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Living & Learning: Japanese students overseas / More than economics at Colby and Oxford

Courtesy of Ryunosuke Matsuura
Ryunosuke Matsuura at Colby’s international food festival

By Ryunosuke Matsuura (Colby College) / Special to The Japan NewsThis column features reports by Japanese students studying overseas about their life on and off campus.

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Back in my high school days in Shizuoka Prefecture, I imagined that liberal arts colleges in the United States would be the ideal educational institutions for me because of their diverse student body, dedicated professors, student-led classes and strong community spirit. Such values do exist at Colby College. We international students at this school in the state of Maine represent more than 70 countries, and our existence on campus enriches the Colby community. It is not unusual that my friends and I, economics majors, initiate a discussion on various international political or cultural issues in the dining hall, which can last for more than two hours. Every professor I have met at Colby loves teaching students and always gives me sincere academic and non-academic advice.

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However, since my major is the most popular one at Colby, there are usually 35 students even in second-year theory classes. This crowdedness inevitably leads to lecture-based classes and the passive attitudes of some students. In fact, I gradually became accustomed to such large classes and tended to be less active myself. Feeling the need to break through the shell of inactivity and challenge myself intellectually, I decided to study abroad at the University of Oxford in Britain, where tutorial systems are used. As tutorials generally involve one to three students meeting weekly with their tutor and lead to student-centered learning, I expected that Oxford would provide me with an ideal form of education.

Not surprisingly, tutorials are intensive and rigorous. In every tutorial, I am tested by my tutor, who is either a professor or a doctoral student, on whether I fully understand what I learn in lectures. One of my tutors last term asked me to show my work in front of the class in every tutorial. Acclimatized to lecture-style economic classes, I presented my work awkwardly in the first few tutorials. However, I realized that such embarrassment was the seed of growth, and active involvement in the class helped me fully comprehend the course materials. The tutorial system has reignited my willingness to study assertively and reminded me of the importance of an active learning process; it has taught me more than just economic theory. I’m going back to Colby in September. Based on the experience at the two colleges, I now plan to finish a doctoral program in economics in the United States.

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Colby College

Founded in 1813, Colby is the 12th-oldest private liberal arts college in the United States. Its 1,850 students come from nearly every stateand more than 70 countries.

In partnership with Ryugaku Fellowship

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