Peace Studies Third Batch Starts Academic Year Online in High Spirits
The fourteen students of the class of 2022 of the master's degree in International Peace Studies started their classes, all online, in the midst of one of the most extraordinary crises humanity has faced in decades, the coronavirus pandemic. SIPS is following the recommendation of Soka University, conducting all classes online for the whole spring semester of 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The calendar has changed and the migration to online classes was motivated by the university's serious commitment to protect everyone, students, teachers, and the campus. Despite the sudden change in the style of classes, and even the cancellation of trips for some of the students, the online learning environment is proving to be enjoyable, meaningful and productive.
The SIPS students represent seven nationalities and are now attending classes while located in five countries, Brazil, Cambodia, India, Malaysia and Japan. Prof. Dr. Minoru Koide, the Dean of the program, is of the opinion that the change ended up generating even greater unity between students, staff, and faculty members.
“The mission of our program is to cultivate creative global citizens. I would believe that creative global citizens are those who can identify and engage in their own creative roles even in a difficult and uncertain moment like today," wrote Koide to the students one day before the start of the classes. Of the fourteen students, six are in Japan and eight are attending classes in their countries.
Currently living 16,025 km (10,000 miles) from Tokyo, in the municipality of Rio Branco, in Acre, a northern state in the Amazon, Brazil, Anaís Cordeiro de Medeiros was prepared to come to Japan when the coronavirus pandemic changed her whole life. Overcoming challenges with high spirits, she started online classes from home. It is important to consider that this is a part of my training as a Soka student, she said, "such moments will be a treasure in my life."
Managing time is a challenge for Medeiros, "Because of the different time zones, it was 2 am when the first class ended, but despite the different routines, I am determined to do my best!," she said after her first online class. Above all, the possibility to connect to people from different parts of the world is a great opportunity, she said, "I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to people from different parts of the world and learn from them and their experiences."
Geetanjali Dhankhar is studying at home from Panchkula City, Haryana state in the northern part of India. Online classes are a great opportunity to learn about online communication in an academic setting, she said, and it might become the way of the world in the future.
"I feel great about SIPS classes starting online. I am very grateful to everyone at SIPS doing their best to make this a wholesome experience for the students. Thankfully, the Internet connection at my end is satisfactory minus the few glitches on some days. But we are all coping well and I wish to continue with the same spirit of helping out others and also asking for help from my wonderful cohort," she said.
Juliana Platero currently lives in Yokohama, Japan, and despite the changes in her daily routine, she started the program full of motivation. Right after the first class, she shared, "And in the middle of a world crisis, with everyone staying at home and fearing the next steps, today we had our first class at the School of International Peace Studies at Soka University, to show us and the world that we are never going to give up the fight.”
Also, Platero recognized that some adaptation is necessary and revealed she was afraid it might not be so exciting to have lessons online. "But the professor and all my colleagues made sure we had a blast and finished the meeting with a great feeling of hope and excitement, despite everything that is going on all over the world. The excitement is even stronger with this great challenge", she said.
It has been a unique experience, says Ysabella Vida Serrano. She is from the Philippines, and currently living in Hachioji, Tokyo, with her sister, also a Soka University student. Serrano said that the beginning of her new life as a SIPS student has been quite a rollercoaster ride.
"On the one hand, we have great discussions on various topics and issues that are very relevant to the current situation of the world right now, but on the other, it is quite difficult to engage in a more personal connection with my classmates and professors given the virtual environment. Not only that but finding the right time for all of us to meet is another challenge given that we are all located in at least 3 different time zones," she said.
The changes also altered the daily rhythm and working modes of ten faculty members from nine different countries. They promptly adjusted to the new technologies required for the new class process. For this reason, professors are preparing classes thoroughly. The dynamics of the classes are different but with creativity and commitment, everyone has shown that human relationships based on creating value are the essence of Soka education.
The International Peace Studies program is focused on cultivating creative global citizens