Meet at AGU and Study Together in an Environment That Supports Their Thirst for Learning
Eastern History Course, Department of History, College of Literature
＜Given AY2022 commendation as one of the students with the most outstanding academic performance＞
At Aoyama Gakuin University, international students from various countries and regions are blazing their own higher education trails, taking advantage of experiences that they could not get anywhere else. Ms. Wang and Mr. Huang, who are both from China, are taking the Eastern History Course offered by the Department of History at the College of Literature. They have both demonstrated outstanding performance in their classes and research activities and were selected to receive the Honors Scholarship for Privately Financed International Students given by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Japan Student Services Organization). Moreover, Mr. Huang received an AY2021 incentive award and an AY2022 incentive award for outstanding academic performance for two consecutive years, and Ms. Wang was given an AY2020 commendation as a student with outstanding academic performance and an AY2022 commendation as one of the students with the most outstanding academic performance. The two are attending the same seminars and aim to continue their studies at graduate school. We interviewed them about learning at AGU, the details of their research and their future plans.
Learning in Japan
Wang：In China, I enrolled at university after graduating from a science-oriented high school. But I found it difficult to map out my life as a specialist in science and technology in China and felt unsure about my future. It was then that I happened to learn about Japanese history in modern history class and was captivated by the country’s Showa period. To satisfy my intellectual curiosity about Japan, I then began to watch Japanese movies and TV dramas and as a result also became interested in Japanese culture. Hoping to learn more about Japan, I decided to withdraw from my university in order to study in Japan. After coming to Japan and studying at a Japanese language school for two years, I enrolled at Aoyama Gakuin University.
Huang：I was familiar with Japanese culture because I had been watching Japanese anime and playing games made by Japanese developers since I was a kid. Then the experience I had on my first visit to Japan as a senior high school student had a big impact on me and made me decide to study at a Japanese university. I had been fond of history and was really into historical plays and novels, and history was my best subject at junior and senior high school. Being interested in Japan and wanting to go there while also having an interest in history in general, I decided to study history in Japan.
Getting information about Aoyama Gakuin University from the careers counselor at the Japanese language school that I was attending after coming to Japan, I visited the University on its open campus day and for the “Aoyama Festival” held at the University. My first impression was that it was a stately university with a campus in the Omotesando/Shibuya area, which is a hub for the latest culture and information. I also felt that the campus had a comfortable atmosphere created by the students.
Value of studying at AGU (1): The Aoyama Standard
Wang：I chose to study at AGU in particular because the University is implementing “The Aoyama Standard,” a common curriculum system to provide all students with comprehensive education. As the world becomes more globalized, it needs people with comprehensive abilities. I aim to join a university faculty in the future, for which I need to become a broadly learned and cultured person in addition to having my own field of specialization, and to have some basic knowledge that cuts across diverse academic fields as well as a multifaceted viewpoint and the ability to understand others’ psychological situations. AGU, which provides “The Aoyama Standard” and where I can get good training in my chosen area of history, was therefore an attractive choice as a place for learning.
Huang：The Logical Thinking in ‘GO’ class, which I attended in my junior year, was a unique class. Go has its origins in China, but I knew nothing about it, including the rules, until I learned about it in this class, specifically, how to improve your Go skills and practical Go techniques. Students in the class were also given opportunities to play Go with one another. To win, I had to think very logically and the more I played, the better my logical thinking skills got.
Wang：I also attended that class, which was quite interesting. In addition to acquiring logical thinking skills, I was also able to develop the ability to read my opponent. I played games with a different student each time, which I think also helped me improve my communication skills. The class definitely helped me acquire the ability to work as a member of faculty at a university in the future. This unique class is definitely one of the benefits provided by AGU.
Value of studying at AGU (2):
Learning about Japanese and Eastern history in Japan
Wang：In the Eastern History Course, I focused on conducting comparative research into the culture and history of the East Asian region, including the northeastern part of China, where I was born, South Korea and Japan. I also studied Korean as a second foreign language. In the seminars held by Professor Wataru IIJIMA, who specializes in modern Asian history, I have been conducting research into differences between Japan, China and South Korea regarding the “ondol,”, which is an underfloor heating system traditionally used in the northeastern part of East Asia. The ondol is a device to transfer heat from the kitchen stove through an underfloor channel to heat the entire room. In more recent times, the heat source was changed to gas, but the ondol is still used for heating in households in the northeastern part of China and on the Korean Peninsula. In Japan, however, there is no evidence of the use of the ondol beyond some signs found at ancient remains. Wondering why the ondol ceased to be used in Japan, which is a country that has much in common with the northeastern part of China and the Korean Peninsula in terms of climate and culture, I decided to focus on this topic as my research theme. Although the theme is related not only to history but also to archeology and folklore studies, few research activities have been conducted on it in any of these academic fields, and I would like to unravel the mystery on my own by conducting research activities including field surveys. After graduating from AGU, I would like to study at graduate school to become a university faculty member teaching Eastern history and to teach Chinese students and more people in China about Japan in the context of East Asia in an objective manner.
Huang：After entering the University, I was initially interested in modern Japanese history. However, attending the Lecture on History A (4) got me more interested in the history of Japan’s colonial policies in Southeast Asia and led me to conduct research into those policies. In the class, we learned about the famous decision made by Emperor Hirohito, which is said to have had a great impact on the ending of the Pacific War. The fact that we confirmed the truth of the related statements in reference to various historical materials left a lasting impression on me. In order to verify one thing, we need to wrestle with lots and lots of historical materials. Verifying the truth of the related materials is a basic requirement to be met in historical research, and the class helped me understand the essence of this. For my graduation thesis, I am now performing an analysis of higher education provided in Japan’s colonies in East Asia and the impact it had. Before coming to study in Japan, I had been taught about Japan’s colonial history in China, but I am afraid it was not from an objective viewpoint.
On the other hand, what I had heard from people who had actually lived under the colonial rule of Japan implied that the image of Japan at that time was not totally negative. I have actually been interested in the differences between what was taught in China and in Japan about the colonial period since I was at senior high school, and studying at AGU has made me more interested in the issue and I have been conducting research into it as my research theme.
Huang：The two of us share the goal of becoming a researcher after studying at graduate school. Professor Iijima, thinking about our futures, is guiding us very attentively and yet strictly, giving us more opportunities to make presentations at seminars and take on more difficult challenges than other students. Being paired with Ms. Wang to summarize the third chapter of What is History? (Macmillan, 1961. Japanese translation, Ikutaro SHIMIZU, Iwanami, 1962) and give insight into the details left quite an impression on me. We read through this difficult book on history and strived to understand the details, and I wrote a manuscript for us to make an oral presentation at the seminar. Following this nearly 20,000-character manuscript, Ms. Wang prepared the presentation materials. It was a difficult process, but we felt a great sense of achievement when we were able to make a high-quality presentation on the book.
Wang：When I started to attend the seminars given by Professor Iijima, he said to me, “I’m going to be a very strict teacher,” and I felt uneasy, not knowing whether or not I would be able to follow his instructions. Now, however, I know that he is very considerate of us and is sincere in the way he deals with us, and I think that great teachers like Professor Iijima are making the learning environment even better for international students.
Teachers at AGU really are considerate toward international students and this is another great feature of the University. I am now also striving to obtain a curator certification, and last year, thanks to Professor IIjima’s mediation, I was able to work part-time at the Yokohama History Museum.
Learning environment offered to international students by AGU
Huang：The University helped me a lot through the “Tutors” , the support system for international students. Under the support system I was able to receive a lot of daily life advice that was useful to me as international student at AGU. Wishing to do something for younger students in return for the help and consideration extended to me, I volunteered to serve as a tutor in my junior year and helped freshmen and sophomores learn more by planning cultural activities for them, such as visits to museums. Tutors can help international students with every little question they might have, and I hope that more international students will make effective use of the tutor system.
To be honest, AGU was not my first choice among the universities that I applied for. After attending the University, however, I have found that it provides me with a great learning environment beyond my initial expectations, and I have been able to make good progress in my studies at AGU.
Wang：If you want to become a person who can thrive in a global society as a professional with comprehensive skills, I think studying at AGU is the right option. For me, encounters with Professor Iijima and various other teachers have been invaluable.
Huang：I agree with Ms. Wang. Encounters with great teachers are my best memories at AGU. For international students who want to study history, I would really recommend that they choose to study at AGU’s Department of History.
Department of History,
College of Literature
The study of history at AGU is unique in terms of the breadth of areas it covers, which is not seen at other universities. The Department comprises of five courses by area: Japanese History, Oriental History, Occidental History, Archaeology, (which is divided by area), and Art History. Various specialized faculty members present diverse perspectives. The tradition of the Department since its founding has been to "look at history from a wide perspective and to conduct specialized analyses of concrete issues based on that perspective." First-year students thus learn an overview of all the courses, and in their second year they choose a course that interests them in order to conduct specialized research. To study history is to analyze the unbroken activities of human society, and to learn about the thoughts of people who lived before us. We may then review contemporary times and deliberate upon what the ideal future is.
Aoyama Gakuin International Center
The role of the International Center (IC) at Aoyama Gakuin University (AGU) is to provide educational support related to the internationalization of the university as well as to support the development of students to become global citizens. The main work of the IC consists of assisting students going overseas and international students both from overseas partner schools and degree-seeking, full-time international students. Providing scholarships with those students is another task of the IC. It also plans and operates overseas intensive language and cultural programs during summer and spring vacation. The IC strives to strengthen and expand collaboration between overseas universities and AGU while respecting the diverse cultures and traditions of each country as well as the customs and values of the students.