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〔Study Abroad Report〕Ireland・University of Limerick

Japanese (TOYO Global RDS)

[Study Abroad Report]Ireland・University of Limerick

Satoshi Fukuda (Department of International Tourism Studies)

日本語

University of Limerick (UL)

I have been studying abroad at the University of Limerick (UL) in Ireland as an exchange student since September 2015.

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Limerick is a medieval city located in the south western part of Ireland. Although Limerick is a relatively small-scale city compared to some cities in Japan, it is the third most populous city in Ireland.
UL has the most beautiful campus in Ireland, with plenty of green spaces throughout the campus. The student dormitory where I live is separated from the main campus by the grand Shannon River. As you can see in the picture, the view of the Shannon River is spectacular, and so I really like to see this lovely view while walking across the bridge between main building and my dormitory (I can rarely see this nice view though because of the terrible Irish weather).
UL has a wide variety of student-driven clubs and communities, including sports, play, music, and so forth. There is also a community for international students, which is called the International Society. It organizes day trips to various cities or tourist attractions within Ireland on a second-weekly basis, so that the newcomers from around the world coming to UL can get a lot of great opportunities to explore this beautiful green country.

International Management

留学だよりIn my first semester in UL, I have taken five modules. Since I wanted to learn about academic fields related to tourism study that I specialize in at my home university in Japan, but is not offered in UL for undergraduates, I have chosen the classes about business and economics studies instead. Basically, my classes were conducted around a lecture style in a large room, which I did not expect before coming here (I was kind of shocked because I expected classes here to be smaller-sized, with a smaller number of classmates in a friendly and cooperative atmosphere).

Among those five classes that I have taken, I found a module of International Management quite interesting. The basic concept of this class is to provide students with a variety of perspectives that people working for multinational corporations should have in managing their own businesses beyond the national boundaries. There are lots of key elements that managers need to take into consideration when doing international business. Those include each nations’ politics, culture, legal environment, diplomatic relationship, and even history. As some of these are going to be hindrances as well as advantages, managers should be aware of the differences between their home country and host countries in order to avoid any possible risks when they start and manage business in other states. What I have learned from this class is very beneficial for me because it would be useful, not only in working for private multinational corporations, but also in engaging in international organizations and international NGOs which I would like to work for in the future. I have not finished reading the thick textbook yet, so I will read it to deepen my understanding of international management after getting back to Japan.

My Unique Experience in Africa

Taking advantage of the winter holiday between semesters, I traveled around four European countries for sightseeing and then visited Africa to join a volunteer program organized by a tourism NGO in Uganda. Throughout the three weeks that I stayed in Uganda, I had various valuable experiences.

留学だよりWhat I found different from developed countries, first, was the obviously poor infrastructure. Except for the very main roadways between big cities, most of roadways are not maintained at all, and there are no lights along them, so that people drive only relying on the headlights of other cars at night. Other basic public services, such as supply of electricity and water, do not function well either. When I asked about the cause to locals, everyone answers with a word "Corruption". Most of problems in Uganda are rooted in corruption. At that time I found out that it is impossible to properly foster development of African countries without knowing African politics. Therefore, I decided to take a class of African Politics in my second semester in UL in order to learn how it works and how development could be properly sustained.

The tourism NGO that I worked for is an organization promoting sustainable tourism development in Uganda. The program assigned to me was about developing Community Based Tourism which works towards involving locals living in communities close to tourism sites with tourism activity so that they can benefit from tourism there. I was really excited about engaging in the project, but what I was supposed to do was not conducted due to poor management of my terrible supervisor of the NGO. Among a number of his ridiculous excuses when I complained to him, I found one most impressive. He said "We haven't yet reached the international standard that developed countries have". If what he said was true and human factor was one of the elements impeding development of African countries as well as political and economic factors, I wonder how difficult and long off African development would have.

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I have had great experiences as well. I have stayed at a homestay of locals with two volunteers from Europe. It was great to visit a lot of communities, including a school and slum. Furthermore, my fellow volunteers from Europe have really inspired me throughout the three weeks. Both of them can speak more than four languages, including perfect English, and have a large degree of knowledge about a wide variety of fields, such as global issues and politics. What I was surprised at was that they often talked about some political and philosophical topics in daily conversations.

留学だよりThere were plenty of things that I could learn from them, such as their attitudes to seek knowledge. I suppose that they are kind of people who are called "Global Leaders or Global Talents" that we hear a lot about these days in Japan. Through the meeting with these two brilliant girls whom I respect, I thought that I really need to make more effort.

 

Broadening My Horizons

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Since I have grown up in Japan and spent almost my entire life-time in the small isolated island in the Far East, this is great opportunity for me to broaden my horizons through studying abroad.

I guess that the Japanese media does not really focus on picking up some world news about international affairs and global issues compared to other countries. Also, Japan is a kind of homogeneous nation where there is little diversity in terms of peoples’ nationalities. Therefore, in my personal opinion, I seldom feel a sense of belonging to the international society as an individual when I was in Japan. However, currently, I do feel that kind of sense in one of the European countries, Ireland. This is because in Ireland I hear more frequently about the news of global movements than I could do in Japan, and a number of meetings with diverse people who have different backgrounds and values offered me plenty of opportunities to feel being a global citizen in the international society.

In terms of academic study, I have been discovering my new interests in other fields and expanding my international view through my time in another countries. Before heading to Uganda during the winter break, my main interest had been poverty alleviation in developing countries by sustainable tourism development. However, many of the local people who I have seen in Uganda seemed to strongly live together by cooperating with one another within a community. Moreover, I have even seen locals, especially children, acting positively even though they live in a harsh circumstance. At that time, I realized that poverty does not always go hand in hand with unhappiness. After that, I started thinking about what types of people have been suffering in the severest situation in desperation. I suppose that they would be those who do not have access to the fundamental human rights that we take for granted, such as refugees and stateless people. Through this process, I decided to take some classes, including Sociology of Inequality and Social Exclusion and African Politics, in relation to human rights in my second semester in UL in order to gain an insight into them.

留学だよりAdditionally, there is a connection between human rights and tourism, which is called "Accessible Tourism". Accessible tourism is based on a perspective to respect human rights and make tourism universally accessible to every human being.
I would say that getting interested in other academic fields is one of those broadening my horizons. Through my life in a different country I have come across the moments when I needed to take my time to face myself and think about who I am. This process is significant so that I can grow and discover something new inside myself.

 

To Japanese students who think of/will study abroad

Lastly, I have one thing that I would like to tell those Japanese students who are thinking of or going to study abroad.
You should really study hard before going abroad. This is what I really want to tell you.
As for English, if you have not had many overseas experiences before like me, it is definitely better for you to put much more emphasis on seeking to improve your English skills. In my case, I started to seriously study English from the summer two and a half years ago, in order to get a chance of participating in the exchange study abroad program. As I used to be a boy who devoted all my time and energy to play football until the graduation from my high school while getting the notorious English education of Japanese public schools, I had little English skills. Yet, before coming to Ireland as an exchange student, I managed to get over 600 on TOEFL-ITP exam as well as more than 900 on TOEIC test by studying really hard.

However, within only a few weeks after coming to UL, I started to really struggle with my class and communication with people here due to my lack of English skills. I even doubted my English learning before coming to Ireland. While I was struggling with those things, other international students were doing well without any problem of language. They seemed to be already accustomed to speaking English since the beginning of study abroad, and so I thought that I should have focused on improving English speaking ability as well. To be honest, I still struggle with it and sometimes do not really understand some of my classes’ contents, even though I have spent about six months here. Therefore, I strongly recommend you to study all four skills equally and put more emphasis on learning English in a practical way. I also advise you to stop studying just for ridiculous exams and move on to learning practical English as soon as you could get a high enough score on some English exams like TOEFL.

Besides, I think that you should study hard not only English, but also other things, including your major. Brilliant students from around the world have a large degree of knowledge about a wide variety of things, including their own specialty, country, global issues, and so forth. I guess that working on a global stage means to collaborate with amazing people from all over the globe while aiming at accomplishing some goals together. Therefore, we really need to keep making efforts to get there. The more you prepare before going abroad, the more fruitful your study abroad experience will be.

I hope you will challenge to study abroad and have a fantastic experience abroad. Good Luck!

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Satoshi Fukuda (Department of International Tourism Studies)
September 2015~May 2016 University of Limerick, Ireland