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Message from a senior student in the Graduate School of Welfare Society Design

2nd year, Master’s Program, Social Welfare, Graduate School of Welfare Society Design
Laura Flores Méndez

(from APEC University, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic)
Research Theme:A comparative study of child care policies in Japan and Latin America

I consciously chose to study in Japan to help children in the future.

Laura Flores Méndez

Q.Please discuss your research theme.

 My research theme is a comparative study of child care policies in Japan and Latin America. I selected Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Brazil, 5 countries whose remarkable and distinguished developments set them apart from other Latin American countries which are implementing diverse child care policies. I compare child care and early education systems in these 5 countries with Japan. The goal of my research is to explore methods for fulfilling the needs of citizens by clarifying policy approach and governmental roles in the child care of each country.

 Q.Would you please discuss some specifics of your research?

 Currently, I am researching child care policy in Japan and Latin America from a macro perspective. I conduct comparative research for the 4 major categories of working conditions for mothers, household income level, policy approach and type of child care services.

 Q.Why did you become interested in this field?

 Before coming to Japan, I worked for the international NGO, Habitat for Humanity Dominican Republic (HFH-DR), which supports the construction of homes and the self-sufficiency of citizens on a global level. I was involved with volunteer activities, fundraising and communication with stakeholders. I was greatly influenced by my first-hand experience with poverty and education while working at HFH-DR. I was driven by the poverty in the Dominican Republic, particularly the plight of children.

 Q.Why did you decide to study abroad in Japan?

 I learned from a Japanese acquaintance that Japanese culture is completely different from the Dominican Republic. This spurred my interest. Upon further investigation, I was fascinated by the mixture of tradition and modernism found in Japan’s postwar development. The majority of Dominicans study overseas in the United States or Europe, but I consciously chose to study in Japan to gain new perspectives, knowledge and experiences that could complement other points of view.

 Q.Why did you select Toyo University Graduate School?

 I chose Toyo University Graduate School because of the numerous specialization options of the Social Welfare Program. My studies consist mainly of social welfare history, recent policy, regional welfare and social workers, as well as conceptualization and analytical methods. The program at the Graduate School of Welfare Society Design offers the comprehensive content I had expected. I also find it exciting to learn about social welfare in different countries from the numerous other foreign students, the majority of whom come from Asia.

 Q.What difficulties do you experience in your research?

 When I first saw kanji when living in the Dominican Republic, the system of writing stimulated my curiosity. However, reading and writing the characters is quite difficult for me. It takes me a long time to read a book, but I am working my hardest. My research is made possible through the constant kindness of my teachers and senior students, as well as an outstanding support system which includes staff at the Academic & Student Affairs Section.

 Q.Are you satisfied with the research facilities and environment at Toyo University Graduate School?

 Yes, from ToyoNet to the library and cafeteria, all of the facilities are outstanding. I particularly like the laboratories. A full range of equipment including computers and other devices is available and I am able to concentrate on my research. On days when I don’t have classes, I use the laboratory from morning until evening. Although there aren’t many books or materials on Latin America in Japan, I can use the internet to download theses. Also, there is a wonderful atmosphere of exchange and mutual cooperation among colleagues of all ages, including foreign students.

 Q.What are your dreams and goals for the future?

 I will go back to my country after finishing graduate school. I hope to make the most of the research I’m current engaged in to work for the welfare of poor children. In the future, I want to contribute to the establishment of child care programs in the Dominican Republic. I also hope to serve as a bridge for friendship between Japan and the Dominican Republic.

 Q.Please give a message to people who are thinking about entering graduate school.

 I’m sure some people want to study in Japan but are hesitant due to the difficulty of the Japanese language. However, although it may take time, anything can be achieved through proactive effort. Studying in Japan is an excellent opportunity for learning the Japanese language. Personally, I was deeply impressed by Japanese people’s way of thinking and living, particularly their ideas regarding the community. For example, the spirit of sharing after the Great East Japan Earthquake is a noble action which one rarely sees in other countries. I also feel that studying at Toyo University Graduate School and experiencing life in Japan will be a positive for my career path as a professional.