International Student Interviews

International Student Interviews

Discover the diversity of “international students” at GDP. Find out what they think about GDP and what advice they give for incoming students!

An

Joined GDP in October, 2020

I was born and raised in Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, until I was 18. For me, Hanoi has the charm of a capital with a long history, but at the same time, it is a developing city with modern architecture. The people of Hanoi are well known for their elegance and hospitality. I am very fortunate to have been born into a family where older generations pay attention to the importance of teaching their children and grandchildren to appreciate the historical and cultural value ​​of the country while encouraging them to gain knowledge, be open-minded and become the agents of positive change. My grandmother, who went through two wars in Vietnam, together with my parents, taught me how to appreciate the life that I have and become the person I am right now.

Currently, I’m a student in the Cultural Diversity and Communities track at GDP and my field of focus is political science. I have also taken some classes in the fields of sociology, anthropology and economics. Ever since high school, I have particularly liked learning social sciences because I think it helps us gain knowledge of the society we live in and understand how to interact with the social world. Regarding my interest in political science, I decided to choose this field because I believe political events and policies can affect every aspect of our lives in different ways, even without us noticing. I realize that learning politics will help me understand the complex layers of different driving forces behind current political events, learn to observe different viewpoints and develop individual opinions critically. As GDP is an interdisciplinary program with a wide range of subjects, the program has given me the opportunity to study different fields, and find my interests and what suits me best. Also, since GDP classes tend to be small, students can easily receive constructive feedback from their instructors, which I think is helpful in letting students recognize their mistakes and how to improve.

Regarding GDP student life, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, unfortunately all of my classes are still online, and I haven’t had a chance to meet everyone in my batch (the October 2020 students), because a lot of my friends haven’t come to Japan yet. Even though the classes are online, I think all of the GDP professors have been dedicated and supportive in their lectures. Also, ever since I came to Japan, I have received a lot of support from my friends who are already in Japan and also from senpais (senior students).

To future students of GDP, I hope that the COVID-19 situation will be better for all of you and that you will be able to come to Japan in the near future to enjoy your college life. Social distancing does not mean relationship distancing, so don’t feel shy about reaching out to make friends with different people from not only your batch but also your senpais!

Nava

Joined GDP in October, 2019

I was born and raised in Cambodia. I lived with my mom on the outskirts of the city and spent most of my days watering plants, going to school and catching butterflies with my neighbours. When I entered elementary school, I went to live with my grandparents in the city. Then, I moved to the capital city and lived alone for high school. I would say that the different places I have lived and the connections I have made with people influenced my self-perception. There is this quote I like by Voltaire, in both the literal and figurative sense: “one must cultivate one’s own garden”. The quote is up for interpretation, and mine is: for peace of mind (and the benefits we can reap from it), we should focus on first cultivating a healthy environment for ourselves before tying our personal moods to worldly problems. We can define our own scope of “garden”, but it can be small, just enough to keep us occupied and undistracted by conditions we have no control over.

I am mainly studying Japanese language, philanthropy, and politics. The subjects offered at GDP are all interesting, but I feel that what I am currently studying matches my life and academic interest the most. I find it manageable, enough to keep me interested yet not overwhelmed. Out of those subjects, Japanese language is the most important to me. Being in an interdisciplinary, diverse, and bilingual (Japanese and English) environment has definitely helped me develop cross-cultural understanding. I have been able to move across fields of knowledge and work on my language skills, and this experience is essential for my future plans, whether I pursue a master’s degree in Public Affairs or work for Japanese organizations that have relations with Cambodia.

In my free time, I like to consume literature and political debates as well as film and photography. I would say that engaging in platforms like Instagram and Tumblr led me to like films and photography and my interest in politics and literature is from the classes I took in GDP.

Find an academic discipline that interests you the most and research it in order to make your major selection more intentional. Learn to reflect on different perspectives on a given topic then decide for yourself which one makes the most sense to you. In this way, you will be able to form a more robust opinion and not be easily swayed by false or fragmentary information.

Study Japanese as much as you can!

Mattie

Joined GDP in October, 2019

I was born and raised in the Philippines. I was really shy and grew up with books (and later, a Nintendo Game Boy) as my best friends. Even so, I enjoyed playing with neighbors on the street, or with my cousins and friends at their houses. I picked up writing really early, feeding my wild imagination. Aside from reading, writing, and playing, I have a lot of fond memories of house parties with my extended family on my mother’s side. In the summer breaks, my family, and sometimes cousins too, would go to Coron, Palawan, our second home, where the hills, forests, and beach were our backyard for adventures.

I don’t necessarily have a life motto but I love this quote from a favorite Filipina poet of mine, Conchitina Cruz: “Hope is embedded in resistance; otherwise, it is merely lip service.” We live in uncertain and fearful times, but the best we can really do, which will keep us moving forward, or at least afloat in all of this, is to invest our time, talents, and resources in bringing about the change we seek.

My main interests are environmental action, writing poetry, and graphic design. I picked these up during my childhood: writing is a direct product of my early love for reading; I started poetry mid-high school because it was a great medium to explore my emotions and other difficult subjects. Graphic design grew out of my interest in drawing and lettering; as I learned more about the basics (and people started to ask me to make posters), I also started thinking about how messages or topics could be communicated better visually.  Environmental action is rooted in my attachment to nature and my second home in Coron (which is worlds away from the very polluted Manila). In high school, I learned more about the climate crisis and its interconnected social issues, so I started exploring how I could act on it by joining an organization, then by studying environmental science (although I ended up wanting to study the humanities more because of GDP classes).

I’m in the Social Innovation and Entrepreneuship cluster and have been taking economics (I am especially interested in feminist and development economics) and nonprofit management classes, but, since I’m planning to do an environmental anthropology/political ecology Senior Project, I’m also taking anthropology and sociology classes. I was originally planning to stay in the science cluster to study environmental science, but as I took more culture and social classes, I became attracted to the humanities side of environmental issues. Additionally, as I was exploring the Philippine environmental nonprofit scene and taking a more active role in my organization, I enjoyed learning things in classes I could immediately apply, share, or research further—this made classes like Environmental Anthropology, Development Economics, and Nonprofit Management and Governance very fulfilling to take.

Take GDP as an opportunity to really explore what kind of social change you’re capable of bringing about in the world! The diverse people here will challenge and encourage you, the classes will give you new and critical insights, and Okayama will act as a beautiful and safe environment.

Rose

Joined GDP in October, 2019

I was born and raised in the Northern part of South Africa called Limpopo. Growing up had its ups and downs, but mostly ups. I grew up in the care of my grandmother. She’s the best memory from my childhood. I live by the motto “Lift as I rise”. What this means is that God blesses me on a daily basis so that I can be a blessing to others.

Since I am interested in HIV, gender equality and epidemiology, I have been taking courses on medical anthropology within the Cultural Diversity and Communities cluster. South Africa has the highest HIV rate in the entire world, so that made me eager to study the factors that have led to the ridiculously high rate. I reckon that being able to study anthropology will give me multidimensional lenses on how to fully understand how HIV came about and to devise ways or mechanisms for people living with it to find comfort.

In my high school, I only focused on science subjects, but since coming to GDP, I have been exposed to other subjects I never got to study before, such as economics, politics and medical anthropology. I think the world is getting more complex and even more complex issues are arising, and in order to solve these emerging issues, one has to consider different perspectives. I believe GDP is offering me a chance to learn different perspectives. GDP student life is fun. You get to interact with people from different spheres of life. A message I’d like to share for incoming students is to get serious with your Japanese before coming to Japan!

Kris

Joined GDP in October, 2018

I was born and raised in Surabaya, Indonesia. It’s a pretty big city, so it is often crowded with heavy traffic, which makes it stressful. Despite that, it’s a beautiful place with amazingly diverse culture, people, and food. There are many things that influenced my decision to come to Japan, including the unique food, people, culture and education. Finishing a degree at  a Japanese university is good and not as expensive as other countries.

I chose to be a part of the Matching Track under the Faculty of Environmental Science and Engineering. I read a lot about diesel and engines because my senior research will be related to biodiesel. I believe the switch to environmentally friendly fuel is one of our hopes for a more sustainable future. Hopefully, after graduation I can get a master’s degree in chemistry. I believe GDP has helped me by making me more aware of my surroundings, such as the current affairs of the world. On a different note, some courses offered at GDP provide practical knowledge on teamwork and management, which is very useful in the future.

A message I’d like to give to incoming students is that GPA is just a number, and don’t be afraid to take a variety of classes and explore your interests. The student life is fun, especially knowing different kinds of people from different places with different cultures and food.

Thun

Joined GDP in October, 2019

I was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand. When I was 15, I moved to Japan, where I graduated high school in Kochi. Before coming to Japan, I had the chance to study for a short period of time in New Zealand and China over my school breaks. My previous study abroad experiences helped me to feel more at ease when I moved to Japan for high school. Although I didn’t know Japanese at all when I first came here, I was eventually able to learn the language, converse with people and make friends.

Coming to GDP and being immersed in a diverse environment isn’t something new to me, but, I think it broadened my perspectives in life even more. In GDP, I am able to study economics and nonprofit management, both of which I am interested in. If I were to study a regular course, I don’t think I would be able to study both fields at the same time.

So, my message to incoming students is that GDP will give a lot of experiences you will not be able to find somewhere else! With the diversity of the program itself, the opportunities to discover something you like are provided here. For international students who likeJapan, this program is the perfect place for you to surround yourself with the culture and create connections with Japanese people. Lastly, I hope GDP is the place you are looking for!

Myia

Joined GDP in October, 2017

I was born and raised in Spokane, Washington in the USA. It’s a lot smaller of a city than Okayama. I lived with my mom, stepdad and younger brother. I took a gap year before coming to Discovery and worked in my hometown to save money while I was looking for a university to attend. I actually found GDP when looking through a random website that listed different international programs at Japanese universities; I think it was a Japanese government site. I chose GDP because, at the time, I had not taken the JLPT, so I couldn’t try to enter programs taught in Japanese or programs where Japanese was a requirement. Discovery also offered the option to take courses from any of Okayama University’s departments, and I was interested in studying education.

I’ve always been interested in intersectionality, culture, language learning and linguistics. GDP has given me the opportunity to explore those topics in depth, and currently I am preparing for a career where I get to work directly with language learners and people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Being in GDP has given me the tools I need to handle any situation that may arise, and has helped me better understand the lives of those around me. I suppose I became interested in intersectionality and culture  because I grew up in an environment that fostered cultural understanding and my parents always supported me in my goals to learn about other people and places.

I would like to tell future students to enjoy their time in Discovery because it goes by very quickly! Keeping a positive attitude about everything, especially about things that are challenging, is one of the most valuable things someone can do for themselves.

Yushi

Joined GDP in October, 2019

I was born and raised in Qiqihar, China and lived there for 18 years. It was very peaceful in my hometown, but I felt like I wanted to explore different parts of the world and set new challenges for myself. Therefore, I decided to go to a university in Rome, Italy where I studied global governance. My experience in Rome was eye-opening because I connected to the history and the culture of Italy—and gelato in the afternoon was just yum. While things were amazing in Rome, I didn’t like the idea of restricting myself to a specific academic subject, so I decided to study in a more liberal and interdisciplinary environment.

I mainly take classes from the Cultural Diversity and Communities Cluster. At first, I dived into politics, but as time went on, I became interested in medical anthropology and sociology as well. I have also taken some classes in the science cluster and am currently discovering more about business and management. During the first year at GDP, I took French and Korean in addition to Japanese. The introductory courses outside of GDP are also a great way to study about new things and one of the most memorable courses I have taken recently was about periodontal medicine, which deepened my understanding of oral health and dentistry. It was a kyoyo course offered by the Faculty of Dentistry and even though the entire course was conducted in Japanese, I was able to handle it with the help of Ushida-sensei in her Academic Japanese class.

You don’t have to focus on one discipline and categorise yourself according to one perspective.There are many things you can learn, do, and initiate at GDP. Think of what inspires and interests you the most and take advantage of GDP’s framework to take courses not only across the clusters but also outside of GDP, and never stop learning and exploring in this diversified environment. Hope to see you on board!