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Student's voice (Department of Regional Development Studies)2

Japanese (TOYO Global RDS)

Many Lectures in English


Prof. Hughes: The Faculty of Regional Development Studies offers special lectures in English as well as English language classes for students learning practical skills. How did you find studying these classes in English?

Takayo: You get an opportunity to study the vocabulary and terminology of each subject in the classes you take. English is a tool for acquiring knowledge through these lectures. It’s not English for the sake of English. It’s English for a particular purpose. I think both English language classes and lectures on specialized subjects in English are useful and necessary.

Prof. Hughes: Of the four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, in the second year what was your weakest skill?

Takayo: Writing and speaking skills. I was not great at listening and reading but these are passive skills you can study on your own.

Prof. Hughes: So in November of your second year, having studied English at Toyo University for almost two years, you got 507 points for the TOEFL exam? Had you taken the TOEFL exam before?

Takayo: Yes, back in TOEFL in June of my second year, five months before I took it for the second time. My first TOEFL score was 497. Because I wanted to study abroad, I needed over 500 points, which is what you must have to be eligible for most programs. I was desperate to get 500 points. I thought if I studied just a little bit more, I could make it.

Prof. Hughes: So what did you do from that point until you took the second TOEFL exam in November? What did you do to boost your English ability? What steps did you take?

Takayo: Whereas TOEIC is oriented toward business English, TOEFL focuses on English for academic purposes. So, I tried to expand my vocabulary with an eye to what would be useful in an academic setting. I was not accustomed to reading or listening to that kind of English. But before taking the TOEFL exam for the second time, I went on a one-month intensive English program in San Francisco during the summer. I used an agency to find the program that was right for me. Through this program, my English ability, particularly the listening skill, improved. I know that Toyo University also offers summer programs but they are for a group of people. I wanted to do my own thing, so I selected a program just for me.

Prof. Hughes: When you went on that program in Canada back in high school, everyone in the class was Japanese. But this time, I guess you met people from all over the world. Right?

Takayo: There were four students from South Korea, two from the Switzerland and one from Germany. I became close friends with a couple of students: one was from Korea and the other was Swiss.

Prof. Hughes: What was the connection between studying abroad and rising to the challenge of the next TOEFL test? Did you gain confidence?

Takayo: San Francisco was great. My interest expanded from just English to American culture, lifestyles, and other stuff.I loved the U.S. and I wanted to study there. When my TOEFL score broke the 500-point barrier, I felt “Wow! I did it!”

Prof. Hughes: I remember you came to see me one day about a letter you had received from Clarion University. They offered you some accommodation options: a dormitory with separate floors for male and female students, apartment-style accommodation, or a girls-only dorm.

Takayo: I chose a girls-only dormitory. International students are, at most, 2% of the Clarion University study population. My roommate was an American. She was so nice to me. She was younger than me but whenever I had some questions about my studies or anything else, I could always ask her. She was not just my roommate but a kind of mentor helping me get the most out of my time in Pennsylvania.


Prof. Hughes: What was the biggest surprise for you when you were studying in the United States?

Takayo: The amount of homework. Sometimes I had to spend all day in the library to get my homework done. I was required to write a report of a couple of pages for most of my classes. I felt the university expects the students to satisfy high standards.

Prof. Hughes: The rule of thumb at university is that for every hour in class, you should to do two hours of reading. It adds up: if you spend three hours in class on a particular day, you are going to have six hours of additional reading. That’s a nine-hour day. At Canadian, American, British or Australian universities, for example, you get a lot of reading assignments. Did you feel your studies at Toyo University had prepared you for that kind of workload outside class?

Takayo: Not entirely, but the experience of studying in specialty classes in English at Toyo University helped me a lot. I wished I had taken writing classes. That would have been a big help when I had to write reports but I hadn’t taken any writing classes at Toyo University. They are elective. Before going to the U.S., I hadn’t realized just how important writing skills are.

Prof. Hughes: Do you have any advice for students who want to study abroad?What should the do to prepare, starting a year or two before they go?

Takayo: Of the four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, to get good grades at a university abroad, I think your listening skill is the most important. If you can’t understand what your teacher is saying, it will be difficult to make progress. Although my English may have been better than that of many other Japanese students, I realized how low my English level was when I actually studied at university in the U.S.

Prof. Hughes: Are you doing anything in particular to improve your English?

Takayo: I am writing my graduation thesis in English. The minimum requirement is 8,000 words. Students with some experience of studying abroad tend to take up the challenge of writing a thesis in English. But some of my friends who have never studied abroad are also writing theses in English.

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