Students from ASEAN member states are enjoying their learning experiences at Sophia University and their daily lives in an international environment provided by the most international university in Japan.
Those students participate in SAIMS, Sophia University’s program to accept Southeast Asian exchange students for a semester. SAIMS stands for Sophia’s AIMS, and is conducted under the ASEAN International Mobility for Students Programme initiated by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
Setiadiputra Muhamad Haris Zamaludin, a male student from Bogor Agricultural University in Indonesia, learned about SAIMS from a Sophia student who was then studying at Bogor.
“SAIMS covers airfare and accommodation, so it’s a good opportunity for me to study abroad,” Setiadiputra said.
“Indonesia now has many young people and I have to compete with them. So, having a unique experience is a big plus,” he said as a reason he decided to study abroad, adding that Sophia is the right choice for him for its internationalism.
He described his experience at Sophia as “fascinating.”
“I thought it would be crowded with many Japanese people, but Sophia has people of so many nationalities,” he said. “Also, I live in Soshigaya (International House) and there are many people of different nationalities there, too.”
All SAIMS students are eligible to live in Sophia Soshigaya International House during the program.
Another reason he chose to come to Japan is that he wanted to learn the Japanese culture of dedication to work.
Setiadiputra, who majors in communication and community development science, is the president of a debate club in his home university and was able to participate in an English debate in Tokyo.
Rabbani Naufal Shidqi is a member of a band who plays guitar and also from Bogor Agricultural University.
Rabbani, whose major is food technology, had opportunities to go to Taiwan, Thailand and Japan, but chose Sophia because SAIMS has a focus on sustainable development, he said.
One of his good memories about life in Sophia University is that he played traditional Indonesian music at a Sophia festival and he was able to speak with other musicians about traditional music.
He is also happy that not only can he now sing in Japanese, but he is also able to ask for directions in Japanese when he gets lost; a remarkable improvement from when he first arrived in Japan.
Afriani Anindita Lintangdesi, is a female student from Bogor Agricultural University. She had never left Indonesia before coming to Japan, but she chose Sophia for its strength in social studies.
“Life at Sophia is interesting. I am a Muslim and Sophia is a Catholic school, but there is a prayer room for me and food is marked as being halal, so I can survive here,” she said.
She also said she enjoys a class required for all SAIMS students, “Introduction of Trans-Disciplinary Human Development.”
In the class, professors from the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities share ideas about how each academic field approaches key issues in human development such as education for sustainable development, the environment and development, aquatic ecosystems, environmental conservation and food and agriculture.
“I learned the other side of science,” Afriani, who is majoring in communication and community development science, she said.
Ahmad Lutfi Najihah, a female student from the National University of Malaysia, is enjoying her time at Sophia University very much.
“I like everything here. I like mingling and my best friends are from Mexico, Indonesia and Germany,” she said. “At Soshigaya, I can try Mexican and German foods. And I have a Japanese friend who has been to Malaysia and I promised I’d cook for her because she misses Malaysian food so much.”
She goes sightseeing on weekends with her friends.
“My life in Japan is simple; I go sightseeing and everything I see is interesting,” she said.