Misaki's UBC

For this weeks profile, I have decided to interview someone very near and dear to my heart, who has, through her own unique experience of UBC, very positively influenced my own.

As many of you may already know UBC is quite a multicultural community, which celebrates and integrates many cultures both into its physical space as well as making them a part of our understanding of UBC's nuanced identity.

Many UBC students may be aware of the strong Japanese representation and influence at UBC, and a handful of us may have brushed shoulders with the bustling groups of Japanese students, excitedly walking up and down the illustrious Main Mall. Being in UBC's Japanese Language program as an Asian studies student, I was quickly made aware of the fact that due to the extensive ties and the deep-rooted relationship between British Columbia and Japan itself, many academic partnerships were made between UBC and other Japanese Universities. Making the Japanese language program at UBC the largest program of its kind in North America.  

Among the many Japanese Universities UBC is partnered with, the most notable of which is Ritsumeikan University, so much so it garnered a residence to be built in commemoration of this strong partnership and to help foster the growing community of Japanese exchange students. "Ritsumeikan House," more commonly known as "Rits House" is located on Agronomy Road, on the Vancouver Point Grey campus. 

The young lady I am interviewing was a Japanese exchange student in 2017 from Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan - Misaki Nishimura

She is now in her final year, completing her Major in International Relations. Her ambition is to work at a company that will allow her to travel to many different countries; namely Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, as she would like to continue to study her German. 

The following interview was conducted in Japanese and then translated into English:

1. Why did you decide to study abroad at UBC in British Columbia, Canada?

"Initially I knew I wanted to study abroad because I wanted to strengthen my English skills. But I choose UBC because after all, it is known to be a reputable school worldwide. It has great teachers and courses, especially for international relations, which is my major. Being exposed to differing views from professors of different cultural backgrounds would be very enriching to my educational experience and from a careers point of view, it would look especially impressive in the Japanese "Job-hunting" field. In terms of personal goals, I wanted to meet people who spoke different languages, and because of Canada's infamous multicultural environment, I knew I would be exposed to many people from all over the world. I guess this is both educational and personal, but I also wanted to discover new ways of thinking and take that back with me to Japan." 


2. After coming to UBC and spending your first day in Canada and on campus how did your impression of this place change? 

"First of all, it was a very new experience for me that came with studying in UBC was the share-house experience of living with roommates. Living with roommates and not with family, as I was used to back home was very new and exciting. I think in hindsight, living alone would have been very lonely, but I was lucky enough to have been surrounded by lovely roommates who hung out and spent time with me and cheered me up when I felt down. The share house environment felt like a family unit as well, we would all collectively help each other out.”

“When you go on exchange and live apart from your parents and family, you realize how much your family does for you on a daily basis. I was used to having most of my meals prepared by my mother and was also so used to eating them with my parents, that time I spent with them as well as all the things they do for me is one among many of the things I have come to treasure about my own family through the experience of studying and living abroad."

“When you live in a far place you have to learn how to take care of yourself.”

"In Japan, the physical environment is quite different. In cities it's often crowded, filled with narrow streets and tall buildings, but Vancouver's UBC campus it’s so huge in comparison, there were so many GREEN open spaces, clean air, rich nature and plenty of time and opportunity to relax and enjoy it. I think that’s another aspect of the lifestyle there, it's calmer and less hectic, there’s an unspoken appreciation of the natural landscape and I saw people all over campus just relaxing in the grass and meditating."

"The food here is big! And because there are people from all walks of life in UBC and Vancouver, I was also pleasantly surprised with the variety of cuisines available both on campus and in the city center, downtown Vancouver; it was exciting and delicious." 

“Some things I have to admit are better in Japan. We have awesome state of the art technologies integrated into the campuses, in most university buildings, remember when you came to my campus in Ibaraki and you saw that cool earthquake proof elevator in the library? Oh, and can I just say I realized how amazing the toilets in Japan are. I’m sorry Canada our toilets, which are extremely clean and high tech are much better compared to yours, I did see a few quite dirty toilets in UBC. Another thing I have to say I appreciate a lot in Japan is our amazing customer service and hospitality we call it “Omotenashi.”   The clerks and servers at shops and restaurants in Japan are super polite and kind in Japan!”


3. How does UBC's school life differ from Japan's school life?

"First, it is a place that definitely helped me grow into a responsible and independent person, more so than I was before I came but it was also an opportunity to share this growth alongside friends, students, and roommates who were experiencing the same things that I was, with people I had a lot in common with and who shared my passions; so, we grew together.”

 “There is something quite great that struck me about UBC as well. I was so pleasantly surprised at how involved and active the president (Santa Ono) is in the community; meeting with the students directly, having a public Twitter account on which he would discuss many questions issues students had, etc. We have yet to have any University presidents in Japan that are as hands-on and involved as UBC’s president Santa Ono in particular. I really believe that that principle of active participation and involvement is something that Japan should really integrate, and I really believe that in recent years it has definitely been moving in that direction.”

“UBC as a university is also quite involved and invested in its students’ lives. The university provides many facilities both recreational like the aquatic centre or the rec center as well as many facilities provided for their students’ wellbeing like safe-walk or the “access and diversities” facilities, which many students can benefit from and I truly admire that. In addition to having a variety of facilities I was also impressed to see how UBC built so many places of residence on Campus to provide as much housing to its large student body. Quite the opposite is true for Japan, it is not often to see a lot of places of residence for students on campus.”

“Concerning the actual classes, I certainly experienced many differences in that respect, something I truly appreciated about the courses and class-styles provided at UBC was that many focussed on active participation, discussions and the equality in the sharing and appreciation of all the students’ opinions and thoughts. However, both in Canada and Japan class starts with roll call which I feel gives me that sense that we all are the same. Both have seminar-style classes where a professor lectures you one-sidedly but UBC provides classes that are purely for the purposes of discussion, and I have yet to hear of them existing in Japan, even though I’d love for it to be the case. It would definitely encourage students to participate more, and learn to form, share and value their own opinions.”

“there is something I experienced in UBC however that is quite absurd, I know it’s out of the blue but I have to talk about the EXAMS. In UBC your exams could happen very late in the evenings at 8:00 pm or even 9:00 pm ending at 10, sometimes 11 at night, whereas in Japan no exam would ever go past 5:00 pm at the latest.”

“There was something else about the “University Life” here at UBC that struck me; I was quite taken aback by the fact that there were many bars and clubs like “The Pit” in the student nest building, “Koerner Pub” next to the Buchanan buildings, places where students could have alcohol while still in school time or on campus. There were also many students all over campus who were smoking cigarettes, and it was so different from the ethic I was brought up with in Japan, and the ethics of universities here. In Japan, we have a principle where university is understood to be a place to be serious, a place for hard-work and study and so we compartmentalize work from play. Once we leave classes usually in the evening or at night we can really cut loose and have fun. In that sense, we are treating ourselves for our hard work.”


4. If you could take anything from UBC and bring it back to your own university in Japan what would it be?

“More than the clubs which I LOVE, there is actually something that is unique to Universities in Canada which I think UBC really embraces, it is that element of being able to experience another culture while on campus. I was so shocked to see such an authentic and beautiful traditional Japanese Garden (Nitobe Garden) next to the Asian center, I remember when you took me, and I was in awe there were also many cultural fairs and activities I attended that were a part of my UBC experience like Tea ceremonies and “kabuki” shows. It felt like I was back home in Japan. And to be completely honest I think that’s it. The quality that made UBC so special to me, that identity of multiculturalism, and I believe that that’s such an important identity to have and embrace.”

“It is definitely something I’d like to see more of in Japan, more people from different countries and the exploration of their cultures expressed alongside ours.”


Thank you to Misaki Nishimura for the interview!