- [Liberal Arts 01] Liberal Arts Starting from a Pencil
- [Liberal Arts 02] Thinking Method to be Acquired by Liberal Arts
- [Liberal Arts 03] Changes after Graduating from Liberal Arts Education
- [Liberal Arts 04] Japanese High School Students and Liberal Arts
- [Liberal Arts 05] Learning after Finishing College
Author: Kotaro Aoki
Why Choose Liberal Arts Education?
This is the 4th article of the “Liberal Arts Introduction” series. In the previous article, we invited Mr. Yusaku Takeda, who graduated from a liberal arts university and now works as a researcher, to talk about how liberal arts connects to post-graduate life.
In the previous articles we talked about liberal arts from the viewpoint of a graduate, and now we turn to how high school students actually feel about liberal arts universities. Also in this article, we look at the differences between Japanese and American liberal arts education.
We interviewed high school students who are thinking of attending a liberal arts university in the near future.
We had interviews with Ms. Shoko Narasaki, a high school senior in Italy and Mr. Ryusei Sakaya, a high school junior who is attending a school in Tokyo.
We also interviewed Ms. Riho Kawamoto (college freshman), who is attending Wesleyan University, a liberal arts university in Connecticut, the United States of America. She studied at the international liberal arts department at Sophia University for 4 months before entering Wesleyan University.
United World College, International Baccalaureate and Liberal Arts
Ms. Shoko Narasaki
- Club activities: Violin
- Interests: Animals, Biology
- Abroad experience: Singapore(Primary school), Italy(H2-)
What’s your plan for college?
I want to attend a university in the US. I am attending a United World College in Italy, and UWC graduates have many scholarship opportunities from American universities. If I end up not getting a scholarship, then I will attend a Japanese University.
What do you want from college?
I want to go to a university where I can study what I’m interested in, and at the same time, learn other things. In High School, I was able to learn a broad range of subjects, and I realized that my characteristic is to have fun studying many subjects, and be interested in all of them.
For example, I am currently taking Mathematics, English, Italian, World Culture and Arts, and Biology.
I’m interested in animals and living things, and am planning to major in them in university. But I also want to learn programming as well. Like this, I want to study at a place where I can go after my endless list of interests.
What do you think about liberal arts universities?
I will probably apply for IVY League universities, but I’m thinking of attending a liberal arts college.
I think liberal arts colleges are good, because I can not only acquire knowledge, but learn how to have my own opinion. This is possible because classes are small and based on discussions.
My high school is an IB school, so the lessons are based on this style. Since we live in a time when we can easily access information on the Internet, I think it is important that classes have discussions and exchanging opinions.
Also I am interested in how things connect to each other, so the “interdisciplinary” education in liberal arts universities is perfect for me.
I’m most interested in Biology, but sometimes, in the World Arts and Cultures classe, I learn a new perspective I can apply to Biology. Like this, I want to look at things from different views and making connections.
What do you think about Japanese universities?
N: In Japanese universities, students look happy and fun. Like school festivals and club activities, they can use their time quite freely. I can imagine myself attending a Japanese university.
But, I wonder whether they are studying hard enough.
When I ask this question to my older sister (who is attending a Japanese university), it sounds like Japanese universities are a bit like an extension of high school, and students lack their enthusiasm to study, unlike in my school and in American universities.
However, it might be meaningful to study in a Japanese environment, as a Japanese person.
Currently I am in an English environment, but sometimes I feel like there are things that I cannot communicate in foreign languages. If I was studying in my native language, I would probably not have these feelings.
Research University or Liberal Arts College?
Mr. Ryusei Sakaya
- Club activities: Tennis, School Festival preparation committee
- Interests: Biology
- Abroad experience: Canada( 2 weeks), US(2 weeks)
Next year there will be university entrance exams for you. As a high school junior, have you decided where to apply?
I’m not sure quite yet. In my high school, “Todai (“The University of Tokyo”)” is the most popular destination, so unless you make your own decision, everyone aims for Todai. However, if I can hone my English ability, I think I should go abroad.
I have little abroad experience, but I know that Japan is a unique country. A country with almost no foreigners, and almost everyone speaks the local language. It is quite unusual.
Observing the changing world and adapting to the new one is what I want to do, so being used to the world’s standard is important for me. This is why I want to go abroad.
Also, what I want to learn biology, and the best universities are all abroad.
What do you want from college education?
Firstly, I am looking for the best place for me to do what I want to. Since I want to do research from my undergraduate time, I want to go to a place where I can learn with students and professors who are at a higher level than me.
Secondly, I am not the person who aimlessly studies for good grades, but a person who likes to study deeply about what I’m interested in. I want to go to a school where students are going after their passion.
Lastly, Biology is related to many other fields of study, so I want to learn other fields of science and other subjects ‘outside the box’. I also want to meet with people with interests reaching beyond their fields of study.
What do you think about liberal arts universities?
A liberal arts university could be an ideal place for me, it satisfies all the things I listed above.
There are more professors for students, and professors tend to get close to their students. I heard that it is easy to conduct research together or co-author with professors at liberal arts universities. Also there are lots of subjects to major in, and there is no wall between science and humanities studies. This is a positive thing for me.
Lastly, we interviewed Ms.Riho Kawamoto, who is no longer a high school student, but is attending Wesleyan University since this autumn.
She studied at the international liberal arts department at Sophia University in Japan for 4 months, before entering Wesleyan University.
Japanese and American Liberal Arts?
- Club activities: Dance
- Interests: Sociology, Psychology
- Abroad experience: no experience
Please introduce yourself.
I’m Riho Kawamoto. I was born and raised in Japan, and this is my first time living abroad.
I graduated from Toritsu International High School and studied at Sophia University for 4 months, before I entered Wesleyan University.
How is studying at Wesleyan？
Lessons are more fun and exciting than I expected. All lessons are small and students actively talk with each other. I always feel that we learn together, not just being in the same room.
For instance, our professor asked a difficult question at one of the sessions, and nobody could answer it first. But we slowly learned from the teacher’s hints, and collectively arrived at a consensus. It is not the teacher or the brightest students in the class who do all the talking. I feel like everyone is invested in the lesson.
Also, another major difference between Japanese and America is that college students at Wesleyan love to learn.
At Wesleyan, students are learning enthusiastically, and we don’t compare each other in our grades nor hours of study. We don’t need comparison to boost our motivation. Everyone’s motivation is high enough that studying is part of our daily lives.
You learned at Sophia University before Wesleyan. It was a short period, but what do you think are the differences between Japanese and American liberal arts education？
Japan’s lessons are often not interactive. There is a certain distance between professors and students. There is no heated debate between students nor an active lesson, but these are ubiquitous in America.
Also the number of majors are different. At Wesleyan, there are 41 majors, and 17 minors. At Sophia’s international liberal arts department, there are 3 fields and each have 2-3 majors, so that’s about 10 majors.
Japanese people often say that liberal arts does not focus on one subject, but American liberal arts universities have money and their range of majors is quite wide and deep at the same time. There are so many courses to choose from.
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The students we talked about in this article are rather special, but their way of thinking and their experiences are helpful in any case, whether a student chooses to study in their home country or abroad.
In Japan, where people choose universities based on school names, people’s choices tend to be passive. But, seeing outside of your current environment could give you a new viewpoint on your expectations for university environment and experience.
Also, when liberal arts education is talked about in Japan, Waseda and Sophia universities are often brought up as examples. But as Ms. Kawamoto talked about in her experiences, you should be aware that Japanese and American Liberal Arts are quite different.
In the next article, which will be the final in this series, we will talk about the future of liberal arts education and world.
Editorial supervision by Kotaro Aoki
Kotaro Aoki is a writer, translator and aspiring philosopher. Kotaro is enthusiastic about education, philosophy, literature, and global and local scale human affairs. He is born and raised in Japan, and spent 4 years at Wesleyan University (CT), USA, for his bachelor degree. Upon graduation from Wesleyan University, he joined BlackRock, an American financial institution. He was involved with the trading and liquidity function, and after 4 months he decided to quit the firm. Since then, he has experienced different jobs in diverse industries from publishing to bartending. He is currently learning programming and on his way to launch a web application that might benefit people and himself.