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As I recall the final years of high school, I am reminded of the daunting experience of having to decide on an ideal university to commence my undergraduate studies. Oblivious to where I truly wanted to go, I began skimming through multiple lists of college rankings, hoping that I would come across a university that would hold my attention. Upon discussing the issue with my high-school principal, she recommended Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University as a notable choice. Hearing her gush about her recent visit to the university made me increasingly curious about its charms. As I realized that the university was in Japan yet had a comparable curriculum to an American University with some additional perks, I hurriedly added it to my application list.
For international students looking for a fulfilling undergraduate experience, studying in Japan is far from the norm. The eccentricity of the culture and the shortage of an English-speaking population is enough to intimidate anyone who prefers to dwell in the comfort of the ordinary without looking to branch out and venture into the extraordinary. This is especially true for someone like me, who could barely speak a word of Japanese prior to arriving at the university. Nonetheless, I believed it was essential to acknowledge the fact that learning begins outside of the comfort zone and Japan is the ideal place for it. In this article, I present to you an overview of the reasons that pushed me to discard the offers from all the other universities to finally choose Japan and APU.
The culture, the food, and the opportunities
The people, the history, and the language of Japan is intriguing in every respect and has something unique to offer everyone. Therefore, even while initially debating the practicality of applying to a university in Japan, my mind was fully engulfed with the idea of roaming through the dreamy streets of Beppu, marveling at the traditional architecture of Japanese shrines, having tranquility at the communal tea-ceremonies, and enjoying the scrumptious takoyaki and yakiniku prepared by amicable Japanese street vendors. In other words, studying abroad in Japan presented an unparalleled opportunity for me to explore and learn from a culture strikingly different from my own.
Beyond the magnificence of its landscape, Japan is also a prominent economic hub, where students are able to configure a fruitful career. Especially with the broadening influence of globalization in Japan, corporations are increasingly looking to hire foreigners graduating from Japanese institutions. This makes Japan the perfect study abroad destination for students to get a closer look into the dynamic Japanese economy while simultaneously experiencing the deep-rooted Japanese culture.
The multicultural environment
Keeping in mind the dearth of veritably diverse educational institutions in Japan, APU is a pioneer in its own right. Much like a microcosm of the world, APU, with students coming from as many as 159 different countries and regions, encapsulates a melting pot of diverse cultures and ethnicities. In addition to the student body, APU also employs highly qualified faculty from 22 different countries, ensuring a global outlook that can help students broaden their worldviews. Besides this, APU actively works to tailor-design courses to amplify the opportunities for students to interact with and learn from each other. Be it the multicultural weeks or the Multicultural Cooperative Workshops (1st Year Seminars), it was evident to me that my individuality and uniqueness would not only be recognized but would also be nurtured during my four years of undergraduate studies.
University education is inarguably expensive and necessitates careful financial planning from the student and their financial sponsors. For the same reason, choosing a university that does not overstrain the economic condition of my family was a priority for me. In this regard, APU’s budget-friendly cost structure, coupled with the relatively low-cost lifestyle of Beppu City, gave every indication of being the most responsible decision I could make. In addition to the Tuition Reduction Scholarship and the JASSO Scholarship, APU, in partnership with private and public organizations, commits to offering several other scholarships even after enrollment. This helps ease anxiety among students and allows them to focus on their academics and future goals. APU instilled a strong impression that beyond financial gains, the university was earnest about its mission statement and privy to the welfare of its students.
The liberal arts education
The liberal arts curriculum at APU prepares students for a life of learning. It considers the differences in the needs and interests of each student by allowing them to personalize their subject list rather than obligating them to take a rigid list of pre-determined courses. In addition to the Major Education Subjects, a certain number of credits in the Common Liberal Arts Subjects are accepted as graduation requirements. Students can also take classes in other colleges if you are interested in the Common Liberal Arts Subjects. Having understood the intertwined relationship between exploration and education, this flexibility offered by APU presented to me an invaluable opportunity to rediscover my interests and work on my expertise.
The core values
Beyond all these academic and financial merits, what truly resonated with me was APU’s core value: giving back to society. Being a person who empathizes with the side of the world that is not as privileged as my own, the prospects at APU to connect with the community are ample. Project B, for instance, encourages students to undertake social endeavors relating to burgeoning issues plaguing the global arena. Similarly, the Social Outreach Seminars, the JICA commissioned training programs, and the Honors Program for Global Citizenship are all designed to cultivate in innovative young minds the essential socio-cultural understanding and philanthropy. For a student who comes from an underdeveloped country like Nepal, APU’s vision of facilitating growth in the Asia-Pacific region was truly invigorating.
Now that I am in my third semester at APU, I can attest to the fact that APU is everything that I expected it to be and more. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered an overall university experience for numerous students like me, I am as thrilled as ever to unravel the unique opportunities that APU has to offer throughout my undergraduate years.
Read Alexa's article on "Attending Japanese University in Nepal" here
Hi! I am Alexa Maharjan, a third semester student from Nepal. I enjoy pursuing a range of interests, including but not limited to dancing, travelling, watching movies, and playing soccer. Writing is another hobby of mine that I am excited to explore as part of SPA. I hope to be able to put forth my ideas and vision while simultaneously getting a deeper understanding of student life at APU during my time as a SPA member.