Living & Learning: Japanese students overseas / Winding path to realize dream

Courtesy of Yui Koda

Yui Koda, right, with a friend in front of the UC Berkeley entrance

By Yui Koda (UC Berkeley)This column features reports by Japanese students currently studying overseas on their lives on and off campus.

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In August 2017, I started my junior year by attending the New Student Convocation at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) as a transfer student who is also the first to attend college in my family. I transferred to UC Berkeley as a sociology major from Diablo Valley College (DVC), a community college in California.

The reason why I wanted to study abroad was to pursue sociology at UC Berkeley. UC Berkeley is the world’s top school for sociology and the birthplace of the free speech movement. Not only the school, but also the town of Berkeley is very socially progressive.

However, I had academic and financial issues when it came to studying abroad. I did not have the grades to get into UC Berkeley, and the cost was not affordable for my family.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

When I had almost given up, I found that there was a way to transfer to a four-year university from a community college. This pathway was perfect for me, who had academic and financial concerns but also a strong passion I wanted to pursue by studying abroad. A community college is a government-supported two-year college that provides workforce education and courses that are designed for freshmen and sophomores as a path to a four-year university, with affordable tuition. Also, the admission requirements are simpler compared to four-year universities; grades and the score of an English proficiency test do not have to be as high as four-year universities require, and the essay also tends not to be complex.

It has been two months since I transferred to UC Berkeley. Both UC Berkeley and DVC have different features. I like how UC Berkeley is diverse and socially progressive with many social movements. However, in the aspect of diversity, I believe DVC had more. The unique system of community college makes the student body diverse in race, socioeconomic class, and age; there were students who were parents, students with full-time jobs, and homeless students. Rankings say sociology at UC Berkeley is top in the world. However, I personally value more the discussions I had with those diverse students at my community college, for sociological learning.

I was born and grew up as the daughter of an izakaya owner in a small town in Niigata. I think my background is pretty disadvantageous for studying abroad; I am from a low-income family, did not have any previous experience of studying overseas, only started preparing to study abroad from the autumn of my senior year because of the lack of information in my suburb, and was able to have only a single attempt at TOEFL, which I needed to submit to schools to prove my English proficiency, due to its expensive fee. However, I made it to sociology at UC Berkeley, which I have dreamed of. For those who are struggling like me in a similar situation, I would like to remind them that there is always a different way to achieve your goals or dreams, as I did by attending a community college.

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University of California, Berkeley

This public university was founded in 1868 and later moved to Berkeley where it was established as the first of the 10 UC campuses across California today. Notable alumni include Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Inc.

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