Program based at Kinugasa Campus in Kyoto (2 years) and American University’s campus in Washington D.C. (2 years)

Joint Degree Program Ritsumeikan American University - student studies at desk
JDP Course content banner

As first year JDP students, we cover a lot of introductory courses. I am currently taking a course called Politics for Global Studies, which covers the history of Western political thought, so it started off with Aristotle and involves looking at concepts like democracy, utilitarianism, human rights and freedom.

The courses I have taken so far, if I list them, would be: Modern World History; Japan and the West; Introduction to Gender Studies; Microeconomics; Macroeconomics; and Introduction to Humanities, which introduces the humanities from the perspective of geography. I also take Japanese classes.

Looking to next year, I really want to take the International Law course. I have the feeling that knowing international law can be enabling and help you to lead a more comfortable life. This connects also to my thinking about working in international sport in the future, since every top athlete, at some point, signs a legally-binding contract with a club or a sponsor.

The program offers a lot for someone with an interest in lots of different areas like me, who is not really sure yet just what exactly what they want to specialize in, since international relations covers such a broad range of subjects.

Photo of handmade traditional papier-mache figurines at a local community center for Korean residents in Kyoto
Photo of handmade traditional papier-mache figurines at a local community center - Erufa community center for Zainichi Korean residents - where Brencis conducted field work for an essay based on 'Zainichi Koreans' (permanent residents of Japan with Korean heritage)
Korean food provided by members of the community center during Brencis' field work
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In my Academic Skills (Proficient) and Japanese classes there are only around eleven or twelve students, so class sizes are quite small, which is good (I am in the lowest level Japanese class at the moment). And in classes for the other courses I have already mentioned, like Macroeconomics for example, there are around 20 or 30 students in each class.

But this does not seem to affect directly the amount of interaction in classes, which depends more so on the professor than the number of students, I think. In Gender Studies, Introduction to Politics, Academic Skills, Macroeconomics, and Japanese classes, for example, professors use peer learning, where we are given discussion questions to talk about in small groups, before discussing between groups, and then giving whole group feedback.

I like this interactive style because it means you have to be active, think and share your ideas with others. The other great thing is that professors are very open to questions at any time, even while they are introducing a topic for discussion.

Brencis' notes
The opportunity to study a variety of different subjects is something Brencis appreciates greatly as a student with a broad range of interests

If I mention also general skills I have developed from classes over the last few months, I would say that my note-taking and skim-reading skills have improved a lot. In the beginning, I tried to write down and read absolutely everything, but over time, I learned to be selective about what to write down and what just to listen to as well as how to skim-read to develop an over-all picture quickly.

The great thing about skim-reading is that, in discussions, you get to speak to other students who have also skim-read the same material, but from a different perspective; and when you share ideas you begin to appreciate a fuller picture, which includes parts or ways of thinking about something you may have missed yourself.

JDP Message to future students banner

The Joint Degree Program provides a great opportunity not only to study in two of the most diverse cities in the world, but also to live in and directly experience the culture of both for two years.

I would encourage future students to study, of course, but also to take the opportunity to go out, explore and learn about each city’s history and culture. Life is about experiences – about whether you made the choice to take part in something, or not. So, whether it’s internships, sightseeing, club activities, or volunteering - take part, experience all you can, be flexible and enjoy!

JDP A day in the life banner


◆ 8am - alarm starts to go off ◆

08:15 Get up, shower and get dressed

BREAKFAST: I mostly don't eat breakfast! But when I do, I usually just drink milk with bananas or get mini pancakes from the local convenience store.

08:30 Walk from International House Taishogun (dorm) to school. Takes me about 15 minutes to get to school.
09:00 - 10:30 Macroeconomics
10:40 - 12:10 Japan and the West


LUNCH: I usually eat lunch at the cafeteria or buy a bento and eat it in a classroom with my friends

13:00 – 14:30 Japanese Class
14:40 – 16:10 Introduction to Humanities
16:30 – 18:30 After class I go to SEALS practice (touch football)
18:00 – 19:30 Free period
19:40 – 21:10 Free period


Arrive home at around 19:00

19:00 Arrive home and shower
20:00 – 20:30 Eat dinner at home or at a friend's house
21:00 Free time or homework

JDP Student Brencis in a group photo with members of the touch football club at Ritsumeikan University - Kinugasa Campus
Brencis with members of the SEALS club - an American Touch Football club at Kinugasa Campus

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:


January 10, 2019 TOPICS

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