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Living & Learning: Japanese students overseas / Finding my own way in challenging setting

Courtesy of Hitomi Hayashi
Hitomi Hayashi, center, with her colleagues at a company where she worked as an intern

By Hitomi Hayashi (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) / Special to The Japan News This column features reports by Japanese students currently studying overseas on their lives on and off campus.

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Three semesters after coming here, I’m slowly starting to become the person I want to be. I decided to come here because I wanted to tiptoe out a little bit and see the bigger world.

The total enrollment of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is over 44,000, more than 5,000 courses are offered, and there were 800 students in my freshman statistics class.

In the everyday world of this gigantic university in the United States, I seem so insignificant. Out of the five classes I’m taking, three of my professors don’t even know my name.

However, this is the exact reason I came here: I wanted to experience the uneasiness of life. I am forced to go out of my way to be recognized. In order to do that, not only do I have to fight against temptations so I can finish my p-set homework on time, but I also have to tiptoe a little out of my comfort zone.

My favorite thing is to have a good conversation with a friend, classmate or even a person I don’t know. Over a meal, I can learn about that person’s ideas, beliefs and viewpoints on topics that I care about.

I am currently very interested in industrial and organizational psychology and company development. Conversations from a three-hour class sometimes carry over to the dinner table, where I get to share my opinion and hear the opinions of others over pizza. Participants include a 28-year-old masters degree student, a psychology professor, a student from Zambia, and a student who grew up on a farm. Our conversation starts civilized, and then gets heated. We get to talk about what we like and what we hate, what we care about, and what we don’t. Where else would I be blessed with such an amazing opportunity?

Each semester, classwork gets more demanding, with more responsibilities and more temptations. There are days when I just want to lock myself away in a room, but I have to remember that this is the life I wanted. To fight and grow in an environment where I am on my own, because this is how I’ll become strong and extraordinary.

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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Founded in 1867, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is home to students from all 50 U.S. states and more than 100 countries. Alumni include 11 Nobel laureates.

In partnership with Ryugaku Fellowship

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