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Sojung in Japan

The future looks brighter than ever for EIS alumna Sojung Youn, thanks to a unique programme at Japan’s prestigious Waseda University.

When Sojung Youn stepped through the gates of Waseda University she was uncertain what her future held - but the School of International Liberal Studies (SILS) has changed all that, giving her the freedom to explore a wide range of subjects in order to find her fit.

Journey of discovery

“As the name suggests, SILS offers students the chance to explore various fields during their freshmen and sophomore years before selecting a specialisation, and that’s exactly why I wanted to attend Waseda,” says Sojung.

“During my time in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme I opted for subjects across a broad range, including languages, mathematics and even visual arts. While I tried my best and enjoyed the process in these areas, I was still unsure of where my true interests lay. When I heard about Waseda’s SILS programme I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to try different fields and find my path.

“There are eight different clusters for SILS students to choose from, and I’ve had the chance to take introductory courses in everything from economics and psychology to biology. Now I’m finding myself leaning more and more towards the maths and science cluster, which is probably not surprising since maths has been the subject I’ve nurtured since my high school days!”

Laying the groundwork

Waseda University is renowned for its rigorous academic programmes, but thanks to her five years at EIS, Sojung adapted easily to the demands and challenges of tertiary study.

“One particular aspect that greatly helped my transition was the emphasis on group work projects and collaborative learning at EIS. This taught me how to work effectively within a team, communicate efficiently and align diverse ideas, enabling me to adapt swiftly to similar tasks at university.”

Mastering the art of academic writing was another invaluable EIS takeaway.

“Through lessons and practices in crafting essays and reports, I acquired essential strategies for effective paper writing. This included formulating research questions, conducting research using appropriate sources, structuring coherent paragraphs, composing compelling introductions and conclusions, and correctly citing sources. The skills I learned at EIS provided me with a solid foundation in academic writing, which I saw lacking in many of my peers at university, particularly those who had solely focused on exam-style learning.”

Terrific Tokyo

Sojung has thrived in Tokyo, enjoying not only her studies but every facet of life, immersing herself in the Japanese culture with gusto and enthusiasm.

“During my two-year adventure at Waseda University the most memorable aspects have been the people I’ve met and the time I’ve spent with them. Given the characteristics of my major, which attracted numerous international students, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with individuals from a wide range of cultural backgrounds.”

Rise to the challenge

However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the hard-working 21-year-old. Her biggest challenge? The language barrier.

“Despite my familiarity and comfort with Japanese culture as a Korean, the linguistic disparities posed significant hurdles. When I arrived I was unable to converse beyond basic sentences and it took considerable time to adapt to daily tasks without assistance. It was daunting during the initial months.”

Luckily, as an international SILS student, Japanese language courses are mandatory, and Sojung says they’ve proven “immensely beneficial” in helping her navigate her studies and daily life. Now, she has set her sights on achieving fluency in business Japanese before she graduates, laying strong foundations for her future career.

“I am particularly interested in multinational companies based in Japan, as they offer opportunities to immerse myself in both Japanese business culture and the global industry's working environment.”

A fine balance

Gaining acceptance into her chosen university was a big thrill for Sojung, but she is quick to point out that student life shouldn’t revolve only around academics. She shares the following advice with EIS students looking to study abroad:

“While aiming for university admission is important, it's equally crucial to consider other aspects of your life and future. Don't hesitate to explore different interests and set diverse goals that align with your personal growth and aspirations beyond academia. Finding a balance between academic pursuits and personal development will ultimately lead to a more fulfilling journey towards higher education and beyond.”