Masaaki Kitajima is from Fukuoka Prefecture. He first learned English in junior high school, but just grammar. After he attended Yanagawa High school, where there were lots of international students, that is when he first started to speak English. Last April, he entered the Faculty of Letters and Takiyama International Dormitory. This year, he will be an RA (Residential Assistant) at Takiyama International Dormitory. In his 3rd year or 4th year, he is planning to study abroad in an English-speaking country.
When was your first time studying English?
The first time I started to study English, I was in my 3rd year of junior high school. Before my 3rd year, I actually didn't go to school during that time because I was bullied. I lost all my confidence and didn't fully understand my situation on why I had to go to school or why I was bullied. Two events changed my perspective on study and life, one is when I found out my uncle was working for a trading company and he was using English for his job and I admired him so much. The second is when I read a book by the founder of the University about “confidence” and slowly became more confident, ultimately leading me back to school. These two events led to my motivation to learn English and the importance of education.
When entering Soka University did you expect to use or speak English?
Before entering Soka University, I knew there were lots of international students and I wanted to live in the new Takiyama International Dormitory from the pamphlets, videos, and homepage. Honestly, I did not know how much English I was going to use. For Faculty of Letters, I knew I was going to use and speak English because I wanted to challenge myself to Double Degree program to the University of Buckingham in the United Kingdom.
What were your challenges of English?
In classes, I was able to speak but my challenges were writing. A lot of the students in my class and people who I knew had a high level of English, especially vocabulary, but they could not speak. I was the exact opposite because of my high school experience. This challenge was something I really wanted to overcome to grow as a student. I knew if I could overcome this challenge, many opportunities would open up in the future.
Which has helped more the dormitory or Faculty of Letters in terms of growth in English?
Speaking at the dormitory has helped improve my English. Of course, classes in the Faculty of Letters has helped no doubt, but I can only use during classes. Outside of class Japanese is the main language, so finding places to use English is very hard. At the dormitory, I am able to immerse myself in the English environment, not saying I don't use Japanese, I am able to use English freely while in the dormitory. My motivation is to be a bridge between international students and Japanese students. In result, it is not about which, the dorm and faculty actually connect to my growth in English.
How can Japanese students learn English in the Dormitory?
Using English in the dormitory is an opportunity to expand our perspective, experience, and friends. If we don't use English, there will be less opportunity. There are many ways to learn English. For example, go to international students and get to know them, find someone to take you to international students, etc. The more we use, the more opportunity to grow.
Why did you want to become a Residential Advisor for Takiyama International Dormitory?
Because of Takiyama International Dormitory, I am the person who I am today. I wanted to contribute to the growth of Soka University. I wanted to interact and wanted to contribute to building the foundation of Takiyama International Dormitory. I wanted to become like my senpai’s, who were RA’s. I wanted to help them, support them and do things they weren’t able to do. Takiyama International Dormitory is my home and wants to be the person who can support everyone. I truly believe it is my mission to stay.
Message for students who want to improve their English
First, think about what you can do. If you really want to improve your English, you have to speak up and find opportunities to use English. Learn about yourself and don't be shy about making mistakes. Learning English is just like when you were learning Japanese. There are going to be many international students. There are many international classes, if you come to Soka University, take many global classes, learn and meet international students and make friends from all over the world. Not just educationally, but you can become friends with the professors. There are many places in the university to use English as long as you create the places. Many opportunities await you, it ultimately depends on you.
Year and Major: 1st-year Faculty of Letters
Dormitory: Takiyama International Dormitory
Hobbies: watching movies, taking pictures
Favorite Book: Representative Men of Japan
Favorite Place on Campus: Global Square 12th floor lounge