Breaking stereotypes

Students from Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Canada, United States and Japan

Here, there is no distinction between “Japanese” and “International” students

The students that enter the Discovery Program for Global Learners (hereafter Discovery Program) are diverse both in their nationality and upbringing. Indeed, there are also many students that possess dual- or even triple-citizenship. At Japanese universities, it is common to classify and divide the student body into “Japanese” and “international/foreign” students, but here you are more likely to be asked: “How do you think about a certain issue? What are your views and why?” Students are encouraged to share their ideas with their own words, while respecting and understanding their peers.

The classwork is characterized by the prior reading of relevant literature in English, which is then discussed in class. These discussions are held in an environment in which all students, as well as the instructor, are treated equally. As an individual, students are asked how they interpret issues facing our modern society. The four years spent at the program are meant to refine the students’ skills through cooperating with their peers of differing backgrounds, putting their thoughts into action and ultimately allowing them to find their path.

The members of the faculty reflect the values of the Discovery Program as a whole, consisting of a multinational team with diverse professional backgrounds. Seeing society not just from a Japanese but from a nuanced, varied perspective, the faculty promotes students’ individuality through cultivating an atmosphere of harmony and inclusiveness. Through lending their expertise and experience, they aim to inform students of the future choices they have.

Through full access to Okayama University’s entire curriculum, offering students the ability to pursue their interests academically

Many students come to Japan with the goal of studying in Japanese, but feel like they have not reached the appropriate level in the language yet. At this program you can complete your studies in English while improving your Japanese skills, allowing students to eventually take the challenge of participating in courses in both languages. The Discovery Program does not have a Japanese language requirement at enrollment (except for science majors, who require Japanese skills at the N2 level or above). Once you have enrolled, Japanese language classes are available. Furthermore, students also have the opportunity to take any class in Okayama University’s 10 faculties, further allowing them to broaden their education. By facilitating this access, the program offers its students wide possibilities for academic pursuits.

Professor Eiko Ushida in her Japanese language class

When enrolling in courses outside the Discovery Program, a faculty member specializing in Japanese language education will support students by helping them understand academic Japanese used specifically for the course selected. As Professor Eiko Ushida put it: “We provide a tailor-made consultation in a weekly class, where we will prepare and review specific language concepts relevant to the course enrolled by the student, for instance agricultural terminology in a class from the Department of Agriculture. This allows our students to catch up with any concept they might have missed in class. We have also added another class relevant for career-related Japanese skills.”

An education that places value on your interests and passions

Another feature of the Discovery Program is an original study module called “Independent Study”, where students exit the framework of classwork to conduct a project tailored to their interests. A module that works as a course-equivalent credit, students can pursue studies in a different way, while a professor with relevant expertise to the subject in question will provide guidance and advice. As an example, take a Discovery Program student who wishes to study psychology and design. Through consultation with a relevant professor, the student may then think about learning methods and formulate a concrete study plan. Then, by studying relevant texts and practical work, the student can deepen his/her knowledge of the subject. By respecting students’ individuality, independence, interests and passion, Independent Study is a module that perfectly encapsulates what this program is about.

A special joint class titled “Global Studies and Entrepreneurship” organized by the School of Global Studies at Thammasat University, Thailand in September 2019

Furthermore, students have the opportunity to use Okayama University’s exchange programs to study abroad at a variety of universities worldwide, for example the University of Edinburgh (UK) or Carleton University (Canada). The Discovery Program itself has an inter-institutional partnership with the University College Utrecht (Netherlands) and Thammasat University (Thailand). Also, many students choose to join internship programs to gain experience within and outside Japan. Finally, through the university’s network and alumni, it is able to invite guest speakers that are active around the world for special lectures.


Cultivate your character together with peers from around the world

The average class size of the Discovery Program is small, which allows for close student-professor, and student-student, relationships to develop. The diverse backgrounds of the student body also lead to students becoming attuned to a large variety of issues: a student with concerns about poverty, a student coming from two separate cultural backgrounds and wishing to create a connection between the two, or a student actively engaged in environmental activism, among many others.

A group session at the Global Study Lounge, a room where students do their assignments and group work or just gather to chat.

Because of this, seeing students discuss their future, or holding talks to go in-depth on societal issues, is a common sight at the Global Study Lounge – along with group study sessions, of course. As one student sums it up: “While studying at this program, I can definitely say that I have found friends from around the world. Especially the experience of dealing with and overcoming difficult times together is something I will always treasure in the future.”

The Discovery Program holds each student’s individuality in high regard. Through developing global connections while studying in Japan, students will develop into leaders that contribute to our global society.

(Witten by Maximilien Rehm and Mariko Fukui, Aalto International)