My time at SOAS: The experience of a Japanese student


This summer, I had a great experience at SOAS University of London. I participated in the Environment, Development and Changing World Views (EDCWV) course offered on the summer programme by the IFCELS department for 3 weeks. 

I have two reasons why I chose EDCWV course at SOAS. The first reason was to gain the knowledge of Development Studies, and the second reason was to familiarise myself with the style of classes at a British University. I’m currently studying in the Faculty of Global Studies at Sophia University in Japan and studying Development and Middle Eastern Studies.


I’m going to study Development and Middle Eastern Studies further at SOAS University through their exchange program this year. SOAS is the best option because it is the world’s leading university in the field of development and area studies. Through the EDCWV course, I wanted to gain a basic knowledge about development to prepare for my 21/22 study abroad experience at SOAS. In addition, I wanted to understand about the style of classes at SOAS since it is different from Japanese universities. In Japan, we basically take around 10 different lectures within one semester and we do not have tutorials. Compared to our learning style, British universities offer the mixture of lectures, seminars and tutorials, which help students deepen understanding.

Through this summer course, I’ve learned a lot about environment and development. In particular, I managed to consider “sustainable development” critically. During the seminars, we considered and discussed the definitions of the terminology regarding development, which made me understand the content of the lectures in more depth.

Before the lecture, we had a preview class to lead us to the lecture. In addition to the preview class, we had a review class to prepare for the seminar. At first, I couldn’t participate in the seminar well because I was afraid of making mistakes. However, I tried to prepare a lot before each synchronous lecture, which led to me fully participating in the seminar at last. Through this experience I managed to learn the importance of preparing before each class. 

The online learning experience was better than I had expected. SOAS offered us a virtual welcome/ farewell party where we could chat to each other. Although it was all online, I managed to make some friends there and enjoyed having conversations together. 

I’d like to apply what I’ve learned during the EDCWV course to my 2021/22 SOAS study abroad program. I greatly appreciate SOAS University for this wonderful opportunity!

Haruka Kawahigashi (she/her) is a 20-year-old Japanese student at Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan. Haruka is currently in the second year of her degree and studying about Development and the Middle East. This summer, Haruka took a 3-week online course in Environment & Development with the IFCELS department at SOAS, and is about to start an exchange year at SOAS.

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