From SILS and onwards – Alumnus Riku shares his experienceWed, Jun 2, 2021
Riku grew up in Okinawa, Japan attending an international Christian school with an extremely small graduating class. Okinawa is a beautiful island South of Japan filled with nature and surrounded by the ocean and it certainly, in its own way, contrasts in various dimensions with Tokyo and Waseda.
“The School of International Liberal Studies was a unique and refreshing community.”
For Riku, who has always been ambitious about his academic pursuits and global exposure, his decision to come to Waseda was on par with a university opportunity outside of Japan. However, looking back now, he reflects how the academic freedom to explore various studies allowed for him to determine his actual passions of studying that have led to his decisions today. Taking multiple classes from the seven clusters at the School of International Liberal Studies (SILS), he enjoyed getting to know and talking to the diversity of professors. As someone interested in academia, he recalls it being one of the “best qualities at SILS” and a “world of academic connections on such an expansive level.”
“It was the people that defined my experience.” Asking Riku about his social life at SILS, he fondly talks of the memories he has made with friends in addition to the international community – meeting people from India, Romania, Germany, Singapore, China, and the list goes on. For him, it was a chance to dive into his global citizenship in his home country and consequently actually better understanding his own Japanese identity. Finding the open-minded, global mentality at SILS along with being able to meet people of a similar background was definitely a treasurable community for Riku.
Staying at the Waseda International Student (WISH) Dormitory
“WISH and study abroad were life-changers that Waseda gave to me.”
Riku began his university experience at WISH which was his first step of international exposure and making lasting connections. He fondly recalls how he met one of his closest friends who entered Waseda at the same time as Riku, was both Indian and Canadian, but spoke fluent Japanese which Riku had not quite expected. After a surprising first encounter in the dorm kitchen with a mix of languages, they quickly got to know one another and spent time chatting at the dorm, studying together, staying up late, cooking in the kitchen; trying his friends homemade curry is an unforgettable taste that Riku still believes to be the best curry he has tried to this day. At WISH, Riku valued being able to “share time in a living environment than an academic one.” It was definitely a motivating space and community for him that came with “subtle learnings” which shaped his views, values, and personal identity.
The resident assistants (RAs) that Riku spent time with in his first year also influenced his decision to stay at WISH by applying and becoming an RA for his second year and his fourth year after study abroad. Loving the role of engaging and helping others, Riku aimed to give back his experience to others by sharing his knowledge, advice, and organizing multiple events that would allow residents of different faculties to get to know one another – a key aspect of WISH that Riku particularly enjoyed both as a resident and as an RA. These events would be barbeques or sport festivals to get to know other residents of WISH, cultural food sharing mornings, movie nights, cooking with other floors, and holiday parties.
A year of study abroad at University California, Berkeley (UCB)
In his third year, Riku stepped out of Japan to pursue his academic studies in the University of Berkeley, United States. There, he was yet again exposed to various new academic discourses, focusing on history, theory, and sociology. These studies ultimately grounded his academic curiosities which he would finalize with a seminar and thesis in his fourth year at SILS. In a completely different culture, community, and lifestyle, Riku was able to take a step to the side of the busy schedule he had back at SILS with his responsibilities of co-handling his job as an RA along with his academics. He was able to learn the importance of having a good balance with time that he was able to take back with him in Tokyo.
His study abroad, however, also gave him a life-changing opportunity of travelling to the other coast and visiting Harvard University. He remembers sitting on a bench in the campus with a smoked-salmon sandwich watching the other Harvard students walk by and only imagining what kind of conversations took place within the buildings and classrooms. That day, he was filled with a sense of awe as he thought “it would be great if I could go here.” Who would have known that this was the start of an internal shift and place he would come back to?
Graduating Waseda with a SILS undergraduate degree, a concentration in history and multiple invaluable lessons, Riku is now heading to Harvard University for a master’s degree in theological studies. Under the global pandemic, Riku decided to take a gap year capitalizing on his time with an internship at Tokyo. However, this fall of 2021, Riku will be returning into the academic environment which he feels both nervous but excited to step back into. Reflecting on the course of things that have happened in his life, this decision was definitely influenced by the classes he has taken at SILS, the professors he has met, his study abroad exchange, the community he values, and the person he has grown to become. For him, this is another opportunity of creating networks, working on literary projects that will culminate his knowledge, and discover more about his passions and life-goals.
As an alumnus
“At the end of the day, you are the one that makes your own meaning of life.”
Riku’s four years at Waseda has undoubtedly been filled with unexpected encounters and change. Nonetheless, as he reflects back on what he has experienced, he sees how coming to SILS and Waseda has been a stepping stone and a place of opening new doors for what is yet to come for him in his future. For incoming and current students, with much of the future unknown and emotions of uncertainty, anticipation, and excitement, Riku’s advice is to take responsibility for shaping your academic journey but also remember that, in his words, “life eventually takes you where you mean it to be, and all things work together.”
*This article was written and contributed by the following student.
Misato Fujii (2nd Year Student)
School of International Liberal Studies