Gloria Mitsuko Steiner came to Japan when she was 18 for the Bekka program to study Japanese. After finishing the one-year Bekka program, she was accepted to both the Faculty of Letters and the Faculty of International Liberal Arts (FILA) but ultimately chose FILA. As a student, she worked for WLC Global Village as a German staff for one semester, and two years in English Forum. Also, she was a staff for the Soka University Festival at the international students’ café.
Growing up in Austria, did you learn English and why did you come to Japan?
I learned English when I was in middle school and high school but wasn't able to use it in my country. I was not very good when I came to Japan, but interacting with international students during the Bekka program enabled me to improve my English skills. I didn't know what I wanted to do in the future, but I knew that I wanted to study at Soka University.
Entering FILA with no history must have been challenging. Why did you want to study in FILA?
In my heart, I wanted to stay in Soka, but I didn't know what to do. Because I did the Bekka program, I thought I wanted to continue to use and improve my Japanese. So, I wanted to pursue my studies in the Faculty of Letters. However, one professor advised me that “You already learned Japanese for one year, FILA is very international, and you might be able to fit in with the culture of FILA.” Meeting with Dr. Maria Guajardo, the former Dean of FILA, in the summer of 2013, was another crucial factor why I entered FILA. By learning more about FILA, I came to believe that it was the best fit and eventually chose to enroll in the Faculty of International Liberal Arts.
FILA students go abroad in their 1st year second semester. What did you study before going abroad?
We had basic seminar classes studying globalization in different aspects; sociology, economics, and politics. Another class was about cross-cultural understanding. It was one of my favorite classes because we learned about how people communicate differently and how to deal with culture shock, to better prepare us for our study abroad. Even though we international students already had an idea because Japan was our first study abroad, we were able to get an academic viewpoint of those aspects. All the classes were taught in English. What helped me most preparing for abroad was improving my academic writing skills. For Japanese students, I believe the classes helped them by giving them more exposure to English. For most of them, this was the first time being exposed to actual English classes.
You were an international student before entering FILA and you were an international student in UK. What was the difference and what did you experience?
Both were very different. In Japan, people were interested in my background, but in the UK, people tended to care less about where I came from because it is a multi-cultural society. It was actually very difficult to meet British citizens because of UK`s great diversity. In a way, I felt that British people are similar to Japanese people. They are reserved and it took a while before they opened their hearts, after breaking the wall between us. In Japan, many people are interested in international students, especially at Soka University. In the UK, I was able to focus more on my studies and could improve my writing skills.
You will be the first FILA class to graduate, how has FILA been able to change you in the 4 years?
FILA has changed my perspective on culture. I didn't like the way how some people generalized others. However, I started to understand that culture influences people and learning about that helped me to deeply understand others through their culture. FILA taught me to work hard and to gain many perspectives to understand society. Dr. Maria Guajardo’s leadership seminar had the most impact on me. Her courses taught me what FILA really stands for and how to become the person I want to be. In these 4 years, FILA also taught me the value of friendship and importance of having friends during difficult times.
FILA changed the Japanese students as well. My friend is a great example for that. Comparing how much he changed from his first year to now shows that Japanese students in FILA are very busy and hard working. They study countless hours in their own time to catch up with the international students and the English classes. I want to credit the Japanese students for their personal and academic growth. In the first few years, I didn't know how much they were growing, but looking at them in the 4th year clearly shows that their hard work paid off when looking at their excellent results.
How were you able to change FILA and how will FILA change down the road?
Because of the openness of the staff members and professors, we were able to discuss ideas and issues. It was up to us and how we can come together to build an even better Faculty. We are pioneers of FILA and we had to have the determination to change the faculty. From there, we were able to make the growth of FILA our first priority. I believe FILA has the potential and strength to change Soka University, not just internationally but academically as well, because of its diversity, global standards and the high quality of classes. I hope FILA can internationalize and globalize Soka in the future.
What do you want to do after you graduate
I have gained interest in culture and society in these four years, so I want to pursue further studies in these fields. I am planning to study in another country to gain more experience. Studying in FILA has helped me to realize the importance of education and it has inspired me to become a global citizen. I want to contribute to society in my own unique way.
Message for future FILA students
Being in FILA is your mission. If you ever have doubts about this, please talk with the great FILA professors, staff members, and students. They are always open to hearing your opinions, ideas, and worries. After 4 years of being in FILA, I feel it is a privilege to be a FILA student. At first, you might not be able to imagine what will happen in the next four years. But I am certain that it will be life-changing because you can create life-long friendships with students from all over the world while realizing how you can contribute to society in your own unique way.
GLORIA MITSUKO STEINER
London, UK University of London, Goldsmiths
watching movies, riding a bicycle, traveling
The Count of Monte Cristo
Favorite Place on Campus: