Grads turning to U.S. schools to hone English, career skills

by Kenzo Moriguchi

OSAKA — Kumiko Hashi, 22, had initially planned to go on a working holiday in an English-speaking country upon graduation to improve her command of the language. But plans change.

Hashi, who graduated from Kobe Gakuin University last month with a degree in humanities, is now determined to get a degree in primary education at a U.S. university.

“First, I just wanted to be able to speak English. But then I thought studying a new subject in English would be much more beneficial for my future,” she said.

Hashi is one of 62 students currently on a transfer program to American universities from Human International University Japan. It opened here in 1990 as a Japanese branch of National College, South Dakota, and has since then helped more than 700 students enter U.S. universities.

Most of the students who enrolled in the 1990s were high school graduates, but the school is now seeing more and more university graduates, such as Hashi, opting to get a degree in the United States, HIUJ official Yuka Yamanaka said.

For the school year that started in March, 62 students enrolled, a massive jump from 11 the previous year, she said.

To better meet the needs of such students, HIUJ launched a preparatory course in October for transferring to State University of New York. It also introduced a preparatory evening program last week.

The programs offer studies in English as a foreign language as well as college skills, such as taking notes, writing essays and using the library facilities.

In addition, the programs also include part of the curriculum taught at American universities. This can be counted as credits toward a degree in the U.S.

Taught by native speakers with teaching qualifications, those with a degree can usually reach a level ready to transfer to a U.S. university in six months, Yamanaka said.

Along with the 12 colleges of State University of New York, HIUJ has also joined forces with the National American University, Schiller International University and 19 colleges and universities of the Foreign Study League.

Yamanaka said that one of the reasons for the increasing number of university graduates seeking another degree in the U.S. may be the diminishing job opportunities for college grads in Japan.

“In the past, we used to see those who had failed to pass entrance examinations to Japanese universities trying to get a degree in the U.S.,” Yamanaka said. “But today, those university graduates seeking extra knowledge and skills on top of their degrees here are becoming more conspicuous.”

Nozomi Eto, 20, has been on HIUJ’s transfer program since March, when she graduated from a junior college, because she realized she needs “something extra” after having tried and failed to land a job during the past six months.

“I tried to find a job that uses English. After I study tourism in the U.S., I want to work for an airline using English,” Eto said.

Preparing for overseas studies, however, is no easy task, not to mention keeping up with a U.S. degree course.

“I have never studied so hard before I started the transfer program at HIUJ in March,” Eto said.

Hashi said she was shocked by the program at first, because it demands that she become vocal and active.

This was not required during her four-year study at the Japanese university.

But now, after about a month at the school, Hashi feels she can manage when she flies to New York, hopefully, in September.