When I began college at SILS in April, 2004, I knew I wanted to pursue an international career. Having been born and raised in Tokyo as Japanese, the year I spent in Norton, Kansas, as an American Field Service high school exchange student taught me how valuable and exciting it can be to gain exposure to an unfamiliar culture. Camping and fishing with friends wearing cowboy boots and hats, I literally felt my values change and my perspective broaden. At the same time, my opportunities to introduce the life and culture of Tokyo at school and the local community center showed me the joys of acting as a bridge between two different societies. Although I did not know what field I wanted to pursue after college, I knew I wanted an international career that included these cross-cultural experiences.
After joining the liberal arts program of SILS, where almost all the courses are taught in English, I took multiple law courses from Professor Waters, a Yale-Law-educated American professor, and gradually developed a strong interest in studying American law. In Introduction to Legal Studies, which focused on American law, I realized for the first time how law is dynamic particularly in the U.S. and serves as the foundation of the society. For example, individual rights in the U.S. are frequently challenged and fought for in the courts. They are even secured by amendments to the Constitution which has never happened in Japan.
My one year of overseas study during at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle further strengthened my passion for legal study. In addition to taking courses such as Media Law and Labor Law at UW, I had the chance to attend a special session of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals at the UW School of Law. Observing the vibrant and sometimes heated exchanges between judges and lawyers breathed real life and excitement into my understanding of the law.
To gain further exposure to the real-world legal environment after my time at UW, I participated in a ten-day internship at the Tokyo office of an American-based international law firm. As a result of this experience, I finally realized how my interest in American law and desire to bridge different cultures could fit together perfectly. As I sat in on meetings with lawyers and clients of different nationalities, I realized that my cross-cultural experiences and bilingual skills could prove a valuable asset to increasingly common cross-border legal transactions.
After my internship, a three-semester-long seminar on American constitutional law by Professor Waters, solidified my desire to attend law school. During this rigorous one-on-one seminar, I wrote three major papers, one for each term with the last one being my senior thesis. My thesis explored the scope of free speech protection on private property which functions as public property. Meticulously reading through a series of Supreme Court decisions, I strove to determine how this series of rulings could be reconciled. My effort to discern and compare the reasoning of each decision was challenging, but this intellectually stimulating exercise convinced me to bring my legal education to the next level by studying at an American law school.
In the fall of 2009, I joined the J.D. program, a three-year graduate program in law, at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle. I chose UW School of Law because of its excellence in legal education, low student-to-faculty ratio, and focus on Asian law. My decision to pursue a graduate law degree in the U.S. turned out to be the best decision I have ever made in my life.
In my three years of legal education, I learned how to think critically and logically and see things from multiple perspectives. In addition to receiving valuable education, the law school provided me with a chance to work internationally. During my two summers in law school, I worked for law firms in Beijing, New York, and Tokyo. Finally, my legal education has enabled me to carry out my original plan, which was to have an international career, that I had when I joined SILS in 2004. From the fall of 2012, I am going to join a New-York-based law firm in Manhattan, New York. I am excited to use my legal education and bilingual skills to serve the firm’s clients, many of whom are multinational corporations operating around the world.
SILS is a department that gives you thinkable post-graduation opportunities. When I was freshman in SILS, for example, I did not imagine that one day I might work as a lawyer for a law firm in Manhattan, New York. My post-graduation story is just one example. Many of my classmates from SILS are currently pursuing careers in and outside Japan that they did not imagine they would pursue when they first joined SILS. This happens, I believe, because SILS broadens students’ perspective through its liberal arts education and teaches them the excitement of cross-cultural interactions through its diverse student body and one-year study program with colleges and universities around the world.
I have no idea what I might be doing in ten years from today. I might still be practicing law in New York, but there is also a chance that I might be doing something completely different. Whatever I might be doing, it was the education I received in SILS that opened the door for me to pursue a graduate degree in law in the U.S. and to have an international career. For this, I am greatly thankful.