by Daiki Iwata
The bay area sounded like an ideal place for me to satisfy some needs for studying. A major purpose for joining the summer session was to improve my English skills for discussion which I felt I need in lab meetings in Todai with foreign students. A minor purpose was to learn why the bay area including the silicon valley keeps developing by emergence of new companies and clustering of them, which is partly related to my study interests along my master thesis about cities in Japan.
For fulfilling these purposes, I intendedly took 2 ESL classes, Business Speaking and Communication Skills for Conflict Resolution, which allowed me to discuss more inside classrooms and to learn more outside thorough fieldworks than normal classes would do.
In the Business Speaking course, we discussed about many business topics such as brand building and introduction of IT, using examples in different countries where students come from. Through discussions in the class I learned that business cultures, from Web-site designs to cherished values to be a good manager, are different among countries. However I also learned from interviews to IT companies that they overcome or even take advantage of such cultural gaps, by making differences out of their unique resources or by translating one into another. In addition, all of them appreciate business cultures in the bay area: working styles relaxing enough to enhance innovative ideas, abundant opportunities to make business partners from all around the world so that they can expand their business areas towards the world very quickly. Through this course I practiced discussions in English with the classmates or employees of IT companies, which were very meaningful to me.
In the Communication Skills for Conflict Resolution course, we learned and practiced how to help solve conflicts among individuals or groups as a mediator. In this course, the teacher gave each of us many opportunities to talk for equal amount of time (“Balancing the time”, one of the important skills in mediation as well), which helped me a lot. We talked about our own tendency of reactions when we get into conflicts and simulated mediations in many kinds of conflicts after reading “Getting to Yes”, a textbook for learning the key concepts and processes in mediation. This theme, mediation, was totally new to me and I have found its concepts very important and useful for leading a peaceful and successful life: “Separate the people from the problem” for example. Having got such lessons for life and experienced a well-organized process of discussions in mediations, now I feel like studying more about this subject.
Out of class, I had many valuable experiences with friends I made there. Among so many memories in so many places, the most unique experience was the one at a shared house where I lived: BBQ party in the yard. Actually my housemates were doing BBQ party in the yard on the very first day I came to Berkeley. At first I was a little embarrassed because I thought they were party people who play loud music all the time. However they turned out to be matured persons, most of whom are master or PhD candidates and Postdocs in UCB partying only at Saturday nights if any. And they were kind and open-minded people as well. Joining the BBQ party, I enjoyed not only music and beer-pong but also talking with them and listening to their stories which were full of international experiences. I enjoyed it so much that I planned and held another party with the help of the housemates in the last night in Berkeley, also inviting my friends and classmates. That was an amazing night.
To sum up, I have accomplished much more than I expected before through UC Berkeley Summer Session. I cannot thank FOTI scholarship more for giving me such great experiences because I could have not joined the session without it. And I really recommend that other Todai students, using Todai programs, get a chance to study in the bay area, where I definitely want to come back someday later in my life.