Report from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

by Natsuki Kusakabe

Prof. Vasquez of Crisis Diplomacy

This semester I took five courses, two from Political Science (my major is International Relations but UIUC doesn’t have that major) and three from others.

  • CMN101: Public Speaking (3 lectures per week; 3 credits)

This is a course aimed at acquiring basic skill for public speaking. I took this course in order to improve my English speaking ability in front of a group of people. Although there are a few classes for international students, I took an ordinary class, where most of the 19 students in the class are native English speaker. We delivered four different types of speeches for which we prepare in advance throughout the semester. These were very helpful because we learned how to organize and deliver a speech in great detail. I learned how to prepare (e.g. how to write an outline) and practice for a speech, and that I can really improve my speaking with many practices. In addition, we had a lot of opportunity to speak impromptu in front of the class. It was one of the toughest parts in this course because I had a big disadvantage compared to other native speakers. Although I still get nervous when speaking up, I noticed that I felt it much easier compared to the beginning of the semester. As a whole, I think that this course was the very thing I needed and wanted during the year here. So I’m planning to take another communication course next semester, which aims at learning how to make effective arguments.

  • GEOG221: Geography of Global Conflicts (2 lectures & 1 discussion; 3 credits)

Geography class, Fall 2016, GEOG221

This is a course of introducing basic ideas of geopolitics in relation to global conflicts. Since I’ve never learnt geopolitics in Japan, this course broadened my perspective on world situation. It made me think a lot about very fundamental questions: what is nation-state? What is national identity? Why does it bind us so strongly? Living in this very diverse but deeply divided country, I cannot help but think about those questions again and again, and geopolitical ways of thinking gave me a new perspective to address them. Although I don’t think there are any clear answers, I now feel I need to learn more, so I will take another course from Geography next semester.

  • CHN305: Advanced Chinese (3 lectures & 2 online assignments; 5 credits)

I took this course to continue my study of Chinese. Although it gave me a lot of opportunity to speak Chinese and I enjoyed the classes, they were much easier than what I took at the University of Tokyo. The best thing in this course was that we learned a lot of formal words and phrases in business situation.

  • PS390: American Foreign Policy (2 lectures; 3 credits)

This is a course related to my major, International Relations. We had a lot of reading assignments and learned how to analyze the U.S. foreign policy. This course helped me learn the U.S. foreign policies in some specific historical cases and what kinds of aspect I should consider when I see the U.S. foreign policy.

  • PS394: Crisis Diplomacy (2 lectures; 3 credits)

This was the course I most focused on and most enjoyed in this semester. This course dealt with crises from 19th century (Eastern crises) till Berlin blockade during Cold War. It was hard task for me to read through all the reading assignments for every class, but only reading more carefully and making more detailed notes than others could enabled me to speak up during class and I tried to do my best. Looking closely into the history of European crises helped me consider how today’s world is placed in the course of the Western history and consists of the values based on it. It was interesting and made me think a lot to see the history of rising Japan from the European point of view. In addition, I enjoyed imagining how each diplomat tried to avoid or solve the crisis in those old days, because I myself have always hoped to contribute to peace as a diplomat in the future. The professor had a deep understanding for my status as an international student and supported me throughout the semester, which I really appreciate. I went to see him in his office hour after the last class and he was kind enough to say he would welcome me visiting him next semester. Although I won’t take his course, I would like to visit him to have some discussion over war and peace in the world.
These are just what I learned through the courses, and for my next report I would like to write about my social life here and what I experienced and thought through it.