Throughout the years, many students have taken up an interest in the opportunity to study abroad. Over 50,000 students travel abroad to explore the unique academic fields in foreign countries each year. Most of these students gather in English speaking countries; over half of them heading for the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Therefore, it is a lot easier to find information on student exchange programs to English speaking countries, rather than those in non-English speaking countries. However, there are actually many schools in non-English speaking nations that can offer just as much as those in Anglospheres. This article will summarize an interview with a Keio University student studying at the Paris Institute of Political Studies in France (also known as Sciences Po).
Kilala Takada is a student from the faculty of Economics and is a participant of the double degree program in Keio University, which allows her to obtain graduate degrees from both universities. The university offers this program in order to equip students with the necessary skills to adapt to today’s global society by actually letting them experience life abroad, for a span of 4 to 5 years maximum. Kilala is currently spending her first in the two years she will be staying in France.
So what kind of significant effect can participating in foreign exchange programs have on students’ lives? Going on exchange programs can be a good chance to meet new people, and to learn about a culture that is very unlike ours in Japan. Not only will the classes be conducted differently according to the country, daily life in that country will also be deliciously different. Kilala thinks that this program is great because living in a foreign nation for a long period of two years allows her to adjust to the environment in France, in comparison to being treated more like a guest staying only for one or two school terms. Not only does this program give students a chance to earn a double degree, but it also encourages them to become more flexible in an unfamiliar environment!
What is student life like in Sciences Po? Of course, living away from parents for the first time is a unique experience. On top of that, the enlightening life lessons one can receive while studying with students coming from over 30 different countries, each with a unique background story, is priceless. Exchanging thoughts and ideas on various topics, from more personal ones such as hobbies and daily life to serious ones such as political and social matters, is something that can only be experienced outside of Japan. Many of the students are polyglots, so the conversations are carried out in multiple languages including both English and Japanese. Life abroad is extremely educational in every day compared to in Japan, since most people in our country are monolingual or not as fluent in another language.
So any advice for people interested in student exchange programs? “Although it really differs on the school type, if you actually want to be a student and not treated like a guest, I advise that you learn the language really well before going.” Kilala talks of life in Science Po being completely different if she hadn’t been able to speak English so well, since classes and most of the conversations that take place in school are in English. However, she also talks of her daily difficulties that occur due to her not being fluent in French, for she has just started to learn it in university. Many of the administrative procedures were a challenge because of this language barrier. Another difficulty she talked of was getting used to the school system. The workload differs greatly from Keio, classes requiring more assignments to be done by the students. Kilala states that while the number of classes is the same, the amount of assignments is growing excessively.
So it’s clear that there are many obstacles to overcome when it comes to studying abroad, but Kilala ended the interview on a positive note and said she had no regrets participating in the double degree program. Studying in a non-English speaking country might also be something to consider.
Written by Mariko Kiya