Message from Ms. Juhi Talwar

Please give a short introduction of yourself.

Hello, my name is Juhi Talwar and I am student of the Faculty of International Liberal Arts at Soka University, Japan. I am an Indian citizen and I was born in the vibrant city of Mumbai. I am currently studying in Brisbane, Australia as part of my study abroad program in my course. My hobbies include reading up on interesting trivia, dancing and travelling the world! I enjoy meeting new people and listening to them speak about their experiences while sharing a few of my own. I am an inquisitive person and I am always looking out to try new things and have novel experiences. I have a keen interest in Politics, the way states interact with one another and their motivations behind this behavior. I have transformed this passion of mine into my life’s mission. My aim in life is to join an international organization such as the United Nations and work as a policy maker to bring about peace and harmony between the nations and people of the world. I wish to see a world where human beings respect, love and care for the environment as well as each other and work together to build a united society. My dreams may be big, but I am prepared to gain sufficient knowledge and work hard to transform them into reality. Education and knowledge in my belief are key to success and development, which is why I try to make every circumstance a learning experience. As a child, I had once read in a book that it is always important to ‘look for the silver lining’ as well as ways in which you can grow in adverse situations. I took those words to heart and have ever since made attempts to apply them to my life in every way I can.


What is your favorite thing about Hachioji?

Hachioji is a beautiful city, and is the perfect location for Soka University to be situated. Studded with beautiful cherry blossoms and an absolutely spectacular view of Mount Fuji, Soka University stands tall and resolute. Located not too far from central Tokyo, Hachioji is well-connected without the hustle and bustle of a typical city. It has an efficient bus system that makes travelling very easy. Soka University has a big campus and has three bus stops around it that have regular services to the station. This tranquility is the perfect atmosphere for studying, and is probably my favorite part about the city. Located at a height and surrounded by nature all around, the weather is much cooler compared to other parts of Tokyo. Spring is my favorite season; the weather is phenomenal and the entire city comes alive. The people living here are extremely kind and helpful; you are valued as an international student. I recall an instance when I first arrived in Japan and did not know how to speak Japanese. Every single pedestrian or shopkeeper I would ask for directions would stop whatever it was that they were doing to help me out. I was not refused assistance even once, even if the people I asked did not know anything, they would make sure that I would find my way one way or the other. It is this wonderful attitude held by all the people living here that is the spirit of the city. It is also very convenient living in Hachioji, with restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores aplenty. My favorite restaurant is Kura Sushi, which serves one plate of sushi for just 100 yen! The accommodation here is relatively cheaper compared to the rest of Tokyo and there are several options for people looking for a place to stay. Overall, I would not have chosen any other place to spend three years of my university life.


How has your impression of Hachioji or Japan changed since coming here?

My initial impression of Hachioji was that it was a very quiet and boring city and that I would not enjoy my leisure time there. I could not have been more wrong with my judgment. Although the area surrounding the university is relatively quiet, Hachioji Station at a fifteen-minute bus ride is an extremely lively hub of good restaurants, shopping centers and the infamous Japanese karaoke! There are events that take place frequently, whether organized by the dormitories, university clubs or the university itself. In my first semester itself I was fortunate to be a part of several events and was able to go to Tokyo Disneyland in a trip organized by the university. Additionally, I have a big group of friends, Japanese and International that make these events even more fun! The notion of a culture that I had assumed to be homogenous in nature was completely altered when in four short months I had friends from all over the globe. I would like to take this chance to say that coming to Soka University in Japan has changed my life for the better. I have faced personal difficulties during my times here, but living alone in a country so different from my own has taught me several lessons. I slowly see myself evolving as a human being and understanding myself in greater depth due to these experiences. In that sense, I have changed along with my perceptions of Japan. Stereotypes accompany every single country and culture. However, once I actually travelled to these countries I understood a different reality from what I had believed to be true. Japan is considered to be an eccentric country in popular media; it is actually quite regular. In fact, I have gotten so used to the Japanese standard of efficiency and productivity that I find faults in my own country when I return!



What do you like about SOKA University and your program?

The first thing that attracted me to Soka University was its courses on offer. International Liberal Arts is a program I have been meaning to study since my time at high school. The combination of Politics and International Relations, Economics and Business Studies, and History and Culture forms a complete package for the holistic educational experience I am in search of. The chance to study my preferred course at a new country with tons of potential lured me in. An additional factor was the generous scholarships that Soka University was providing to its prospective international students. The scholarship opportunity was extremely beneficial and without it, I probably would not have been able to receive a quality education or travel to two different countries within the short span of one year. My love for travelling and discovering new places, people, language and culture was another important motivator. For any student, the chance to study away from one’s home country is life changing. Not only have I made friends from all around the world, I have had irreplaceable memories and experiences that have helped me grow as an individual and understand my strengths and weaknesses. The Soka or Value Creating pedagogy of education that Soka University is based on is one that helps individuals utilize their full and complete potential in a way that it not only benefits oneself but others as well. I wanted to apply this teaching in my life as well as in my study of Politics and International Relations in order to bring about constructive and positive change in the world. Lastly, looking at the beautiful campus and meeting students that were so happy to be there made me want to me a part of the Soka Family as well, and I am so glad that I am!



In what way did you adjust yourself to Japanese culture?

Japanese culture is vastly different from anything that I have ever encountered before, and I feel very fortunate to have had this experience. Learning more about the Japanese way of life has taught me to analyze my own behavior on a daily basis. Japanese people are extremely polite and subdued, greatly contrasting to the loud and boisterous Indian populous! I am learning therefore how to speak softly and gently, keeping in consideration the convenience of those around me. Another factor I had to consider was time management. The Japanese are extremely punctual and efficient, and I had to learn how to alter my pattern of time-keeping to suit the expectations of those around me. I have to say, it is one of the most important lessons that I am attempting to learn. Another important part of Japanese culture is its food. Personally, having no reservations with meat, I enjoy eating a variety of Japanese food. I find the food delicious and nourishing as well as healthy. The toughest cultural barrier I had to face is probably the Japanese language. Although English is slowly becoming more prevalent across the country, it is still essential to know the basics of Japanese before arriving. It is also extremely important to know the script, so that it is easier to get around. Even though I arrived in Japan without understanding a word of the language, I was able to make use of the help from my friends as well as friendly people that were willing to help me. Since Soka University has such a global environment, most people studying there know English already. Although it was difficult at times, I did not suffer very much from culture shock. Adjusting just requires some patience and understanding of the new culture as well as a willingness to adapt.



Please give a message to students or researchers in your home country who may be thinking about studying in Japan?

Japan is waiting to welcome you! One of the leading countries in the world in terms of technology, trade as well as politics in Asia; Japan is a hub for offices of several multilateral agencies as well as international organizations. A large tourist destination, it is making its mark on the world stage. Japan is unlike any other country in the world; it is a good balance of the modern and the traditional. I had an option of going to university in the United States; however, I chose Japan as I wanted to experience something new, different and refreshing. A concern that most Indians have is with the food in Japan. Food is largely non-vegetarian, however produce and vegetables are fresh and cooking at home is an option for most vegetarians that come here. Part time jobs for international students in university are usually associated with language teaching; Soka University has several job opportunities on campus for its students. If you are proficient in Japanese, the variety of jobs available will be much greater. Homesickness is very common and I did feel a little homesick coming to Japan at first, but this country has a heart and spirit not different to that back home in India. The support I received from the people in Japan is second to none. Every single day is a learning experience and the atmosphere in Japan is extremely conducive for getting things done. The founder, teachers, staff and my fellow students continuously encouraged me and have pushed me to work hard, think out of the box and surpass the limitations I had set for myself. I have never experienced teachers, administration or seniors taking care of their students or juniors in such a manner. This was a drastic change from India where people tend to look out for themselves and competition precedes cooperation and harmony. One thing I can say for certain, when you leave Japan, you will have changed for the better.